My Nigeria Experience: Every Visit a Great Adventure for My Family-John Murray

The past Chief Information Officer of telecoms giant, Etisalat (now 9mobile), John Murray in this interview with STEPHEN AYA shares his Naija experience.

Can you please introduce yourself?
My name is John Murray. I am a fifty something year old American. I was born and raised in Detroit Michigan. I have a BSC degree in Business/Economics and a MBA in Management. I have been married for over 30 years and have two kids aged 31 and 26. I’ve been working in the IT industry for most of my career and have worked in over 30 countries. For fun, I run long distance marathon, listen to Jazz and Afrobeat music and study history and culture.

What brought you to Nigeria?
I came to Nigeria in April 2010 to work at Emerging Markets Telecoms Services, the mobile company trading (then) as Etisalat. I was the Chief Information Officer in charge of all of the computing technology in the company. This was my first working visit to Africa.

How did you feel when you were told you were coming to Nigeria?
When the job was first presented to me, I rejected it. I was already working at a good job, and didn’t think working in Africa would be enjoyable. But after I did some research, I realized that Nigeria was very important and exciting place to be, especially in the telecoms industry. I know that Nigeria had a reputation for being a tough place to live, but since I’ve worked in many places around the world that are tough, it didn’t bother me. While working in the UK during the 1990s I met several Nigerians. They were smart and fun to be with, so I was curious to see what it was like on the ground.

How did your immediate family take the news?
My wife was very supportive. She knows that I like to work on difficult professional challenges and am attracted to unusual geographic settings. But she was worried that it might not be safe for me. My kids thought it was great. They are world travelers and looked forward to coming to Nigeria. It was a great adventure to them when they come to visit. My friends though I was crazy. Why would someone give up a great job, leave their comfortable home and good friends to go someplace that had a bad reputation, they asked? Most of them still believe that I am crazy.

How long did you stay in Nigeria?
I was in Nigeria for exactly 3 years.

Any regret working bin Nigeria?
None on the contrary, I was sad leaving Nigeria.

I was sad leaving Nigeria because I had developed a great ability to survive and thrive in Lagos. I knew how to get things done, who to trust, where to go etc. For an Oyibo I was very well adapted. But my contract was concluded and I had hired a Nigerian guy to replace me at work. So as sad as it was, it was time to go.

Where was your favourite hangout spot in Nigeria?
Jazz Hole! I developed a great relationship with Yewande, the owner. I even came back to Lagos sometime in 2013 to attend her wedding. She calls me her “Area Father.”

What other thing do you miss about Nigeria?
I miss my palm wine (Emu as it is called).

Please share with us your experience of working in a telecoms market like Nigeria?
Africa is one of the last growth mobile phone markets in the world. There are 3 highly prized African markets-South Africa, Kenya and Nigeria. These markets have growing economies, a large population and are highly linked to the established world. Because there is no traditional phone service, Nigeria is one of the most desirable markets in the world for mobile phone companies. The challenges for Nigeria are serious though. No electricity, weak security and difficulties in reaching its over 160 million citizens. It is expensive for mobile operators to build and run networks in Nigeria.

Do you plan to keep coming back and maybe relocate to Nigeria someday?

Insha Allah! I have business interests that are likely to keep me coming back. I am a keen student of Nigeria and Nigerians. It would be a delight to come back someday to live.