The creation of the Association

Association FRANCE – NIGERIA 

45 rue de la Chaussée d’Antin 

75009 PARIS 

WHY? 

On 14 December 2006, UBIFRANCE organised a seminar on the theme of “NIGERIA – the awakening of the African giant”, at which several experts offered their knowledge of that country, led by Alain Frossard, who at the time was the Head of Economic Missions in Nigeria.  On her part, Mrs Egnell, on the basis of more than thirty years of experience with Nigeria, sketched out a psychological portrait of the typical Nigerian business executive.  Among the remarks made by about ten persons, those coming from Maître BOEDELS, an Attorney of the Paris Bar, were particularly positive and encouraging.  A few weeks later, Mrs Egnell wanted to meet him and they enthusiastically exchanged information about their respective experience in Nigeria. Mrs Egnell had arrived there in February 1973, with ELF, while Maître Boedels had worked there as Cultural Attaché at the French Embassy as of 1968, for four years developing links with generations of Nigerian students, friendships, and a network that have remained in contact with him to date. We would like to have more people share their admiration for that great country and for its inhabitants.  It is appreciated from the economic viewpoint, as Alain Frossard explained to us, and offers a rich potential. UBIFRANCE and the FNCC are making efforts to make this known.  But there are few bodies with the assignment of getting French people and Nigerians to know each other and to engage in cultural and friendly exchanges.  The Nigerians staying in France are not often welcomed into French families, while Frenchmen and Frenchwomen living in Nigeria now have a tendency to remain among themselves.  At least that was not the case in the 1970s. 

WHAT? 

We thought it might be useful to establish an Association for promoting cultural and scientific activities between France and Nigeria.  It would group people who, because of their interlocking experience in those countries, want to work to bring France and Nigeria closer together, mainly in connection with culture and human relationships.   While France is already well-known in Nigeria, particularly thanks to the “Service d’Action Culturelle” and to the large network of the “Alliance Française”, French public opinion is not well informed about Nigeria and its 140 million people. That is why, in an initial phase, the Association’s activities will focus strongly on the French public to make it better informed about that great country and the wealth of its cultural heritage. 

WHO? 

But even though all French people must be concerned by the Association’s action, that action has to be able to rely more particularly on the following publics: 

-          French professionals working in connection with Nigeria. Establishment of a network with other professionals in the interest of informal exchanges concerning good practices and local inclusions is useful to them. 

-          The “Old Hands” with experience in Nigeria These people want to give others the benefit of their experience and to be kept informed about developments in the country. The conferences, exhibitions and lectures to be arranged by the Association will also enable them on such occasions to meet with other “Old Hands”. 

-          The Nigerians in France, who constitute two target categories: 

** Nigerians making short business trips to France. These visitors deserve a better welcome, and in particular their spouses and children are often very isolated. 

**  The Nigerian students in France. These students have an interest in meetings with French professionals working in Nigeria.  With them, the friendly meetings, expeditions, visits, stays in the mountains or in the countryside, combining French and English conversation, should produce better mutual knowledge of the two countries.   

HOW? 

The Association will organise all kinds of activities able to contribute to developing such human, cultural and professional links by using all communication means: 

-          films and scientific popularisation lectures about Nigeria in its African context (history, economics, politics, geology, …), thus making meetings between professionals and scientists possible;   

-          support for promoting Nigerian performers (by promoting, in ways yet to be defined, fashion parades, concerts, exhibitions, plays…), multiplying the meetings between “old hands” and “newcomers”, French and Nigerian; 

-          a bulletin, other works, and direct aid for Nigerian literature by developing translation efforts for works by authors poorly known in France; 

-          networks of experts, partly chosen from among the “old hands”;  

-          conversation courses, … 

Les « has been » et les autres.

J’aime le Nigeria. Le pays, bien sûr, m’attire et m’intéresse. Une telle variété, une telle richesse. La nature, d’abord. Savane du nord, montagnes de la région de Jos, les forêts et l’eau presque partout. Multiples rivières, Niger et Benue River, fleuves tous deux majestueux aux eaux qui se mêlent près de Lokoja en une immensité sui rappelle un peu le confluent du Rio Negro et de Rio Solimoes se fondant en l’Amazone.

Mais ce sont surtout ses habitants qui me captivent. S’ils me sont si proches ces Nigérians, Yorubas, Ekiti, Ibo, Ibibio, Bini, Igala, et quoique dans une moindre mesure, Haoussa, c’est que j’ai eu le privilège au cours des huit dernières années de m’entretenir avec près d’un millier d’entre eux.

Des conversations en profondeur les situant dans leur environnement ethnique et familial, parcourant leur cursus scolaire et universitaire, traçant, lorsqu’ils en avaient déjà, leurs expériences professionnelles, évoquant leurs goûts et leurs aspirations, échangeant ensemble sur l’évolution de nos univers respectifs. Comme avec un ami. Ce que chacun d’eux est un peu devenu pour moi.

Ce sont des diplômés d’études supérieures, cadres ou futurs cadres d’entreprise que j’ai interviewés. Dans leur pays. Sur les campus universitaires. Dans la très britannique université d’Ibadan., la plus ancienne. La belle Unilag (Université de Lagos) au bord de la lagune. Celle d’Ife située dans un site unique qui fut, voilà des siècles, le foyer d’une civilisation très riche dont témoignent les bronzes et les terres cuites du musée local.   

L’université de Nsukka, au cœur du pays ibo, où l’éducation est la valeur la plus cotée. Université qui avait beaucoup souffert de la guerre du Biafra, mais qui a retrouvé toute sa vigueur et sa coloration américaine. Son titre, University of Nigeria, montre bien à qui en douterait que ses ambitions ont toujours dépassé le cadre régional. L’université de Zaria, au nord du pays, plus connue sous le raccourci d’Abu (Ahmadu Bello University) qui jouit de la plus haute réputation surtout dans les matières scientifiques, celle qui sera toujours choisie par l’étudiant qui a eu le bonheur d’être admis dans plusieurs universités à la fois.

Quelle réputation les universités de création récente réussiront-elles à se forger ? Celle de Jos, émanation de l’université d’Ibadan ? Celle de Benin City qui pratique un intéressant système de formation par alternance ? Quant aux sept ou huit universités qui vont naître, puisque chaque État aura la sienne, il est prématuré de les évoquer.

Si aujourd’hui, pour acquérir une formation, les jeunes n’ont plus à quitter le Nigeria – d’ailleurs leurs gouvernants n’y tiennent pas – leurs aînés n’avaient guère d’autres solutions. Ils allaient en Grande-Bretagne surtout et aux États-unis, en Allemagne aussi, mais très peu en Italie ou en France. Quelle énergie, quelle persévérance n’ont-ils pas dû déployer, quand ce ne sont pas des subterfuges, pour parvenir à ce parchemin universitaire. Parchemin qui leur servira malheureusement parfois d’alibi pour, de retour au pays, ne plus tellement travailler. Ces cadres qui ont, pour certains, des prétentions bien supérieures à leurs capacités, les Nigérians les appellent les has been.  Il y a dans cette expression la double idée de « a été » et de « est passé, dépassé… ». On va même jusqu’à les identifier de leur raie de côté, soigneusement tracée, dans un cheveu peu disposé à cela !

Que les études aient été effectuées ici ou là ne change rien à la difficulté de vivre, de façon concomitante, dans deux mondes aux valeurs si différentes. Dans son entreprise comme au cours de ses études, une méthode de pensée scientifique quoique heureusement peu cartésienne grâce à l’héritage anglo-saxon ; et dans sa famille, à la ville comme au village, des valeurs traditionnelles auxquelles on ne peut déroger sans risquer de se perdre, de ne plus exister, socialement parlant.

Face à cette difficulté, chacun s’en tire comme il peut. Tel choisira de regagner les États-unis d’où il avait ramené pour épouse, avec son diplôme, une fière citoyenne de même ascendance que lui. Tel autre vivra douloureusement ce divorce, ne se sentant nulle part à l’aise comme le héros de « No longer at ease » du romancier Ibo, Chinua Abeche. L’anxiété latente qui se développera en lui ne favorisera pas une véritable réussite professionnelle. Mais heureusement beaucoup, surtout parmi les femmes (seules bénéficient d’une formation universitaire les femmes de l’Est ou de l’Ouest du pays mais malheureusement point encore celles du Nord), grâce à leurs qualités d’équilibre, de bon sens, de souplesse et d’adaptabilité navigueront avec maestria, malgré les obstacles constants, dans l’un et l’autre monde. Non pas en « faisant semblant » mais en étant vraiment eux-mêmes, sans complexe, avec dignité. C’est à eux que le Nigeria de demain devra d’avoir conservé son identité tout en s’étant développé.  

Claude Egnell

Jeune Afrique, décembre 1980

NIGERIA

Geography

Nigeria lies within the tropics, along the Gulf of Guinea on the west coast of Africa, covering a total land area of 923,768 square kilometres. It has a warm and conductive climate all year round; with two distinct seasons of the year – the rainy seasons which falls between March and October and the dry season which lasts from November to February. The country is bound in the west by Benin Republic and in the east by Cameroon. In the north, the country shares boundaries with Niger and Chad and is bound in the south by the Atlantic Ocean

History 

Nigeria gained political independence from Britain in 1960. It has chequered history of democratic and military governments. The last despotic military rule, which was terminated in 1998, cost Nigeria dearly. The regime hampered the country’s international relations, slowed down economic development in the country, promoted corruption, and drove some to crime, including the infamous advance fee fraud, popularly known as 419.  But Nigerians have since put that history behind them and moved on to re-establish democracy and the rule of law. With the return of constitutional government in 1999, foreign direct investments have greatly increased and investors keen on big markets and returns have returned to the country.
Nigeria currently practices the presidential system of democracy with an executive president and bicameral legislature, modelled after the United States of America system. The country is divided into 36 states. The states are further divided into local government authorities for administrative convenience.  

Economy 

Nigeria is a land of remarkable opportunities. As investors are interested in big market attest,
Nigeria is an exciting territory in which to play for marketplace success. The country offers huge opportunities. Intrepid entrepreneurs who read beyond the headlines have found that
Nigeria offers returns that are positively disproportionate to the risks, often exaggerated in the international media.
Nigeria is the most populous country in Africa. It offers the largest market in sub-Saharan
Africa. Everything here is big: over 130 million people, growing mega cities, about 113 broadcast stations, radio and TV, 66 newspapers and magazines, and still counting…   

Mme Egnell, initiatrice de l’Association, reçoit la Légion D’Honneur

Total Nigeria’s Head-Hunter Extraordinary Get’s French Honours 

BY JOHN ADDEH

The recognition that came to her on September 29, 2003 is mainly for her work in Nigeria since she was proposed by the then French Ambassador on the strong recommendation of the current management of Total (Upstream) in Nigeria. But her life’s experience and work spans virtually all parts of the world: nine countries in Africa, the United States of America, Russia, ex-Czechoslovakia, Norway: her contacts varied encompassing French (of course) Germans, Swedish, Belgians, Dutch, English, Americans, Russians, Norwegians, Congolese, Nigerians … and Nigerians. For she is in love with Nigeria and Nigerians whom she eulogised at the investiture ceremony as “cheerful passionate, loyal to their friends … will do the impossible to acquire education, resulting in a World Bank study that indicated that for every five black African graduates, four are Nigerians…”. The National Honour of Chevallier de la Legion D’Honneur is a 200-year-old decoration that is given to those who have contributed most to the glory and reputation of La France. On that memorable evening, surrounded by friends, admirers and family, Claude Egnell joined the pantheon of the great, the select few who are Legionnaires. And as is wont in such sublime occasions, her life-story was told. It did not start in Nigeria, but it would appear that all before her discovery of Nigeria in 1973 was in preparation for that challenging task. The affectionate perseverance and the glory that finally came was for her actions in Nigeria for Michelin, Peugeot, Air Liquide, SCOA and SAFRAP then EPNL now TOTAL. And she practised what she preached. A successful academic career in France was followed by a scholarship to the USA in 1948 where she was in a sort of elitist finishing school and made the acquaintance of such strong personalities as Mrs Eleanor Roosevelt during her campaign at the UN for the adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. She also met famous writers, students and professionals from all over the world. Like Paul on the road to Damascus, she lost her European provinciality and became converted into a citizen of the world. 

With a masters degree and later a doctorate degree in social psychology from the University of Chicago (where Social Psychology as a discipline was pioneered) in her pockets, Claude was getting ready to face the world of work. But the responsibility of family frequently intervened even though she managed both fronts superbly well. Married in 1952 to her soul-mate, Gerard, they have seven children, twenty-four grand-children and one great-grandchild.  The essential aspect of her work as Human Resources Consultant since 1973 is the successful application of the then emerging theories in social psychology to recruitment recommendations. She realised very early the importance of studying the social environment in which a candidate is going to work and the application of that knowledge in juxtaposition to the aptitudes and behaviours of candidates before making final recruitment recommendations. In the case of the French multinationals in Nigeria for which she acted as recruitment consultant, knowing that the candidates will be working in intercultural environments of French colleagues, Nigerian cosmopolitan cities with a salad bowl of local cultures that are often mixed with some westernisation, she frequently recommended strong, intelligent candidates who are able to perform in a western industrial structure without losing their roots. She recommended authentic Nigerians who are sure of and proud of their traditions but who do not have mental blockages about accepting change: personalities that can successfully combine tradition with modernity. The teams she helped the companies to form have resisted the vicissitudes of the Nigerian industrial environment and their companies are robust and successful today: Peugeot,Michelin, Air Liquide, SCOA and Total.  Since Claude Egnell started her work in Nigeria, she has seen 10 Nigerian Heads of State (Gowon, Murtala Mohammed, Obasanjo, Shagari, Buhari, Babangida, Shonekan, Abacha, Abubakar and Obasanjo again) and nine Managing Directors of Total (Upstream) in Nigeria (Clhent, Crespin, Godec, Halfon, Romieu, Comtet, Heide, Viaud, Buresi): has evaluated more than 3750 candidates and retains a long memory of the actors in these companies as nobody else does. The first generation of Nigerian graduates she helped recruit have only just started going on normal retirement, most of them from exalted positions. And she continues her work, with loving, friendly attention, building strong teams, picking generations of successful leaders that are creating successful companies. For an award well merited for work mostly done in Nigeria, Claude Egnell deserves nothing less than a Nigerian congratulatory song. Paul Dairo you are on: Mo s’Orire O, Eleda mi Modupe O  (JOHN ADDEH IS GENERAL MANAGER, PUBLIC AFFAIRS) 

Réunion de création de l’association

Association France - Nigeria 

45 rue de la Chaussée d’Antin 

75009 PARIS 

Réunion du 27 Mars 2008 

Réunion de constitution de l’association  Lieu : Restaurant « Les Olivades »,

41 avenue de Ségur

75007 Paris

Heure de rendez-vous : 19h30

Membres fondateurs présents : 

-         Claude Egnell

-         Jacques Boedels

-         Marie Hélène Estève

-         Danielle Barret

-         Jacques Manlay

-         Ebenezer Okpokpo

-         Fabienne Steenmann

-         Michka Sachnine

-         Pierre Giraud

-         Bemigho Okome

-         Frédéric Le Bourgeois

-         Adediwura Odiase

Membres fondateurs excusés : 

-         Colette Contencin

-         Jean Claude Deltheil

-         Maximin Cassou

-         Adejare Amoo

-         Michael Uwakwe

-         Kofo Ati-John

-         Uche Ojomo

En attente de réponse : 

-         Mrs Obianagha

-         Martins Okeke

-         Emmanuel Igah

-         Maryse Duffau

-         Andrew Gabriel

Ordre du jour : Assemblée de constitution de l’association France Nigeria, signature des statuts

L’objectif principal de cette réunion est de rassembler les membres fondateurs de l’association afin de signer les statuts et de désigner le bureau.

Le montant de la cotisation devra également être fixé.

Cette première étape franchie, il sera nécessaire de planifier des événements afin de concrétiser l’action de l’association par tous moyens de communication.

-         l’organisation de conférences est à programmer. Il faut trouver des thèmes, ainsi que des intervenants.

-         Lancement d’une newsletter trimestrielle

-         Désignation de volontaires parmi les membres de l’association afin de soutenir certaines activités comme des cours de conversation ou des interventions.

-         Aide à la culture nigériane en promouvant des artistes et auteurs en France…

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