(By Pamela Adama, Nina Mba and Obinna Onyema)
We were literally walking on new ground as we set foot on the marbled floors of Summit Chambers, Minna. Up through the
stairs we got into the conference room. We were asked to sit around a well-polished wooden table with the smooth feel of Formica. Yes, and who wouldn’t feel like a newly promoted executive on those chairs. Before us was Barr. Vera Ndanusa, CEO of Vertimas, an events management company. In her company were members of her team, Arc. Mohammed Baba Mohammed, the producer of
the creative ecstasy we met at the office and Mr. Zeh Zeh Patrice who heads Total Consults, the consulting affiliate of Vertimas. We were soon to be joined by Infiniti, a comedian and compere with the Vertimas family.
Aspire: What is Vertimas all about?
Barr. Ndanusa: Well, Vertimas is basically an event planning and packaging company; we plan different kind of events ranging from birthdays, weddings, and different kind of ceremonies. We are into imports and exports, consultancy, leadership;
Vertimas is one of the leading events planning company in Niger state.
Aspire: How old is Vertimas?
Barr. Ndanusa: Vertimas began in the early 1990’s, but we were barely known because of poor awareness and the difficulty in convincing people to have a planner plan their event. Then people saw it as a waste of their resources and found it difficult to adapt.
Aspire: What challenges have you encountered since inception?
Barr. Ndanusa: Well, some of them include awareness like I mentioned earlier, management, difficulty for clients to pay for the job, and confidence about the job. We don’t really have any competition right now in the state, but I love competition because it brings out the best in what you do.
Aspire: Since your inception what major events have you handled?
Barr. Ndanusa: Whao! (Laughs) I have done most of the major events in this state. I have covered the events of a lot of dignitaries; Vertimas has handled events, weddings and birthdays for governors, and for top politicians in the state and even in the country at large. We also worked with the Afri-hub in the Federal University of Technology, Minna and with NECO, we also handle jobs in Abuja and Lagos, we have our branch offices in both places, we have also handled jobs for the [Presidential] Villa in Abuja and for notable
companies and persons both in Lagos and Abuja. Vertimas had the first of its kind Easter Fiesta in Niger state during the last Easter celebration, Vertimas also went into collaboration with Kulture Koncepts to organize the first ever Minna All Schools Cultural Competition. Vetimas has been into a lot of deals and we believe we are getting stronger.
Aspire: What has been your most embarrassing moment or most challenging event?
Barr. Ndanusa: Embarrassing……….. Well…………. I wouldn’t call it that, because my staff have come to know that when they are in any
problem rather than running away they just call me, they believe and are confident that I’ll figure a way out. For instance, when the late Mrs. Stella Obasanjo came to Niger state to commission the Dana Pharmaceuticals, just before she arrived, something broke in one of the tents we were using and everything came down, my staff were confused and I asked them to pick it up and take it out, seeing that we had no time to fix it. We just took it out and brought the inner one forward and it looked like nothing had happened. At the
end of the day, the Chairman of Dana Pharmaceutical commended us for the way we handled the job, myself and my staff got personal gifts for this, that was one of the few moments and it was well under control. You know when it comes to dignitaries, there are lots of protocols which makes things sort of difficult but I’ve learnt to do what I have to do. There was a similar case when the former president’s daughter, Her Excellency Aisha Babangida, was getting married. After everything had been set, the rains came and destroyed everything just few hours to the event. But when I was called upon, we were able to fix it, one important thing we do is to pray and commit every event to God no matter how small it seems, we always commit it to God before commencing. In God we trust, we go out believing that there is an unseen hand guiding us, when you have God and what it takes (strength and experience), the sky will be a starting point.
Aspire: As a lady and the head of Vertimas, do you have any problems or challenges with your male subordinates?
Barr. Ndanusa: Yes, there are lots of challenges but thank God for the men I have around me. I belong to many associations in this state and we always tell the men that we are not challenging their authority neither is any woman taking their place. I respect men a lot and I see them as the head of the woman, all we women are asking for is the chance to walk side by side with them. That’s why Eve was
removed from the ribs of a man. God gave men strength but they don’t have the intuition a woman has, that’s why any man who walks solo (independent of a woman) will most likely fail…
Aspire (to Arc. Mohammed): do you agree?
Barr. Ndanusa: He is married; he definitely agrees [laughs][she continues]: That’s the truth, women have fore sight, and we just want to support the men. The Bible said that the man is the head of the woman not that the woman should be behind, but beside the man. Wherever I find myself, I always let the men know that women are not dullards, any man that gets a good woman always succeeds, like the popular saying ‘beside every successful man is a woman’. America is succeeding today because of women.
Aspire (to Mr. Patrice): Please tell us a little about your role in Vertimas.
Mr. Patrice: I’m a consultant with Vertimas. We bring in our ideas to make the whole package better. I’m actually of Camerounian descent and I would say that in my ten years of being here, I can boldly say that Nigeria best defends the African culture.
Aspire: (to Arc.Mohammed) Please tell us the role you play in Vertimas, as an architect, how do you add spice to the whole package?
Arch. Mohammed: Architects are very creative; I get my inspiration from beautiful things, both artificial and natural, be it inanimate
or animate. We are all one and we should respect and appreciate each other. Culture is the binding force, no matter how different our culture is there are still some similarities between us one way or the other. I have gotten a lot of knowledge from Vertimas and it has helped me.
Aspire: From the look of things we agree that culture in Nigeria is dying, what’s your view on this? How do you think we can revive this?
Arch. Mohammed: That’s true, that’s why I really appreciate the idea of the Kulture Koncepts, and it’s a way of reviving what we thought was dead. We usually don’t appreciate our own traditionally made things. The wife of the son of the former president, Gen Abdusalam Abubakar was at one of our concert and she gave us an instance of the first time she appeared in the Northern way of dressing while overseas, she was admired and respected. We should go back to who we are.
Aspire: Sir, Do you still practice as an architect?
Arch. Mohammed: I graduated from FUT in 2006; you know that an architect is a super human…
Barr. Ndanusa: [cutting in] You are saying that in a law court, I’m a barrister you know [we all share a moment of laughter]
Arch. Mohammed: Architects are very creative, due to the rigorous exercise we go through to become who we are, we are versatile…
Barr. Ndanusa: In other words he has not abandoned architecture; he is just practicing it in another way.
Aspire: Have you ever organized a program for women or talk show for girls?
Barr. Ndanusa: not really, but I make sure I talk to them at any given opportunity or meeting, I always encourage them to believe in themselves and not to feel inferior to men, I also talk with men likewise not to be afraid of strong women.
Aspire: As the Coordinator of the National Association of Women Entrepreneurs, what is the general response of women to entrepreneurship?
Barr. Ndanusa: That’s a very good question, prior to now, most women were not interested in coming out, they were narrow minded. I always tell women to go further than where they are instead of depending on their husbands, this over dependence leads to them being used by men. But now, because of our advocacy, most women are coming out, you know that most women that are empowered are hardly abused by men. Women who are involved in the development of the family, working together with the men tend to have better, stronger and healthier homes. I also happen to be the president of the widows in Niger State, and I always tell them that
they can make it, having something to do help them to be content with their lives; we don’t only want to influence our environment but our nation at large.
Aspire: Is greed a good thing in entrepreneurship?
Barr. Ndanusa: It depends on the context you are using the word greed. If it is greed to have what someone else has at all cost, that’s bad. But the desire to improve you and become better is good. Every entrepreneur needs that.
Aspire: Do you need, at any time, to compromise as a female entrepreneur?
Barr. Ndanusa: No, nothing should make you compromise yourself. No matter the threats, any man that is a bully is a coward so you should tell him off.
Aspire (to Infiniti): How do you think our culture can be sustained.
Infiniti: It can happen by making efforts to maintain our culture by organizing and encouraging programs to that effect. It is worthy to note that culture is now being taught in Police Secondary School [Minna] as a subject, thanks to the cultural program of Vertimas. With this improvement, there is great hope that our culture will not die off but live on.