Femi sat at the back of the class as the lecturer talked about basic approaches to managing conflicts. Though he had always liked Dr Ikenna Williams, his lectures were not interactive enough so you find students dozing during his sessions. Femi sometimes wondered how an Ibo man came by the name ‘Williams’, it was synonymous with people from the Western part of Nigeria, not the Eastern part. He dragged himself back into the lecture as he heard Dr. say conflicts can be resolved through Negotiation, Arbitration, Mediation and Adjudication. That was five years ago and today, he is faced with the reality.
This is now more than a conflict, it is gradually turning into war, lives have been lost. All parties involved are bitter. Some are enjoying the chaos, while others see it as an opportunity to show their leadership skills, others are looking for how to benefit from the issue. It is an opportunity to build lasting relationships with the community if properly handled. Things could fall apart and the company could run at a great loss. Either way, Femi is in charge of the peacekeeping mission and he intends to make the best out of it.
One of the rules of negotiation is not to allow more conflicts arise out of unsuccessful meetings. He went for the first meeting earlier on in the month, all parties were supposed to talk based on the ongoing issues and previous complaints filed through their lawyers, but the youth president and his gang who had no business ethics, came prepared for war as usual, and kept on expressing anger at different intervals until one of his committee members responded to an insult. They almost went physical on each other. The meeting was adjourned to the following week.
He had always known that leadership skills and conflict resolution skills worked for hand in hand. He was worried and hoped he had not broken that rule. The aim was to get what the company wanted and still maintain a good relationship with the community.
He got Fabian’s number, one of the youths. The guy looked different and there was something about him Femi couldn’t figure out. Maybe he could help and probably give him a clue as to solving the problem. Nothing wrong in having a member of the opposition on his side to give him the necessary information. He is a graduate and the youth secretary, maybe he can help.
“Five Hundred million Naira or nothing” was all Fabian kept on saying when they finally met. “I can help you negotiate for Four Hundred million, but you have to give me something”. Femi was quick to realize nothing good would come out of this guy. He was no different from his president.
The following week they met, he tried the forcing strategy. The good thing about this strategy is that it leaves your opponent thinking you are done. However, the relationship could go sour as the opponents are left in an unsatisfied state.
They always look forward to winning another day. It is best used in a situation where you don’t have to ever have anything to do with the opponent again. “We have upped the offer to Fifty-five million Naira. We will settle the family of your late colleague, give his two kids scholarship to university level. Unfortunately, this happened, but we also lost a staff member too. Moreover, we are practically making nothing out of this transaction. Think about it and let me know your decision”, Femi said with a straight face.
How could they demand Five Hundred million like it is small money? The M.D has said he wasn’t going above One Hundred million. The press was already getting a hold of the story and more scandal was brewing.
The youth president looked at him and said: “that can’t be compared to the damage you have done, plus, you can’t force things on us”. “We are ready to let go of this project”, Femi blurted out.
“Time is not on our side”, the M.D said. “The earlier we wrap this up, the better. Are you sure they will accept?” He was 70% sure they might. It had worked at other times.
He was shocked when the youth president said “take responsibility for the family of the dead, but don’t ever come back to our community again to continue this project. We will tell our governor to award the project to another company”. Femi was shocked, he almost forgot their rivals were waiting for them to fail.
His forcing strategy had failed and he was left flabbergasted as he watched the youth president walk out of the meeting.
They also called the bluff of the company saying: “Tell your M.D, the board of trustees and whoever sent you that they have till the end of tomorrow to move your tractors and whatever equipment you have out of our community”. He got the message loud and clear!
The best thing for him right now is to give these people a few days before calling to begin negotiations again. “Negotiation can take a long time, depending on what you are hoping to achieve and the amount of time at your disposal”, he seemed to hear Dr Ikenna say again, five years later. He racked his brain for days as he played out different strategies in his head and their probable responses to them. He was looking at meeting them again in the next few days.
The difference now is that he had a better understanding of his opponents. Behind those hoodlums were master strategists! He knew he had to employ better tools and tactics in the next meeting.
Do you have any suggestions for Femi? Please share and respond in the comments section below.
Have a great #TieThursday