Taking up a job at the Namibia Broadcasting Corporation (NBC) was tantamount to taking a poisoned chalice or at worst walking across the proverbial Rubicon Bridge.
But that is the risk Albertus Aochamub took on 1 August 2010 when he became NBC’s director general (DG).
Fishing in troubled waters
The national broadcaster had, at one point, earned and developed a reputation for sending their DGs packaging under a cloud of controversies influenced by some “powerful, shadowy characters” often operating behind the scenes.
His appointment makes him the 6th NBC director general since 1990, while in between four director generals were appointed in the acting capacity.
When he took over, NBC was in the red with compounded successive deficits in excess of more than N$100m. This was as a result of unaudited financial reports, which had been outstanding for [three] years.
Public expectations were high. Those familiar with the state of affairs at the State broadcaster thought it was just a matter of time before Aochamub succumbed to the growing list of failed NBC DGs. Needless to say, a crippling industrial action that almost brought down these expectations to reality. Worse still, the expectations were backed with some corruption allegations on digital terrestrial television (DTT) matters.
This is when personality met professionalism. Aochamub has this far proven that he is a man in his own league and plays by his own rules.
Looking at NBC today, Aochamub can, by any standards, walk tall with his chin up and beam for managing to “tame the wild beast”.
But how has he managed to turn things around for the best, much to the chagrin of soothsayers and prophets of doom?
Steadying the ship
In three years Albertus is a proud man that they have put shoulder to wheel building up an organisation which is resilient into the future, “In the midst of the abuse we have been through we have gone to work quietly and now we can report to the nation that there is progress in the making,” boasts the bullish DG.
The results speak for themselves and for that, he says: “We have kept the numbers (thus employees), we have grown the financials , we have cleaned up on how we report, we have made progress in term of technology that we deploy to make this broadcaster as one of the best on the continent.”
In retrospect, he says NBC was a ‘badly beaten” organisation, “We used to beat each other up internally and we used to be beaten up externally. We used to be roughed up by everybody who could. The organisation became a laughing stock for all and sundry
But all that is evaporating, paving way for a gradual descent of sweet success such that some former employees are considering returning to the organisation.
Recipe for success
Part of his success in cracking resistance and managing to rebuild the organisation from the ground up is his previous experiences in the corporate world, which moulded him for boardroom and organisational complexities.
“I had a very comfortable existence in the corporate life, I was fortunate that at a tender age of 29, I was already in senior management positions, thanks to those who believed young people could be trusted to run institutions,” he submits.
Focusing on the greater goal
When Aochamub accepted the DG position, he did so in the national interest. Although it is coincidental it had to do with fancy title, in fact, he had to take a pay cut to take this job.
“As youth leaders before independence and before it became fashionable to enhance our family lives by becoming part of political parties, we led organisations because we were conscious of the responsibilities bestowed upon us for the sake of the less fortunate. We believed one could advance to a greater cause for all Namibians,” he says, adding, “As long as you look at things from that perspective, you will never focus on advancing your personal gains. I had to settle for a pay cut to do this job, that’s the reality.”
His approach to responsible leadership is very simple. “When people of ill intent spend all their energies, plotting to destroy the little you have established for the advancement of this country, it should not distract your focus on the greater goal,” he dares.
“My eyes are always on the prize and that prize is very simple, that is to live in a country I would like to leave for my kids. Should my kids one day ask me what I have done for this great country, I hope to be able to say he spent his time and energy and a little talent to make a contribution and thus all,” he says, adding, good conscience people always have to step forward to do things right, so that those who have ill intentions do not succeed in their endevour. “That’s how great leaders build great nations,” he beams.
An institution for all
One of Aochamub strong pillars for success has been his continual involvement with his staff, this has created a buy-in, instilling the resilience NBC needed desperately.
Additionally, his and his team’s involvement with local trade unions - that have now become part of the organisation’s strategic planning has been a beckoned blessing.
“Whenever we have our strategic planning workshops, the trade unionists join us to be part of the process. They become part of the discussions right from day one alongside the directors of the company, the management, as well as the middle and lower level employees. That’s why and how the system has become resilient to external attacks. So while certain individuals want to focus on one person (me), what they do not know is, there is a whole system that can withstand the shocks,” he asserts.
While consultation has it merits, Achomub insists being firm enough to make independent decisions as a leader is what eventually makes the difference.
“You cannot consult forever, neither can you shy away from making difficult decisions. Somebody has to make decisions and that person happens to be you,” he says.
A strong board
According to Aochamub, the strength of the current board of directors has played a tremendous role [together with the relevant structures] in moving the organisation forward.
“In the past, the board did not get along with the management team while the management team did not get along with the unions, as staff members ganged against each other. We were too caught up in internal and external attacks that we would not have any energy left to act for the good of the organisation,” he recalls.
The power of focus
Achomub is a strong believer in taking things simply while making a huge impact through his work in the entire organisation.
“In a nutshell, do not focus on destroyers who wish to see the institution you work for crumble down. Instead, spend all your time thinking of how to change at least one life at a time each day and then how to continue doing that. Anything outside that line of thought should not matter. Because the mind is a very powerful organ, one cannot go against it when it is positively tuned. The world may attack with an array of “missiles” but it could never destroy a positive mind. That is my attitude towards life,” he explains.
Interestingly, he recalls jokingly saying he would stay at NBC for the duration of his contract and would only leave out of a personal choice and not because of any external pressure. And that was it.
Of course many perceived this statement as arrogant. But looking at the current state of affairs at NBC, one can tell he knew what he was supposed to do and he focused his energy on exactly that. The once beleaguered State-owned Enterprise (SoE) is on the rise, laying to rest the “NBC DG jinx”. PF