The sexual harassment scandal involving Kendall Ananyi, Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of internet service provider Tizeti, has made for uncomfortable reading.

Since Thursday, June 2, 2020, Kelechi Udoagwu has insisted that Ananyi sexually harassed her as she prepared for a startup career at Meltwater Entrepreneurial School of Technology (MEST).

She alleges that Ananyi took advantage of a mentor-mentee relationship and risked it all.

"This married dude pulled out and put his d** in my hands in the bright afternoon, begging me for anything I could do *sigh," Udoagwu had shared on Twitter.

Kelechi Udoagwu [She Leads Africa]
Kelechi Udoagwu [She Leads Africa]

It would take 48 hours for Tizeti to respond. The tech firm promised to launch an investigation into the allegations.

"As a company, we have zero tolerance for harassment and outright condemn sexual harassment of any kind and empathize with any person who faces incidents of sexual harassment.

"We have commissioned an investigation into the allegations," the company said.

On June 7, 2020, Tizeti announced that it has asked Ananyi to step down as CEO. "The Tizeti Network Board has asked Kendall Ananyi to step down from his role as CEO, effective immediately, while an independent investigation into the sexual harassment allegation is conducted."

Curiously, this statement was deleted from Tizeti's Twitter page and replaced with another slightly different one.

Ananyi, Tizeti announced on June 8, wasn't being asked to step down, he was doing so voluntarily.

"Tizeti Founder and CEO Kendall Ananyi has voluntarily stepped down as CEO, effective immediately, during the period where the company will conduct an independent investigation into a sexual harassment allegation," the company announced feebly, while praying no one notices its slight change of tone.

But semantics do matter and even more so in this scenario.

Was there a strong reprimand behind the scenes for the fellow who issued the penultimate statement?

Kendall Ananyi, CEO and Founder of Tizeti at the 36th edition of Startup Sunday meetup in Lagos, 2017
Kendall Ananyi, CEO and Founder of Tizeti at the 36th edition of Startup Sunday meetup in Lagos, 2017

By altering the message in which it announced a temporary management takeover, just hours after Ananyi denied that he had never sexually harassed Udoagwu, Tizeti portrays to the public that it is simply doing the bidding of a powerful co-founder and CEO who has hurriedly restricted his Twitter page at a time when everyone needs it open.

"I never had a MEST mentor-mentee relationship with Kelechi," Ananyi offered just before midnight on June 7, paraphrasing Bill Clinton's infamous 1998 line.

The timing of his tweet is subject matter for another day.

"MEST can easily verify this from their records. However, Kelechi and I did meet at a MEST event in Accra and during which I addressed MEST cohorts.

"Kelechi and I never had any mentorship session and I never sexually harassed or raped," he insisted.

It is also curious that not a single board member of Tizeti; not a single investor of the tech firm, has issued a statement or tweet in anger concerning this boardroom scandal.

Attempts by Pulse Nigeria to reach board members, Tizeti or Ananyi directly for unadulterated, unvarnished comments, have met a brickwall.

Yet, they should all be speaking or taking a tough stance in the face of the embarrassment to the brand unfolding before their eyes.

Shareholders should worry about the firm's mixed messaging at a time like this and the company should be worried about plummeting investor and consumer confidence as Ananyi appears willing to drag the blue chip firm down with him.

An aerial view shows the central business district in Nigeria's commercial capital of Lagos
An aerial view shows the central business district in Nigeria's commercial capital of Lagos

As Nigeria grapples with the twin evil of gender-based violence and rape, corporate Nigeria has to take a collective, decisive stance against workplace sexual harassment.

Corporate Nigeria has to be seen sending a message that says women are safe and protected in a male-dominated workplace.

Ananyi's case may just be a good enough place to start.

Tizeti has got to show that Ananyi isn't meddling with the investigation in any way, shape or form, and conduct a thorough examination of what went down--one where all parties are given a fair hearing and no one is intimidated.

If found guilty, the firm has to be bold enough to ask Ananyi to take a walk. It is what it is.

So far, Tizeti hasn't looked the part and that's a really unfortunate side of the company to portray.

The tech ecosystem in Nigeria is still at its infancy.

For an ecosystem that is loaded to the hilt with impressionable young men and women brimming with innovative ideas, creativity and that can-do spirit this country badly needs to diversify its badly haemorrhaging economy, it is important for firms in this space to set the right kind of example.

The nation is watching, Tizeti.


Pulse Editor's Opinion is the opinion of an Editor at Pulse. It does not represent the views of the Organisation Pulse.