Mr Guido Stock is the Commercial Counsellor, Austrian Embassy in Nigeria.
Stock first came to Nigeria 40 years ago, working in different organisations and in different capacities. Years later, he came back to work for the second time at Austrian Commercial Center, but this time, as Austria Commercial Counselor.
In this exclusive interview with Prisca Sam-Duru, Jim Lawson and Vera Anyagafu, Stock shares his impression about Nigerians, interests, experiences and much more. Excerpts._
Tell us about yourself?
Stock is a gypsy. I studied Business Administration.
The first time I was here was 40 years ago. From 1995 till now is not up to 40 years. But 40 years ago, I worked in an Engineering company. We installed machines in Kaduna and Enugu. At that time I was very strong and energetic.
I came back and it’s like coming home. Actually this building was built 22 years ago and I was involved in the construction and moved into it 22 years ago.
Later I joined the Austrian Commercial Services and ever since, I’ve been moving from one country to the next. The only country I ever came back to, is Nigeria. I’ve been posted to Indonesia, the UK, Mexico, Australia etc, and back to Nigeria. First as a Commercial attache and then as Commercial Counselor. In between, I’ve been in Austria as Country Manager for the successor countries to the Soviet Union. That’s Russia, Ukraine, Central Asian countries and as an Area Manager for North and Latin America. That was my last posting before I came back here. I’m very happy to be back. I like being in Nigeria and I like Nigerians.
Since coming back has anything changed?
For me the most thing which has changed which is very positive, is that I feel the place is more secured. At least part of the country. There’s big improvement here. I’ve not been out of Lagos that much since I came back. In Lagos things have changed for the better. I also see that when I go to hotels and restaurants, they are much better. Lagos has developed considerably over the last 15 years. I also see that there are many expatriates everywhere in Nigeria. What is a bit disappointing is that we still run a lot on generator and the power supply is still far from what it should be. It effects the whole economy. And there, something has to happen for Nigeria to really take off.
You mean personal interest?
Yes. The things that interest you?
I’m interested in art and in tech metals so I’m a collector of old watches and I’m somebody who loves to work with tools and machines. So, I have technique interest and I also love fine paintings. I enjoy seeing Nigerian crafts and also enjoy seeing nice wood works which are done here, statues etc. Basically fine art and technical metals. I mean technical things. Like I said, I’m a collector of old watches as well as watch making machines.
You mean wrist watches?
Yes old wrist watches.
So what do you do with them?
I just keep them.
So if I have an old wrist watch, you’ll..?
You give it to me please.
Any particular brand of wrist watch?
Yes I specialised on fine brands. Old watches from the 1930s to 40s. I have a place in Austria where I keep them.
Are you just an art collector or a producer as well?
No I’m not a producer. But I’m also a hobby repairer of old watches. I have some machines and tools with which I do the repairs. When I fix them, I keep them working.
So where did you derive such interest from?
My father and grandfather were engineers and somehow the interest in these technical metals are in my blood.
Are you married?
I was married to an Indonesian lady and have a big daughter who grew up here in Nigeria. She went to Saint Saviour school and loved Nigeria. She had a very good time here in Nigeria. School here was very good such that when she moved to Austria she had no problems continuing her education. She lives in Australia now.
You have a good sense of humour and it’s surprising that you chose business Administration instead of being in the creative industry?
You’re over rating my sense of humour. It’s been a wonderful time with you all. I’ve been entertained instead.
When asked to come back to Nigeria how did you feel?
I was very excited. I truly was very excited because it was the best thing that could have happened to me. I feel like it’s home. It was home coming, same house.
May we know why you’re from an advanced country where everything works yet you feel good being in Nigeria?
First of all, I like your smiles. Can you imagine sitting here with a typical European, with all the seriousness? You arrive at the Nigerian airport and everybody is smiling at you. This is something you find here not only in Nigeria but in West Africa, people are friendly, it’s a big difference. Nigerians are warmer, with so much self confidence. Inspite of challenges you face, you smile. That’s very important and I feel very well here. So when people are saying negative things about Nigeria for me, Im hardly confronted with these negative things. I have a generator, your smile, I’m not stuck in traffic because I walk from my residence to office in 2 Minutes. I have no hardship.
What about negatives like corruption, Boko Haram?
Look for me personally, I have no Boko Haram, no corruption because nobody has asked me for money. Nobody asked me for money at the airport or in traffic.
I admire you because things are much harder for you than for me yet you still smile. I often admire people working for us here. They are stuck in traffic for 2 hours and yet they look well.
How do you relax? After work, I go for a run. That’s one of my hobbies. And now I’m thinking of taking up cycling as well but I will always be a runner.
Would you like to say your age?
I’m above 60.
But you look younger?
Not so young. I envy you because your skin does not age as much as ours. I always believe that the skin of Africans seems to stay young for ever.