Tomorrow, September 28, 2020, All Progressives Congress, APC, governorship candidate in the 2019 election, Oloye Abdulwaheed Adebayo Adelabu would be 50. He spoke to select journalists on his personal life, education, family, business, politics and other things. OYOINSIGHT.COM Publisher, Sikiru Akinola, was there.
How do you feel turning 50?
Well, what a question! I don’t feel old! I just feel a bit grown up, a little bit more mature in wisdom and my perspective to life and aspiration of how I intend to live the rest of my life. I am particularly thankful to God. There is something I try to avoid to mention but circumstances have compelled me to be mentioning it. Even though I pray to Almighty God that after I must have spent 120 years on the surface of the earth, the Lord can call me to come and rest. It is worthy of mention that my grandfather on whose platform we are all riding today, the late Alhaji Adegoke Gbadamosi Adelabu popularly known as Penkelemesi with all the popularity, achievements, all the ground breaking activities that could be associated to him while he was alive, he achieved all these within a space of 43 years. He lived between September 3rd, 1915 and March 25th, 1958. He lived just 43 years and that goes to tell you that it is not how far but how well you spend the little time God has privileged you to spend on earth. I want to go a bit spiritual because Jesus Christ, our Lord and who those who profess Christianity believe, completed his mission on earth at 33 years. That is to also state the fact that it is not how far but how well and close to half of the world population today still glorify His name and follow Him as His worshippers.
From that, my dad too happens to be the first son of Alhaji Adegoke Adelabu (Penkelemesi) and he died at 33 years. He was a bank manager. He also achieved on his own because I am also part of his achievements. He lived 33 years. So, if I say 50 years is significant to me, I know what I am talking about. I know what I am talking about because my grandfather and my dad never got to 50 years before they died. So, if I want to spend a whole fortune that I have celebrating this, it is worth it. But that is not much to God, what means a lot to me is just to be thankful to God for sparing my life, for making it possible that within that short period, I am worthy of emulation by others and my achievements till date though not fully satisfied, they are still commendable. If I have to end my story, I feel thankful to God and I believe that sincerely all that I asked God to do for me before I reach 50, God has answered it. I mean all.
When you were in the banking sector, your colleagues were calling you Oyo State governor to be and you also resigned from that peak of your career as Deputy Governor of CBN to have a shot in Oyo State governorship election. You lost that election at the age of 49 last year. If you had achieved that, you would have said today that you are fulfilled. Is there regret on your path? Are you fulfilled at that level?
Yes! You are right, looking at it from the surface because we human beings. I may not be very religious, but to an extent, I am spiritual. I believe in God controlling our activities on earth. I believe that it is only one God that is in charge of the earth and I also have my sympathy for both religions. I am a Muslim and my Muslim name is AbdulWaheed. My wife is a Christian and my mum is a Christian. So, I have sympathy for both religions. I will say that I have no regrets because physically I have not clinched the position of the Oyo State governor which I aspired to, which was even the main reason why I left my job then, but let me tell you that I will see myself as someone with foresight and I know what I want. I am quite proactive; I don’t react to situations and circumstances. I plan ahead what I want to achieve. If I am doing something now, not for immediate but for what I plan to achieve later in future. I laid down three requests before God, years back.
While we were growing up and I was in secondary school, I assessed myself and I knew where my strengths were in terms of academics. My former school mate can testify to this. I wanted to become an accountant, a banker, an economist and that was what I had in mind. But from class three, I was the best in almost all the science subjects. You know they will now group you into classes: full science class, social science class, commercial and arts. I was number one in full science with further Mathematics, Chemistry, Biology because I was always leading in all these. I knew my strength and I knew my weaknesses. My strength was in Mathematics and Economics. Any subject that I cannot hold just a single textbook and read and pass, I will never venture into it because I am a very serious student. I had a lot of extra-curricular activities when I was in school. I was never coming to classes all the time because I was a social animalthen. I was a break dancer. I loved dancing and partying that I could compromise going to classes. There was a party going on somewhere and I was representing my school in Literary and debates society, winning many medals.
So, I knew myself that any other subject that will take me out of reading a textbook, I would not do it, but they require laboratory work to do sciences. Even classes, I have not attended let alone going to laboratories to mix chemicals and in Biology, bring a rat tomorrow, open it, toad this and that. I didn’t have the temperament, the patience for all that. I know that if I carry Economics textbook, O.A. Lawal, Iyirere, or Teriba, within two hours, I can read up all the twelve topics. Overnight, I could prepare for all my exams and I knew I would get nothing less than 80 or 85 per cent. The same thing with Mathematics. Literature, just pick Weep Not Child by Ngugi wa Thiong’o, Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe, Lion and the Jewel by Wole Soyinka this and that and you finish and go and write exams.
I succeeded in it probably because I didn’t enjoy so much of a parental care. I was just four years old when my dad died. My mum was 23 years old. The first wife was 28 years old, my mum was 23 and their husband died at 33. So, he had two girls he left behind as widows. Will you ask them not to go and remarry? They had their lives to live.
So, the seven of us, they just packed us to our grandma’s place. They went to remarry about two or three years after. We were with an old woman that was just a petty trader selling pepper, onions and all that. How would you expect such a woman to fully take care of us? So, I was always on the street. The motherly love was still there; at least the woman would see us come home to sleep and she would know our whereabouts, but then, there was no full control of my activities because I grew up with an old woman. If I didn’t go to school, nobody would know. If I went, nobody would know. So, I had that freedom of choice and I want to thank God that it worked for me. If a little child had that kind of opportunity, eight out of ten of them would derail. I was able to choose what I wanted and today, no regrets.
So, I told God that I want three things before the age of 50. Sincerely, the number one, which I have been able to fully achieve, is I don’t want to continue working for anybody at 50. That at 50, I want to be the boss of my own and be able to employ people. As for me, I don’t want to work until age 60 or 65 before retirement. Why can’t I be in that position of employing people and also paying their salary? It gives a kind of fulfillment as one will be contributing to the economy of a particular place where one finds oneself. In fact, before I was appointed Central Bank deputy governor, majority of the people close to me knew I was going to retire from First Bank at the age of 45 or 46 after my six years as an Executive Director. I became an ED at 39 or 40. I said at 45 or 46, I was going to retire as Chief Financial Officer (CFO) of First Bank. But just a year before then, when they were discussing the possibility of me becoming the Managing Director of First Bank with me, when my former boss then, Mr Bisi Onasanya, was to retire. My appointment as CBN deputy governor came in 2014. And it was a call to national service, I could not resist it. It was also an upward progression in my chosen career. I was looking at the MD of First Bank, but I became Central Bank deputy governor.
How close were you to becoming the MD of First Bank? Were you very close or it was just a thought among board members?
Two things: nobody is sure of anything, but I was close. Number one, I was the CFO, very close to the MD who happened to be one of my mentors. When he was the Financial Controller, I was the Deputy Financial Controller. It was because of him that when he became the MD of First Bank he insisted that I must be recalled from Standard Chartered Bank where I was the General Manager. I was a First Bank staff member until a particular period and I left for Standard Chartered Bank. After three years in Standard Chartered Bank, he said for him to succeed as the MD, he wanted Bayo as an Executive Director and Chief Financial Officer.
Number two, I was so close to the major shareholders of First Bank and on merit basis, everybody knew that I was running the bank. Everything was working in my favour. But until something happens, you can’t say you are 100 per cent certain. But to vindicate what I am saying, the person that replaced me as the CFO later became the MD and he is also an Ibadan man, Sola Adeduntan. He was the CFO of African Finance Commission. When I left, he was called to replace me and a year after, he took over from Onasanya. So, it could be said that probably if I had not left, everyone would have felt comfortable with me taking over from Onasanya. But I saw my appointment as a national assignment.
My first assignment as the deputy governor then was deputy governor, Financial System Stability, which has to do with supervision of all banks. So, I was calling the meetings of all the banks. It was a bigger role – a more national role. It was my first venture into public service. And today, God has answered that prayer of retiring successfully before 50.
My second prayer to God was that before 50, I also wanted to see myself producing myself in terms of children God has blessed me with. I wanted to be sure that if I am so busy in a particular state assignment, I could make reference to one or two of my children that could also step in into my shoes and that with time, they can run the affairs from where I am leaving it. And I want to thank God that today, that is possible because I have a graduate, my son, who finished his Master in 2019. Tunde, my first son, has his first degree in Mechanical Engineering from Liverpool University and a second degree in Construction and Real Estate in London College, United Kingdom. He just finished his foundation exam in Certified Financial Analyst (CFA) exams. My second child will soon be graduating too; he is in his final year. He should have graduated a year ago, but he did a year internship, full work, with IBM in London. He is reading Accounting and Finance at the University of Lancaster, UK, and he is taking after me. By next year, he is going to finish. It is a privilege that I can actually point at children, before 50, that I can tell to go and represent me somewhere without fear of failure.
But the most controversial is my third prayer. I told God that after retiring from private sector, all I wanted to do was my personal business and devotion to public service. I spent 23 years working in Lagos (1991 to 2014), then I moved to Abuja and worked for another four and a half years. I left Abuja in June, 2018. That’s a total of almost 27 years outside of Ibadan, and I knew the kind of infrastructural in Lagos and Abuja. One thing I am tempted to do was I would stay back in Lagos or Abuja to be able to enjoy all these social infrastructures and others. And I asked, “Why must it be just Lagos? Why must it be just Abuja?” People made Lagos and Abuja what they are today. In the 40’s to 50’s, the pre-independence era, Ibadan was more prominent than Lagos. In fact, then, there was no Abuja. So, how come within the period of 50 to 60 years, this thing has reversed? Ibadan was the centre of everything – the centre of manufacturing, arts, entertainment, education, health care. The University College Hospital (UCH) is the first teaching hospital. The University of Ibadan was the premier university, research centres, first television station (WNBC), radio station, first stadium – centre of everything. How come these things just reversed? I see that as a failure of our own generation. There is no prominent person in this country today that does not have a house in Ibadan – from Professor Wole Soyinka to Chief Obafemi Awolowo, to Chief Odutola and many more. Everybody was in Ibadan, but when the creation of states came, everybody started going back. But even at that, it still did not affect the status of Ibadan.
So, I said okay, if you wait for the world to correct this anomaly, you will wait forever. But if you can take a bold step on your own, and do your own, other people will see you and emulate you and do their own. Before you know it, little drops of water make an ocean. As for me, I want to retire back in Ibadan where I have my families, friends, where I have everything. I feel more comfortable in Ibadan. So, the only gap we have now is how establishing all those comfort amenities that we have in Lagos and Abuja. Why can’t we establish them in Ibadan? At least, it was not the government that did everything in Lagos. They are private sector driven. But why is it that our people don’t really do anything in Ibadan.
So, I started investing in Ibadan. All my businesses, especially the operational businesses, are in Ibadan. If it is to take rent and all that, I can invest in real estate in Lagos. Is it not to rent? But any business that requires me going there every day, it has to be in Ibadan and I will employ people and contribute to the economic development of my state. I know the impact of my investment in Ibadan, the impact it has made on others. Some people are joining us in trickles.
For years, there was no franchise of branded hotels in Ibadan. I built Best Western, which is the first one. I now said if I could do these things and others are following, what about when I am now in government and government is able to invite and put official structures in place that will attract indigenes of Oyo State, not just Ibadan, to come back to Oyo State and do investments? What impact will that have on the level of employment, economic activities and prosperity of the residents of the state? All that we need for a state to exist, we have it. We have the best of road infrastructure and when it comes to food, we have the cheapest food. In Ibadan, we are surrounded by agrarian communities that can supply food directly into Ibadan.
I was impressed with the steps that Governor Abiola Ajimobi took when he became governor in 2011. Within a period of four to five years, we saw changes. This is what we are talking about. That is what prompted me to pour more of my funds into the state. And you see the boom that we experienced in tourism. Ajimobi came and changed and I felt that the man was already laying the foundations for what I was talking about. And I picked up and found out that in education, in health, economy, infrastructure and everything, it will be good at this time. And he also brought decency to politics, politics of the intellectuals, not politics of thuggery and all that. So, that was what encouraged me and I said let me see if one can actually succeed this man so that after laying the foundation, we can just come and build upon that foundation because laying the foundation was turbulent, it was dangerous because you need to step on so many toes which Ajimobi did and he achieved that foundation of peace and security for infrastructural development, urban renewal and quality policies in education and health. The School Governing Board which I was part of would have been the best for us to move all our schools up. I was in a very good position to succeed Godwin Emefiele, because they have been clamouring for a Yoruba man as CBN governor all this while so this young man will be best fit and the network was there. I didn’t allow that to erase my vision. I just wanted to move. If I had talked to people, 99 out of 100 would have discouraged me that politics is not like that.
What was the quantum of pressure mounted on you by your wife and family not to resign at that time? And what was the joker you used to eventually prevail on them?
That’s a very tricky one. But let me tell you that I always have what I want to do in mind and if anybody sits down with me and listens to me, there is no way the person won’t be convinced by my own side of the story. On the surface of it, without listening to me, you are going to think that I was going to make a wrong decision. But all the reasons that will be adduced to me for taking a wrong decision, I will ask you. “What is your stake?” Your stake is you are my wife, you are my children and if I leave this job and I don’t win this election, will it affect the food that I am paying for? Will it affect your school fees as my son? Will it affect your monthly allowance? Everything they were enjoying then, I promised them it was not going to drop a bit and that it can only go up. And I would tell them that I did not just start planning this; I have been planning it. I will tell them that if I sit with the businesses that I have, I could even earn more money, if it is money that you guys are looking at.
I believe that God will not announce to anybody when He wants to call you, and you cannot say you want to work up to a particular level before you start enjoying yourself; you must also enjoy this life too. When I say enjoyment, I mean freedom – that you don’t have to be waking yourself up with alarm throughout the life you will spend on this earth. I mean you attend meetings at 8am and you stay at meeting until 10pm. I want full freedom. The only thing that I am prepared to stress myself for is that ultimate vision that I have – being the governor of this state for four years or eight years. I am ready to stress myself on that. Beyond that, I don’t want to stress myself on any paid employment again. And that was how I able to convince them that this thing will not change anything.
But let’s look at the brighter side of it – you will see me more, you will have my attention more and your mind will be at rest more. Let me give you one example. I spent four-and-a-half year in the Central Bank and I did not spend a weekend in Abuja. Yes! In a year, there 52 weeks, right? So, I could go to Abuja on Sunday evening or Monday morning and return on Friday evening. I would still go to Lagos from Abuja back and forth; let’s even forget those little trips. In a week, I usually travelled to Ibadan from Abuja twice. For a whole year, that makes two times 52 which is 104 times; in four years, that will be 416 times through local flights, and for the remaining half of the year, it comes to 468 times that I boarded local flights. What more gives you panic? In my mind, I was always thinking of the next available flight. You can imagine what my mum was passing through each time she heard anything was happening. But that will not be there again once I resign.
So, I was able to convince them that none of what they were enjoying would drop in taste or value and that their mind would be at rest. At 60, I should have finished my mission. If God answers my prayers and I become the governor at 52, four years on the position, at 56, I am good. If God says eight years, at 60, I am fine. This is why I said I always plan my things ahead and I work towards it. Whether God has answered it or not, I said I wanted to be the governor of Oyo State before 50. That was my third request, but I put a clause, which is if my going there is going to achieve what I am going there to achieve. But if it is not going to achieve it, I don’t care if I become it or not.
With the benefit of hindsight, it is true that there is no how you are going to have spent so much money, so much efforts, and sacrificed your job without becoming the governor, as a human being, you feel the initial pain, but with a spiritual eye, you begin to see that God loves you and that He is your favourite. And that throughout the lifetime I have spent, He has been good to me. I knew with the benefit of hindsight that God did it to my favour. Probably a lot of things could have happened. It could be internal and it could external. We had a crash programme when I left the office. I didn’t know the party leaders as intimately as I should have known them. I didn’t know even all our party structures the way a governor was supposed to have known them. I thought we would work on them when I become the governor. Now, I know the steps to take and the steps not to take. In government, so, things are bit different now. Now think I’m wiser now. I’m more in touch with party members and leaders now. I know what is possible, I know what is not possible. I know the promises I can make and I know promises I cannot make. And people are also freer to work with me now, unlike before. And with the benefit of hindsight, I thank God that I did not win that time. Lastly, I need to qualify why I say I thank God. The major point is that the people have been able to see what my opponent, Governor Seyi Makinde, could render. Otherwise, if I had won, they would have said he would have performed better than Adelabu. But now we haven’t seen any good performance. So, I thank God.
How and when did you meet the late Aare Abdulazeez Arisekola?
I met Aare in 1988. My dad had died in 1958 and we were to do the 30th anniversary and Adelabu was his mentor and his everything. He said he was going to sponsor it for the family through my sister, Sister Kunbi Egbaoje. One of the things that Aare promised was that he was ready to give scholarship to any of Adelabu’s children. Coincidentally, I just got admitted to the Obafemi Awolowo University Ile Ife by that time. I met him and he said I looked smart and asked for the course I was studying. Arisekola’s scholarship was not a formal one. It was just like he was going to adopt you as one of his wards. “When you are going to school, just come and meet me.” And he would dip his hands in his pocket and give me some amount whilst going school. That’s how we became close. Anytime I was home, I would go to him. He took me like a son and when I would keep records of people who called for him. Fortunately, or coincidentally too, his first son, Ismail, happened to be my classmate and course mate in Ife. While my mum would only be able to give me N200 for the month, Aare would give me like N1, 500. I was covered for the entire semester.
Perhaps because I was already used to working with Aare in terms of taking notes, keeping the records of who called and the message they left and all that, he told me, “Bayo, once you finish, you will be my accountant.” I left in 1992 and I told him I was going to come back to him after youth service. Throughout the youth service through 1997, five years, I did not go back to him. Every Ramadan, I would write notes and cards to him, every Ileya, New Year. I photocopied my result and my NYSC discharge certificate and sent to him. And there was no phone to make it possible to call him. I would go there, drop those things at the gate and take off. And I knew he was going to get them. I had an uncle, Uncle Oderemi Onasina, who used to be the Principal of the Government College, and was also a Director at the Ministry of Education. He was my dad’s immediate younger brother. Aare would call uncle, “Where is Bayo?” And that was when Aare was so close to General Sani Abacha, and he was getting appointment and everything for everybody. There was a temptation for me to return to him. But I said no, because I knew what I wanted. I said, “Not until I get qualified as a Chartered Accountant, I will not see Aare.” If I had chosen to work with Aare, he would have given me a car, a house and big money. But I would be laid back – I won’t be able to write the ICAN exams. I won’t be able to achieve anything for myself again. I won’t be exposed. And if Aare dies or anything happens, what would be left of me? Is that what I want in life? I said no. I wanted to be a professional that can be independent and can actually run on my own that even Aare himself would be proud of.
In 1996, I just went to my uncle, Oba Otudeko. And we went to Aare – I just went to prostrate. “Why have you been running away from me?” he said. I said, “Daddy, it is better. Let me go and see how life is. Let me go and struggle on my own and know what it means to achieve things on my own. That would make me value life more. I don’t want life on a platter of gold.” Yes, if you get life on a platter of gold, sooner or later, it will rust. But if it is something you struggle for to get by yourself, you will be able to sustain it by yourself. And I gave him copies of my certificates and appealed to him.
What brought you, former Deputy Governor of Lagos State, Femi Pedro, the current governor, Jide Sanwo-Olu and others so close?
We were together in bank and when Femi Pedro was to join our leader, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu as Deputy Governor in 2003, there were two of us that were very close to taking over: Jide Sanwo-Olu and myself. Jide as a Lagosian followed him. And he made Jide Special Assistant on Economy and Opeyemi Bamidele was Special Assistant on Politics. He asked whether I was following him too, but I told him that I wasn’t ready for politics and that even when I am ready for politics, I would go to Ibadan. If you say Adelabu in Lagos, it is only one street that was named after my grandfather. I am not from Lagos. I will rather go back to Ibadan.
Immediately Aare heard that Femi Pedro had left the bank, he told me to return to First Bank. He spoke to Oba Otudeko and they agreed they had to put their own there, and that’s how I joined First Bank in 2003 as the Deputy Financial Controller to Mr Bisi Onasanya, who was the Financial Controller then. In 2007, I became the Assistant General Manager (AGM). But the day I wanted to leave too, I deferred before I told Aare and Oba Otudeko. That’s how I do my things – if I am convinced about a thing, and if it turns out well, fine and if it turns out bad, let me take the blame.
But the people of Oyo State love Makinde now. He’s paying salaries and embarking on populist pro-masses programmes. The civil servants, pensioners and some other people, even outside the state are happy with him.
I don’t know where you got your statistics from. I once said during a radio interview at a time that no state needs a governor before salary is paid. When salary is paid through statutory allocations and it goes straight to the Accountant General, they take it to the bank and they pay. Why must that be the major achievement of any governor? And what is the population of the civil servants compared to the entire population of the state. If there is any economic prosperity in the state and it is only teachers that are collecting salaries, it is like “olowo kan otoshi mefa” now. What happens to the private sector people? What happens to the market women? What happens to the traders? What happens to the farmers that are not eating from the government allocation? And when you embark too much on populist programmes, which, in most cases, are not always giving the state sustainable development, it is more about immediate consumption. But for you to achieve sustainable economic and infrastructural development, you must bring out policies that initially could be painful to the people, but they will see the advantages in no time. I believe the governor is scared to take such bold steps.
Populist programmes are short-lived. Within a short period, people will know that this man doesn’t really have so much to offer in terms of sustainable infrastructural development. It is going to two years now, can you point at one or two major projects that this government has completed? Everything is still on their wish list and if wishes were horses, beggars would ride.
Your father died at a very young age when you were just four years old. And you were taken to your grandmother for care and schooling. Can you tell us the challenges you faced and the strategy you adopted so that those in similar situation today can learn from your experience.
There is no gain without pain and one must be ready. You may think that you have escaped the pain. No, you cannot do anything. Even if you are born into a rich family with a silver spoon in your mouth, there are some things that are compulsory that you must pass through to prepare you for the future. Your dad will not be there for you all the time. And I thank God that I passed through the pain and I live long enough to benefit from the gain. That’s just it.
I lost my dad at year of 33 and he had seven of us and our mother was very young. She had to remarry. So, parental care was zero. The old woman was a petty trader selling pepper, onions, palm oil and all that. So, it’s clear that she could not financially care for seven children. In my life since I grew up, I never had three-square meals that I would eat breakfast, lunch and dinner. Where? That probably conditioned my eating habit till today. I have never had three-square means. Not because I didn’t want, but because we could not afford it. Before I would eat breakfast, I would go out and hawk pepper, onions, soft drink, bread. I would be back by 12pm and that’s when we would have breakfast. And for my lunch, I call it ‘Lundy’ (lunch and dinner).
We also would go to rural markets. There was no rural market days that I did not know at that time. Yes, we were going to Oko Oyedeji in Lagelu Local Government Area, when you pass through Ijigun, Lagun, Lapatere, Kutayi, Oyedeji, Pabiekun, Igbo Elerin and all that. Yes, by 5am all those plank lorries where we would not even have a seat. They will just put me inside. Or you go to Oko Onidundunbefore Iroko, in Akinyele Local Government Area. And let me tell you, we would also go to Egbeda, Osegere. We would go to where they call Alabameta, after Akuwon Ikire. Alabameta is before Alaguntan farm settlement that you can use to navigate Orile-omu. That’s Ikire side along Egbeda Local Government Area then.
I did all these in my growing up days. It was not easy at all. I would go to school without a kobo in my pocket save for friends that would just sometimes give handouts. I can’t be going to my Mummy to disturb her in her own husband’s house all the time. I had my pride anyway. I never lived with Mum. It’s only once in a while that she would come to my school and ask after me. She would be told that I was not in school and that she should check me at Abete.
But her comfort what the teachers will tell me that if you tell her that he is still the leader in the class. “How your child is doing it, we don’t know.” How he is doing it, we don’t know. He doesn’t come to school regularly, but set exam tomorrow, he will be number one. For me, there is a difference between activities and results. I focus more on the results. Not that I perform any magic to becoming first, making eight A1’s in school and making First Class.
So, if it is like one week to my exam that I will just come back to my sense, “Bayo, exam is coming o”. In Abete they will not see. One thing I was doing was that I will know what they are teaching in class. From primary school up to Ife, I must get my notes up to date – it is either I write them or through photocopy, and I will do my crash programme. Not that exams will remain two days and I will start asking them: How did they solve this question or where is the note? No, I will get all my materials ready for I know that for another one week, there is a sacrifice I have to make. So, that has been part of me since secondary school.
The talk about working smart and not working hard is real. If you work smart, you don’t have to work hard. Yes, that principle I have been applying since when I was in the primary, secondary and university. And it also helped me when I started work. What people judge is your external output.
I believe that with good focus, hard work, and articulated vision, anybody can get to anywhere irrespective of their upbringing and it is always very important for a child to become as independent as possible in their early days. When you are expecting help, support and assistance from others before you get things done, it’s always difficult even when you grow up. You should be internally inspired; you should be self-motivated for you to do things. You don’t have to wait for anybody to guide or direct you. In fact, it amounts to pampering if someone has to be guiding you. No, you should identify what you want to be in life and you can take steps towards achieving it.
It involves a lot of sacrifice; I can tell you. For example, when I started work, 91/92 after national youth service, most of my mates were living in Surulere, Ikeja, some were living on the Island close to their places of work and all that. They all bought cars. I got one of the best jobs. I got eight appointment letters before I finished service. Yes, eight appointment letters: Pricewater House, Guinness, Shell, others and I was to choose one. It was not because the salary was one of the best, butbecause the work too was a training ground for me as an accountant. So, I chose Price Water house which is an international firm of accounting and management consultants. And I believe that’s where I need to be pegged to prepare me for the future and the challenges ahead.
I had a leap joining the banking industry, because I was coming as a professional from a firm. I joined the banking industry as a senior manager 1999. A lot of people would have achieved such after six to seven years in an audit firm and consulting. I started with Femi Pedro who was the Managing Director of First Atlantic Bank. I was the Chief Financial Controller, Jide Sanwo-Olu, now Governor of Lagos State, was the Chief Treasurer. So, we were colleagues in there. I had that leap that was why it looked like I had a fast rapid, career because I started from the firm.
So, when I started, a lot of my colleagues were buying cars and building houses. But I believe that for wealth to be sustainable, you must accumulate at the initial stage. Yes, you don’t have to keep expending what you are earning now. What did I do? I stayed with my sister for one year, living with her at Akowonjo, Egbeda. I would board molue from Ojuelegba to Alaka Estate where our office was then. The day I stopped boarding molue was the day I was a bit late to the bus stop and the molue was full. So, I had to stand by the door and it rained that day. I was so drenched and the breeze was so much. My tie was flying around. And from Akowonjo, I would come out at Nicon; Nicon to Vulcanizer, Vulcanizer to Jimoh, from Jimoh Bus stop to Dopemu Roundabout that goes to Sasa. As we were just approaching Lagos-Abeokuta, when you get to Cement at Mangoro, one man was supposed to join us, but it was already full. Instead of this man to stop, he just stepped on the door of molue, and by the time he stepped on the door, the bus moved and he was not able to hold the bus by itself. Of course, he was going to fall, so the only thing he could was grab was my tie. I had no choice, the two of us had to jump off the bus and we rolled over with suit and everything.
There is nothing that will come out good that will not have its time of difficulty. I would come back from work at 11 or 11:30 or even midnight and I would have to wake up by 4am and by 4:30am, I must be on my way to the bus stop. For the first three months, I would cry from my sister’s house to the bus stop about the kind of life I was living. But what kept pushing me on was where I was going. If I didn’t pass through all those difficulties, the story will not be interesting. There is no shortcut to success; you must pay for whatever you will become in this life. For anybody passing through the kind of difficulty I passed through, it is only developing and preparing them for the future. And they should see it not as discouragement, but as an inspiration to get to their destination. If you run away from it today, you are not escaping it. It will haunt you, and by that time, you won’t be able to overcome it again. It is better you overcome the obstacle today, kill the obstacle, move above it and get to where you are going. That was my only inspiration. I knew where I was going and that the suffering would end one day. And in no time, it ended.
I lived in NICON at Ebgeda – I lived in a face-to-face two-room apartment. The floor of the passage was not uncemented. The toilet was detached from the house, but I paid for a flat. I was trying to do a job in Yobe in 1994. They called an initiative North-East Arid Zone Development Project (NEAZDP) by the EEC then. I watched USA 1994 world Cup matches there together with Chief MKO Abiola. I wanted to get married in 1995 and I gave the money to an estate agent to get me a flat before I returned. The agent went away with the money and to go and look for another apartment was difficult. I looked for the agent and he said the only house he had was an unplastered face-to-face house. I told him to take me to the house. It was better for me to collect something from the man than to leave him. That’s how I moved to a two-room apartment (room and parlour). The funniest thing in that house was that the bathroom was detached from the house and it did not have a door. When using it, you have to use your towel as a cover. I was a bit late for work. I was supposed to leave for work by 5:30am, but I woke exactly that time that day. When I woke up, I went straight to the bathroom. All the women around the house, the house wives were already washing their clothes. I just carried my bucket, went into the bathroom and used my wrapper to cover the entrance. That was how this rain started with heavy breeze. By the time I was through, the breeze had carried the wrapper and I saw it going. I had to chase it and all the women just ran. It was already getting to 6am. So everyone could see what was happening. The best for me was to chase that wrapper and get it back. It was that bad. There was no kitchen; we just put our stove in the passage and cooked there.
I said I would not renew my rent in any house I lived in until I move into my own house. I lived in that house for two years, 1994 to 1996. Then, I moved to a flat in the same area, and by 1998, I left and I came to Ikeja. But what I have been able to acquire in terms of properties or in terms of savings within the period of that five or six years was more than what my friends were able to save. I later bought a car, a better car. This was because I waited for the money to accumulate before I could start.