My Desire was to be a Medical Doctor



Interviewed by Funke Olaode

Can we have an insight into your background?
I was born on January 23, 1946 in Olowogbowo area of Lagos Island. My mother traded in groundnut oil and she was popularly known as ‘Iya Olororo’. My father on the other hand was working with Elder Demster, a shipping company. He read up to standard six of those days. He was a Christian and his father was one of the early founders of Olowogbowo Wesley Methodist Church. In fact, he was baptized in the church in 1912. It was a privileged beginning. We had an average family. I was a little bit pampered because I had a laundry man while my contemporaries were washing their own clothes. It was when I started secondary school that my father insisted that I must know how to wash and iron clothes. He bought a coal iron for me. I started learning how to wash and press clothes.

How would you describe your memories of growing up in Lagos of old?
It is very sad to see Lagos now compared to what it was. I grew up in ‘Lagos of old’ where communal living reigned supreme. When you mention your name in one area they can easily trace your background. There was discipline at home, in the community and even at school. Our headmaster took everyone as his own biological children. We dare not go to the swimming pool. If your teachers find out you would be flogged at the assembly. During the festivals, people used to dance freely. But the students must not be found dancing or merry making. The teachers will punish you because they believed that there is time for everything; that studies should be our priority at that period. Today, everything is let loose.

What factors shaped your life as a child?
I am happy for my up-bringing in a Christian home. I am the quiet type but very determined. I concentrated on my studies. Encouragement from my parents and friends also played a crucial role in my life. My father was a very simple man. When he came back from work he would not go out again. He would sit down looking out through the window. And when it was time for him to sleep he would enter his bedroom. Even during the holidays when students enjoyed free days moving from one area to another, I wasn’t used to that. When my friends or classmates visited me, I would see them off to a certain place and turn back. What I saw within my environment shaped my life. My father was a teetotaler and my mother too was a disciplined trader.

At what age did you start school?
I started school at Patience Nursery School in Isale-Eko then around 1951. I later started primary school in 1952 at Zumratul Islamiya Primary School. I finished my primary education and moved to its secondary arm in Yaba in 1960. In fact, we were the first set in that school. I left secondary school in 1964 and started work as a Public Health Inspector in Lagos City Council.

What was your childhood aspiration?
My foray into accounting was an accident because my intention was to read sciences so I could study medicine. When I finished secondary school, I tried to get admission into Federal School of Science which was free because government was trying to encourage students to study the sciences. An incentive was also introduced as government gave out stipends to students. During our time, government introduced an unfavourable policy. When I couldn’t get into Federal School of Science, I ended up in the Lagos City Council. I was very good in the sciences and Mathematics and a friend of mine was studying Book Keeping. And I also started studying Book Keeping and Accounting while working. It was a self-taught endeavour and later on I organized a tutorial and started teaching people who wanted to learn Book Keeping and Accounting for free which helped to develop my knowledge in that field. I did that till 1970.

At what point did you develop a passion for accounting?
About 30 young secondary school leavers were recruited into the Lagos City Council then. But all of us were ambitious and anxious to pursue our education and after few months everybody travelled abroad to either United States or United Kingdom. While we were in LCC, there was School of Hygiene in Yaba where we were taught Basic Public Health and sat for an examination called Royal Society of Health. I obtained a Diploma in Public Health. I got promoted to Assistant Superintendent of Health on a salary of 480 Pounds per annum. My friends travelled to America but I didn’t want to go because accounting qualification from London was more recognized at that time. I travelled to London and began a part-time training in accounting. I got admitted to Polytechnic of North London now University of North London where I studied for my Higher National Certificate in Business Studies. While I was doing that I was also attending City of London Polytechnic in Moorgate reading for Chartered Institute of Secretaries (CIS). I combined both. I finished my HSC in June, 1973 and had CIS in December of the same year. I started work but there was still an urge to pursue accountancy in ACCA. I was lucky Lagos State gave me scholarship to go and do full time studies in London which I only did for two years because of my two qualifications in HSC and CIS. I finished in 1976 and did full time job because I had gotten a permanent stay in England.

Where did you begin your career back home?
Central Bank on Nigeria was recruiting and they came to London. I was recruited and was given a position of Assistant Manager foreign operations. Ironically, my stay at CBN was short-lived I spent only nine months because the job wasn’t challenging enough. In my section all I did was to look at the balance sheet and the transfer. I would sign the cable that would go out as well. I was a signatory in Bank of America and American Reserve Bank. But I wanted to practice as an accountant and my duty wasn’t challenging enough. I resigned and joined a private establishment, Allied Biscuit Company set up by Chief Chris Ogunbanjo. I left the place and joined Nigerian Oil Mills in Kano for about six years. I retired from my last employment with a private company in 2002 as a financial controller.

Looking at your life trajectory are there things you would have done differently?
I thank God for directing my path. I have been religious right from my childhood which helped me to be focused, determined and not to derail. That helped me to fear God in what I do and my relationship with my fellow human being. .

What lesson has life taught you?
Life has taught me not to give up. I believe if you are with God and you adhere strictly to His tenets, He will help you. Again, if you obey God’s commandments, He will give you what you need.