The Group Chairman, Mutual Benefits Assurance Dr. Akinade Ogunbiyi, is a major topic of discuss within Osun politics now. It is no longer news that the Ile-Ogbo born Insurance guru turned politician is running for the governorship of Osun come September 22nd, 2018. It is also hot news that he is running on the platform of the PDP. He is one of the 23 aspirants jostling for the party’s ticket. Akin Ogunbiyi has sent a strong signal that he is ready for the race since he declared his intention to contest. Apart from the fact that he has an intimidating C.V and requisite experience to back it up, there are many other things working for him. He is very humble and well loved by his people. He is a thoroughbred professional, a wealth creator, well exposed and an employer of labour. No wonder many have described him as a game changer since he joined the guber race.
A few weeks back, City People’s team of DARE ADENIRAN, ADEOLA SITTU and KEMI IGBALAYE were his guests at his Ile-Ogbo, country home and had an opportunity of having a one-on-one interview with him, during which he opened up on what prompted him to go into politics and why he is running for Osun Guber race. It was a revealing and interesting encounter with the Mutual Benefits Assurance boss. Below are excerpts from the interview.
At what point did you decide to join partisan politics?
I have stayed away from active participation in politics because of the way it is played in this clime. But it seems we are not able to get it right over the years with the caliber of people in charge of leadership and governance in Nigeria. Since its about service we should stop complaining but present ourselves to the electorates as options. Again, Chief Obafemi Awolowo said one thing which keeps re-vibrating , he said, ‘’if good people refuse to join politics then you leave it in the hands of fools’’. People have been complaining for so long that Nigeria is a land that is blessed with milk and honey. But unfortunately we have bedevilled with leadership. It is not that we don’t have the capability in terms of human capital; it is just that the right people don’t find it very interesting or exciting to go into politics, because people have seen politics as violent, deadly and unworthy venture.
That it is only touts or jobless people that go into it. This time of social media, people will tell you that in a country of 180 million people, you have tens of million of First Class graduates, tens of million of Second Class Upper grade holders. And unfortunately they are the ones roaming the streets and people who are Ministers, who are leaders, who are in position of governance are the dropouts. Do you blame anybody? We should blame ourselves. I have seen what people like Peter Obi, the former governor of Anambra State did.
That guy is indeed my role model. I watched him closely and each day of his administration. He had a lot of positive influence on my life and on my decision of joining politics. He is a humane, a grounded professional, and an accomplished man in his own right and a boardroom guru. He went into politics, he has no regrets and his people are better off for it, Nigeria politics is better off for it. In his first and second term in office, I picked so much interest in what he did then and I was really motivated. ‘’And I actually said to myself that, by age 60 I will go into politics.’’ But I had recent encounters within that changed my perception.
Again, if you look at what has happened in Osun State, I am a major stakeholder in the state. I looked at it critically and I asked myself why not now? Things are not so rosy. Ask the current government they will tell you they have tried their best, but their best has not been good enough for Osun State People. In every sector, I don’t mean to push anyone neither am I abusing anybody but the point is, we can’t see the score card. Can I do something? Maybe this is the time. And that was what informed my decision. And I didn’t just jump into it; I knew what I wanted to do. I voluntarily retired from the boardroom. I actually gave notice of retirement to my board in December 2012.
That I would retire December 2016. That was clear four years. I have been living in this my community in the last seven years. So, those are all part of planning, restructuring. And I actually desire a change and good service. Those are the two key things that motivated me. Government, leadership is about service. Can you do it better? Can you give quality and effective leadership? Can you make lives of the people better? Can people really have benefit of democracy? My answers are in the affirmative so I am into politics.
You have the clout, the financial muscle to push your ambition and make it a reality. Coming from the Corporate world, which is a different ball game from politics. What has been your major fear since you joined partisan politics?
My greatest fear to start with was the fact that Nigeria politics has been monetized. The second fear is godfatherism and I had to settle within my mind how I want to play it. Even when the right people have the best of intentions, when they get it wrong by the mode of entering, even if they eventually get to the position they are incapacitated from day one. So, I said to myself, yes there are people out there who have been in politics all their lives.
There are recognized leaders in politics, there are fathers and mothers. There are people that are worthy of referencing. I said to myself, I just need a platform; I don’t need godfather and chose my platform carefully. If God has been this faithful to me there is nothing am looking for if not for the fact that one is motivated by service to the people; the desire to bring the service and the good leadership. I started my company at the age of 39, to the glory of God at 56 I have been able to retire to my village.
The second aspect is the issue of monetization and I said to myself, if it is service I want to go and give, I will offer myself to the people. I will offer what I want to do to the people. I will showcase my profile, let them take their decision. I am not competing with anybody on the basis of how much money we are ready to throw around. Remember people like us started by selling sachet water. I tell people now I sell fish as a farmer. How much do you think I will be able to gather to go and compete? I didn’t make free money! And I am not going to government to go and make money.
The money I am spending is not an investment that I am looking forward to recouping. I genuinely want to serve my people. If I tell people what I want to do, it is up to them to decide. If tomorrow insha Allah, by God’s grace, I will do everything possible within my reach, within my means and my budget to win the ticket of the party. If I win Glory is to God, if I don’t win it I will go back to my farm. It is not a do or die affair. If anybody has 10 billion to spend, good luck to him. If it is only 10 million I can judiciously spend to project myself and what I want to do for the people, it is up to them to make their choice.
If you look at the long list of those jostling for your party (PDP) ticket you find that there are many bigwigs on the list. Are you in anyway intimidated seeing these people in the race?
For every one of us that has submitted letter of intention to compete for the party’s ticket, we are all qualified in our own right. For an adult, man or women, to wake and say I want to be governor of my state, it says a lot. Yoruba will say an antelope that waited for the gun of a hunter must be very sure of himself for the kind of protection is taking to receive the bullet. We are relatively qualified.
What stands you out among other aspirants?
I have put out my profile; I have been talking openly as to what and what I can bring to the table. So, everybody else has put their profile and what they can do on the table. It is for the electorates, the delegates, the party to make their choice. There is a job scope, there is position specification. 25 people, 100 people, it is only one person that will get the crown. But starting with my personality and when you talk of my personality it comprises everything that I stand for; family background, professional career, my experience, my training, my exposure, my education and intellect. When I retired part of what I did was to go and get more capacity, I went to Yale School of Management and did what they Global Executive Leadership Management course. They admitted only 27 of us throughout the world, we were the first set.
I was in Yale University for 9 months. Going to Yale for that course is part of my preparation for this job. I have been to all the best universities in the world to do one leadership course or the other. I am an alumnus of Harvard Business School, for their high potential leadership course.
I deliberately chose that course and stayed away for nine months, learning about new techniques, new management techniques, building capacity for leadership. I didn’t just go there by accident. So, I have put everything I have on the table for Osun people. I have put everything I have put everything on the table for PDP my party. It is now up to them to make a choice. I pray by God’s grace they choose me based on what I have put on the table. If they don’t choose me, whoever they choose my very best wishes. I will still support them with whatever is within my capacity. It is not just about candidature of the party it is about the party taking over government come Nov 22nd, 2018.
Today, I have voluntarily retired from both board and management. I just told you I gave 4 years notice for retirement. Now I am ready and I don’t need any push, it was a conscious decision. I have taken this decision in the last four years and that was why I started doing the things I was doing, reorganizing myself. I also told you I have been living in my community in the last seven years. I building a church for the community, I am promoting a private university, which is University of Ile-Ogbo.
Sir, you come from a very humble and disciplined background, a village man from Ile-Ogbo, gentle and a straightforward person. Whereas, 1+1 in politics may not be 2. Do you think you can cope in the political environment, giving the kind of background you are coming from?
I am Akin Ogunbiyi from a humble background.
Yes. I am happy you are in my house in my country home. I was raised in the very simple and principled way. To believe in something and stand for it, value, hard work, integrity, respect to others and honor God in all my ways. Among other things, I am what I am today and these are the values that have divine my kind of person. These are the values I am taking into politics. There is patronage everywhere, but when you are given patronage, equally there what they call ‘’standard service agreement’’.
You can give patronage but with standard service agreement. If I want to use local contractor, we’ll all agree, anybody that can meet one, two, three standard. If you can’t, go and build up your capacity. I won’t give anybody job of one naira and ask him to make it ten naira and at the end of the ask him to bring seven naira back. At the end of the day nothing is done, what am I looking for? There will be patronage but patronage with results. So with me, one plus one is still going to be two. They might be doing it elsewhere but not with me, it won’t happen under my leadership.