- Top OYO Politican, Eng. SEYI MAKINDE ‘s Birthday Interview
December 25th every year is important for popular Ibadan born businessman, and politician, Engr. Seyi Makinde. This year is not different except that it is a golden celebration of this man of honour. Seyi Makinde, having done so much in touching lives positively even plan to do more on his 50th birthday. That according to him gives him more joy; he is so passionate about putting smile on people’s faces and that he has been doing in the past years. Not only that. Seyi Makinde has proven his worth. He the business world, he is one of the few brilliant young technocrats, with intimidating C.V, playing big in Oyo politics.
His story didn’t just change overnight, he rose to the top of his profession as an Automation Engineer, through handwork, perseverance and determination; having being inspired by his father who ought to have become a meat seller in life due to his background but chose to set a standard for himself, to become a chartered banker without seeing the four walls of any secondary school.
All these and many more interesting issues formed part of discussion as Chairman, Makon Engineering, Makon Group and founder of ‘Omi-Titun’ Foundation, through which many souls have been lifted, Engineer Abiodun Oluseyi Makinde took City People’s Correspondent, Dare Adeniran through story of his life at 50. What life has taught him at 50, his grass to grace story.
How he has made it so big in business, why is so passionate about helping people and more. The interview session that took place in a very cosy environment at his palatial mansion at Ikolaba GRA lasted for more than an hour, during ‘Seyi Seniyan‘ as he is popularly addressed by his political admirers, opens up on his very private life, his career and political style. You can’t afford to miss the excerpts from these exclusives and explosive interview. Enjoy it.
How do you feel to be a birthday mate of Lord Jesus Christ?
When I was younger it was more of a liability to me because the rest of the family get gifts twice in a year. They get on their birthday and they also get for Christmas. But for me I always get one gift, which is during Christmas and then kept arguing with my parents that look, “it is suppose to be two gift for me but of course I didn’t win the argument.”
But yes, I thank God for His creation and how He has taken me so far. I feel pretty good each time my birthday is being celebrated. I mean it is something going worldwide throughout the Christian world. Even Muslims still celebrate that day so it is a huge impact for me on my life.
What will you say life has thought you at 50?
To believe in oneself, for one to trust other people because when we do things together what you find is that people basically take care of their own side of things. And the strength that you derive from all of that is what is necessary and sufficient to achieve the common objective. So rather than think about my own individual need, I really feel a lot better when we look at things collectively. And then you see everybody doing their own bit and things moving forward. Of course that is the only way we could have achieved what we have been able to achieve in business. I used to work as Automation Engineer and brought in another engineer till we have reached like 200 or 250 engineers and they are working from all over the world. We put people in Chad, in Cameroon and also West Africa Gas Pipeline and of course I still remain in Lagos or in-between. But the footprint, we are able to spread to all those areas.
Are there things to be changed about Engr. Seyi Makinde now that he is 50?
Are there things to be changed? Well, maybe not. I think the biggest weakness that people have pointed out to me is that I am too trusting. You say things and I think I should live up to my own part of the bargain and I expect others to do same too. And when people come to me to say look, the signal we are getting is not particularly supporting my point of view.
My natural reaction is well, let that your signal come to fruition first and then we know if truly my position is not supported. Quite a number of people had said to me that I really need to be a little cautious and things like that. But frankly speaking if something had worked for you all these years I just don’t think it is time to change. And remember also that even in the Bible, God promised us something which is save arrival to our destination but He didn’t promise us that the journey will be smooth without turbulence. So if I am going through some kind of turbulent time I always remember that God’s promise to us is that we will get to our destination safely.
Is there a special gift to pamper yourself at 50?
Nothing much, than just for the fact that I am just happy to spend this time with family, host couple of friends, go around visit the less privilege in our society, to hospitals. I know some people are not able to pay their hospital bills and things like that. Assist as much as possible, put smile on peoples’ faces all around me. I think I will be satisfied doing that.
How does turning 50 make you feel?
Quite frankly I think age is just a number to me, I feel okay. I played Golf yesterday, I still play Tennis, I have not slow down in anyway. Though people say oh! You are getting old, especially my children, they think am getting old. And I have said to them I am not really getting old, I am getting matured. So it is maturity setting in and then of course over the years one would have seen a couple of things that you can learn from, things that you can leverage on when you faced with certain challenges. So I think I feel okay being 50. I thank God for good health, for the energy and I am still looking forward to doing what we have been doing for our people and of course to do more in the years ahead.
From Ajia to Yemetu, to Unilag and all over the world and here you are today. Are there particular stories, pranks, games that you played that you remember at 50 and still brings laughter to your face?
Many of such stories. At Bishop Philips Academy we used to go outside the fence to drink palm wine. And remember also that Bishop Philips is very close to Iwo Road, you know the garage has always been there, though not as busy as it is today. Sometimes we stayed up late and go out there to drink tea from me tea people.
As a son of middle-class parents, did you ever think you could cross the economic, social certification to the height you have attained, in business and private life?
Well, it was never an issue for me. Growing up, I never felt like maybe because others’ social status are better than mine. I was brought up to be contempted with whatever it is that you have and also to believe in myself that I can go to any extent. I mean I could remember a story my dad told me, talking about himself that look, “I would have become a meat seller at “attender Olajide” and I asked him what happened? He lost his father when he was very young, maybe at the age of 5 or 6.
So he was left with only the mum. And supposedly the father used to be very rich but that money was frittered away before he even attained the age of going to school. So the mum usually rear goats to coincide with when the school will open, to be able to pay school fees and all. He managed all that through his elementary school and he couldn’t proceed any further. Because people who could help told him that maybe he would be better at attender, as a meat seller.
And he said he decided to start teaching in the primary school because after your standard 6, if you perform well, they can give you teaching role. From there he did his GCE, O’ Lever, A’ Lever at home while still teaching. He didn’t see the four walls of any secondary school and from that point he struggled to become a chartered banker. “So for me it is a story that basically told me to go out into the world and try to make whatever you can make out of your life.”
What would you say is it in your background that shaped your life to have become what you are today?
Well, I will say my dad was a very big influence on what I turned out to be in life. My early years I really wasn’t that ambitious, for everything I just want to pass through life and things like that. When we became true friends where we will sit down for hours and just talking about things. He will use life experiences, his thoughts and ideas about things. He started to drawn me out on the meaning of life. I had the story of Simba the Tailor from him maybe more than ten thousand times.
His phrase in there that ambition being differ in different men and things like that. And how the ambition plan drive you to certain places in your career. Also, in terms of honesty and being open, compassion all of that I learnt from him. You know friends, neighbours coming in with different challenges, then he is always happy to assist. I was with him in his last moment as well, he didn’t have so much money in his bank account. A couple of hours before he passed on he actually gave me his ATM card and said, “this is the pin number just in case I don’t make it through this.”
I checked the account after he passed on, he had only 50,000 in the account. But I saw a man that was at peace with himself, he was contented with whatever he was able to achieve in life. So, for me that was a very big turning point also. I felt in a way look, I am going to get to this point in my life and what do I have to say? As a father he loved us to a fault. I remember we always had issue with his car, he doesn’t want me to take his car and me I always steal the keys and drive it out. After my School Cert he said look, “why can’t you wait until you get into that university before you start strolling in to take my car keys.”
So I said dad, don’t worry I will get to the point shortly. I resumed at Unilag, December of that year I came back to Ibadan and I just went straight and grabbed his car keys. I drove out with couple of friends and when I came back he said, “first, you don’t even have a degree and when you have the degree you need to work before you will be able to afford a car. So why don’t you wait until all of that before you start grabbing my car keys to drive about.” I said dad, I am not going to take your car again but the first thing I will do when am able to afford it is to buy myself a car. I left Unilag at about 22 or thereabouts and after my national service I started working. My first year savings was enough to buy a car, not the type with the body and engine together.
It was the one you buy body here and buy engine separately. I drove the car from Port Harcourt to Ibadan the following Christmas but the interesting thing is that I had to take a mechanic with me. After the festive season in Ibadan I had to take mechanic with me again to return the car back to Port Harcourt and that was the end of the car. But at least I achieved my aim of becoming a car owner.
Let’s talk about your childhood experience. Who are your school mates, your growing up years and who are friends?
I grew up in the middle of Ibadan. I was born at Oluyoro Catholic Hospital, my parents were living at Isale-Alfa then, just behind Adeoyo State Hospital. I went to St. Pauls Primary School, Yemetu and later I went to St. Michael because I learned very early to do things right. After being forced to go to St. Pauls because I couldn’t gain admission to secondary school of my choice and my dad wouldn’t agree for me to go to. I think I was given admission to Akanran Community Grammar School then and he said to me that, that is closer to Ajia, our village. Actually Akanran right now is the headquarters of Ona-Ara Local Government. He said, “you are moving closer to the village but we don’t want you to be village boy.”
He said it took him a lot of efforts to come to town. So after that incident I started seeing my class mates in St. Pauls Primary School, some of them gained admission to Aglican Grammar School, some Bishop Philips Academy, they were all over the place. I was still wearing a primary school uniform at St. Michael and these people were already in form 1. So half of the session, I used to cry that why did I allow this this to happen to me. And that was the major changing point in my life because after that I became serious with my education. Because before then I was nursing the idea of becoming a professional footballer and it was also a big issue with my dad.because I told him I will like to play for Water Corporation whereas he was a Shooting Stars fan. That made my football career dead on arrival.
From St. Michaels I didn’t have to take to common entrace again because it happened to be when Uncle Bola Ige came in and they just asked all of us to go into secondary school in 1980. And when I reflect on leadership it is also one of the high point of leadership by planning. Because for most of the secondary school for that particular year the enrolment basically quadruple. In fact some of my classmates were bus conductor, bus drivers prior to that 1980. When they knew free education was to come into existence. They all went back to primary six, enrolled and we were given textbooks, notebooks, chairs.
Some people did the planning. So I grew up under that situation. My secondary school Bishop Philips Acedemy. Yes, a couple of my friends in there even though I am not social, social kind of a person. As a mater of fact my secondary school a university I basically faced my studies. At Bishop Philips we had Biodun Oni, Lateef Odepo and a couple of friends like that. But my secondary school basically it’s reading, playing football and a very little bit of social. Going to literary and debating competitions and engagements.
And my university of course I moved straight from Bishop Philips Academy to the University of Lagos. As of the time I graduated I had the best result in he history of the school and then myself and Biodun Oni were set of guys to actually taken WAEC in May/June of that particular year and by December/October of that same year we were in the university.
You left the secondary school as the best, were you expecting your children to follow that trend and what influence do you have on their education?
When I was about to leave Bishop Philips my dad wanted me to be a medical doctor, I felt I should study engineering. He applied a lot of pressure on me to be a medical doctor. Then I told him that first, let me put in for engineering in my JAMB form and when my school cert results come we can have the discussion again. I deliberately didn’t do well in Biology and when the results came I had A1 in Maths, A1 in Physics, A2 in Chemistry and in Biology I had C4.
He said okay now I understand you should study engineering. My daughter is in Walton Business School right now, she came to me and said, I want to study business. And I asked her if that is a professional course? And we had argument back and forth and I remembered my own encounter with my dad, I said well just do whatever you are comfortable with. Because it is your career and you are going to live with whatever decision you have made. And that is the way I feel, I am not the type that would force something on my child. Whatever they are comfortable with as a career I will provide them with the support, encouragement and also advise on such career path.
What does fatherhood mean to you at 50?
I got married 20 years ago so I have been a father, like my first daughter is 19 right now and a lot has changed over the years, from me pushing them around to they coming back to me now to say this is what we want to do. I remember when my first daughter was about to get into college, we went out t look for schools for her. She now said dad, do you realise that from next year you can’t just call me and say get up and go, we are going to Nigeria, we are going to South Africa for summer because I will be in college and it would be my summer and not our summer anymore. Well, there is been changes which I am adapting to because now I have children that have their own idea of what their lives should look like. So it is case of continuous engagement now, appealing rather than saying I am the father and this is what you will do. Because you argue about a lot of things and whoever have the superior argument basically wins.
With your busy schedule as a businessman and politician, do you spend time with your children to discuss life with them and tell them stories like your father did?
Well, I will say Yes and No. Yes, my eldest daughter we always spend a lot of time together. She is passionate about Nigeria and Africa and I have been able to bring her basically into my world. But the other two are too westernised for me so far but you have to keep advising them. The relationship I had with my dad, he didn’t have it with all of my siblings. Like the eldest of the family he went to boarding school and then to Oranyan Grammar School. After that he joined the NAVY and went abroad so that critical moment of his life he was basically away and on his own. But I was going from home to school and those five years were the time that things basically changed with my dad and became true friends. I remember my first 6 months in Unilag whenever he comes to Lagos to do something he will visit me in school.