What He Told City People Then
That is the question some political watchers have been asking of late though in muffled tones. This is because tongues are beginning to wag that Mr. Fola Adeola is most likely going to run for presidency on KOWA Party platform. There are those who feel he might run for the presidency. He was running mate to Mallam Nuhu Ribadu, under the ACN umbrella a few years back. Fola Adeola is the seasoned banker who co-founded Guaranty Trust Bank, GTB along with late Tayo Aderinokun. This Ogun-born businessman after a few years left the bank for his second in command, Tayo Aderinokun to run, while he resigned and moved on to establish Fate Foundation, an entrepreneurial training centre.
Fola Adeola is one of the biggest players in Corporate Nigeria with good investments in the critical sectors of the economy. He founded fate foundation in 2000, following a one year sabbatical at the National Institute for Policy and Strategic Studies in Kuru, Jos, Nigeria, during which he carried out research on economic development and job creation policies.
Guaranty Trust Bank Plc. is the commercial bank he founded in 1990 and ran as Managing Director/CEO from inception until March 2003. Guaranty Trust Bank has grown to become one of Nigeria’s largest and most profitable companies called a new name GTB Bank.
In 2002, Fola retired from Guaranty Trust Bank, Plc. after 12 years as its founding MD/CEO. He took up a Fellowship at the Washington D.C. based Corporation for Enterprise Development where he pursued research on pensions reform, entrepreneurship, and financial services provisioning for poverty reduction. As part of this effort, he pursued traveling to various parts of the world meeting with practitioners and policymakers that are creatively extending financial services to low-income clients profitably.
He has a rich profile, with a Diploma in Accounting from Yaba College of Technology in 1975 and became a Chartered Accountant in 1980 following his training with Deloitte, Haskins and Sells and D.O. Dafinone & Company (Chartered Accountants). He has received professional development training at notable institutions worldwide including, Harvard Business School, INSEAD. And the International Institute for Management Development.
Years back, the Action Congress of Nigeria, ACN nominated him as running mate to its presidential flagbearer, Mallam Nuhu Ribadu. His name was subsequently sent to the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC).
When he ran then, Fola Adeola told City People Publisher SEYE KEHINDE his reasons for accepting to go into politics. Below are excerpts of his views. The big question is: will he run for Presidency on the platform of KOWA Party which he has been linked with from inception.
Why did you go into Politics?
I decided to go into politics, because if you look around today in this nation, practically nothing is working. So it dawned on people like us to come out to right the wrongs. Those in power are not doing anything to better the lot of Nigerians, and therefore they don’t deserve to still be in power any longer. Even if only for a day. The urge to change things at the national is my primary consideration in this regard. Again, we want to offer Nigerians for the 1st time, a better, credible alternative compared to what they are used to over the years.
I have decided to take part at this moment, because I think it is high time we stopped looking at this dear country of ours go down the drain. I want to put myself up to serve the Nigerian people.
I am passionate about the steady decline in the state of affairs of this country.
What I want Nigerians to know is that, we (myself and Ribadu) represent a new hope for Nigerians. There is no gainsaying the fact, the two of us have been in the public eye for a long while, and at that time did we say something and do otherwise? We are individuals who see our words as our bond. Do I need to start telling you about Ribadu?
The former ACN presidential candidate, Mallam Nuhu Ribadu is a Muslim, you are also, a Muslim. Don’t you think the ticket may be difficult to sell to the electorate?
I am a Nigerian, I am so concerned about the progress and well being of the country. In my foundation, Fate Foundation, we don’t take people in on the basis of religion. Everywhere I have worked. I relate with people as individuals and not because they are Christians or Muslims, I don’t believe in all of that.
I attended Christian Schools for my elementary and secondary education. It would interest you to know that I sing Christian hymns, I read the Bible. More often than not, people are pushed into believing this religion issue, because the masses lack prosperity and they have been impoverished. It doesn’t matter who rules, if the leader is good and his government is okay, everybody irrespective of whether you are a Muslim or Christian will enjoy.
Some people say having not been in politics before, the terrain will be relatively difficult for you. Do you agree?
What you need is genuine interest in the affairs of the masses. In any case, you get whatever you will experience by getting involved. We shouldn’t forget that before I set up GTB, that people now applaud today, I never set up any bank. What about Fate Foundation, I never ran any foundation before it, and today, people from everywhere talk about Fate Foundation. These are entities I set up by sheer determination to make a change in those sectors, in my personal capacity.
The passion I have for this country is the inspiration behind all of this.
There was a time you were going for the Senate in Ogun State. What happened to that ambition?
Yes, I considered running for the Senate, but unfortunately even before I could finalise things, I realised that it won’t be in my best interest and I had to back out, even before I started at all.
From my area in Ogun State, a lot of people actually came to me then to run, initially I turned down all their offers and suggestion to that effect, but the pressure was not going to stop, I decided to give it a trial. The last straw that broke the Camel’s back was when the security budget for the campaign alone would cost me 347 million naira, just to protect me from being hurt and all of that. With my training, I only put my money where I will expect returns on it, and putting into account the fact that my remuneration is fixed, it didn’t make any economic sense to me to invest such huge amount of money to contest for an office.
When you were chosen as running mate to Nuhu Ribadu, how did you feel?
I didn’t just accept, I sat down with and we discussed, brain stormed on our individual plans and ambitions via-a-vis that of the party after this session, I was overwhelmingly convinced about the sincerity of heart and purpose of this man (Ribadu). He was very intelligent marshalling his points about the ways he would achieve his aims of transforming the nation, and I did mine too. It was with this that I made up my mind to run with him as his Vice Presidential Candidate. I wasn’t forced on him, neither was he forced on me. My conviction about his capabilities as reflected in his discussion with me made me accept to go it with him.
What were those things that Nigerians would have seen if the deal had worked out then?
We would have run a government that will be very credible, responsive, integrity-driven and purposeful. We are 2 individuals with burning desire to better the lot of Nigerians and this we hope to achieve using all these virtues I have just enumerated. We shall differ from the status quo. We won’t make people serve us, rather we shall serve Nigerians.
We shall be disciplined in our dealings, we won’t lie to Nigerians, we won’t falsify information to have our way. No we won’t do that. Our mission is to reclaim and rejuvenate Nigeria.
What made the Nuhu Ribadu/Fola Adeola ticket different from the other tickets?
We have a pedigree of things we have done. No.3 we are not going in for the money. Both of us have seen big money and we didn’t help ourselves to it. So we are not going there to make ourselves wealthy because that is not the stage we are in, in life. We are doing it for a higher reason, we are self-made. We are going to serve. We are also honest people. All we set to do is to be able to beat the country back on track. We would come and tell the country when we make mistakes. We are transparent even in the way we live our lives. And then we know the right people where they are located any where in the world to come and serve Nigeria, because they can trust us. We are honestly a much better, capable than any in the race, including the incumbent, I know so.
What has changed about Fola, the young banker of these good old days?
A lot. Fola Adeola, the banker has grown. The banker in him now is just a part of my life. I have almost put behind me banking. My journey into spirituality and my experience of the past, coming together has made me a lot more circumspect, and mature. Now, I look at things with the eyes of possibility. I did also in the past but it is easier now. One is actually pushing forward and taking responsibility that you really might not have needed to take in the past.
The Fola Adeola you are talking to now is a different person, he is a more rounded personality. I ran Guaranty Trust Bank last 9 years. And to most people it’s like yesterday. What I have done in the last 9 years has changed my word view about life totally. And look at the bank too, it has grown well, it’s much bigger. I don’t think I could have done better in terms of running it or taken to that height as my successors have done. But still it’s a part of what I have become today. Having said that, I am still the same person who wants to set targets and achieve targets. I believe we can be better than we are now, and we are under-led, if not poorly led. I think the people who are leading us today don’t have the right to lead us and they should admit it themselves. I am a lot more mature now, ready for this kind of challenge. This journey is a privilege for me.
Has age mellowed you?
Of course, yes. It has, I have grown up. I am over 60 now. I have seen a bit. I did so many things. I did so many things at a young age. So, one is able to look back and say to oneself if I have to do this again, I will do the same way. At over 60, I am fit, I am well, I am healthy. I have mates and colleagues who are already grandfathers. And I could be. I have a daughter who is over 30. So why still describe me as a young man? When will I now be ready to take charge of the responsibility for my country.
I am talking to you today because I went to school. My poorly educated father had 17 children and it was through social policy, primary school was free. That assisted him to educate his children. Otherwise I may have been a Bus conductor. Why can’t our children, those who have find themselves in the same classroom as the children of those who don’t have. All I had over those children whose father had has that I knew Maths more than them, I didn’t speak English at home but after a while, in school, I could speak better English than them. I wrote better essays than them.
I could teach you Music, and all the tough courses you will defer to me. Nobody is asking for my father or your father. They brought you to school in the Mercedes Benz, we took Scholar buses to school. But you know what, Scholar Buses came without fail everyday. All they charged was a penny. The General Hospital was there to take care of us.
The school provided a meal a day. We didn’t ask for much. Race Course was there for us to play our soccer. I didn’t even know people had swimming pools at home. We didn’t know such people but Pa was there 8 to 10, 10-12, 12-2 pay your money go and swim. The attendants were there to ensure you didn’t drown. The society was kind to its members. On prize winning day, nobody asked for the father of who came first. There was no envy. We didn’t have a television at home, you had one, it’s ok. We didn’t envy you. We had a Television in school. So what we didn’t have at home we had in school. Primary and Sunday schools had libraries. If not for proper social policies I shouldn’t be talking to you. Now, why are we denying other people that social policy. Why? Why? It’s unfair. Look at all the exotic cars we drive today in bad roads. What kind of nation spends every money it has on consumption. That is not development, when you can’t raise the standard of living of your citizens year on year. It leads to reduction in poverty not immediate eradication.