Yemi Sholadoye clocks 60
Chief Yemi Soladoye, a Consultant to NAICOM on MDRI, Microinsurance, Takaful insurance among others, on Monday July 17, 2017 marked his 60th Birthday and also on July 7th elected the President General of the Central Council of Ibadan Indigenous Worldwide. In this interview with SUPERNEWS Online shared his experience. Excerpts
Sixty years in the life of a man is not a joke. If you look back from where you are coming from, what would you say?
Sixty years of my life, I will like to say thank you to almighty Allah for seeing me through to this stage, for giving me good health and above all, for making me relevant in two aspects of my life – my profession and my community.
Chief Yemi Soladoye is well known everywhere particularly in the insurance industry and one will be wondering how he started? But let me ask, were you born with a golden spoon?
My understanding of life in my growing up years was that there are some words you use in the urban areas like Lagos that have no meaning in indigenous Towns like Ibadan where I grew up.Where I come from, the gap between the rich and the poor is not as pronounced as in Lagos and so, there was nothing like born with golden spoon or any type of spoon because whatever belonged to anybody in the compound belonged to everybody within the family setting. Sincerely speaking, family contentment was what mattered most and so spoon by any definition was quite rare. If you were hard working, able to send your children to school, and was not begging anybody for survival, then you were rich. This spoon phenomenon I think is a by-product of our huge Oil wealth, the Udoji Award and massive corruption and not a natural consequence of hard work. Yes starting in life, I will say that 98% of us were born with little advantages and opportunities at birth but at a certain point in my life providence set in. I was in form 2 or so in secondary school, when I won the Muslim Students Society (MSS) of Nigeriascholarship due to brilliant academic performance. However,along the line, Alhaji Femi Okunu who was then Nigeria’s Minister for Works and Housing took over the scholarship and that was the turning point in my life. What could have been the hindrance to my smooth academic pursuit later in life was removed as he saw me through my education, through secondary, HSC and University education nonstop. And because the fear as to whether school fees would be paid or not had been removed, this helped me to emerge as the best student in the department of insurance when I left University in 1981. This also explains why when I promoted Elmac Insurance Company in 1992, Alhaji Femi Okunnu naturally came in as the chairman of the company.
How did you get into insurance, was that your chosen career from the beginning?
I didn’t want to study insurance and I in fact rejected studying insurance. I wanted to go to Ahmadu Bello University because I was a very staunch Muslim student at secondary school and HSC levels. So because of Islam, I wanted to go to ABU to study accounting and it was in the days of direct entry – before JAMB. After waiting for a long time without any response from ABU, I went to inform Alhaji Okunu about my frustrations and he gave me a note to his friend who was then the deputy vice chancellor of Unilag to see if he could be of assistance. I met Prof Oladapo in late November 1978 and he sent me to the Factuality Officer of Business Administration who told me that they had over – admitted for Accounting and Business Administration; and that the only available course was insurance. I said within me, “God forbid bad thing” in Arabic and thanked her and went away. While I was almost approaching the Unilag gate, I remembered that I should have gone back to Prof Oladapo and tell him that I was offered insurance and I had refused it, because he might still be the person to help me next year. So, I went back to him, and he said to me, “My son, I forgot as you were going, I wanted to tell you to go and take insurance because that is a new course and it is the future of Nigeria and you will enjoy it. That put me in a big dilemma and I resolved within myself to waste one year to study this ‘yeye course’ and later change to Accounting. From my level of exposure then, I knew insurance as just a side attraction or pastime business for motor dealers in Ibadan, so Insurance was by then not a course you could be proud of, that you were studying in the university. But within the first year, my eyes were opened to see that Insurance is a big International business that occupies position of strategic importance in the lives of nations and families and that its negative outing in Nigeria was due to the “ messenger and not the message”. That’s how I found myself studying and practicing insurance as a profession.
Again, taking you back to insurance as a career, would you say you are fulfilled and when you look back what is your regret?
Anybody that has what I always call the “Muslim Mind” will feel fulfilled at every point of his life. I do not define fulfillment by possession of material wealth but by how many lives I have touched and my relevance to the society at large. Academically, I thank God; career wise, I thank God; family wise I am grateful to God. I find myself relevant in my industry, I find myself relevant in my home town, Ibadan which is the largest indigenous city in Africa. By the way God has patterned my destiny, I thank him most sincerely.
Yes, many things have happened to me that you will call regrets but which I believe are just in my destiny and only to serve as lessons for me or other people in life. I have taken many wrong steps in Business, in Investment and in relationships all due to the fact that I am too trusting and too generous. I am sure this will surprise you. My greatest regret is that I have stayed for too long in insurance. I should have left Insurance the moment I left Elmac. I also regret that my dream for the Nigeria Insurance Industry could not be fulfilled due to many institutional deficiencies that exist in this country. Luckily for me I am a highly multi – talented person with believe in changing my environment at each point in time and that is why at sixty, I decided to go back home and serve my people. Yes, I regret my prolonged stay in Insurance and the state of Insurance practice in Nigeria.
One of the major initiatives in the insurance industry today is Market Development and Restructuring Initiative(MDRI), and the history of that project will not be complete without Yemi Soladoye, what do you have to say about that?
First, I will like to thank Mr Fola Daniel, the Commissioner for Insurance from 2007 to 2015 for giving me the opportunity to serve my industry, not only on the MDRI, but also on other projects like the Country Diagnostic Study of Micro insurance, and Takaful, the Guidelines on Bancassurance Operation amongothers that God used me to handle for the country. If you look at it from government side, it is one thing to have a robust strategy and it is another thing to implement the strategy. 98% of Dynamic Strategies that would have solved our problems in this country are not implemented at the government levels.TheMDRI was a medium term agenda carved out of the Financial System Strategy 2020 (FSS 2020) project which I did for the CBN in collaboration with the World Bank. That was in fact the origin of MDRI. My Consulting work with CBN and the in Insurance actually started with the CBN and not directly with NAICOM.MDRI is being implemented though in piece meal under different names which has prevented the industry from deriving optimal benefits from the Initiative. As I had earlier said,without implementing the MDRI as a holistic Industry Master Plan and in a coordinated manner, the Nigeria Insurance industry cannot occupy its position of strategic importance in Nigeria economy as it obtains in South Africa, U.S.A, India or even Kenya.
You were installed as the President General of the Central Council of Ibadan Indigenes Worldwide, what does this body do?
You can equate this body to a Community government. It originated as a result of political insult on the people of Ibadan land an the early 1980s but now operates as a Community Initiative to compliment the duties of the Federal and State governments in providing amenities to the people of Ibadan land. It is the mouth piece of the Ibadan people and wheneverthe government or the traditional council wants to do anything specifically for Ibadan people or relate with the civil populace, they go through the Central Council. Under this group are the Ibadan Youth Council; the Borokinis and about 236 affiliate members of the General Assembly. It is this council of 236 clubs that elects the President General and that is the position I am occupying now. We operate through 14 standing and 6 Ad – hoc Committees that focus on Job creation, wealth creation, Women and Youth Empowerment, Sports Development, Informal Sector Integration, Public Enlightenment on National Issues, Investment Mobilization, Urban Regeneration and Good Governance Advocacy.
We use our own oil – Land, Cheap Labour and Agriculture Research Institutes – as point of strength. We have a five – year Ibadan Economic Development Plan which is to serve as the precursor to the emergence of Ibadan as a mega – city in the next 20 years.