The Firestarter! Oyin Adeyemi Dazzles Business Titans, Royalties

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The Firestarter! Oyin Adeyemi Dazzles Business Titans, Royalties

September 29
18:58 2022

She arrived like a lightning shaft from Eden to command the applause of top businessmen and women. By the time Oyin Adeyemi, the executive chairperson of StillEarth Group, was done with her address at the Lateef Adegbite Memorial Lecture Series, the attendees were held spellbound by her measured elocution and élan.

In the presence of royal fathers and preeminent Nigerians who had gathered for the maiden Lateef Adegbite Memorial Lecture Series on leadership at the Alliance Francais, Victoria Island, Lagos, Wednesday, September 28, Oyindamola Lami Adeyemi, the executive chairperson of StillEarth Group, held her own and shone like porcelain in the sun while dissecting the many leadership challenges bedevilling Nigeria.

Oyin Adeyemi is unusual. Her gallantry is priceless! She exudes the savvy of the ancients, the type of spunk that spurred medieval Amazons to dare and surpass exploits that were the exclusive preserve of men. Hence her inexorable dash for the summit of achievement in her business endeavors.

Well, those who are acquainted with her trajectory as a foremost businesswoman and investor were not surprised that she did justice to her paper with the title: ‘Leading with Less While Building for Development – Tackling Nigeria’s Infrastructure Conundrum.’ Citing various local and international news sources to underscore the grimness of prevailing global economic realities, Adeyemi asserted that the theme was, indeed, very apt and inevitable in an increasingly challenging world affected by poverty, climate change, war, and numerous other factors. One thing is certain, she said, “The government has no choice but to lead with less.” She went ahead to proffer some solutions.
According to her, “As a business leader, political theorist, and public commentator, I am always curious about how we can keep orienting and expanding our understanding of what quality/good leadership is all about. Every society’s strength is largely determined by the calibre of its leadership. Throughout history, successful societies have been those whose leaders have been able to rise to the occasion and calm storms during crises while also advancing the course of prosperity during times of peace. Without leadership, a nation or organisation is like troops without a General or a ship without a Captain. This is to emphasise the significance of leadership.”
She added that good leadership recognises that it cannot know everything and, as a result, will seek to expand knowledge as needed and seek diverse perspectives to inform decision-making. “Good leadership always demonstrates effective communication and listening skills; prioritises the interests of society over personal agenda; makes difficult decisions and develops long-term plans for the benefit of society as a whole,” she said.
On the other hand, she continued, poor leadership focuses on an individual agenda, is single-minded in decision-making, averse to other ideas or perspectives, abhors criticisms, is uninformed, and is short-sighted. Irrespective of poor leadership, she maintained, “History teaches us that some industries have thrived in a recession, especially those in which the consumer demand is relatively stable. In this category, we have food, consumer staples, healthcare, and basic transportation. Similarly, during the COVID-19 pandemic, we saw tech companies that specialise in online and remote services experience a boom. So, the good news is that it is not all doom and gloom because with recession also comes the opportunity to think differently and innovatively.”
Adeyemi considers infrastructures as an engine for economic growth, stating that investments in transportation, water, buildings, electricity, education, and security create jobs and serve as the backbone of a healthy economy. She quoted a World Bank report, which states that; access to paved roads led workers to move out of low-productivity agricultural endeavours primarily into manufacturing and services in Kenya and Ethiopia while investments in roads and electricity led to a much bigger impact.
Thus, with Nigeria’s glaring infrastructure deficit, Adeyemi averred that the leaders must see infrastructure development as a solution and not a cost; entrench a viable system to ensure the safety of the people; invest in educating the people to understand while the country must learn to preserve and maintain; do away with a recency bias, and learn to build a strong and lasting infrastructure and credit system.
According to her, “No doubt, infrastructure development is expensive and the government has scarce resources. Nonetheless, the multiplier effect is enormous. It is pertinent for good leadership that a government seeks to guarantee the security of its people and empower its citizens with knowledge through an adequate education system for the general growth and development of the nation.
“This also impacts diverse areas of the economy. For instance, where there is adequate security and education in the agricultural sector, the quality and quantity of agricultural produce shall increase. As such, with the impact of sufficient infrastructural developments such as good roads and rail networks, farmers will largely increase their access to bigger regional markets and lead to reduced losses from perishable goods. The increased supply will also lead to price reductions for goods. This is one way to tackle food inflation.”
Speaking further on the merits of society with good infrastructure, Adeyemi said, “Infrastructure connects workers to their jobs. Good infrastructure means that employees can get to and from work quicker and safer. The less time people spend in traffic, the more productive they will be. In 2021, Expert Market UK released a list of The World’s Most Productive Countries, relying on information from the OECD and World Bank data. This works out which countries had the most effective financial return while spending the least amount of time in the office. The cities were ranked for infrastructure, stability, culture and environment, healthcare, and education.”
Luxembourg, the smallest country on the list with almost double the productivity score as second-placed Ireland, paved the way in 2020 in terms of productivity thanks to its 40-hour working week, booming financial sector, minimum of five weeks of paid annual leave, and prohibited employment on Sundays,” said Expert Market. The other countries in the top ten were; Norway, Switzerland, Denmark, Netherlands, Germany, Austria, Iceland, and Sweden.
Interestingly, some cities from these countries were also ranked by the Economist Intelligence Unit’s (EIU) Global Liveability Index 2022 among the 10 best cities to live in around the world. Vienna, Austria (1st); Copenhagen, Denmark (2nd); Zürich, Switzerland (3rd); Geneva, Switzerland (6th); Frankfurt, Germany (7th); and Amsterdam, Netherlands (9th).
Adeyemi also cited the funeral ceremony of the late Queen Elizabeth II, arguing that whether or not you are interested in the British monarchy, you were inundated with the news and for the United Kingdom, it was yet another opportunity to put on display one of the country’s most marketable assets, her history, and culture.
“This was only possible because the United Kingdom has preserved its history through documentation and maintenance of historical sites and monuments. St James’s Palace in London, where King Charles III (the Third) was officially proclaimed King, and which a commentator described as the less popular of the palaces could very well become a tourist attraction.”
Further, Adeyemi said humans, generally, love new things but in times when a nation needs to ‘lead with less,’ “We must do away with the recency bias. Rather than demolish a building and rebuild it from scratch, how about upgrading it? According to a 2017 Business Insider Article, one of the world’s richest men, Warren Buffet, lives in the same house he bought in 1958. Doing away with a recency bias will help us preserve and maintain.”
She also admonished leaders to build to last, declaring, “It requires Nigeria, from the outset, to invest in infrastructure that will outlive generations. There are too many sore stories of collapsed buildings, old and new. Clearing the rubble and compensating the loved ones of those who died in collapsed buildings is costly. Refurbishing roads after the rainy season also translates to economic costs. In the long run, it will be cheaper to invest in quality infrastructure.”
The former banker turned construction magnate concluded by saying that Nigeria must build a strong and lasting credit system, which gives people hope for growth and development as more people will be empowered by the credit system to make good and lasting investments.
Other speakers at the memorial lecture, which had the Sultan of Sokoto as chairman, were Dr Omobola Johnson, former Minister of Communications Technology; Aigbhoje Aig-Imoukhuede, co-founder and chairman, The Aig-Imoukhuede Foundation; and Asue Ighodalo; founding partner, Banwo and Ighodalo.
The memorial lecture was held in honour of Dr. Lateef Oladimeji Adegbite, former University of Lagos Law teacher who rose to become Attorney-General of the old Western State; Secretary-General of the Nigerian Supreme Council for Islamic Affairs (NSCIA); Seriki, and Baba Adinni of Egbaland; Chairman, Nigeria Olympics Committee; and Nigeria’s Alternate Member, International Court of Arbitration, Paris. He died in Lagos on September 28, 2012, at 79.

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