• Monday, April 22, 2024
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Christopher Kolade-the builder of people with words

Christopher Kolade-the builder of people with words

Another larger-than-life corporate name and living mentor like Elder Felix Ohiwerei is Dr Christopher Kolade. Dr Christopher Kolade might not resonate with the young generation, but he was a bridge builder for people who had evolved in Nigeria in the early 90s. For the avoidance of doubt, Dr Kolade, a nonagenarian, is alive and enjoying life in retirement after many years of meritorious service to Nigeria and humanity.

Dr Kolade’s limelight career was when he served as the Managing Director and later the Chairman of Cadbury Nigeria Plc. He later served as the Nigerian High Commissioner to the United Kingdom and a council member at the Pan African University, where he taught Corporate Governance and Human Resources Management at the Lagos Business School (LBS). Before his adventure into corporate leadership, he worked as a broadcaster and was the Director General of the Nigerian Broadcasting Corporation. He led Cadbury Nigeria Plc in its glorious days and left a legacy of mentoring for others to follow.

Read also: Felix Ohiwerei- Leadership prosperity and posterity

At Cadbury Nigeria Plc, I gained valuable experience working in a fast-paced production environment (Bournvita department) as a casual worker in 1992. Following a year of post-secondary education, this role provided a strong foundation in adhering to safety protocols and production standards. While there, I also honed my teamwork skills by collaborating with colleagues to ensure efficient production.

I was enjoying my employment, though I was in a dilemma with my life. I had two choices. Either I settle down, get a room to myself, or am ready to start a family like most of my peers at work. Alternatively, I can go to school to study or learn any trade. At that moment, and to compound my vicious circle and dilemma, my mother told me of a prophecy from his prophet, whom I did not know. She said it was suggested that I would succeed whether I retake my school certificate exam or learn a trade.

To her, learning a trade is the best way to fast-track my income-generating capacity. I must join the family breadwinners and help my siblings. Also, most of her colleagues at the market have their children learning trades. I could understand her stand and my desire on what to do, though it was toward education given my records at secondary school; I was prone to a dramatic change of mind if not well guided.

Dr Christopher Kolade came to my rescue. How? He was the Chairman of Cadbury Nigeria Plc during my confusion. There was an end-of-year celebration, and we were told we all had to be at the canteen because the chairman would be speaking to us. The consensus was that we were required to make the numbers. What concerns us with listening to the chairman as casual workers? We asked among ourselves and made sense of the invitation.

Q: “I became illuminated and made a bold decision to be educated.”

He spoke to the staff and charged us with excellence. At one point, he mentioned education and demanded that we not settle but get educated, irrespective of our position and role in the company. That was a lightbulb moment for me. It resonates with why my father, one of the best shift managers, was retrenched and replaced with young university graduates. I became illuminated and made a bold decision to be educated. My options became clearer due to Dr Christopher Kolade’s charge and words of mentoring at the event. How many others would have been impacted by Dr Kolade’s exhortation and words of encouragement that span decades?

In 2011, I wrote to Dr Kolade, shared his influence on me, and demanded an interview. I wanted to make him the first to be interviewed and published in my proposed mentor’s magazine. I was a full-time banker, but the coaching and mentoring in me craved expression. I never knew I would yield to the call to be a coach and leave the finance world to coach leaders and support them in building sustainable institutions from organisations.

Dr Kolade acknowledged my letter and invited me to his Lagos Business School office. I met with Dr Kolade, shared how he impacted me with him, and reiterated my desire to interview him. We discussed it for about an hour before he eventually declined my request with an unusual excuse, which I never understood at that moment. He told me his story had been used repeatedly, and it was losing value and relevance to the new dispensation. I did not understand it then, but I respectfully accepted his position. Today, I am amused when leaders speak about their past exploits at every given opportunity and portray themselves as champions without any records of failure for the people they are leading. I see leaders who share only their success stories and are not vulnerable to sharing their failures and struggles to teach a lesson that champions face challenges and have scars.

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Dr Christopher Kolade’s refusal to have his story shared again is the same as what I wrote about Elder Felix Ohiwerei, who voluntarily retires from the corporate limelight to work in the vineyard of God, focusing on family values and relationships with God. Dr Kolade, on his part, started the Christopher Kolade Foundation, which focuses on educating and empowering the girl child in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics, fostering leadership, governance, and theological education.

Dr Kolade’s likes are age-long mentors and captains of industry who are worthy of emulation and celebration while alive. They led with values, not wealth or records. We need to adopt their style and lead others by propagating enduring values rather than things that promote the personal aggrandisement of the leaders.