Olabode Ogunlana, chairman, Scib Nigeria and Company Limited, who is the doyen of the insurance industry is 89 years old. In this interview with select journalist including Modestus Anaesoronye shares the story of his life, his company Scib and vision for the industry. Excerpt:
You established Scib Nigeria, the No 1 insurance broking firms in the country. How have you been able to maintain the leadership status in the sector over the years?
I, who took the initiative, did not do it alone. Guided by the motto of my old school- ‘NON SIBI SED ALIIS’, not for us but for others. The company was established, not as a one man office for mine benefit alone, but for the joint benefit of all and our clients. With such a vision and purpose success was assured. The leadership has been achieved and sustained by a cohesive team. At Scib, the Managing Director, though captain is just a member of the team. He recognizes that all others down to the messengers are useful members of the team with a common purpose to excel.
What measures have you introduced to ensure that your clients get the best of services?
We make it our business to understand the businesses of our clients. Thus we are able to examine the risks they run which enables us to place their insurances appropriately in a cost effective manner.
How has professionalism helped to boost Scib’s image?
In our kind of business trying to sell something invisible you need to be professional. We are thorough, efficient, and effective and believe in action centered leadership.
What motivated you into the insurance practice?
My A level subjects were geared towards a career in architecture. But working under the able leadership of a guru like late Pa E. F. Elebute, the best and most thorough motivator in the insurance industry I was lured into the industry. I got hooked, I worked hard, I studied, I enjoyed my work and still do.
As the doyen of insurance in Nigeria, what advice do you have for operators, regulator to move the sector forward?
All sectors of the insurance industry including agents, brokers, insurers, reinsurers, adjusters as well as the regulator must see themselves as a team providing a seamless service: To protect and conserve the wealth of the nation, the industry must explain to individuals, corporate bodies, and the governments the benefits of insurance. An underdeveloped nation like Nigeria needs insurance to catapult itself out of its undeserved and contrived poverty.
You are celebrating your 89th birthday. What are your tips for living a healthy life?
I exercise my body, my mind and ensure that I observe strictly the rules for moderation in all things. A candle burnt at both ends will soon burn out. Above all, I submit to the directives of the Creator of life.
What are the things that motivate you?
The first nursery rhyme I learnt at Breadfruit School in 1938 was: Good, better best; May I never rest until my good is better and my better is best. It has been ringing in my ears ever since. When I joined the Cub Scout in February1942, I was enjoined to do my best at all times. I never forgot it. When I went up to the Scout Troop in 1945, the watch word was ‘Be Prepared’. I had always lived to it. I endeavour to put my best foot forward all the time.
You moved to the study of Yoruba culture at the time. What prompted this?
My late paternal grandparents introduced me to the lure and culture of Yoruba storytelling at an early age. I studied Yoruba language as a subject up to Cambridge School Certificate level. Yoruba festivals, history and proverbs are so fascinating. Having satisfied the Maslow’s theory of needs when I became seventy, I veered into the study of Yoruba language and culture. My discoveries in the Yoruba philosophy encapsulated in the proverbs are tremendous. Hopefully I shall by God’s grace share my findings not only with Yoruba speaking people but the world at large. Above all I discovered the vastness of the school of life.
What can we do to preserve our culture?
Find out all about it, live it, pass the good parts to all, borrow from others that are similar: no culture is perfect; none is bereft of some goodness. You’ll be surprised what will emerge.
Nigeria’s economy is facing huge challenges even after exiting recession. What’s the way forward for the country?
Have we exited recession? I wish I could share your optimism. I suggest that you study my address presented as President, Nigerian Institute of Management on the occasion of the Fourth Convocation Ceremony to the Polytechnic of Sokoto State, Birni Kebbi on May 26, 1984. The ways forward for the country are outlined therein. Though 37 years have elapsed the position has not changed.