I always feel proud to be a woman when I meet women doing well in their endeavours, striving hard and proving their onions, women who see beyond their gender but remain committed to excellence, are ever reliable in execution of any work placed before them. Their competence? Best defined as laudable and their dedication to duty commendable. Such traits best describe by ‘date’ for this week who has carved a niche for herself in a place not common to women in fact, she is the first female to lead such an organisation in Nigeria. Oge Modie is the Managing Director/CEO of NOI polls. NOIPolls leads in country-specific polling services in the West African region. They partner with Gallup USA to develop opinion research in Nigeria and deliver forward-thinking research and relevant data on public opinion and consumer markets on a range of topics.
Oge is a dynamic woman with skills that show in the ways she carries out her work. It all didn’t start in a day but can be traced to her early days in life. Growing up for Oge was fun; she grew up in Enugu, on the University of Nigeria Campus, where both her parents worked. Both were civil servants and very devoted to family, church and work. The values impressed on her by her parents in her early years have sustained and kept her in the journey of life. “Being the last child in a family of five kept me at home most often with my parents, key values of integrity; hard work and tenacity were taught by parents, teachers, relatives. Dad always said ‘he who works, will get a reward’. This has stuck. In all I do, I strive to maintain a high standard of excellence. My parents also imbibed in me, the love of family and the love for God.” She tells me.
Oge’s primary school education was done at the University Primary School UNEC, Enugu. Her secondary education was at Federal Government Girls College Owerri, Imo State. She earned a Bachelor of Science degree in Economics at the University of Nigeria Nsukka (UNN) in 1998 where she graduated with an outstanding result. She worked for a while then went on to complete her Master’s in Business Administration (MBA) from the Cranfield University School of Management in the UK in 2007.
Prior to joining NOI Polls, Oge was the Fund Director (West Africa) for The Makeda Fund, a US$50million SME private equity start up fund focused on investing in women entrepreneurs across West Africa. The fund was run in partnership with Small Enterprises Assistance Fund (SEAF) based in Washington DC. Oge joined NOIPolls in February 2012 as the company’s Chief Operations Officer and was later confirmed as the Managing Director/Chief Executive Officer in August 2012. Hear her tell me her reasons for joining NOIPolls. “What sort of sealed my decision to join (because I had to move from Lagos) was the key role the organisation could play in the data space. There is a huge lack of data in the Nigerian knowledge space and NOIPolls posed an opportunity to me to fill that space. Also, another key pointer was the fact that this was a pioneer company and founded to provide a platform to collect and scientifically report the voice of Nigerians to support decision making across all sectors of the Nigerian Economy.”
“That is a niche and an exciting place to be. So I took the job. In retrospect, I’m quite happy with the decision I made to join because we have made such great progress over the years I have been at the firm. We grew from 5 to 44, the excitement that comes from creating jobs and affecting families is awesome. We are a young organisation with an average age of 28 years, and so there is a lot of fun around and a culture anchored on family values and teamwork. I can boldly say that life in the organisation has been filled with a lot of wins which has come with its attendant challenges, but I am blessed with best team any CEO could ever dream of and I can affirm that they are committed to the organisational goals.” She says.
The vision of NOIPolls is to be number one in Africa in the provision of credible country-specific polling services and their objective/mission is two –fold, to support the decision making process (by answering key and strategic questions in that process) and to be a platform for opinions to be heard (by scientifically providing that data). Oge adds to this saying “Further detailing that mission across the three key clientele, for the private sector and retail orientated products/services, we are moving our clients away from the notion of wallet share to mind share leveraging on consumer behavioural patterns. We provide mind share analysis for our clients to provide intelligence and competitive advantage in consumer markets and have a sustained market share. For the government, our goal is to support policy planning and for the NGOs, CSOs etc, it is to support policy advocacy.” She reveals
Every job comes with its peculiar challenges. Oge shares some of hers “The challenges we have encountered so far is stemmed from the fact that opinion research is still relatively new in Nigeria and so I will say the acceptance level is growing gradually. This acceptance is still a bit slow due to the cynicism and pessimism of the populace brought about by some other agencies, which may report biases in some results. Notwithstanding, we have been able to surmount these challenges so far through ensuring we uphold what we refer to as our “CSI –factor”– that is Credibility, Scientific and Independent.”
Credibility, because of the team we have. On the average, the entire team has about 25 to 30-year experience across three continents. Also, the credibility of our technical partners Gallup Inc USA. We wouldn’t be using a methodology that is biased or questionable; we are actually working with the world’s leading opinion polling organisation. Scientific, meaning that we follow globally accepted polling methodologies adopted from Gallup and adapted to the Nigerian locality to ensure correctness of results. Independent, in the sense that we don’t show bias in our reporting or allow any external influences create such biases.” She quips.
It started from the days of little beginnings but today, NOIPolls is seven years old already. Gladdened by the feat achieved so far and hopeful for greater heights, Oge speaks on how fulfilling seven years with NOIPolls has been and what she looks forward to. According to her “These past seven years as a company has been filled with a lot of ups and downs notwithstanding the ups have far outweighed the downs because for us at NOIPolls, we believe in a bright future for the company and also for Nigeria. We want to be the data mine or the ‘go to’ in terms of information and data for measuring perceptions on social and economic issues especially those surrounding governance, market trends, management of the economy, provision of services as well as performance of the government and private sector institutions.”
“In the years to come we intend to be much bigger than we are, we want to be known globally and to also have global partners. We want to have built a knowledge centre and data bank containing all our data and poll findings which people can refer to on various issues. We hope to have adequately contributed to the public knowledge base and enriched debates on topical issues both online and offline.” She says.
As the first woman to head Nigeria’s leading independent opinion polling and research organisation, Oge says being a woman and at the same time being at the helm of affairs of NOIPolls has given her a new perspective to work and life generally, having worked in corporate finance for most part of her sixteen year career, this opportunity has afforded her the ability to see and value the opinions of the ordinary Nigerian and this has also influenced the way she views issues. In Oge’s words, knowing that ‘opinion is gold’, and having to head this organisation that is providing a platform for the voices of the average Nigerian to be heard, I value every opinion and treat it as priceless because it could help shape the future of both the individual and the nation. I would also reiterate that I’m quite happy with what I do and the progress I’ve made so far.” Oge admits.
NOIPolls is in partnership with Gallup USA to develop opinion research in Nigeria and I asked Oge the reason for their choice and she tells why. According to her, “Firstly, Gallup is the world leading opinion polling organisation and their results and pedigree is well known over the world. Working in partnership with such an organisation has helped us in staking our claim in Nigeria and also in the West African region.”
“The benefits for us have been profound considering that what we have is a technical partnership where the methodology and process adopted by Gallup are adapted into the local Nigerian environment and used to conduct polls here leading to the same results. This has indeed given credence to the credibility of our polls and has helped in making our polls acceptable, standardised and respected worldwide just like the results of Gallup which also enjoys global recognition and acceptability.” She narrates.
I asked Oge what makes NOIPolls Tick and her response couldn’t have been more accurate.
“On what makes NOIPolls tick I would say it is the acronym “T.I.C.K” The T stands for Timeliness, I stands Integrity, C represents Communication and Commitment and finally K stands for Knowledge. We are knowledge driven and want to be the best at everything we do.”
It was indeed an enlightening interview with Oge. She ends it all with words of admonition for all leaders. “I would admonish every CEO, business leader or even entrepreneur to have set goals and objectives of what they need to achieve personally and also for the organisation they lead. The goals don’t have to be too long or cumbersome but at least it should be S.M.A.R.T – Specific, Measurable, Achievable/Attainable, Realistic and Time bound. Every CEO should also encourage teamwork and deemphasize unhealthy competition and rivalry amongst staff. Finally, the job of the leader is hinged on braving the storm to ensure that their organisation exceeds expectations both financially and also in excellent service delivery. Also, most importantly, value those that you work with.”