From humble beginning growing up in Lagos backwater, Makoko, the current President of Lagos Country Club, Tajudeen Adegboyega Akande, aka TAA, has risen to the top of his career as a chartered accountant by sheer dint of hard work and a tenacity of purpose.
Born to indigent parents and after losing his dad to the cold hands of death at age 18, he had to claw his way up the steep slop of life to find success and fulfillment. And in another four months, he will step aside after three years of an eventful tenure, which brought massive development to the social club.
In this chat with Sunday Sun during its annual New Year 2020 party held on Friday, January 24 at the club’s premises in GRA Ikeja, Lagos, the chartered accountant who plied his trade with four of the most prestigious accounting firms in the country and is also a distinguished alumnus of the Faculty of Management Sciences, University of Benin, opened up on his tenure, growing up in a deprived environment and how he has transformed what could be considered as one of the most prestigious social clubs in Nigeria, the Lagos Country Club, among other issues.
Lagos Country Club celebration
We are here today because Lagos Country Club is celebrating New Year 2020. As part of our annual calendar, we have social activities and the New Year party is our flagship. We have a tradition of announcing the arrival of every New Year in a way to whet expectations for what will happen for the rest of the year. The New Year party happens at the third weekend of January. In an environment like ours with thousands of people from different backgrounds and diversity, living together and interacting together, the need to celebrate the New Year cannot be over-emphasised. And for this year, there is a peculiarity, which is the fact that last year we clocked 70 and we celebrated the anniversary throughout the year. The anniversary was in August and the activities heralded brought to the club personalities that have been unprecedented in the annals of the club. The Vice President, Yemi Osinbajo and about four governors and more than a dozen royal fathers, business leaders and politicians graced the event. And members were excited because it proves that the club has evolved greatly. So, having done that we thought yes, let us cap it up with a mind-blowing New Year 2020 party, which will set the tone for the rest of the year.
The impression of many is that this club is elitist, only meant for the exclusively rich. How true is that?
Well, elitist? I don’t think we need to apologise for that. We have a minimum-criteria for membership, so it is up to people to describe it as elitist or not. The important thing is that in a club like this, you want to be sure of who you are sitting next to because the moment you become a member, you are catapulted to a new level where you do real business networking. If I am going to do business with a member, I don’t have to say go and bring a guarantor from somewhere. I don’t want to start verifying all over again. If I enter anywhere and a member is there, that means I already crossed over 50 per cent of the huddles and to do that, the screening and membership criteria must be rigorous. I believe that is what people are calling being elitist, but you will find people from different strata of society. There are rich people and there are people who are not too rich, but you know, it is relative. We can only thank God if people see it like that, we claim it.
You will be stepping aside soon as the president of the Lagos Country Club, how would you describe your tenure?
I would have preferred if the question was thrown to members so that it is not like me writing my own report sheet. But why not blow your own trumpet? I will do it by enumerating what we have been able to achieve. I have about four or five months to go. I am one man who believes that if you say it, you must do it. We started the journey with a vision and a dream and we went to our people with a set of to-do-list and I will tell you, every day I tick my checklist to see what I have been able to do. In terms of infrastructure, development and renewal, I think we have delivered if not 100 per cent, then we have delivered 90 per cent. The club is 70 years old so you would expect that some of our structures that were built in the 40s and 50s would have become archaic. The façade you see today in the club house this time last year was not like this. This new edifice was declared open on August 3, 2019 by Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu as his first official assignment as governor. We have 10 spotting sections. Many of our sections have been rehabilitated. Our swimming pool is state-of-the-art and all the other sections are also state-of-the-art. In terms of power, which we know is epileptic, we run 24 hours electricity. If ever we have power shut down, it can’t be for more than three minutes. We have transformed our lounge where we receive special guests. In terms of systems and administration, we brought in a lot of discipline into the financial control processes and procedures for doing things. We introduced the operational, audit and accounting manual and we brought in an internal auditor in order to ensure that when things are done here, they are done properly so people don’t start asking about what we have done with their money and all that. Service delivery was an issue before we came on board, but we have tried to address that and I must confess, it is one area we are having challenges, but I am dedicating the next four months to that.
What has been your happiest moment as president?
Wow! I have had several. The 70th Anniversary Grand Ball, the Anniversary Lecture and the visit of the Vice President of Nigeria, Prof Yomi Osinbajo. I cannot describe how happy I am because you know, at that level, you cannot be sure they will be here. They may be half way here and national duty may call so people were on edge asking, are you sure he will come? By the morning of that day, all Ikeja roads were locked down and when he arrived, club members were like wow! This has never happened before because that is the presidency of Nigeria. Four days after on the Saturday of that week was the Grand Ball and we had in this premises three governors. The governor of Lagos State, Ogun State and Gbenga Daniels. We had also Sir Adebutu Kessington among a host of others and members were all over the moon! It was like now we had finally arrived! We are a force to reckon with in terms of climbing the social ladder.
At the 70th anniversary of the club King Sunny Ade performed, why the choice of KSA?
(Laughter) It is tradition. KSA has played for the last 40 years. In fact, he has been performing since the late 70s hence it is now tagged Sony Night. It used to be called Eleganza Night because Eleganza Industries used to sponsor it 100 per cent. KSA is a legend. In December there were some events, but the New Year party is the climax. Even if you say you want another musician, people will revolt and he does this for us for almost nothing so the club some years back honoured him with a life membership of the club. For today we are expecting the governor and at least three of four royal fathers. This is the way we have it every year. Last year we had General Raji Rasaki and Baba Adebutu Kessignton among a host of others. We are also expecting people like Arekola Oyefeso, the Speaker of the House and Mrs Kemi Nelson. But beyond that, it is all for our members to have fun, network and interact.
Looking again into your life, will it be right to say that you were born with a silver spoon?
Of course not. I struggled through life. My parents were living in one room on Queens Street at Alagomeji, Yaba. Severally, there were days we went without eating. My parents were struggling to make ends meet and things were so rough we had to relocate to Makoko which is always on CNN for the wrong reasons today. When we were there, there was nothing. You went to sleep and woke up with crabs crawling around your room and all over you. The interesting thing was that whenever we complained, mum always said it is a struggle that has a terminal. When you pass with flying colours, you have the world at your feet. That was the only motivation that sustained us.
You lost your dad at the tender age of 18, what was it like growing up without a father figure around you. Was your mum able to feel the vacuum?
It was sad losing my dad just when I was coming into manhood. The importance of a father in the home cannot be over-emphasised. Yes, my mother did her best to bring us up. She played the role of mother, father, friend, confidant and prayer warrior all wrapped in one and it was amazing how she did all this with so much love without complaining. But beyond that, my uncle, Chief Atoyebi Akande filled in perfectly for his late brother. He was there for my siblings and I and still is till today. I shall forever remain grateful to him. May God bless him.
What was the greatest advice mum gave you?
Mum gave me a lot of advice, but the one that stands out most when I look back was when she said we should be steadfast, patient and learn to endure, because nothing good comes without a struggle and hard times are not forever.
What was your turning point?
I would say the death of my father was the turning point of my life when I was just 18 and the first among nine siblings so I grew up overnight. Struggling through university, I was fortunate to have an uncle who took the battle and did everything to see that I did not drop out of school. Because of that, I knew I could not afford any misstep, because people were waiting for me to get up on my feet and pull them up. That is why I say my dad’s death was my turning point.
You have had an illustrious career as an accountant. Tell us about life as an accountant?
It has been a life of discipline which the profession inculcates in us. It is a profession that forces you to be focused. Even when you are doing your own thing you feel the need to be accountable. So, the discipline that the profession imposes on you during turbulent times is amazing. I was fortunate in my career advancement in terms of passing the professional exams, having the privilege of working with the big four accounting firms in the country, moving and being able to rise through the ranks to get to where I am today. I have never thought for a day that I would have been better in another profession. I just think that this is where God wants me to be and I have to make the best out of it. The experience of working with four of the biggest accounting firms in Nigeria shaped my attitude to life in terms of professionalism, integrity and team spirit.
Do you have political ambition?
Capital no! I am a very private person. In fact, if you ask members, they will tell you the battle it took for me to get involved even with the politics and administration of the club. That will be a story for a whole book. I can’t wait to get out of here and return to my private life.
What would you say was the best decision you ever took?
To be a chartered accountant
How do you relax?
I hang out with friends mostly at the Lagos Country Club. I also do a lot of reading and listening to music
On a lighter note, how did you meet your wife and eventually pop the question?
It was in the course of duty. Pop the question? I was too shy; I can’t recall how it happened (laughter).
Are you fulfilled when you look back in life?
Yes, I must confess that I am very fulfilled. I couldn’t have asked God for more. I am blessed and contented.