By Christy Anyanwu
Mubo Olasoko, CEO/Registrar of MERISTEM Registrars and Probate Services Limited is one jolly good fellow with no airs even as a female chief executive officer. It’s surprising to note that in her establishment, subordinates address her on first name basis. Amiable, simple and God-fearing, she joined the company in 2003 as a pioneer staff. Subsequently, she became the Head of Operations, then head of client services. Then, MERISTEM was only a brokerage firm. Today, the firm has acquired more buildings and diversified. The business is thriving. Mubo marked her 50th birthday last Thursday and spoke with Sunday Sun about her journey so far.
What does it feel like to be 50 years?
It doesn’t make a difference. I thought I’m going to feel some difference in attitude, some changes in my physiology but as I’m seeing it, there’s not much of any difference. It’s just like when I was 40 years. A night before I was 40, my heart was pounding and it was as if something was going to happen but the day came and nothing happened. In fact, I feel so much at ease now than when I was 40 years.
What has life taught you?
Life has taught me to know that whatever I have, whatever I am, I owe all to God. When I look at my life, I see there are so many people with whom I started life but today they are no more and even some that are alive cannot boast of any achievement. I look at my life and I see that it’s not by my might, it’s not by my strength, it’s just the grace of God. So, I owe it all to God.
Can you tell us about your childhood?
I will start from my family. My mother has five girls. So, growing up, I attended primary and secondary schools in Kano. Subsequently, I attended the University of Jos. Our home is peaceful. We are all girls and very close. God blessed us; we didn’t have a hard time. I worked for a while before getting married. I had a normal childhood.
Which of your parents influenced you more as a child?
I would say my mum because I was closer to my mum then. My mum died some 17 years ago but she was my role model because I grew up with her. She was an entrepreneur; she was a petty trader but a distinguished one for her own time. What amazed me about her was that she also grew up without a mother and this made her committed to her children. She made sure that everything she didn’t have because her mother was not alive she provided for us. So, she stood by us, to make sure that we did well in school. Our education was one of her priorities and she made sure that irrespective of the fact that we are girls, we were educated. That really influenced me and apart from God, I dedicate everything I have to her.
Any memorable moment growing up?
I have very good memories of my secondary school days at Federal Government College Kano as I learnt a lot. My experience in that school was crucial and it helped to form and shape my outlook towards life.
Do you speak Hausa fluently?
Yes I do. I attended primary school in Kano and University of Jos. I came to the South for the first time when I came for my youth service in Lagos in 1990. After youth service, I decided to stay in Lagos and find my feet. I got a good job and I was able to integrate very quickly. I met my husband at New Estate Baptist Church when he was the youth president and we were just youths attending fellowship. We got married in 1995.
What attracted you to him?
He was not attracted to me because I was a bubbling person. I like dressing up, but he was like a Scripture Union (SU) kind of person. So, he didn’t consider me a Christian. In his own eyes, I wasn’t dressing like a Christian because I wore trousers; I perm my hair and use makeup. In fact, we were not friends. But one night, he just came to my house and proposed to me. It was also dramatic the day he came. The day he came, I had an accident and I was not supposed to be home.
I left work with one of my friends and as I was driving to Alaba area somehow we just had an accident around there. We were taken to a hospital.
My landlord was like a father to me and that evening, after we were treated at the hospital, I called him to let him know that I may not be coming home that I had an accident on the way. He said, “Okay but one of your church members is around here to see you”. I asked who he was and told him to give him the phone. I spoke to him on the phone. He now asked where we were and I told him. He came over to see us and brought beverages. That night, we were discharged and he drove us home. As I was exiting his car, he said he had something to tell me. That God told him that I was his wife and bla bla bla and he has come to propose to me. I wasn’t surprised, because I too had a revelation clearly that he is my husband. Our courtship lasted seven months.
How has it been so far with this wonderful man?
It’s the perfect will of God. I have peace and joy at home. Even on my 50th he was the one doing everything. He took me to buy my dress, supervised the cooks, and organized the drinks and everything. I just had to wear my dress and sit down as the celebrant. It has been God all the way. Everybody in my office knows him. He calls to find out how I’m faring at work and all that.
What distinguishes MERISTEM Registrars and Probate Services Limited?
We have good customer service. We are into stockbroking, which is the flagship company, wealth management, registrar services, trustees services and financial advisory services. It’s like a bouquet. We are passionate about our customers. At the onset, we realized that others were not taking care of their clients, as they should, so we made customers our focus and it’s been our pillar of success. One sin you commit here and you will not be forgiven is if you get a customer angry or you lose an account because a customer is not satisfied with our services.
As female CEO of big firm like MERISTEM, how do you cope?
There are certain values you are expected to respect as a staff of MERISTEM. You don’t lord it over people just because you are their boss. We want people to be free and achieve their potentials.
I’m just coming from the kitchenette now where we all dine together. In some other organizations dining is stratified. Here, we call ourselves on first name basis so that we can relate freely with one another.
On first name basis? You mean a junior staff can address the MD by first name?
Yes. Everybody is free. It makes it easier for people to relate well. There’s no air about anything, just do your work. You are not afraid to look up to anybody. When you have that kind of situation, people are free to air views that would move the organization forward. The only reason I may have an issue with you is if you don’t do your work. Once there’s no laxity in your work, there’s no stress.
You are quite trendy. What’s fashionable to you?
Fashion for me is anything comfortable.
I like beautiful things, I like to look good but I don’t necessarily go with the flow. I don’t say this is in vogue, so I must do it. If it doesn’t suit me or it makes me uncomfortable, I will not wear it but anything that makes me comfortable and makes me really look good I will go all out to look for and I don’t mind how much it costs.
Once I like it, I will buy it. It doesn’t have to be trendy. I like shoes and clothes but I’m not crazy about bags. In fact, I can use this bag (touched her handbag) till it tears then I get another one. But my shoes, dressing and hair are priorities.
How do you unwind?
I watch TV, I sleep a lot and I recently joined a golf club. I want to start playing golf. I feel that would help me relax. I play table tennis at the club not so much now but I think I can use golf to replace that. I like to be close with my family, gisting, laughing, making fun of each other and watching television together after the day’s job.
Do you have any regrets?
If I have an opportunity to do it all over again, it will be Mathematics. When I was at Federal Government College, Kano back then, I didn’t take Mathematics seriously.
Maybe it was because some of my friends didn’t like Mathematics. But I came out into the work place and I discovered there’s nothing you can do without Mathematics.
I had to learn quantitative techniques, on the job because if I didn’t, I wont be able to perform. If there’s anything I can rewind it would be that.