Olatunbosun Okpeseyi is a man of many parts. Aside his backgrounds in Law, Linguistics, Management and Marketing, Okpeseyi underwent training for decades in order to burnish his leadership skills.
To the District Governor, the saying: ‘To lead is to serve’, should be the guiding principle of people in leadership positions and their core values. He has since adopted this nugget not only as a leadership principle, but as life’s philosophy. Being of noble birth, many of his ilk would rather abhor the poor, and hobnob with the elite. However, Okpeseyi is different. He is neck-deep in philanthropy and empowerment for the less privileged and the vulnerable.
It was based on this that he found a credible platform in Lions Club, an international charity organisation. After years of active membership, diligent service and exemplary leadership, Okpeseyi rose to become the District-Governor (DG) of District 404.
In this interview with Effects, the management guru shares his mother’s great influence on him, coping with tough times and why Nigerian leaders should adopt ‘service’ as their mantra.
Tell us a about your educational background?
I started my education at St. Patrick Anglican Primary School. Owo, Ondo State. After that, I gained admission into Owo High School for my secondary education. From there, I proceeded to the College of Advance Studies, Ayotirerewa in Ondo town. Thereafter, I gained admission to the University of Benin where I studied Linguistics and African Languages. I also attended University of Lagos where I obtained a Masters degree in Industrial and Labour Relations. After that, I was at Igbenidion University to study Law. . Today, I’m a legal practitioner, a certified auctioneer, an arbitrator but with a bias for real estate and intellectual property.
I belong to different professional bodies. I’m a member of Nigeria Institute of Management, Chartered Institute of Abitrators (UK), Institute of Directors (UK), International Trademark Association (INTA) USA and many others.
How was it like, growing up in Owo?
I lived a normal life just like any other child.
Were you born with silver spoon?
I want to see being born with silver spoon from my moral upbringing, not on account of my rich background. We never had everything? Meanwhile, we were trained to be contented with what we were given. We were taught to appreciate people. I tell my fellow Lions that I was raised to see women as partners and equals. I was not trained to see myself as their superior. My mother didn’t shy away from telling my sisters to be humble and submissive. She also taught them to be confident and be prepared to defend themselves at all times.
Tell us about your parents?
My mother was a businesswoman. If I should talk about her I would go on and on. She went to Government School, Owo. One of the good things I appreciated in my mother was her handwriting. She had this old cursive handwriting. She was one of the first distributors of Okitipupa Oil Palm for NIFOR. The first tanker of oil that came to Ondo State was through her. She was into wholesale trading in palm oil. She had a cold room too. She was the first Iya-Oloja in Ijebu-Owo and the patron of the Iya-olojas before she died. My father served in the Nigerian Police before he went into sawmill business.
Your parents were illustrious, is it proper then to say you had it rosy as a child?
The joy of every child is to be able to look back and say, ‘what have I received from my parents?’ I don’t want to deny the fact that what I got from my parents were enough to propel me into the future. If you call that rosy, then I will take it in hook, line and sinker.
Do you have role models?
Every discerning man should look up to people. Without sounding patronising, the immediate past DG of Lions Club, the late Chief Olushola Dada was a man I respected so much. I can boldly say he was my role model. I really appreciated his lifestyle. He was a descent man, an achiever and he had a caring heart.
What are the things you learnt from him?
I learnt that as a Lion, one must be ready to work with people. However lofty your ideas and programmes, you need people to execute the programmes. So, you need to encourage them. You need to listen to people even when you have harsh messages for them. Please don’t rub it in their faces, rather pass on your message gently.
Did you see your election as the DG coming?
When you join an organization, you don’t join because you want to lead. Rather, you join because you love the objectives of the organization. Authority stems from responsibility. If you don’t have the feeling that your commitment to that organization would actually position you for leadership…for instance, how do you identify a leader in an organisation? It is your ability to shoulder and prepare yourself for responsibilities. I joined Lion’s Club because I wanted to serve. Leadership in the Lion’s Club is not about ambition, but rendering of service. Service is not what one should shy away from. It is not about position, but our commitment to service. Are you ready to serve? Are you ready to deal with the objectives and carry people along? It takes a lot to lead, and in Lion’s Club, there is no servant-master relationship but servant-leader relationship. As a leader, you are the first servant of the club. That is the principle.
That I’m leading the district today is by providence, because nobody expected the shocking death of our former DG- Lion Olushola Dada. As members of his cabinet, If we had had a choice , we would have prayed for him to live longer; but he has gone. He was a great man. He was a man that we love to celebrate. He was a descent leader. He was generous in conduct, character and utterances. We were part and parcel of his vision.
What should the people expect from your tenure?
We will continue with the projects initiated by the former DG. We have a dialysis centre that is under construction. The project is ongoing and we would not allow it to die. We are going to continue with it because service is a continuum. There should no disconnection. We are also going to lay emphasis on some of our international objectives, programmes and campaigns such as sight, environment and empowerment.
I strongly believe that caring for the people is noble and if you make it your objective, even God would pray for you because we are the temple of God on earth. The care for people is noble. And when you show care to every human being, it goes on to demonstrate our respect for God.
There are people of different age-grades in Lion’s Club, as DG, how would you carry them along, and cater for their varying interests?
First, you need to ascertain the fact that service is for everybody, whether old or young. And we all are wired for connection. There is a connection between the old and the young, the old needs the agility of the young to move things forward, while the young wants the experience of the older ones to navigate through life.
Essentially, our Leo programmes have instilled that on our minds already. So, we don’t impose anything on anyone. The Lions Club is an organized NGO registered to serve the people. That is our core value. Lionism is for the young and old. And we’ve designed our programmes to instill the idea of service to humanity in our members especially our youths through mentoring and empowerment training. Service is our prime goal and that is the focal interest of our members.
Bad leadership has always been the bane of successive administrations in Nigeria, how do you think the country can improve the lot of their leaders?
If you impose the culture of service on people, the face of governance will change. Our leaders have to understand that when you find yourself in a position of authority, you’re there in trust for the people. Your authority comes from the people. Authority stems from responsibility. It is not how much power you wield over your people. You may be robbing them or misapplying the authority given to you. So, they should first seek to discharge their responsibilities, and protect the trust reposed in them. If all these are lacking, then you should not call yourself a leader, rather you’re a conqueror.