By Bianca Iboma-Emefu
Chief Executive of Hybrid Group Limited, Dapo Omolade, is in every way demonstrating the essence of the Jimmy Cliff song that was popular in the late early 80s, “Who Feels It, Knows It.” That perhaps explains why he is passionate about educating Nigerians, corporate bodies, the government and the legislative arms about the great need to create safe environments in the workplace and the general community, to drastically reduce and also prevent losses in all its ramifications. In this interview with Sunday Sun he gives insight on how the Safety Industry was birthed in Nigeria and grown in the country.
What was it like growing up?
I grew up in a nuclear extended family of four siblings and some other family members. I had an interesting upbringing because we had opportunity to have a sense of love and protection from our parents, who were there to provide the best they could under the circumstances. I was not a different child from the normal children that grew up in Lagos.
I had my fair share of Lagos life from a very early age. I was the first child of the family and my dad didn’t hesitate to allow me go to a boarding house at age 11, far away from home. I think that decision shaped my life. I had the opportunity of meeting quite a lot of people.
Being away from home gave me the chance to be independent. I had to decide on my own what to do about peer pressure, community pressure, and to deal with instructions from teachers. All these put together gave me the knowledge of what life entails. Of course, I made mistakes, but thankfully they were not costly mistakes that could have cost my life. I learnt from other people’s mistakes. I was in the midst of people who were from super rich background as well as those who were from comfortable homes. During the official visiting day, those kids would be visited with about four to five cars following each other and with about 20 people setting up a canopy. Just on a visiting day for a 12-year-old boy. For some of us who did not have that opportunity, it gave us the idea of what happens in other places.
The idea that you were the best was erased from some of us completely. You thought you were the richest, the best and most important.
The boarding school made growing up a good experience. My siblings and I bonded, whenever I went home from school; being home was a great joy for me. So I went through early in life shaped my future aspiration. We saw when we were nothing, those relationships happen to be the closest.
What lessons has life taught you?
Life has taught me the major lesson that nobody can boast of anything or status. Whatever status you have cannot be permanently occupied, except you are endowed with the grace. I have understood that our position in life is temporal. It is not something you can save at the bank or that there is an assurance or guarantee because changes take place without your permission. When those changes take place what you think you were yesterday, may not be what you are today. It could be from nothing to something and it could also be from something to nothing.
But the fact that there is nothing anybody has today that is worth building a tent or canopy around. You are only there by God’s grace, but some other people will tell you it is by chance or luck. But because of my faith and what I believe in, I know it is by God’s grace. It’s not something you can lay ownership to and that transcends to a very big lesson for me. What matters most is the impact that you have made. It is every one’s responsibility to know why you are here, in the world. There is a purpose for your being alive on earth, in order for you to be happy in life. I recognise that I must take every step to make impact.
In what way is the Health and Safety Industry making impact?
Health and Safety is about loss prevention. The whole objective of that career called safety is to make sure that humans are prevented from losses that can happen to them. Work places are made safe, to prevent losses. The environment is protected, in order not to incur losses. It’s all about loss prevention. Health and safety in any country brings to the stake what will call peace. There is nothing as good as leaving your house in the morning and coming back the same way or better. When someone leaves homes in the morning with two legs and returns home with one leg, it is not just the pain but the thought of the fact that for the 30 years of life I have two hands. And I am going to spend another 40 years of my life without a hand. These are realities because the world we are in poses risks. The work that we do poses challenges for our lives. Something must be available, someone must be there. A system must be there to control those things that can prevent losses. We must take actions, protect workers, retire awareness and make sure that those things that have negative impact on us and cause losses are controlled.
That is basically what the industry entails. In Nigeria it is becoming an interesting industry, still emerging and become something that is realistic. Prior to this time, a lot of people had no idea about what can protect them. This does not change the fact that God protects. If you need to take actions on what can prevent losses. When organisations prevent or reduce losses, it can translate to profit. If you have water in a bucket and it doesn’t leak, it would be available for you to use tomorrow, but if you lose the water, you must get another one to use. Anything you don’t protect you are likely going to lose and that includes life assets, money, properties, jobs, everything. My role or what I do is to make sure that I provide solution to anything that can cause that loss within the human interaction, technology and environment. I think Nigeria is embracing loss prevention right now because we have so many channels and leakages in Nigeria where losses take place. You see losses on the road, where people lose time, lives, property, fire incidents we are having all over the country. November and December were two months we had great disasters and people were alarmed about what was going on. It even extended to January this year with market fires and in communities. These incidents could have been prevented.
What Nigerians are doing right now is replacing their health with the job they are doing now. The day they leave the job then they start solving the problem that was incurred in the course of the job. That’s what we do in Nigeria, so the safety industry is ensuring and advocating that the risk should be prevented. If the country and corporate organisations follow through, then we can ensure that these losses are prevented. if this is done, there would be an improvement in life condition in Nigeria.
How do you prevent loss in the work environment?
Safety should be a top priority in work place. If an employee is hurt while on the job the ramifications are hefty and far-reaching. In order to make sure every employee is safe while on the job, employers need to take safety seriously and treat it as top priority.
How did you get into the Safety Industry?
I have always said it at different fora that the Safety Industry found me somehow. Previously I used to say I got into safety business by accident. I got into safety business without understanding what it entails. I studied Agriculture, then Environment Management and Forestry for postgraduate degree. I embraced it even though I did not fully understand it. My mind was just to get a Master’s degree and move away, but I was not sure what it would offer. Somewhere along the line, I got into safety, even though it was not lucrative at that time, considering the payment what was being in bank jobs and other places. The field of safety was not popular in Nigeria. Nobody knew it could be pursued as a career path, where to get employment, how to develop one’s competence. All these became a challenge. We had to weather the storm through international learning and platforms. Really I did a lot of trial and error, not the job but learning was taking place. I knew God wanted me to do this. The purpose was well defined, and I could immediately relate it to all the past experiences I had while in secondary school and the university. I went into the industry and worked for about 10 years. Then I left paid employment and started Hybrid Group. Because of the convictions in my heart, I struggle quite a lot to be able to learn what I am doing today. Is there a way I can make it easier for others? Anyway I can make others to see a career to prevent significant losses in Nigeria.
How would you assess Nigeria’s level of safety measures?
As a matter of fact, we have not even done what we are supposed to be doing. There is so much to do within the Health and Safety Industry, which have not been touched in the country. The beautiful thing is that we have been able to emulate other countries of the world and leverage on it. We are using that to improve the standard of living and workplace in Nigeria. This motivated the company to start a non-governmental organisation to create awareness. That step is our way of demonstrating corporate social responsibility of Hybrid Group. Through the NGO we give back to the society, create value and make impact.
In what specific ways has your firm done this?
In 2012, I teamed up with a friend to establish Safety Advocacy and Employment Foundation (SAEF) as an NGO which focuses on public awareness training, to deepen knowledge about safety. Through the NGO, we have reached out schools, market places and taxi parks.
What’s your motivation to take up the humanitarian aspects of health and safety?
As an individual it saddens me to see able-bodied men and women who have been negatively impacted by the work they do. It is sad to see people placing their lives at a risk position, where they are very clear that risk can happen to them. Some do not understand that what they do is dangerous to their property. To answer your question directly, my motivation is to inform and educate them, to tell them that the last person I saw who did what they did has been in grave, and therefore, they should not follow suit. The motivation is to see people alive, when they do their jobs. I am committed to doing whatever I can do, to make sure that people are safe while doing their work. My motivation basically is to impact lives and to prevent losses to the people, businesses and other corporate organisations.