By Dele Momodu
Fellow Nigerians, I’m in the best of spirits and back here on a positive note this week. It’s been a season of anomy, everywhere in the world. I know so many friends who have virtually given up and wondering if things would ever return to normal. Business is not going well. And fear won’t let us go out to hustle. So, we are all waiting for a miracle that would send COVID-19 back to wherever it came from, in the pit of hell. But in the middle of this bedlam, it is gratifying to find some friends who refuse to be intimidated by the daunting challenges of this crazy moment that no one knows when and how it would end.
One such person I know, and I have come to respect enormously is Ms Oyindamola Oluwafunmilayo Lami Samira Adeyemi. Oyindamola and I share several mutual friends, but she was originally introduced to me by my best friend, Prince Adedamola Aderemi, who is also her very good friend. We met over lunch and I was stunned to meet a lady who not only knows her onions but is determined to prove at least one stereotype wrong, that certain professions are the exclusive preserve of men. She also fervently believes that we should not give up on our country, that Nigeria is definitely one of the best countries in the world, that we shall rise above all our challenges if we all play our parts, conscientiously and with integrity, in different ways, instead of expecting government to solve all problems. Her view is that no nation becomes great simply by relying on government to do most, if not all things.
It is impossible to sit down with Oyindamola and not receive some inspiration about how to stay positive about Nigeria and life in general. She reads my column and sends private comments regularly. She tells it as it is when she disagrees with me, and knows how to deliver her punches without appearing rude. She loathes the way most columnists dwell so much on the negatives with much cynicism when, according to her, we should try to provide solutions to those negatives as well as foster and engender the many positive stories which daily surround us. This struck a chord with me because it is one of the principles that gave birth to Ovation. We have always felt that we must celebrate the myriad of success stories that made Nigeria the great nation that was the envy of the world. In Oyindamola’s view, Nigeria is blessed with very brilliant and hardworking people who should be encouraged. She insists we’ve gained nothing tangible from grumbling endlessly, so why not try a different strategy.
I had read much about this amazing lady before we ever met, but nothing prepared me for her intellectual prowess, prodigious talent, her honesty and sincerity and her raw determination. Prince Adedamola had said so much about her to me and vice versa. I’m happy to have met such a forward-looking Nigerian. I see a solution to some of the problems of our country through the lenses and prism of Oyindamola. For me, her attitude and perspicacity are not a mere accident but a combination of many things from her birth, background, education, interests and pursuits. This is why I have today tried to key into her vision and mission by celebrating a risen star, since she has already achieved great heights, although I am confident that she will scale many more in the decades to come. I will look at some of the things which make her different and which make her tick.
The first is the issue of unity. Nigerians must encourage inter-tribal marriages which used to be common but seems to have decreased lately. She’s born to a Yoruba father from Owo, in Ondo State and a Hausa/Fulani Mum from Gombe. Growing up in different parts of Nigeria afforded her the opportunity to know the country well and appreciate the different cultural values of our diverse people. She’s lived with her grandmother in Owo, where she did part of her schooling before she was taken back to Gombe. And then she headed back to the South West to attend secondary school at FGGC, Akure where she says she was toughened and learnt to speak Yoruba well. She completed her Senior Secondary School Certificate at Federal Government Girl’s College, Bauchi. Just imagine the diversity and opportunity such variety would provide her in the future, and so it proved. Oyinda has developed into a compassionate young woman who interacts easily with people from disparate cultures, traditions and languages. She is easy and unassuming and builds bridges across the nation and internationally with flair and transcendent ease because of her multi-cultural and multilingual background.
Oyindamola prepared herself for a great future by making education her launchpad. She believes parents should make every effort to send their children to school even if their children won’t use the certificate they earn eventually for the career they choose. Education for her opens the gateways of the mind. Knowledge can never be wasted but can only enhance the capacity of the individual. Every facet of Oyinda’s experiences and views gives rise to inspirational moments and thoughts. Her own tertiary educational foundation was laid at the University of Abuja where she studied Political Science, which she developed by following up with a postgraduate M.Sc degree in Political Economy and Development from the same University. Education boosted her self-confidence, and she has a voracious appetite for learning. She is constantly seeking to develop herself and her knowledge and attends several courses on an annual basis. To this end, she would later attend and obtain a certificate in the reputable Owner/President Management Program from Harvard Business School, Boston, Massachusetts, USA. Her capacity and ability did not go unnoticed on the program. Her professors regularly consult with her on third world and other management issues even till today, and she is a veritable resource person in that highly esteemed institution. It is noteworthy that Oyinda is a natural born leader and those in leadership positions not only immediately visualise her potential but are quick to reward her efforts, and will gravitate towards her as well. As early as her National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) year, Oyindamola was already winning accolades and plaudits for her service to the nation by being conferred with the prestigious Ogun State NYSC Merit Award.
Oyindamola’s diversity and multeity has been amplified by her career projection. She started a career in banking and traversed various positions at the First City Monument Bank PLC and Equitorial Trust Bank. She then tried her hands in the retail fashion business, travelling to England to bring quality products because for her, nothing but the best will do. This proclivity for excellence coupled with her great interest and love for the arts would subsequently impel and propel her to one of her true callings. Soon she was to discover a passion in the most unusual career for women, construction, where she has carved a special niche for herself and her companies and become a major player in over a decade. Her foray into construction began as a realtor. Assisting clients in different aspects of the real estate business including rentals, sales and purchase meant exposure to not only the construction of homes and offices but also infrastructure. As a consummate professional with a great eye for attention and detail she recognised that there were better ways of doing things and the industry standard generally fell far short of what should obtain in a country like Nigeria with the vast resources and personnel at the country’s disposal. It was therefore, no surprise to keen observers who had been following this young lady and her steely determination not only to succeed, but to do so with distinction, when she ventured into construction with a passion and vengeance.
She sees Nigeria as a country that is still virgin in many areas and thus offers limitless opportunities for those willing to work and do business. “If foreigners are still trooping in, it means there are things they are seeing and getting that we are missing,” Oyindamola says matter-of-factly. That is why she says that, about ten years ago, she decided to quit the company of perpetual grumblers and go full blast into the construction business.
Our young men and women have a lot to learn from her guts. She faced seemingly daunting obstacles by trying to compete at the highest level in the male dominated business of Construction. Today, her gamble and gambit have paid off. She’s built a formidable company with the capacity to take on ambitious and lucrative jobs competitively and competently in the construction industry and help reduce the infrastructure deficit in our country.
She is now the Group Managing Director at Still Earth Holdings, in Ikoyi, Lagos, a leading engineering and construction and real estate conglomerate that is setting new trends and raising the bar in the industry with imagination, innovation, zeal and professionalism. Her companies now boasts of robust portfolios that include Julius Berger Nigeria, Dangote Refinery, Shell Petroleum Development Company of Nigeria Ltd, Oyo State Government, Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC), Lagos State Government Akwa Ibom State Government, Delta State, Federal Ministry of Transport, China Civil Engineering Construction Corporation, Niger Delta Power Holding Company Limited and many others in the public and private and sectors.
Ms Adeyemi’s commitment to improving the engineering and construction landscape in Nigeria is already bearing fruit. To achieve the successes and heights that she has attained, Ms Adeyemi has put together a great team of diligent, dedicated, experienced and highly qualified expatriate and local workforce. Indeed, her companies pride themselves in their ability to put together a team of natural and qualitative experts who are geared to delivering quality and superlative projects on time and on budget which have been the bane of many in the industry. She has a group of workers who are well trained not just to be highly proficient in what they do but also to team players and members working together to produce glorious results for their clients and the ultimate end user. Regular training of personnel in new methods and technology is the sine qua non of the corporate ethos of the Still Earth companies and this originates right from the leadership by Ms Adeyemi and radiates and permeates right through to lowliest employee of the company. Indeed, she has founded and is the Chairperson of a Leadership Advancement initiative called the Green Renaissance, which is partly useful in complementing her desire and drive for leadership and excellence in leadership in her organisation. Ms Adeyemi is simply a trail blazer in this regard, and therefore her companies have become one of the most prized and sought after corporate entities in the construction industry.
The Still Earth group of companies have always thrived on the use of technological and information technology advances to shape and affect their contributions to the construction industry. Imbibing and utilising leading edge and cutting-edge technology, the Still Earth construction group has been able to deliver distinctive projects and contribute to creating novel ways and means of reducing the infrastructural deficit in Nigeria.
Oyindamola Adeyemi is not just about adding her significant bit to the construction industry through her unyielding, disciplined and principled high standards. She is passionate about supporting and benefitting the communities in which she operates. She believes in achieving this not just through the delivery of successful projects which impact on the community, but also by generously employing corporate social responsibility as a means of adding value to those communities and societies.
What I find most encouraging always is Oyindamola’s determination to perform impeccably and do a matchless and unblemished job. Every quote given for her contracts must meet international best practices, and be in the overall best interests of the Client. This is not a common trait in Africa where many companies thrive in over-inflation of contracts and cutting corners in order to make as much profit as possible. It is gratifying that this is not the Still Earth way. The Company cares essentially about attaining the best for the client and the communities benefitting from them rather than itself. Accordingly, one of the prime objectives of the Still Earth group is to work in conjunction with its clients to “achieve success on every project for our clients, through the professionalism, diligence and hard work that we profess and promote”. For a company that has started spreading its wings beyond Nigeria, she’s very smart to have such a corporate policy of satisfying her customers and clients by completing and handing over quality projects with high standards, diligence, sedulousness and professionalism in timely fashion and within budget.
I am also glad that having conquered the construction industry, this elegant amazon and young titan of the Nigerian corporate world is eager to continue to exploit her vast entrepreneurial skills in other areas of the commanding heights of the Nigerian economy.
I see a new Nigeria in her. It cannot always be business as usual, especially with this pandemic, and Oyindamola has already imbibed the new culture in her business, and we can only expect greater things from her. I salute her today, and give her a standing ovation.