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Good governance will make japa unattractive – Bimbo Ashiru

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I started my career with the then Chartered Bank in 1989. Over the years, I have served in various capacities of management as Head, Private Banking Unit; branch manager; Head, Institution and Professional Banking; Regional Coordinator; Country Director, Personal and Business Banking; and Director, Corporate Affairs and Corporate Social Investments. The last position I held was as Group Head, Public Sector, Stanbic IBTC Bank.

Also, I am a Fellow of the Chartered Institute of Bankers, Institute of Strategic Management of Nigeria, National Institute of Marketing of Nigeria, and the Chartered Institute of Commerce of Nigeria.

I was director of the marketing department, and group head of different departments.  In all the places I have worked, I try as much as possible to leave a mark of integrity, passion, vision and commitment. I help the people working under me to grow, as a good mentor. I am passionate about developing people, especially the younger ones. I have so many mentees, just the way I have mentors too.

I believe that for one to say that one has achieved a lot in life, one must be able to point out people one has helped, supported and trained.

When I was in the banking industry, I did not believe in boss-subordinate relationships. I believed in peer relationships. I remember we introduced a 360 degrees measurement performance system. One would be rated by one’s colleagues, peers and bosses; and one would also rate oneself. I think I scored 97 per cent. Till today, if I pick my phone and I call Stanbic IBTC for anything, it will be done for me; because I created that environment.

Growing up, I always wanted to be a professional. I have always liked to be an achiever. And in whatsoever I did, integrity was one of the key words that guided me.

I always tell people that integrity is when one is doing the right thing, even if nobody is watching one.

I also believe in relationships. So, I had the culture of being nice to people and making good friends. I love meeting good people as I journey through life. I had many friends while growing up, and I still maintain those friendships. Loyalty is very important to me, and I believe in helping people whenever I can. I build and keep a lot of relationships; and that, coupled with integrity, have brought me this far.

I chose banking and management, because I believe banking is a career where one needs to help people. I would have loved to be a doctor or a lawyer. There are three professionals that cannot be lied to. You cannot lie to a banker, lawyer or doctor. Those were the areas I looked at, and I felt it would not be a problem if I would always be there for my people.

It is about the law of demand and supply. If there is no demand for the dollar and/or naira, then there is an issue. Nigeria has no business being an import-dependent economy.

We must revive agriculture, and we must be able to produce in excess of what we need, and export goods. We must invest in the type of agriculture that will lead to industrialisation. We have so much land that we can produce on.

Small and medium scale enterprises should be able to get loans in naira, and the balance of their payment should also be made in naira, so that the naira will begin to appreciate, and consequently encourage more demand for the naira over the dollar. Most of the businesses here are dollar-denominated; but dollar is not our legal tender.

However, I think we still need to do our balance of dollars or pounds settlement. But, if the demand is more than the supply, then the request for the naira will be more; and dollars will be scarce.

The only way to sort this out is to encourage Nigerians to deal more in exporting goods. But, it is not something that can be done overnight. My advice is that Nigerians should be patient with the government.

As a representative of the Ijebu Development Initiative on Poverty Reduction, our focus was to help growing businesses in the agricultural sector by funding them. And today, they are doing well. If you go to Eruwe today, one of the biggest fish ponds in Africa is there.

To alleviate poverty, substantial investment must be made in small and medum scale enterprises. There is a limit to what one person can do, and a tree cannot make a forest. We did our best, and are still trying our best when it comes to poverty alleviation.

However, the only way to alleviate poverty is to create loans and allow businesses thrive. SMEs are the largest drivers of the world economy. They form about 85 per cent of every country’s economy. So, we have to make funds available to them at a lower rate. They should also be given funds to fund their businesses.

We set up that foundation to be able to help people. I am also going to set up my own foundation at the appropriate time to alleviate poverty and help people. Those are some of the initiatives I am working on. Meanwhile, it is not just about me; but as a group. There are so many initiatives the board is bringing into place, and our priority is poverty alleviation.

I was invited by the then Ogun State Governor (Ibikunle Amosun), who was my friend, to come and serve my people, and I believed the only way to serve was by holding a public position. One cannot continue keep criticising without being a part of the government. So, I went to serve in my own capacity, and we achieved a lot during that time. I am happy that Ogun State is now the industrial hub of Nigeria, and I was one of the people that worked towards that. One of the things I did as a commissioner was to lay the foundation for that.

I disagree with that statement. When we were in government, we were totally responsible, and we carried out our duties in the best ways we could. The present government is also doing a good job. They are continuing where we stopped.

The problem is that some companies are not socially responsible to the areas where they operate. The government cannot do everything alone. It is those companies that are being selfish. If the people that planted the companies there messed up the area, would they have been able to set up there in the first place? When you are in a place and you are making profit, you should be able to take care of your environment.

There is no person that does not have challenges. That is why we should always thank God and pray, so that we will be able to overcome them.

For example, the location of my family while I was ‘chasing’ my career was a challenge. Also, there are some people one would meet, and they would say because one is a commissioner, one would have lots of money, and they will keep demanding from one. And, if one refuses to give them, it becomes a problem.

Also, as a banker, people would want one to give them loans, but they would have to follow the right processes. But, if one does not help, they would say one is not a good person.

I treat people with respect; the way I want to be treated. I put myself in people’s shoes. I don’t look down on people, but I make sure that they do the right things. I respect everyone, irrespective of their status or job description.

I think there are no other steps to be taken than to do proper monitoring and evaluation. Having said that, even if all those are done, there are some people that are so selfish, self-centered and greedy, and such people will always find a way to steal. That is why I always advise that people should uphold the highest level of integrity, and be careful. People that are going to serve the government should go in there with integrity, and not just serve for their personal interests. There is a limit to what the government can do. The government is doing what it can, so people should uphold the highest level of integrity and be careful. That’s my advice.

I remember when I joined the Ogun State government, and I was meeting with colleagues and directors. We were talking and I said the only collateral I was bringing was my integrity, and that I wanted to leave with it intact. Because of that, I planned to do things the right way. I told them I would be just, equitable and fair. When I was a child, my father used to tell me to always remember the child of who I was, and those values are still there. It is always important to let people know what one is bringing to the table, because money is not everything. I worked in a bank for almost 30 years with unblemished track records. As a commissioner for eight years, I also left Ogun State with unblemished track records.

Nobody can say they bribed me. I don’t compromise on my values . There are some times people would come to me and say they want to get certain things done, and I should name my price; and I would decline.

I tell people that customers are their greatest assets. In the banking sector, the clients are the assets, because it is the commission and charges that come from all their transactions that are used to pay salaries, So, when you get your salary, you want to make sure you are loyal and committed.

I did not allow myself to be influenced by peer pressure, and I don’t compromise. When one does not compromise one’s values, and one has the fear of God; one will do well.

Those are the values I live by. And as long as I live, that is the legacy I want to be remembered for.

Don’t forget that foreigners come to our country too. If people need to travel out of the country to work and make money, then come back to invest, I don’t have a problem with it.

I am not an advocate of japa. However, people should go to where they are comfortable and are secured. We must get to a level that guarantees that for the country’s citizens. I believe the current president (Bola Tinubu) is working on it; and I believe that with the kind of people around him, he will be able to achieve that.

In the last eight years, people could not trust their government. There were graduates with good grades, but no jobs. If I become the president today, my priorities will be on education, health and economic development.

However, we cannot keep opening universities without creating jobs; because if the students graduate, where will they work? There must be infrastructure to support them. If someone graduates and is jobless for about five years, they might get involved in different crimes, such as fraud and armed robbery.

I actually sympathise with the young ones, because the environment is not conducive for them. I remember that when my brothers finished schooling in those days, there were jobs already waiting for them, and they were even choosing the ones they preferred. And, when they got the jobs, they were well paid and given cars. And, they started rising from there. But, these days, there are no jobs, talk more of cars. We need a government that will encourage the youth. That way, those who have travelled will eventually come home.

First, the government should create an enabling environment by putting necessary infrastructures in place. Like I said earlier, we should be an export-driven economy. We have oil, cocoa, cassava…and our focus should be on agriculture that will lead to industrialisation. To do that, we must be able to create the necessary infrastructure. The farmers must have good roads and modern tools.

However, I believe that things will surely get better. Imagine the six (southwestern) states coming together. There must be bilateral relationships between states. We need to create those opportunities.

Some people are good at criticising the government; but when they get there, they would do something else. I served (in government) for eight years, and I never changed. My values and principles are still there. My mum used to say that one should never say someone is good, nice or kind, until the person has power and money. I think the leadership problems in this country stem from individual problems. It is the characteristics that are inherent in an individual that determines how they run their show. One cannot give what one does not have. (Former President Muhammadu) Buhari ran the country to the best of his ability, and he has gone. The problem is whether or not it was favourable to Nigerians. Now, it is Tinubu’s turn. We should go beyond just criticising people in office. Instead, we must start looking for the people that have the sincerity of purpose to run the country genuinely.

I believe in work-life balance. I will do all that I am supposed to do during working hours, and when I am done, I will shut down, go home and attend to my family. My children are adults now, and they are not in the country, but when they are around, I spend time with them. And, whenever I am out of the country, I also spend time with them. My family is very important to me.

I like dodo (plaintain) and beans. I am not a big eater though.

I am a member of social clubs, such as the Metropolitan Club, Ikoyi Club 1938; as well as the Ijebu Heritage Group and Ijebu Renaissance Group.

I go to the Ikoyi clubhouse once in a while, and I hang out with friends. I also have a gym, and whenever I wake up in the morning, I go to the gym for one hour. I engage in skipping, boxing and jumping. I turned 60 but I don’t feel it. I still have the vibrancy of a youth. Age is just a number.

One must maintain the highest level of integrity and sincerity of purpose. One must also not cheat people.

I have so many mentors, including my late father, my brothers, my bosses, and people such as Atedo Peterside. I also like to read people’s biographies. I have a lot of books in my library about prominent people.

No. I usually say that one should allow God lead one, as nobody knows tomorrow. My philosophy is that time and tide are in God’s hands.

I had a family that imbibed the culture of integrity in me, and that helped me a lot. For example, when I was in the bank, one had to decline any gift that cost more than N25,000. That principle is one that has continued to guide me.

Whenever I find out that the people I have mentored are doing well and are in good positions, I feel fulfilled. I feel happy when I know that those I call my own are established wherever they are. Also, I love going on family dates; spending time with my wife and kids.

As for the places I visited, I have travelled wide but I don’t have a special or favourite place. I love everywhere I find myself, including Nigeria.

I am from Ijebu-Ode (Ogun State). My father, late Pa Simeon Ashiru, was a distinguished Ijebu statesman; while my mother, Princess, Moradeun Ashiru, was from the Fidipote royal family of Ijebu Ode and the ruling house of Owu-Ijebu.

I grew up in a polygamous family. My father had many wives and children. I am the 57th of them all, and the fifth from my mother. But, my father brought us up with love. We all grew up as one family, and everyone was loved equally.

My upbringing has had a lot of impact on my life, I was born a Muslim, but I am now a Christian. My father imparted a lot in my life, but that did not include having so many wives and children. During their time, things were easier. There was enough to eat then, and the control strategy was different. But now, we all have careers, and wives are pursuing theirs too. Bringing in another woman into one’s home will most likely cause problems. However, growing up was very interesting. My father instilled so many values in us, which I held on to, and also imparted to my children.

I did not choose a path for my children. They chose their own paths, because nobody chose my path for me. I allowed them to do what they want, and they are all adults now.

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