Former Deputy Governor of Lagos State, Otunba Femi Pedro will on Thursday, January 29, 2015, hit the sexagenarians club. To mark it, the maverick boardroom guru is going to organize a low key birthday with family, thanking God for a fulfilling 60.
In an exclusive interview with ENCOMIUM Weekly held at the weekend, Otunba Pedro, who recently reunited with his former boss (Asiwaju Bola Tinubu) spoke passionately about his humble beginning and what life has taught him at 60.
Let’s start with your growing up. How was it?
I was actually raised by my maternal and paternal grandmothers. They were very influential in helping me become the man that I have become today. They taught me great values of humility, integrity, character, hard work and industry.
My childhood was exciting and fun. We were not wealthy, but we never lacked the basics. I grew up in the midst of many relatives. Our elders at that time were very strict, but also loving and caring. Like many other children my age, I had unfettered freedom to play football and other games within Lagos Island. Of course, our education was paramount in the eyes of my family, so we never compromised it. We lived a spartan life, but we were taught to be content, to share and to love.
I started primary school in 1960, the year of our independence. On October 1, I remember vividly that we were taken to Tafawa Balewa Square for a parade, where I witnessed the lowering of the British flag and the raising of our Nigerian flag. We were each given a miniature Nigerian flag, a drinking cup and plenty of rice and cow meat. There were cultural shows and fireworks. I got home happy but exhausted. It was indeed an unforgettable and memorable day.
You are obviously stylish in a unique sense. How did you imbibe the art of looking dapper and clean always?
I was not born into an aristocratic family, but my 22 years sojourn in the banking industry transformed me into a dignified and self-confident person. My sense of style is contemporary and smart. I developed this while I was the Executive Assistant to Otunba Subomi Balogun at First City Monument Bank (FCMB) in the late 80s. Otunba Balogun is a man of style, and he always took his outward appearances seriously, and still does. While working closely with him, I picked up a number of exemplary attributes, including his grace, poise and sense of style, and this has remained an indelible part of me till date.
What are your favourite fashion accessories?
As for fashion accessories, I love good shoes and I keep a reasonably healthy wrist-watch collection.
How would you describe your experience in both the corporate and political settings?
It has been challenging, but exciting. This is the point I alluded to. The attributes for successes and great achievements are universal, and have been tested successfully by many nations, corporate organizations and individuals over the years. In the corporate world, I was trained on attributes like accountability, transparency, integrity, proper planning, meritocracy, impeccable character and effective communication skills, to name a few. If these attributes for success are imbibed by politicians in our environment, politics- and the overall polity- will become slightly more attractive and predictable, and this will in turn lead to good leadership, good governance, tangible progress and sustainable development.
These are attributes I will continue to promote as a reformist politician, and I hope to win more people to join this cause.
Let’s talk about life at 60. How does it feel?
It feels great. I’m grateful to God for sparing my life.
What lessons has life taught you at 60?
In my 60 years, I have come across many people and I have learnt different things. The people I consider the most important in my life are those that have brought out the best in me. There are rare and amazing people who remind me why life is truly worth it.
At 60, would you say you are fulfilled?
I’m much fulfilled personally and professionally as a banker and as a politician too. Of course, there is always a feeling that you can always contribute more towards the progress and development of your country, so the prayer is that God continues to grant me good health to be able to accomplish many more things.
How did you meet your wife?
We grew up in the same neighbourhood in the Ebute-Metta area of Lagos. I was working at the Federal Ministry of Justice at the time, and she had just completed her high school, and was waiting to start her A-levels at The Ibadan Polytechnic. We met through a mutual friend. I was attracted to her humility, cool personality, calm disposition and cerebral intelligence
What books have you read that affected your life most positively? Growing up, did you have to pattern your life after some models?
I love reading books and I have read quite a few. I have taken a particularly keen interest in the autobiographies of great and successful people, including the likes of Mohammed Ali, Martin Luther King, Chief Obafemi Awolowo, and Barack Obama, to name a few.
Interestingly enough, I am already working on my own memoir, and I hope to publish it in the foreseeable future.
One book that has positively impacted my life is The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen Covey. I have read the book over and over again, and I also attended a seminar/training programme handled personally by the author. Guaranty Trust Bank, my employers at the time, sponsored the seminar, which gave us the unique opportunity to learn and acquire valuable knowledge from Stephen Covey first-hand.
The book itself is a timeless classic. It taught me a holistic, integrated and principle-centered approach for solving personal and professional problems. It led me towards the pathway of living with fairness, integrity, honesty, and human dignity. It gave me the mindset to adapt to change, and the wisdom and power to take advantage of the opportunities that change creates. It is a book I recommend to everyone because it can positively transform your perspective of life.
You have served in different capacities in the corporate sector before going into public service. How would you describe the experience and which is more challenging?
My private sector experience was very pleasant, exciting and eventful. It was rewarding but challenging and very stressful as well. I was driven by a consuming ambition to excel and be successful. And by the grace of God, I was indeed successful. I was one of the fortunate few to rise from the base level after university to the peak of my career in the banking industry. I rose to the level of Managing Director/CEO before I joined public service. During this period, I also invested wisely and built a fairly decent portfolio for myself.
My public service experience has been slightly different. It has been very fulfilling for me, but it is also somewhat unpredictable, full of ups and downs, and can be largely unrewarding. First, it is difficult to plan and work towards success. In public service, success is generally determined by extraneous factors that are sometimes beyond your control. You may have ambition, set goals and action plans but you may be unable to fulfill them if other factors are not favourable to you. I have been very fortunate in public service because, by the special grace of God, I joined the public service at the highest level. I was also fortunate that I joined when I was already fulfilled professionally. At this point, I have a better understanding of the public sector and I feel it can also be rewarding and fulfilling.