‘Life has just begun for me,’ says Segun Ajanlekoko at 60

Segun Ajanlekoko is a Quantity Surveyor who knows his onions and have paid his dues in the industry, his diligence and hard work has earn him a lot of leadership position both locally and internationally, the most recent is his appointment as president of Association of Professional Bodies in Nigeria. To crown it all, he will clock 50 on October 1, though his double celebration is coming up on September 28, 2010. ENCOMIUM Weekly in this interview took him up on his success story and life at 60…


How does it feel to be birthday mate with Nigeria, clocking 60 when Nigeria is 50?

Nigeria should be asked that question because I came before Nigeria, its great.  It shows that there must be something about October 1, that is challenging to me personally, that I have a duty and inherent responsibility towards this great nation.

Been born on Nigeria’s independent day, what experience or special treatment can you recall getting from people?

It is the great albatross I have had because no one tends to forget it. It’s a public holiday, its Nigeria’s independent day, so year in, year out, I have to cough out a lot of money to entertain people, that has been my lot since I attained adulthood and my activities have taken me to various sectarian interest group.  It has always been overwhelming in terms of birthday messages, last year I had over 300 text messages and cards.  It’s been challenging and coincidentally my immediate elder sister was born on October 1, too.  As we were growing, we use to do it together, it’s been very interesting, nobody forgets it.  It becomes a very glorious celebration all the time, even it I say there is no party, you find out that it will turn into one party or the other because people will come.

What are the fond memories you can recall of the independence celebration in years past?

The day Nigeria got her independence was quite memorable to me.  Though I was quite young, I was turning 10 years, my father was working at Nigeria Breweries, he was the Resource Manager for Breweries and there was a grand reception for ushering in our independence and Nigeria Breweries was doing a big celebration, I was been given a special attention at those event because it was my birthday. I received quite a lot of gifts, I was prominent and important for a 10 year-old.  It was a significant milestone.

You don’t look 60, even despite your busy schedule, can you tell us the secret?

Everybody says so, I give thanks to the Almighty for the youthful face but I use to tell them that you need to see my boys to know that it’s true I am 60. I am like a dwarf among them.  Basically, it is about inner contentment and having a spiritual value.  When you are contented, when you don’t think of what others are doing, when you don’t run a race you cannot win, you will find out that the calmness will guarantee you a trouble free life that can enable you enjoy the gift of life itself.  All these will help you have a balance in life. If you are not greedy, if there is no mad pursuit of material gain at whatever cost, that guarantee you inner peace of mind and it translates in your outer part because what is inner at times reflects in the other part, that is what contributes to the youthfulness.

At 60, you have just been appointed president of Association of Professional Bodies in Nigeria, how does it feel getting such as a gift on your birthday?

I think I must say I was overwhelmed by it, it is something I wasn’t looking for but it came. I think it is part of my destiny, it also means it is an opportunity to serve humanity at his professional calling. It is another form of gratitude, I will do my little best in it.

From the beginning of your career, how did you evolve into becoming what you are today?

I would say I didn’t really set out that I must be this.  My first involvement with national duty in quote started when I came back from England in 1982, the following year while I was still doing my youth corps, someone who works with NTA told me they had a career talk and they wanted me to be on the programme. I was told to correct the image the older ones have about the profession, I did the interview and it became a watershed for me because it was repeated severally.  They believed it was so natural and educative, my diction was still English, when Lagos chapter of Nigeria Institute of Surveyor was about to kick off, I was told I must be the publicity secretary. I took it up, the chapter became prominent, we did write ups, articles in dailies.  When the national chapter came up, I was chosen to be the national publicity secretary. I have never had to struggle for these positions, I have never put myself up for any position. I was put up for the national chapter along with El-Rufai, I became the chairman of the Lagos body, till I moved to the presidency. I got international post as well. I was part of the leadership of African Association of Quantity Surveyors.  I put myself in their service and I became the first black president. All in all whatever comes your way, put yourself in as if your entire existence depends on it.  Dedication, commitment and pursuit of excellence will get you to wherever you desire to be.

What are the roles and responsibilities attached to your new post?

I am the chief marketing official for all professional bodies in Nigeria, I have to speak on their behalf to government, organization, both international and local. I have to make sure I coordinate their activities, make sure that there is no rancour, no friction within the 24 member bodies, I have to make sure we can align ourselves to global standard, ensure we have best practice, tackle government on national issues, I am a chief servant of the professionals.

What are the challenges facing your profession?

Right now, it is unfortunate that there is a bit of crisis within the organization which shouldn’t be, we are still a young outfit in terms of human resources, qualified members is still small compared to national need.  The first thing is to maintain peace then we can face our statutory roles.

What has been your greatest contribution to Nigeria?

Without sounding immodest, I think I have been a great ambassador to the country in terms of my profession. I have been able to preach the gospel of Nigeria from the point of view of those who can stand aright to do things properly, people who are not dented, people who can stand too serve in whatever capacity they find themselves.  Those who have come in contact with me have a lot of good things to say about Nigeria and our high capability to play a leadership role in whatever assignment we are given.  Nigeria is talented, it is left for us to explore it.  When you have clear purpose and clarity of intention and your intention is pure, you can conquer mountain.

What would you say Nigeria has done for you?

Nigeria has enabled me to represent them.  Nigeria has enabled me to move from one place to another, it has enabled me to say I can do this.  For me, it has been a positive impact.

Can you describe the Nigeria of your dreams and how do you think we can achieve it?

I will say Nigeria of our dreams, it’s a collective effort.  When mankind was given the opportunity to come to paradise, we were to turn it into an Eldorado.  Nigeria of my dream is for us to be able to transform Nigeria into an Eldorado, where everybody will have abundant peace, joy, fulfillment in their daily chores.  We can achieve it if we go about it collectively.  We must have a right leadership that is consumed by the passion to make Nigeria great.  But our leaders have not shown that level of commitment, we give credence to those who cannot perform.  We should elect those who we know can serve us selflessly, people who can put all their energy into making Nigeria a country they have wished for. I believe it is possible, it has been done in other countries.  For instance, Malaysia, we got independence about the same time, but they have the basics (power), they have the best.  Nigeria is made up of highly intelligent people, yet we have not moved into the position of achieving greatness because we have not turn all the access, all the God-given endowment into proper use.  We need a change of mindset so that we can make it a paradise of our dream but it calls for action, it calls for sweat and not just crying, crying will only bring sympathy but sweat will get hard work and hard work will bring out success.

You have been in position of leadership at various stages, what quality makes a good leader?

A good leader must be passionate about his people, he must recognize it as a calling to serve the people and to enable their lives.  He must be committed, dedicated and disciplined.  All these must be rapped up with genuine spirituality.  These are the attributes I think we need in our leaders, such a person must know about civilization, how to raise the level of his people.  Giving yourself in service helps to attract necessary help to achieve your dreams.

What are your aspirations at 60?

To be of service to the people, to eternalize my practice.  Oftentimes we start off but a lot of people do not leave behind a legacy, I want my works to outlive me and to grow in leaps and bounds.  I want to be able to share with the people that there is reward in offering service, help to the less privileged.  At the end, I want to be a professor, teaching people on the good virtues of life.

What is the greatest lesson you have learnt in your 60 years of existence?

Patience and perseverance, doggedness, don’t think about what people are saying, be single-minded of things you are set out to do and that will take you to your destination. I don’t follow mass oriented, anything that has a mass populace movement tend not to be correct.

Are there things that you use to do before now that you wish to stop?

I always like to be childlike, I wouldn’t want to give that up but I would like to give childishness up.  Children are not pretentious, they are natural, they are closer to God than the adult that is why I said I want to continue to be childlike.

What more do you want God to do for you at 60?

Life is just starting at 60, I want to continue to serve God, I want to continue to be a role model to the youth in the act of service, in the act of carrying out the day to day business and also in the act of service and commitment.

Who are your role models?

As you grow up, you have various role models, as you grow, you fine tune how you see life.  I have been inspired by what you can call the great leaders of our time, people who have put total commitment to the service of the people, those who have played substantial role in the development of our country. I wouldn’t want to mention names.


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