The HobPost Interview – Mrs. Olajumoke Bakare
Our Publisher, Kaelo Ajuluchukwu, was able to catch up with one of Nigeria’s more influential women, a top legal luminary, and First City Monument Bank Plc.’s Company Secretary, Mrs. Olajumoke Bakare, as she discusses the evolution of the banking sector, her journey and her passion for family.
In a world where people can choose to be absolutely anything, what led you down your chosen career path? From the basics of Law practice to its Apex?
At the time I finished school in 1984, unemployment was just starting to take effect in the mid 80’s where people were not given jobs on merit but based on who they knew.
I have always loved advocacy and wanted to be an advocate right from my school days. Four other male students and I (being the only girl) then got together to start a chamber called JANAG chambers. Once a quarter, we would organize a mock trial with all the works and I loved going to court and being an advocate.
After school, I got a job at a small firm, however, the pay was very low and irregular. I stayed on because I needed the experience and then I began to go to court. Eventually I got discouraged because of the length of time it takes one case to come to fruition in our courts.
So I decided to get into something I found more stimulating – Academics. With my decision firmly made, I went back to the Nigerian Law School. And the director at the time offered me a job there as a lecturer
While there I still wanted to get a Masters degree, so after 3 years at the Nigerian Law School, I went to the University of Lagos and got my Masters after which I went back to Law School.
After a lecturing for a while, I told my roommate then (she’s currently the Deputy-Director General at the Nigerian Law School Lagos Campus) that I was bored of teaching the same thing over and over again and needed a change.
The banking Industry in Nigeria had started to boom at that time and the pay was a lot better, so I told her I wanted to work in a bank and she promised to watch out for any opportunity.
During Christmas of that year, she asked me not to travel because First City Monument Bank was conducting interviews for a vacancy. So I got there, passed the interview and they offered me a job.
I had a chat with the Boss, Otunba Subomi Balogun, who was impressed with my resume and had no objections to me getting the job. I gave in my one month resignation notice at the Nigerian Law School, resumed at FCMB and have been here since then.
There must have been ups and downs in your working experience at FCMB…
Oh yes, this is my 22nd year here and there have been a lot of changes and challenges, but it has been a wonderful working experience. There is a lot to do on a daily. There is never a dull moment and as a person you are constantly developing yourself as the services are ever expanding.
With the Emerging economy, do you believe a lot more females are being given the opportunity to get to the Apex of their chosen career paths?
Yes, I believe so. Women have a way of making an impact and are much more steady and focused. They are there to get the job done. A classic example of this is Mrs. Dora Akunyili, who was in charge of NAFDAC. She was able to turn the situation of fake drugs around in Nigeria. She was really a source of inspiration to me because she really made a difference in the way food is sold to the public.
Another example is the lady in central bank, Mrs Sarah Alade who is making her mark in a quiet and simple way.
However I believe we need more women in sensitive and public offices because I believe they are not easily influenced and are there to do the needful to get the job done even at the risk of their jobs.
Professionally, what are your next steps? Where do you see your self in the next 10 years?
I need to get out of my comfort zone. I believe I have gotten to the peak of my current position or career path and need to explore other aspect of what Nigeria has in stock. Not just in Nigeria but Internationally.
I want to see my self reaching out and getting to a higher point than where I am currently because I believe I have just started. I have only achieved what I have in the cocoon of one establishment; I want to leave a legacy for my family and generations unborn. I want whatever I have established to outlive me, perhaps law practice, a different, modern law firm that will go International and attract young bright professionals,
What is the fun part of your job right now?
The fun part is actually resolving issues. In this job you find a lot of problems that should not even arise. However, it is rewarding when you realize people put enough trust in you to bring their problems to you because they regard you as a problem solver.
There is joy when you are able to bring people joy, relief and happiness when you are able to help people solve their problems. I believe Lawyers have a responsibility to find a way to solve problems with dialogue first before going to court and prolonging the issues.
When you are at home and not in the boardroom, what do you love to do?
I’m sure my daughter will be the first to tell you that I love gardening, nurturing the plants to full bloom is very rewarding. I also enjoy reading, watching movies and dancing at social parties. I mean, I don’t drink or smoke so I love to have a good time dancing at good natured fun social parties.
What is your favorite holiday destination?
I like going to the United Kingdom because I feel at home there. I like going to places where I know their laws as opposed to strange lands where you are not familiar with their ways and their language. I also go to other parts of Europe often, I like Spain especially, they have nice resorts there.
What genre of music do you like?
I absolutely love Christian music, uplifting music.
Who is your favorite political character to follow in the news?
Mandela would be my role model and the kind of man any leader would believe in. Not many men will rise to great heights after so much torture and oppression.
He has been used as a blessing to his country and I wish I have seen that kind of man in Nigeria, but sadly, I haven’t in all our past and present leaders.
Who would you name as your top three Nigerian CEOs?
I haven’t thought about that, but if I were to pick, I would say Sola David Borha, former head of Stanbic IBTC and current CEO of Stanbic IBTC Holdings.
Besides the Church, do you have any personal projects you are involved in?
Not right now, but I am very interested in helping the widows. It is like a stigma in Nigeria – widowhood. I have a few friends and relations who are widows and Nigerians do not offer much help to these widows, instead you find the in-laws fighting them for properties and what not.
Widows go through a lot of emotional trauma and also need finances to look after the children left behind or risk loosing them to the world. Everyone offers help to the motherless babies but no one thinks of the widows. This bothers me and I look after them in every way I can.
Rice and Moin moin. *Laughs*.
What sector do you think will be the leading sector in Nigeria in the next decade?
I think the banking sector will continue to lead because no developed country can do without them (banks). They are and remain an integral part of any economy and the Nigerian banking sector can only get better as a lot of policies have gone into fine tuning the way the banking system works.
On a final note, what is your dream birthday gift?
Honesty God has been kind and I do not think that there is any thing I need that he has not provided. So I would say my dream birthday gift would be to see my children move from one level to another of accomplishment so that every year, I can give testimonies and declare God’s glory in my life.