Chairman of Odu’a Investment Company Limited, Olusola Akinwunmi, an engineer, in this interview with SULAIMON OLANREWAJU, speaks on how the board plans to further shore up the fortune of the conglomerate.Q: How has your journey as the chairman of the board of Odu’a Investment Company Limited been?
A:The journey started in December 2017, and it has been a very interesting one. It is an opportunity to serve the Southwest geo-political zone because the companies are part of the heritage passed down to the present generation by our past leaders. I cherish the opportunity to serve on the board because it provides a platform to add to what those who came before us were able to accomplish. The journey has been challenging and tasking because we are in the process of rebuilding the company to give more value to the owner-states, but I must confess that it has been worth the effort because of the change we hope to effect.
Q: How far have you gone in accomplishing your vision for the organization?
A: Other board members and myself have a great vision for the Group. Since my assumption of office, we have been striving hard to achieve this vision. We are putting in our best but we still need to do more if we want to see the Odu’a of our dream. Odu’a was in a sorry state by the time I got in as Chairman, but gradually things are beginning to take shape, we are moving up. I can say the board and management staff are putting in their best but we still need to do more to get Odu’a back on its feet. Part of my agenda is to see Odu’a as an organisation where shareholders would be happy in terms of performances and returns. We hope to build an Odu’a conglomerate that will gladden the shareholders’ hearts in terms of the dividends paid to them. The intention of Odu’a founders was to give equal opportunities to every area of the region, it is part of my agenda to see that this becomes a reality by ensuring that every part of the Southwest region maximally benefits from their stake in the company.
Q: What are your short, medium and long term goals?
A: My short-term goal is to get Odu’a well-organized, re-orientate the staff to have a sense of purpose and belonging; and for them to contribute their quota to the growth and development of the company. This is important because the staff members are critical to building the Odu’a of our dreams. If we imbue the right attitude in the staff, if we adequately empower them, then they will be in the position to build a strong organization which will continue to meet and surpass the expectations of the founders and the current owners.The medium-term goal is to make Odu’a responsive to opportunities that abound in the economy. Organizations become great when they are able to identify and seize opportunities. So, I look forward to an Odu’a that is on the go, an Odu’a that is strong on initiatives, an Odu’a that is a pacesetter. That is my short-term goal for the conglomerate.
My long-term goal is to turn Odu’a into a company with huge investment that could attract foreign investors. I look forward to an Odu’a Group in the future that when we check the performance and return on assets and equity, we would still be very proud. We are working very hard to get the company to compete at all levels and also become one of the preferred brands in the sectors we currently operate.
Q: How do you see Odu’a? Is it a viable company that can attract international investors?
A: Frankly speaking, this is an organisation with tons of goodwill. It will be more viable when we conclude all that we have in mind. There is an agreement by all that we can actually grow from where we currently are to where we want to be in the not too distant future. The sectors where Odu’a plays are sectors where businesses can thrive. Odu’a is in a sector that is still growing in Nigeria. On the whole, I will say that the Odu’a I met has everything needed to be great and to attract international investors. The potential is great but, as I said, much still needs to be done.
Q: What is happening to your three hotels?
A: The hotels are some of our strong heritage, but in the past few years things have not been working out well with them. We are determined to change that narrative. We have all agreed that the hotels should be made very sustainable. We want to make the hotels stronger, more service-oriented and profitable. We are hoping to go through a transparent process to make sure that we have a recognised partner that we can work with to make the hotels better. The process is ongoing. Our consultant, KPMG, is looking through the list of concessioners. They are looking through their papers and as soon as they conclude, they will report to us as a board and we shall be able to take a position on the way forward.
Q: Is Odu’a well positioned to take up the challenge as a vehicle for economic development of the South West?
A: It is very well positioned for the task of being the engine room for economic development of the South West, taking into cognizance its potentialities and the possibilities I mentioned earlier. We can handle any level of business after we have achieved the set objectives of restructuring the organisation for better performance.
How would you describe the relationship between you and other members of the board?
Extremely cordial. I can’t work with lazy people. The current GMD is trying his best and all other people, especially management and the entire staff, all of them are very hardworking and one can see also their degree of honesty and dedication.
Q: Prior to your tenure, most of the manufacturing companies in the group had been closed down. What efforts is your board making to revive them?
A: The board is working hard to ensure that the viable ones among the comatose companies are revived and restructured. In the past, Odu’a was actually a big conglomerate. Now, we have lost a bit of the shine.
As of today, we don’t have any manufacturing company in our group. That is one of the sectors where we were really dominant in realising the core objectives that informed the setting up of Odu’a. We plan to go back to this but every step we take must be backed up with feasibility study of some fundamentals that support growth.
Q: What would you like to be remembered for?
A: Accountability. That’s it. Accountability. I’m accountable to my people and God.