By Goke Ilesanmi
Chief Olusegun Oladipo Osunkeye, the Babalaje of Egbaland, is a quintessential corporate leader, cerebral professional accountant, astute entrepreneur, motivational human manager, boardroom icon and exceptional humanitarian. To him, living a well-fulfilled life means having outstanding personal achievements, contributing massively to societal development and enhancing the living conditions of the underprivileged.
His strong passion for a life of fulfilment to humanity is best captured in this highly nostalgic statement regarding his period as Nestle Nigeria Plc?s CEO thus, “…I like to look back at those times in the 1990s and see them as very fulfilling times because as the CEO, you shape the culture and ethos of the company, you determine what happens and of course you are expected to achieve results!?
Osunkeye’s major leadership trademark is that he naturally ensures that all corporate organisations he leads as Board Chairman exhibit a high level of exemplary corporate responsibility in the form of enhancing the living standards of people and becoming pacesetters to other organisations.
He is a corporate Field Marshal that has attained greatness through personal efforts underscored by clarity of vision, strong determination and rare perseverance. He therefore deserves a standing ovation, following his celebration of 80 years on September 7.
Osunkeye?s activities at Archbishop Vining Memorial Church Cathedral and beyond confirm his strong commitment to God?s service and works. Little wonder that he is the President Emeritus of the Guild of Altar Servers of the Diocese of Lagos West of the Anglican Communion. Babalaje has equally built a reputation of corporate immortality for himself with the magnitude of his outstanding contributions in the private sector.
Also, the enormity of his communal, corporate and national contributions rewarded with multiplicity of awards has placed him in the right segment of annals of enduring legacies. He is a five-star national achiever with his conferment with the triple honours of the Officer of the Order of the Niger (OON); the Officer of the Order of the Federal Republic (OFR) and Commander of the Order of the Niger (CON).
Osunkeye?s exemplary success in almost all spheres is a confirmation that he is a natural or born leader. That is why Nestle was able to single him out early in his career for grooming for higher leadership positions by sending him on two-year training and secondment to associated companies in Malaysia, the Philippines and Switzerland between 1978 and 1980.
It is therefore not surprising that he made exceptional impacts as MD/CEO at Nestle by impressively transforming the financial fortunes of the company. He was more than an ordinary MD/CEO but a corporate catalyst. Or how else do you explain that a CEO whose company had got only a Turnover of N609 million at his assumption of office as CEO in 1991 soared the turnover to over N7.7 billion at the time of his departure as CEO in 1999?
The date of birth of this great man is also symbolic. He was born on September 7, 1940 in Agege, Lagos. Research shows that September 7, a date classified as Virgo, the sixth sign of the Zodiac is a special date for outstanding leaders endowed with general skills, especially leadership and interpersonal effectiveness.
This equally explains why this renowned Chartered Accountant was Chairman and MD/CEO of the Nestle Nigeria Plc where he served on the Board for 41 years and was also the Chairman of Lafarge Africa Plc, GlaxoSmithKline Consumer Nigeria Plc in addition to being a former President of the Nigeria Employers? Consultative Association and equally doubling as Chairman-by-rotation of the Organised Private Sector.
He is a leader that strongly proves that charity begins at home. His peaceful marriage of more than five decades to his lovely wife, Chief (Mrs) Abosede Osunkeye is a testimony to his effective deployment of the general skills of leadership and interpersonal effectiveness maritally.
Nothing better captures the reservoir of his leadership qualities of clarity of vision, strong determination, team spirit, team motivation and diplomacy than this comment about his time as Nestle CEO: ?I remember calling together my team in late 1991 (budgeted Turnover N600m), because I like working as a team, and I told them that I wanted us to achieve over One Billion Naira Turnover in 1992 and some of them said that it was impossible. But I told them that it was very possible with them because I had faith in their ability, they had been well trained and motivated?.?
According to him, eventually, they were able to achieve over N1 billion turnover through teamwork and unity of purpose. His use of language and ascription of the success to teamwork despite initial scepticism of some members clearly shows that he is a selfless and diplomatic result-oriented leader.
This Fellow of the Chartered Association of Certified Accountants, London; Institute of Chartered Accountants of Nigeria; Institute of Directors, Nigeria (IoD) and many other professional bodies, is transparent and morally, ethically and intellectually sound. In his words, ?Another success factor for me at Nestle was that I demonstrated transparency, honesty and integrity which earned me trust and confidence of Nestle headquarters in Switzerland alongside knowledge and competence on the job?.?
The tribute letter dated September 2, 2010 which Alexander Jost, his former boss at Nestle Headquarters in Switzerland sent to him during his 70th birthday celebration in 2010 was (and is) the-icing-on-the-cake endorsement of the enormous integrity and transparency of this triple Egba Chief. In the words of Jost, ?Please receive my very wishes for a happy, fulfilled and healthy life on the occasion of your 70th birthday. In the 36 years that I have known you, you have always been and remained an example of rectitude, professionalism and great human qualities?.?
In addition to integrity and professional competence, even earlier while in the employment of UAC in 1967, the company confidently seconded him as a worthy ambassador and manager to the West African Portland Cement Ltd, manufacturer of Elephant Cement. No company that values its corporate reputation will second an employee of questionable character and low competence to another company.
Beyond the issue of transparency and integrity, he is exceptionally diligent. The fact that the Nestle Turnover which was N609 million when he became CEO in 1991 skyrocketed to over N7.7 billion by the time he was leaving as CEO in 1999 easily confirms this. Also for many years, he has been engaging in high-profile corporate multitasking by holding several high corporate positions simultaneously with unbelievable effectiveness.
For Osunkeye, the popular maxim that a prophet does not have honour in his hometown does not apply as he has been honoured with traditional titles, including Babalaje of Egbaland, in appreciation of his immense contributions.
I therefore heartily raise my glass and invite everyone to join me in a massive toast to this extraordinary achiever as he clocks 80 years. For him, it is more appropriate to say ?80 years YOUNG? not ?80 years OLD” as he physically looks many years younger than 80. It is indeed a confirmation of abundance of God’s grace upon his life.
As this accomplished leader clocks 80 years and is still waxing strong, God will grant him the grace to celebrate many more peaceful and rewarding years in sound health. HAPPY 80TH BIRTHDAY CELEBRATION, OUR DISTINGUISHED CHIEF OLUSEGUN OSUNKEYE, a towering corporate leader and exceptional philanthropist.
GOKE ILESANMI is an International Platinum Columnist, Editorial/Business Management Consultant, Professional Public Speaker and Biographer.