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Dr. Michael Olawole Omolayole, 93 years old is a household name in Nigeria’s private sector, and even also the public sector where he has stamped his marks as a management guru indelibly. Within seven years, Michael Omolayole rose to the post of a Personnel Director and later became the first indigenous Chairman of Lever Brothers, now Unilever Plc. In Lever Brothers, Dr. Omolayole proved his outstanding qualities and within, thus having the opportunity to train several top boardroom players who have equally trained others who have retired from the boardrooms as highly successful personalities. These include Elder Felix Ohiwerei and Chief Olusegun Osunkeye who by all measurable standards are highly successful professionals in their fields. Omolayole became Vice-Chairman of Lever Brothers in 1971, a post he held until 1975 when he was appointed the first Nigerian Chairman and Managing Director. Dr. Omolayole has has also served in several capacities as a Director of UAC of Nigeria Limited from 1969 to 1974, Director and later Chairman of National Bank of Nigeria (1972-1975). He had interests in several companies indluding Chemical and Allied Products Plc., American International Insurance Company Plc. (AIICO) and Industrial Gas Plc. He also sat on the Board of Nestle Foods Nigeria Plc. Indeed, Dr. Omolayole has blazed trails where there was no footpaths and has contributed phenomenally to the shaping of the private sector in Nigeria and remains deeply respected by people who came after him.
INDEX OF MISERY IN NIGERIA VERY HIGH
Omolayole was born 93 years ago in Ijebu-Mushin, Ogun State. He obtained a Post Graduate Diploma in Education from Oxford University in 1954, having gone through St. Gregory College, Lagos (1943-1947) and the University of Ibadan (1948-1952). His career started in 1952 as a science teacher at St. Gregory’s College, Lagos where he was until 1958 when he joined Lever Brothers Nigeria Limited as a Training Manager. He had previously bagged the B.Sc. Honours ( London ) in Physics and Mathematics from the University College , Ibadan , in 1952, and, was awarded a postgraduate Diploma in Education from Corpus Christi College, Oxford University in 1954, and the A.M.P from Harvard Business School in 1973. He was awarded a Doctor of Law, Honoris Causa, from the University of Ibadan in 1973. Omolayole shared concerns about the state of the economy at the 36th Omolayole Management Lecture, OML, series hosted by the Chartered Institute of Personnel Management in Lagos where he lamented that the index of misery in Nigeria was very high. He established the firm of Omolayole & Associates Management Consultant, in 1984.
Omolayole is an authority in various aspects management. He has been considered worthy of, and performed creditably in offices that command heights of our economy. Among others, he has been Chairman of the Nigerian Institute of Management (1971-1976) of which he is a fellow, and on whose Council served; Member of the Council for the Centre of Management Development (1972-1975) and a member of the Industrial Training Fund and the Nigerian Institute of Social and Economic Research; Nigerian Employers Consultative Association (President 1980-85 among others. University of Ibadan Alumni Association, Lagos Branch (Past President), Council of Ogun State University (Former Pro-Chancellor), Council of African Advisers to the World Bank (Member). He is also a member of International Board of Advisors of AIESEC International in Brussels, and Chairman of the National Board of Advisors of AIESEC Nigeria. Dr. Omolayole is a life honorary member of AIESEC. Among several others, Michael Omolayole has mentored boardroom gurus like Elder Felix Ohiwerei, Chief Olusegun Osunkeye and late Chief Gamaliel Onosode. The Alumni Centre of the University of Ibadan is named: Dr Michael Omolayole Centre (Alumni Centre), University of Ibadan
VIEWS ON UNIVERSITY ADMINISTRATION
Dr. Omolayole once wrote in the media concerning the appointment of the chairman of the governing council of varsities. He noted that ‘’university must not be seen as a reward for party membership. Most party members appointed as members of governing councils of universities consider it as a punishment since the institutions are not regarded as financially juicy. The second is that the university would be much better served if a dedicated virtuous and service-oriented alumnus or alumna of each university can be found without regards to any class – to occupy the post, mainly to render service and not as a reward for party activities or possession of a party membership card. ‘’It is pertinent to take the University of Ibadan, of which I am an alumnus (1948), as an example. In my opinion, it is uncontroversial and incontestable that two alumni Dr. Gameliel Onosode and Dr. Felix Ohiwerei, who were chairmen of the governing council of the university for some years within the last 20 years, were star performers. It is obvious that alumni of universities, who are eminent, virtuous and selfless, demonstrate unmistakably their dedication and commitment to an institution just as a child venerates the name and legacy of his or her parents. There is a natural affinity between the individuals and the institutions which are often referred to as alma mater.’
Consequently, at this stage of our political and economic development when financial resources are very scarce, the government should look for credible and well regarded alumni/alumnae of the federal universities for appointment as chairpersons of the governing councils of federal universities. It is however advised that a former employee of any particular university should not be appointment as chairman of governing council of that university in other to avoid conflict of interest. The second vital point I want to make is that the dissolution of a governing council is unnecessary simply because the Federal Government wants to change those council members that represent its interest. Invariably, those members are few. They could be replaced without dissolving the whole council. An external member of council with the longest service on council e.g president of the alumni association could be made an acting chairman before a substantive chairman is appointed. In that way the continuity of the council is preserved and a situation of “sole authority” is avoided.
He worked in Lever Brothers Nig Ltd for 27 years and retired to establish his consultancy firm primarily to make available to Government, Companies and international Agencies the experience which the founder had accumulated over nearly three decades of activities as a Management thinker, practitioner and writer. He studied for higher degrees at, Oxford University and Harvard Business School, Dr. Omolayole holds an honorary Doctor of Laws (LL.D) from the University of Ibadan and was for sometime a visiting Professor of Personnel Management and Industrial Relations at the University of Lagos. He is a member of various clubs and societies including Rotary International, Sigma Club, Metropolitan Club and Friends of the International Gallery of Modern Arts. Omolayole bagged the honorary Doctor of Laws degree at the University of Ibadan in 1973. The citation of Dr. Omolayole to the congregation at the 25th Founders Day Convocation ceremonies of the University of Ibadan is thrilling:
CHANCELLOR, I PRESENT MR MICHAL OLAWOLE OMOLAYOLE,
A distinguished Alumnus and foundation student of this University, Member of Council of the University of Ife, Chairman of the National Bank of Nigeria Ltd, Fellow and Chairman of the Nigerian Institute of Management, Fellow of the Institute of Personnel Management of Nigeria, Vice-Chairman of Lever Brothers (Nigeria) Ltd. Born in 1929 at Ijebu-Imushin, he demonstrated early signs of his exceptional brilliance and leadership potential, when at the tender age of ten, he won the Ijebu provincial school prize and was given a year’s credit on admission to St Gregory’s College in 1941, where he was top of his class throughout his secondary school career. In 1947, that is before he was even due to leave Secondary School, he passed the first entrance examination to the newly established University College, lbadan. After waiting for about a year, he became one of the foundation students of the University College.
It is with pride, Chancellor, that I recall the brilliant performance of Mr Omolayole even in those early days of academic experimentation. Not only was he the best in his class in the final external degree examination, but he was also the first science student of the University College lbadan, to obtain an honours degree of London University, graduating in the fields of Physics and Mathematics. After teaching for a while at his old school, Omolayole proceeded to Corpus Christi College, Oxford, where he gained the Diploma in Education of Oxford University in 1954, Back once more at the St. Gregory’s College, he continued as a teacher of Physics and Mathematics, rising to the grade of senior science master within two years. But the search for a greater challenge led him to the decisive step of his career in 1958, when he joined the Lever Brothers Company as a Training Manager. He quickly rose to the position of Personnel Manager; and three years afterwards he was promoted Personnel Director. In 1969, Mr Omolayole was appointed to the Board of the sister firm, the United Africa Company (Nigeria) Ltd. Two years later, he became Vice-Chairman of Lever Brothers (Nigeria) Limited, an indication of greater honours still to come.
In spite of his great devotion to his duties as an industrial executive and business administrator, he has found the interest, time, energy and sustaining power to contribute in diverse ways to the social transformation of this country. Chancellor, Mr Omolayole has been a member of the National Manpower Board since 1962. He was foundation member and first National President of the Nigerian Institute of Personnel Management. He has been on the National Labour Advisory Council since 1965. He has been on the Careers Board of this University since 1967. He is not only a member of the He University Council, but also Chairman of that University’s Careers Board and a member of the Governing Council of its Institute of Administration. He sits on the Governing Board of the Institute of Administration of the Ahmadu Bello University. He still serves actively on the Board of Studies of the School of Business Management of the University of Lagos, in which School he was a distinguished visiting Professor of Personnel Management and Industrial Relations in 1969. He has represented this country at many annual conferences of the International Labour Organization.
IMPORTANCE OF HUMAN CAPITAL
The annual lecture is an avenue for the exclusive gathering of over 300 senior executives, chief executive officers of multinationals, heads of strategy, financial institutions, social entrepreneurs, non-governmental organizations and corporate organiaations from diverse sectors to discuss key issues, originate new ideas and learn about the key role of management and economic development as a strategic tool for increasing national and organisations’ capability to perform and succeed in this dynamic world”, Olawale noted. Also, the Registrar, Chartered Institute of Personnel Management, Mrs Ajibola Ponnle, stated that Nigeria is blessed with the other factors of production, however, the missing link in the economy is human capital, which the lecture is tailored to address.
SUGGESTION ON KNOWING THE MOOD OF THE NATION
Omolayole once examined the problems of Nigeria vis-à-vis political leadership at one of the editions of the annual Michael Omolayole lectures, After contemplating all these tales of woes, while the population is exploding and economy resources are diminishing, it is easy to understand why despondency in all its ramifications, stares a vast majority of the citizens in the face. “When one election is finished, the political class are busy preparing for the next do-or-die election. The people’s welfare, economic development, safety of life and property are, meanwhile, totally forgotten and neglected.” Pa Omolayole, who was the pioneer president of the CIPM and the founder of the OML series, went on to call on civil societies to speak politely and consistently on these issues. He also asked wealthy Nigerians to establish “Think Tanks” and credible opinion poll companies, to enable government and opposition politicians to know the mood of the nation.
Always recognizing the need to build a bridge of under-standing between the private and public sectors, he serves as member both of the Council for Management Education and the Industrial training Fund. He served briefly on the Udoii Commission, which service he gave up only because of the onerous responsibility of chairmanning the new Board of the National Bank. Chancellor, we are honouring this distinguished executive not only because of his brilliant career; but particularly because of his service to education and nation building. He has turned the Art of industrial negotiation and crisis management into a Science. He has published many articles on industrial relations and co-authored a book on industrial management. To the generation of students from this University, he will for long be remembered as one of the originators of “low-gisting” from the early days on the “old site” of the University College and as the creator of many terms that are still in current use in the unique vocabulary of our students. He is a man of many parts: broadcaster, commentator, television personality and sportsman. But above all, he is a man of integrity who is widely respected for his deep sense of justice and fair play.
To his many honours, from so many sectors of our nation, the University of Ibadan-his University-now wishes to add its own, in recognition of his outstanding achievements. I request you, Chancellor, by the authority of Senate and Council of this University to admit Mr Michael Olawole 0molayole to the degree of Doctor of Laws, honoris causa (University of Ibadan records