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A personal anniversary of Mr. Babajide Sanwo-Olu, CEO of Lagos



Until now, I’d never met a governor who’s more self-effacing than Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu. Granted, it is possible that a politician might put on an emphatic show of humility just for the optics.

But Mr Sanwo-Olu is genuinely relatable. He’s incredibly authentic. To confirm this, you must listen to him speak. You must look in his eyes while he speaks. And, ultimately, you must hear his staff talk about him. “Don’t call him Your Excellency,” several of them say. “He doesn’t like it. Mr Governor is okay.”

In politics, tooting your own horn, or paying someone to toot it for you, is essential to the gig. If you don’t, it might cost you your popularity. In this case, however, Mr Sanwo-Olu would himself call you to temper your enthusiasm about him. “I just want to do something the people will remember and always appreciate,” he’s been quoted as saying.


This is a governor who honestly wants to serve, desperately wants the approval of his constituents. Wants to do such exemplary work that you wouldn’t but score him high in your account for posterity.

I’m not often impressed by politicians, but this man isn’t one of those. He’s like a CEO who wants to serve his customers and lead his organisation to great growth. Evidently, he’s made these goals his life’s mission.

And when some query this outpouring of kudos of mine, insisting rather jadedly that Sanwo-Olu is no different from the rest—when they ask for “tangible” evidence of “what exactly” Sanwo-Olu has done, in infrastructure, education, healthcare, security, and the economy of Lagos State, I can easily point them to google. Sanwo-Olu’s accomplishments, in the face of a ruthless Covid19 pandemic as well as the national disaster that was ENDSARS, are well — and are still being — documented.

And I’m writing this because it was June 25 yesterday, Mr Sanwo-Olu’s 56th birthday. He’s not only one of those leaders a company would wish for; he has also become a mentor to many emerging chief executives.

These are the mentors of the new establishment
IF for one year we featured a different businessperson in this weekly column, at the end of the year, we would have 52 individuals profiled as members of the Nigerian new establishment.

That, by all fair measurements, would imply that a ton of people are coming into power in the not so many sectors of the economy. It would also be a mindless descent down a perilous slippery slope. Before we know it, we would simply find ourselves publishing perfunctory articles just to fill this space. But we don’t want to do that. Why? Because the new establishment should actually note the real people with expanding influence in their areas of vocation.

So, what gives?

It’s time to beam a light on the influencers’ influencers. Who built the podium for the new establishment? Perhaps their first bosses? Maybe. Maybe not.

First of all, bosses don’t make good mentors, for who in their right mind would bare their heart and expose their most horrid fears and weaknesses to their boss? Who? Only those who would like to flirt with a summary sack. But, of course, there are other — and better — choices of mentors, as defined by Drury, the veteran business mentor and author.


There’s the mentor from afar; the peer mentor; the directive mentor; the reflective mentor; and the coaches. By looking at his nomenclature, you would easily guess what he means by each of the types. And by looking at your career, you would easily name the kind of mentor with the most reach for you. Most people have at least one Mentor from Afar.

“These are the people you relate with and learn from by reading books and watching videos and listening to podcasts,” Drury says. “You may attend a conference to hear them live and possibly even meet them at some time. You can learn a lot from very gifted and successful people this way. This way you can have lots of fabulous mentors working for you in your life and business.”

In advertising, for instance, and as I’ve said here before, no shadow looms larger than the one belonging to Biodun Shobanjo. He’s the chairman of Troyka Group and founder of Insight Communications. Nearly everyone — media buyers, strategists, brand managers, creatives, and CEOs — points to Mr Shobanjo as the centre of their universe. Because everyone has worked with somebody who has either been employed or collaborated with the 77-year-old pioneer, nobody in marketing communication has a degree of separation from him that’s higher than three. That’s why in that industry, he is the default Mentor from Afar.

As part of the next iteration of this series, we must now look at his work. In detail.
And then, others will follow.


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Babajide Sanwo-Olu
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