Our guest this week is Mr. Olu Abosede, Founder and former Managing Director of a wholly indigenous, quoted company, Aboseldehyde Plc. The company was once used as a reference point for other local entrepreneurs who would want their companies listed on the Nigerian Stock Exchange (NSE). Within a period of 14 years, the company had become a very strong brand in the country in its niche area.
Things were also pretty good for our guest who built his first personal multi-million Naira house at age 28 and the second at 32. His children were in choice schools locally and abroad. His house at Gbagada, in Lagos State, was a beehive of activities by friends and associates who regularly showed up on weekends to treat themselves to some choice wines in his well-stocked personal bar.
Then, in a sudden twist, from 2000, there was a gradual but irreversible slide of fortune, starting with the forced take-over of his company by creditors. And the rest came in quick succession. His two houses in Lagos were razed by fire, leaving him with no option than to move into a rented apartment.
Four times our guest attempted to commit suicide. In our first meeting, six years ago, Abosede shared some life lessons with me, some of which are documented below. But a few weeks ago, when I located him to update the interview, he could not communicate much as he is at the moment battling with stroke. But with the help of his second wife, he was able to put a few more lessons across. Enjoy the insight.
Better believe this: there is God!
Few years back, I would have argued that there was nothing like God or any external forces that get involved in the affairs of men. I had it very good early in life. I graduated at the age of 25 as a Chemist with multiple jobs waiting for me. I eventually picked up a job in one of the conglomerates then, as a Laboratory Chemist. And, within a short span of time, I moved steadily to the top. I had a car with a driver attached to me 24 hours. I never used one car for more than two years. I was exposed to a lot of training locally and abroad. In my own calculation, I had thought that my rapid rise was as a result of my own ability, personal intelligence and intellectual capacity.
It was after I had run out of options and I decided to just reflect more that I started to discover a startling fact: that the universe is governed by natural or spiritual laws which would work for you when you align yourself with those laws and would work against you if you contravene them. God is ever present in every little thing you do.
One lesson I have learnt is that there is a superior force that shapes things in the physical realm; and it is to one’s advantage to believe this.
Never lose confidence in yourself.
Whatever happens and whatever the circumstances you are facing, don’t lose faith and confidence in yourself. Once this is intact and you believe there is God who is always ready to work with you, you’d find that things become a lot easier. When you lose faith in yourself, ultimately, depression sets in and when depression sets in, you just discover that even what you knew you could do, you start to find it difficult.
We tend to underrate our abilities during crisis times; and once you do that, you would lose much ground which may take a considerable effort to recover. You would be astonished as to what you can do in crisis times once you don’t lose faith in yourself. Believing in yourself is a key step in coming out of failure.
Use crisis times to reinvent yourself.
Every single day I wake up, I gain more understanding about life that I could not have got without a crisis. In crisis times, usually every hope appears lost. This is usually the situation when you focus on the challenge instead of the opportunities that abound around you. But when you reinvent yourself and refocus, you would discover that there is always a little opening which if you recognise is usually planted by the Higher Power to take you out of that situation. I must say that my challenges were so overwhelming that I could not see any ray of hope anywhere.
My advice is this: It is important that in tribulation, you should put yourself in a position to look for that little opening. This may be tough but keep looking and searching. With introspection, there will always be one. Once you find that little opening, don’t let it go; cling to it with all your might.
Take Responsibility for every challenge you face.
Learn to take responsibility for any situation in which you find yourself.
When my ordeal started, I threw the responsibility on everyone else except myself. I blamed the banks that did not give me enough time to restructure the company and meet my outstanding obligations to them. I blamed friends who refused to sympathise with me and lend me helping hands when I needed them most. I blamed relatives who trooped in when the going was good, but disappeared at the slightest challenge. I blamed the press whom I thought did not give me fair-hearing. I blamed everyone else except myself.
But the more people I blamed the more depressed and miserable I became. For more than four years, I was angry with everybody and myself. I was even developing health problems in the process. Everyday as I blamed other people; I got the problem on the ground magnified.
There is no odd job in a crisis.
You don’t have wisdom and experience if you don’t have crises. I am talking of a situation where you are left with absolutely nothing -no influence, no privilege, no position and your name counts for little.
And things can turn bad very rapidly. I remember a time when things were still very good, a leasing company invited me to be on its board. I offered to nominate someone to represent me, but the company insisted that they wanted me because of my name and the goodwill I had built over time. That was gone during the crisis and my name really meant very little.
I learnt this truth in a hard way. To get out of a crisis especially when your back is on the wall, survival is the name of the game. No job can be considered odd in crisis times and you will multiply your sorrow if you sit down brooding over your former position and privileges.
To get out of the hole, the wisdom is in looking at your current position and seeing what you can do gradually to build up from that ground floor. Come to terms with the fact that you are on the floor. You must flush out anger, bitterness, envy and jealousy.
Nothing is permanent.
When I was the Chief Executive Officer (CEO), it never occurred to me that a time would come when I would not be able to do anything I felt like doing. I was hit by stroke some two years ago and with it all the dreams I had carried in my head, becoming a mirage. I have many things I want to do, but I do not have the energy and health to make them happen. The lesson is this: take every opportunity to make things happen when you have the energy; you cannot guarantee you will be able to keep it forever.
Don’t be bitter with people.
This may be hard to understand but one lesson I am learning rather late is that when I am bitter with any human being, I am actually working against myself. When things were okay with me, my house was a beehive of activities. I had helped many people. I sponsored some to schools. But when things went bad, they were the first to desert me. I was bitter, and I still have a bit of bitterness towards them. However, as I am learning bitterness erodes health.
One Lesson – great advice
While in that situation, I just reflected on a statement made by Dr. Christopher Kolade when I invited him to be on the board of my company. I felt that with his goodwill bringing him on board would make a lot of difference to the company.
But in our first meeting, he said: “I know what you want to do; you want me to take responsibility for the success of the company. But you are responsible for the success of your company.” I continued to echo that statement.
I later realised that placing responsibility on others for whatever happens to you would invariably mean you have lost your personal power which the Higher Power has given to everyone. You are in this world for a purpose, and that purpose can only be realised by you and the Higher Power. It means that any action you take is yours.