By Gbenga Osinaike
There is no dull moment with Dr. Adebodun Sanyaolu. He is lovable, kind and engages his visitor with a sense of familiarity even if meeting the visitor for the first time. That was the experience of this reporter a few Saturdays ago at his Maryland, Lagos residence.
Beyond that however was the opportunity for this reporter to glean some life truth from him. Dr. Sanyaolu’s grit, panache and love for excellence has spanned several decades. He had always distinguished himself coming tops his class right from his early school days to his days as post graduate student.
He had performed excellently well in his school certificate passing with Grade 1 as far back as 1976, did excellently well in his HSC and had the option of studying any science course in the university. But a rare encounter with a veterinary doctor ignited his interest in veterinary medicine.
He later found out upon gaining admission to study the course at the University of Ibadan that veterinary medicine is even more engaging and demanding. “The animal world is a different world. Unlike the human anatomy which is one, the anatomy of animals vary depending on the animal you are dealing with. The structure of the bird is different from the structure of the ruminants. It’s wide and complex. That makes it a bit complex and demanding.” He noted.
But the complex nature of the course was later going to be a plus for Sanyaolu. By the time he graduated from the university with a distinction, he was equipped to sail through the turbulent waters in the employment world. He got a federal appointment on a platter and was transferred to Abeokuta to head the public health department. But not long after that he was transferred to work in the Ministry of Defence in Lagos.
“The Ministry of Defence had this resettlement centres all over the country. I was to work in the one at Ipaja, Lagos called the Dog Centre. The ministry also had a viable poultry farm. So I reported there and began to deliver service as best as I could.” He recalled.
But working in the ministry did not task his intellect enough. He had a lot of idle time which he expended on sporting activities. But soon he realised that instead of loafing around in his free hours he needed to embark on a post graduate studies. He then secured admission to do a post graduate studies in medical microbiology at the University of Lagos.
By the time he was to round off his programme, Sanyaolu, still young and bobbling with life secured another work opportunity with Pfizer as product manager. That was where he began to engage life in the real sense. To fit into his new office he enrolled for a Masters of Business Administration programme and soon began to dazzle his employers with creative innovations. Not long, he began to get speaking offers as resource persons in seminars. Many organisations wanted to tap from his wealth of experience and knowledge.
He had an extensive career of over twenty years with Pfizer Incorporation USA multinational companies (Pfizer products Plc and Livestock Feeds Plc.). His stay in the organisation provided him with consistent opportunities for the acquisition of hands-on experience in Strategic Business Management. He retired in 2007 from the board of Livestock Feeds Plc having served for ten years predominantly as Executive Director Marketing and Business Development with overall responsibilities for sales, marketing and strategic business development for all business segments in Nigeria and West Africa sub-region.
It is this wealth of experience as Veterinary doctor cum human resources management expert that has been brought to bear in his own personal enterprise which began in 2007 upon his voluntary retirement from paid employment. But his first love still stands out.
Commenting on the protracted clash between herdsmen and farmers, he said, “the issues are more political” adding that if the government is sincere, it could help to put a permanent end to the crisis.
“There is a need for the will power. The north could not be more of a desert than Dubai before it was developed. So it is just for government to be ready to create an enabling environment for the cows in the north rather than allowing the cows to encroach indiscriminately on people’s land. It is not proper to encroach on the land of people for grazing. There must be a mutual agreement between the farmers and the herders. In the alternative like I said earlier, government can turn the vast expanse of land in the North to a grazing land through irrigation farming.
He said the potential in animal husbandry is massive only if government has the will power to harness it. “Over the time the developed countries have developed the technology to make their livestock grow better. Under their environment they produce more milk than ours. The animals that are brought to cross breed with our local animals don’t survive for long in Nigeria because of the environment. Their production reduces when they get here.”
He then counselled that Nigeria needs to start improving its own local brand if it really wants to earn money from animal farming. “We need to improve on our infrastructure and develop our local brand so as to enhance their productivity in our environment. I was in a poultry in Atlanta and I was shocked that only four people were working in the poultry house and they produce about 1 million chickens at regular intervals. The feeding of the chickens is automated. They are able to achieve this because they are able to deploy technology appropriately and have over the years develop their own brand of livestock. The production we get here is far less than what obtains in developed countries because of poor infrastructure and because we have not worked on our brands. We have to be committed to agric. It is not a trial and error thing. We have to be able to manage the potentials we have for economic benefits. We have resources in this country but we are not harnessing our resources. And this is not only about farming. Virtually all sectors of the economy is affected.”
Lamenting the degrading infrastructure in the country he said, “During my time in the university Nigeria was a country that other countries looked up to. The education standard was high. I remember the luxury we were exposed o at the University of Ibadan. We were two in the room. A quarter chicken was served to us during meals. We gave our cloth to laundry to wash for us. But today things are so bad that the hostels are eyesores. The hostel my son went to at the University of Lagos was awful. He brought bed bug from that school. It took us some time to get rid of the bed bug. I had to discourage him from going to the hostel. He now goes to school from home.”
If Nigeria is in shambles, Sanyaolu’s life is definitely not in shambles. He has successfully built a career for himself over the years. Today, jobs and opportunities run after him. His itinerary is tight; moving from one seminar to the other as resource person and helping organisations to find their feet. He attributes the giant strides he has made over the years purely to God’s grace.
“I retired from Pfizer 11 years. I can say that God has been good to me. There have been challenges but God has been my support all through. And he has blessed me with the gift of contentment. I don’t go beyond myself despite the temptations from some people. For me there is a God factor and there is also grace factor. I can make ten times of what I make now but the question is: Will I be happy? Many of our leaders get involved in deals that are ungodly because they want to make money and fame by all means. There is no how anybody who seeks for wealth wrongly will have the peace of mind.”
What then is the secret of his success? He takes a deep pause and offers, “Don’t pray for money. Pray for knowledge and wisdom all these other things would come. That has been what has kept me in life. I go through challenges. But I don’t see the challenges. I only see lessons and opportunities in the seeming challenges. I also reckon that nothing is important in this world apart from one’s relationship with God. Every other thing is ephemeral and would not last. So why must I kill myself.”
He reasoned that the best one can do for himself is to love fellow man and be always willing to serve people. “Don’t despise anybody because the person you think is a nobody today may well be the one that will be a blessing to you tomorrow. Also don’t get carried away by friends. I don’t allow my friends to push me to do things contrary to the will of God. Contentment is really key in anything I do. And I will recommend same to all. “