Hamsat Muhammad Olawale is the Chief executive of Homat Group of Schools, Homat Publications Limited and Homat Event Center, Ikorodu. His humble beginning typifies abject poverty, but hard work and perseverance took him to the level of affluence. The philanthropist, seasoned educationist, and astute administrator told his story of ‘grass to grace’ as he features as our role model of the week.

His beginning

I established Homat Primary School, Ikorodu in September, 1995 when I was a classroom teacher. It was very tough considering the salaries of teachers at that period. I did not relent; I was borrowing money here and there; from co_operative and micro_finance banks. It was so tough at that time. I remember that after struggling to acquire a plot of land for the school project, I cleared the land area all alone and I had to engage in packing of sands from the erosion prone areas to mould blocks to build classrooms. At weekends, one of my brothers and I used to assist the maison in the construction. It reduced my bill because I didn’t have to pay for extra labour other than the maison.

Hamsat Muhammad Olawale

It was indeed a difficult period and I knew that nothing good comes easy. Two years later, it was much more difficult because we could not pay salaries of teachers; we were at the same time battling for approval. I had to borrow money from a micro-finance bank; I ended up paying over N840, 000 for the N300, 000 I borrowed.

Succour came when a man from one of those new generation banks gave me another N500, 000 loan. It was like a soothing balm. We added more classrooms and we were able to pursue government approval and we got it. Rather than relent, immediately after the approval in 1997, I went into establishment of Homat Comprehensive College, and four years later we also got the approval.

That was the beginning of better days. We got the Homat Pivotal College and expansion became a regular phenomenon. We thank God that we are able to maintain the standard and consolidate on our achievements. You see, the lesson is that people should not just be after what they want to gain, but should focus on what value they can add to life.

Proprietors of schools should not go after money, their contribution to the development of younger ones and by extension, the society is much more important. Once you can add value to what people want, then every other thing will fall in place. For us, we are propelled by the fact that we believe we have a duty to fulfil the need of the society; we try to touch the lives of so many children so that they can be useful to themselves and the society. It is only when they become useful to themselves and the society that the criminal activities can be drastically reduced bearing in mind that government cannot do it alone.

Challenges

The challenges now are even enormous because, to run a successful business in Nigeria takes a lot of ingenuity. Nigerians are very difficult to deal with and if you don’t monitor your business at every stage of it, you stand the risk of watching it fall like pack of cards. Majority of Nigerians do not want to work, they prefer to work in public companies where they would not be monitored and yet collect huge salaries.

Painful experiences

I was brought up in a village and raised by a poor family. While growing up, it was very difficult for us even to eat rice. We only struggled to eat rice during festive periods. I remember when I was employed at Government College as a teacher, the first salary I got, and I went to the market to buy very thick material to sow for myself a pair of trouser and jacket so as to last for a long time. The salary was poor and I had plans with the responsibilities of caring for my siblings and my aged parents who were cola_nuts farmers. Then, I had to wait for used materials from some of my elder brothers and family members to add to the few ones I had.

There was a time I wore one shirt for a year and I cried the day the shirt was damaged. What happened was that in 1986 when I had my first child (boy), things were very difficult. There was no job, then and I had only one shirt. I had disagreement with my wife then and she held me by my shirt. Sincerely speaking the shirt was very weak then because it was the only one I had worn for a year. So, she held me by the neck and the shirt got torn.

The thought of getting another one filled my mind and tears rolled down my eyes. I cried. She didn’t know why I was crying. I later went to one of my friends, Mr Hamuda Tajudeen who consoled me and gave me a shirt.

Apart from that and after my NCE programme, I worked as a cleaner, then as a clerk at Ocean Fisheries, after that I went to the NNPC Staff School, helping them to clear drainage. I worked as a digger and worked with maison (serving the bricklayers) at the staff school including working as labourer in the building other schools.

However, there is nobody that will succeed in life that will not have a rough beginning. Mine was no different. Those experiences will only assist in remoulding the person in terms of the kind of decisions he takes and his approaches to issues.

Lessons learned

First and foremost, you need to be prayerful. Hard work is the next thing. You can’t achieve anything without hard work. Of course, you have to be focussed. It means you’ve got to be known for what you do and no matter the challenges, you don’t have to slid, you have to face it squarely. You can never be bored with whatever you do with passion. You also don’t need to bother yourself about the monetary gain, because it can only sway your thinking and idea about the business.

You also have to be disciplined and show a lot of self denial. My first car was an old Peugeot car and not until recently when my banker had to procure a new car for me, I never thought it was the next thing because I had several other plans to lift the school higher. Prior to that time, I had bought four new brand new buses which cost over N20million for the schools, so, it is part of the self denial to ensure that the business succeeds.

I want to say at this junction that is why our brothers from the Eastern part of the country succeed more in business than others basically because they consider their business first before any pleasure.

Planning for retirement

I intend to diversify for the purpose of planning a retirement. I intend to go into relaxation centre and Guest House management. I discover this is the kind of business I can oversee after retirement. Plans are under-way for this project.

Advise for the younger ones

They have to understand that education is the best legacy. Again, even with education, you have to be hard working. They should be focussed and not think of what they can get from the society but what they can give to develop the society. There is no short cut to success; the get-rich-quick syndrome among the youths will not help them. What endures is what you worked and suffered for.

 

Disclaimer

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