By Charles Kumolu
DR. Oluomo Oluleye, who was born into an affluent home reveals how parental discipline ensured, that he built a name outside being the son of the late Federal Commissioner for Finance, Gen James Oluleye, retd. Challenged by his father’s admonishment that all he owed him as a father was education, Oluleye rose to the peak of his career in the civil service and eventually held top public service appointments. He was the pioneer Executive Secretary, Petroleum Products Pricing Regulatory Agency, PPPRA. He is also a former Executive Secretary, PTDF, among other positions he held. In telling his story, Oluleye professes his faith in the guidance of divine providence which has brought him far in life.
Who is Dr. Oluomo Oluleye?
I was born sixty four years ago to a seamstress mother, the late Felicia Olajumoke (Nee Bolaji) of Ile Araba Ife-Odan in the present Osun State, and a school headmaster father, the late James Johnson Oluleye, of the Adurogbangba Moogunje family of Aaye Quarters, in Efon Alaaye in the present Ekiti State.
My mother later became a successful homemaker (by virtue of raising her seven children to be graduates and several other relatives who lived with us) and my father later joined the Nigerian Army and rose to become a Major General, and later a Federal Commissioner for Establishment and Service Matters, as well as the Finance Commissioner.
Are there remarkable memories of your upbringing that valuable lessons could be drawn from?
It might be pertinent to mention that shortly before my mother passed on in 1991, she took me to Ife-Odan to show me a piece of land that we the children should develop in the future. While we were walking along the main street in the town, a man beckoned and shouted from afar and said “Felicia se omo ijohunre e” and she replied “beeni”.
I then turned to her and asked what that meant. She told me that in those days people were not encouraged to marry outside their community and that for my father to have come from far away Ekiti land, she was sure to be abandoned. Moreover, there were so many suitors in town for her.
My mother described the man as an abortion specialist for young girls. And that the man actually persuaded her to have an abortion when she had my pregnancy, which she completely refused, insisting that such could only happen unless it was a natural miscarriage. She stuck to her love, James and the rest is history today. If she had listened to the counsel of the “abortion specialist”, I definitely will not be here today. This was God’s first intervention in my life as a foetus; as He had decreed that I must come into the world to fulfil a destiny. And here I am today.
Would you say that your parental background influenced the person you grew to become considering that your father was a notable General in the Nigerian Army?
My father was a stern disciplinarian and brooked no nonsense and it was difficult to approach him. He commanded and you obeyed. We never saw the loving and caring side of his character until he retired. I must confess that for most part of my growing up I thought my father hated me as a child as I was constantly whipped and he would say that if I got it wrong that it may be worse for my other siblings.
I kept on asking God why it was my portion to be whipped so badly. In retrospect he prepared me for the challenges ahead and I am grateful for the beatings. My late mother was kind-hearted to a fault and would do anything for us and she was the moderator and our intercessor, as we all feared our father.
Two major incidents happened during my secondary school days that bear recalling here. My mother remained the family’s official driver responsible for picking her children and my cousins who were living with us from various schools in Ibadan and its environs.
My father was responsible for the training of these cousins. Once the war started, my father never had time for the home again other than leaving the school fees, since he was the Secretary to the Strategic War Committee. My mother was therefore responsible for all the logistics needed to get all of us to and from school. Around 1968, we were on holidays and she came to Ibadan to pick us all. It was routine for my father to know the route we were taking and the time of departure.
On this particular occasion, we picked a cousin from Mayflower College Ikenne, and we were in the middle of a narrow bridge around Ikenne and an on coming lorry’s brakes failed and entered the bridge which can only take one vehicle at a time. It was in the rainy season and the river was overflowing with a strong current as it had rained all day.
We were squeezed against the railings and the river was barely four feet below. We were screaming as death stared at us in the face. The car was air-conditioned and we could not roll down the windows. The engine was kept running to keep us alive as it was not a head-on collision. The bridge was one of these old bridges with steel girders.
Policemen responded and a towing vehicle was brought later to drag the lorry out to free us as traffic had built up rapidly. As is wont with soldiers on timing, especially as we would have long arrived, my late father had been calling the police stations along our route and was able to trace us to Ikenne.The Policemen informed him of what happened and directed that they let us proceed with the journey after making statements. A generation would have been wiped off, but for God’s benevolence and mercy towards us. Amongst those in the car then today are doctors, engineers, and Professors.
How did you end up settling for Animal Husbandry as your course of study?
I must not fail to mention two women who God directed to assist me. The late Mrs. Omololu, a matron at the UCH and wife of Prof. Omololu of the Nutrition Department at the University of Ibadan in the 1970’s. My father wanted me to study Law whereas my interest was in Agriculture and specifically Animal Husbandry. I loved the practical aspect of caring for animals.
The Omololus were family friends to us. It was Mrs. Omolulu, who God used to prevail upon my father to allow me to study what I had interest in. Prior to my departure in 1976, my father spoke to me and said, ‘if you go to America and say you are the son of a General in the Nigerian Army and under that pretext misbehave, I will never intervene, and if it means going to jail that is it for you’. He went further to remind me what he had told me while entering secondary school that he had nothing to offer me other than education – no houses, money nor cars. This I took to mean that I should go and achieve on my own and be of the best behaviour.
Naturally, one would expect that you would go into farming upon completion of your Studies. How did you end up being a technocrat?
I must confess that I wanted to be a poultry farmer on my return home, and my father’s promise on my arrival back to Nigeria, was that he would assist me in doing same. I trusted his judgment and believed in his promise because I felt that as a former Minister of Finance, it would be easy to get funds for me to set up. While not discouraging me on my dream, he, however, cautioned that I needed to understand the Nigerian business environment before going into such a venture.
Reminiscences of working years
I worked as much as I could at the National Productivity Centre, but gradually the entire pioneer staff began to leave for greener pastures in their droves. As I rose through the ranks, I continued to have this strange feeling that I was going to either lead the Centre, or at least get so close to the very top, as I was the only remaining trained pioneer staff. When the then Director-General’s term expired, a newly-recruited staff was made the Acting Director-General, over a substantive Director, who I was only next to in seniority. This caused a lot of commotion in the place. I, however, pledged my loyalty to the younger Acting Director-General, in the spirit of government directive. Having been overpassed as the most senior technical person however, I sought audience with the then Minister of Labour and Productivity, who delivered a highly philosophical Yoruba adage, saying; “omi ti eniyan ba maa mu ko ni san koja re”, literarily meaning ‘the water that a man would eventually drink, can never elude him’. He counselled that I took it as the Will of God and that there must be a reason why this is happening. The Minister, however, gave me another assignment, which took me out of the Centre but gave me more experience in service. In retrospect, I remain grateful forever to him for setting me on a path of providence.
I would not want it to appear as if the management I worked with was made of the best administrators in the world. In other words, it is more of the grace of God in my life. Instead of drawing unnecessary attention to my tenure in office and our collective decisions as a team, we shall defer such anticipated full disclosures till another date in a future writing, in order not to sound both preemptive and repetitive. For now, we should patiently await the verdict of time when posterity would deliver a fair judgment on us. However, it is pertinent to state that when you are doing a good job without bias or favour, enemies will always rise. My tenure was not an exception. For instance, in May 2008, a marketer came to my office saying that the president said I was corrupt and that the agency was a cesspool of corruption.
I retorted that he needed to prove his assertion, since all payments made and volume of products supplied were all on the agency website for public accessibility. In fact, the agency, at the time, anchored its activities upon the mantra of absolute professionalism and productivity. The charge to the workforce from Management was that we were working with the private sector and we must be seen to be efficient and effective. They were all young men and women willing to prove their mettle. Website design and programming were done in-house and several other activities.
In August of the same year, two EFCC officials came into my office, inviting me to see them in their office the next day. It may be pertinent to say that the EFCC officers are well trained, courteous but firm and very fair in their investigations, analytical skills, assessments and conclusions. They could see through the machinations of the petition writers.
Later in November, precisely in the 11, 2008, a newspaper gave some details about the findings, literarily exonerating and praising us for not allowing the control of the agency by a cabal. As a matter of fact, there was no problem in the program and looking back today; it was a deliberate attempt to disrupt the system and cause confusion, which had resulted into what we have today. However, in March 2010, Goodluck Jonathan, as Acting President appointed me as a Member and Secretary of the Presidential Projects Assessment Committee (PPAC), under the Chairmanship of Architect Ibrahim Bunu and assisted by Vice Chairman Benard O.N Otti, an Investment Banker.
On June 16, 2011, I voluntarily tendered my letter of retirement from service, with 18 months left on my retirement age. The date was also significant, as it ended my second term as the Executive Secretary of the PPPRA, even though I was not on seat from September 2008 to when I retired. It is worthy to note that all my entitlements were fully paid.
How will you describe your stint at Petroleum Technology Development Fund (PTDF) as Executive Secretary?
Short but eventful and impactful. I was able to make the difference both in human capital and infrastructural development. We left legacies that those coming behind will talk about for a long time. The records are there.
What is your next step now?
Well, I am home in Ekiti, doing my best to impact positively on the lives of my people. We are not poor in Ekiti as a lot of people erroneously believe. They call us a “civil service state.” They tell us we are not viable. But very soon, Ekiti people will realize the enormous potentials at our disposal.