One of the world’s most inspirational leaders said, “I alone cannot change the world, but I can cast a stone across the water to create many ripples.” You see, Mother Theresa was not so proud to think she was the perfect solution to every problem; yet, her name is written in the history books as one of the most influential people to have walked the face of the earth. Another one of such people to watch out for is Joseph Olasunkanmi Tegbe.
I first came across Tegbe when he made his desire to be the Governor of Oyo State publicly known during the recently concluded election cycle. Like many others, I wondered who the newcomer was and what made him think he could win. Boy, was I pleasantly surprised. I discovered that Joseph Tegbe – ‘JT’ to close friends and family – was no ordinary man. Oyo State was set to witness a man of unbridled passion, distinct vision and unwavering commitment.
Born from humble beginnings to the Jegede compound family in the Labo Area of Ibadan, JT has risen through the ranks and established himself as a thought leader with indelible impact in the private and public sectors. He has worked tirelessly behind the scenes and the ripple effects of many of his projects are enjoyed by millions across Nigeria. Truth be told, his achievements in his 52 years – now 53 after his celebration of life only yesterday – manage to be impressive and intimidating at the same time.
After excelling through Secondary School, JT graduated from Obafemi Awolowo University with a First Class distinction in Civil Engineering in 1988. However, the course of his career changed soon after graduation owing to his desire to work in one of the most prestigious firms in Nigeria at the time – Arthur Anderson.
“Arthur Anderson was recruiting all First Class Graduates at the time. After working as the team lead as a mere Youth Service Corps Member at the time in the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC), I was eager for an opportunity to be surrounded by people better than me, who knew more than me and most importantly who could teach me things I didn’t already know,” JT answered when asked about his short-lived Engineering career.
This decision turned out to be one of the best decisions of his life and career because it gave him the platform to become the dynamic ball of fire that he is today. Since his time at Arthur Anderson, he has gone on to become a leading professional in Business Advisory and Consulting, Telecommunications, Infrastructure and Government Services, Technology Advisory and Markets, and most recently, Politics.
His work in the private sector has been stellar. He has been the lead partner and adviser on several national level development reforms across several industries including: Housing and Infrastructure; Trade and Investment; Financing; Skills Development; Information Technology; Telecommunications; and Social Security. Through his career, he has worked to improve his capacity to provide solutions into increasingly diverse areas with formal and informal training courses.
One would imagine that for someone who wears so many hats, he must be dropping the ball in something. Alas, this is not the case. JT is the amazing husband of an equally impressive woman and the doting father of 2 sons who have grown up to become fine adults. Watching his interaction with his family, you quickly come away with strong impressions of years of growing together and weathering many storms. His sons believe it’s the most natural thing in the world to be friends with their father. In fact, you will often find them in deep discussions about life where they are not afraid to talk about personal experiences other children would typically want to hide from their parents.
Those are, however, not the only relationships JT cherishes. He is an integral part of many social groups that play the dual role of supporting its members and the community. One of such groups is the Federal Government College Ogbomoso Students’ Association, often referred to as FEGOCOSA. As a member of this group, JT has been instrumental in providing economic support for many of its members. To borrow from a popular proverbial saying, he does not only go out of his way to ‘give fish’, but takes it upon himself to equip others with the skills and resources to learn how to ‘fish’ including providing a pond.
Some of the words his friends, contemporaries and beneficiaries have used to describe him include: refined, brilliant, empathetic, genius, unique, interesting, and maverick to name a few. A brilliant career and family man, JT has clearly made a great impression on the people he has come in contact with in life. In fact, I anticipate that he is well on the path to reaping the good will from his years of exemplary behavior.
The most interesting description I have, however, come across is ‘loyal’. I was particularly intrigued because in describing JT was the first time I had come across this word in the light of a flaw. JT is reported to possess blind loyalty towards a cause or individual. He will go to any lengths to prove his loyalty to something or someone he has determined to be deserving of such, perhaps up to the point that others around him may believe to be harmful. Whether or not this trait is to be admired remains a debate; one thing is sure, it demands a bit of caution especially in the face of his political aspirations.
In just this last election cycle, he abruptly put an end to his campaign to become the Governor of Oyo State after gaining unprecedented attention in about 3 months. With an almost flawless strategy, he won the hearts of indigenes, traditional rulers and even political bigwigs, even in the face of strong opposition. He was quick to share his ambitious plans for Oyo state developed in conjunction with the best brains of international developmental agencies and industry thought leaders.
It was, therefore, a shock when he announced that he would be stepping out of the race to support another aspirant from the All Progressive’s Congress (APC). More shocking was the fact that though he was disappointed, he was willing to work hand-in-hand with this aspirant to make Oyo first again – his political mantra. It is, therefore, not surprising that in many corners of Oyo State, he is perceived to be a leader of choice with an enviable level of emotional intelligence and a deep rooted-dedication to the economic and social development of the people.
Ultimately, the man Joseph Olasunkanmi Tegbe is a refreshing breath of air on Nigeria’s political scene. He speaks of his life as one big service to humanity. His philosophy is simple, “I want to see where the world is going and what I can do to make it get there better and faster. All my life, I have received a reward for good performance. Still, all my life, I have enjoyed the benefits of quality opportunities. Whatever I can do to create an environment that provides more people with the opportunity to make life better, I will do it. Whether it’s in the private sector or in public service, my mandate will always be the same.”
What more can one say to that?