At 50, Olajide Olutuyi vows to intensify focus on social impact

18 Apr 2024, 12:00 am
Olajide Olutuyi
At 50, Olajide Olutuyi vows to intensify focus on social impact

Feature Highlight

Like Canadian Frank Stronach utilised his Canadian nationality to leverage opportunities in his home country of Austria, individuals (in the diaspora) can harness their global perspectives and connections to drive change and progress in their native countries.

Olajide Olutuyi

Introduction: Olajide Olutuyi, a Financial Nigeria columnist living in Canada, recently turned 50. This interview by Jide Akintunde, Managing Editor of Financial Nigeria publications, explores his upbringing, leadership ethos, and determination to making social impact.

Jide Akintunde (JA): What are the key memories or lessons from your childhood that have stayed with you in your adult life and shaped your worldview?

Olajide Olutuyi (OO): My upbringing has a major influence on my values and who I am today. I remember that I was a Yoruba boy growing up in Northern Nigeria and later in Delta State. This exposed me to a diversity of rich cultures  and interesting perspectives. My childhood has helped me to easily appreciate the importance of diversity and inclusion, shaping my worldview of embracing people from all backgrounds. This is why my perspectives on diversity and ethnic conversations regarding Nigeria are often different from popular divisive rhetorics.

I also learned to be resilient and adaptable from my experience of regularly relocating with my father – because of transfers on his job – from Kaduna to Kano and Warri. I learned to embrace challenges as opportunities for growth, and to approach life with an open mind. However, my parents ensured that despite the relocations, I remained connected to my roots; I understand the Yoruba culture and am fluent in the language.

JA: You have followed multiple career paths. What has guided you?

OO: My professional journey has been a dynamic and fulfilling one. From my early days in the family business, to my roles in multinational corporations and my ventures as an entrepreneur, each experience has contributed to my growth and development.

One significant milestone was my transition to lead Top-Olax Nigeria Limited after my father stepped down shortly before he passed away. This venture allowed me to leverage my expertise in finance while pursuing my passion for innovation and business development.

My inspiration to pursue a career in finance and entrepreneurship stemmed from a combination of factors. Growing up in a family of entrepreneurs instilled in me a strong work ethic and a passion for business. Additionally, my academic background in accounting and management provided me with the foundational knowledge and skills to thrive in the finance industry. Ultimately, I was driven by a desire to create value, drive change, and make a positive impact through my work.

My pursuit of education didn't stop with my undergraduate degree but extended to acquiring multiple degrees and global certifications. My thirst for knowledge and personal growth has been a guiding force in my career, enabling me to adapt to different sectors and excel in diverse roles.

JA: You have been involved in volunteering and community service. Why is this necessary or important for leadership?

OO: I have told those around me that one of the greatest gifts living in the diaspora gave to me is understanding the importance of volunteering and how to put it into action. Volunteering allows leaders to make a positive difference in their communities, addressing social issues and empowering individuals at the local level.

My first major experience with community service was my NYSC community service project in Irete, Imo State. While serving in Owerri, I did a project for a primary school in Irete. This brought so much fulfillment and inspired my years of active volunteering and community service that followed.

One of my first volunteering experience was as a bookkeeper at a small community organisation in Ajax, Ontario. At this time in 2004, I was unemployed and new in Canada. Some of my friends derided the idea of volunteering, but that position paved the way for my first corporate job in downtown Toronto in 2005. Since then, I have served as Secretary of the Yoruba Foundation Calgary from 2008–2012, Director and Treasurer for the Independent Living Resources Centre, Calgary (ILRCC) from 2012–2013, and Director and Treasurer at Calgary Quest School from 2012–2015 where I managed over $1million in operational budget and over $10 million in capital budget.

I also served as the Director of the international service committee on the board of the Rotary Club of Calgary Heritage Park, from 2020–2022.
These experiences have provided me with a sense of fulfillment, purpose, and connection to others, allowing me to contribute to positive change and make a difference in the lives of those in need.

JA: What are the projects you have worked on, including upcoming ones?

OO: Currently, I am involved in assisting Top-Olax Nigeria Limited in navigating its new brand and division: Top-Foods and Spices. This division focuses on processing and packaging food products tailored for Nigerians, particularly for the diaspora market. Our aim is to provide high-quality food products that meet the needs and preferences of our target market, thereby building customer loyalty.

Additionally, I am dedicated to advancing the initiatives of the Samuel Olutuyi Foundation. One of our primary objectives is to foster collaboration with more international organisations to address social issues within our communities and scale up impact.

Looking ahead, one of the upcoming projects I am actively involved in is the merger of Top-Olax Nigeria Limited and Top-Olax Energy Services Limited. This strategic decision stems from the need to streamline operations and mitigate the challenges posed by multiple levies and duplicity of statutory payments by the two companies. Given the shared directors and shareholders between the two entities, the merger presents an opportunity to optimise resources, enhance operational efficiency, and achieve sustainable growth.

JA: I have the privilege of knowing that you are working on some books. What themes do you want to discuss in them?

OO: I am working on two upcoming books titled "Thoughts Unveiled: A Compendium of Musings Navigating Nigeria’s Progress" and "Breaking New Ground: Chronicles and Ventures Across Resource Cities.” In the first book, a collection of all my articles since 2001 will offer insightful perspectives on Nigeria's sociopolitical issues. Through this collection, I seek to enrich discourse on the critical topics and provide practical guidance, inspiration, and thought-provoking insights. By sharing my experiences and perspectives, I hope to empower readers to engage critically with Nigeria's progress, overcome obstacles, and contribute positively to their communities.

The second book will chronicle my life experiences across resource cities, from Warri to Calgary and others. This book will offer readers a glimpse into my journey, sharing insights and lessons learned along the way. One of my objectives in writing this book is to help people to see the avenues for making meaningful change in their lives and driving progress in their communities.

JA: You have forayed into the Nigerian politics, which many believe is murky. Why that?

OO: My interest in politics is deeply rooted in my commitment to social justice, community empowerment, and positive change. I believe that politics serves as a powerful platform to advocate for issues that matter to me, including education, healthcare, and economic development. By engaging in politics, I aim to amplify the voices of marginalised communities, drive policy reform, and contribute to building a more equitable and inclusive society.

Politics intersects with my other endeavours by providing a platform to address systemic issues and effect change on a broader scale. Through my experiences in business and community service, I have gained valuable insights into the challenges facing our society and the opportunities for progress. I see political engagement as a natural extension of my commitment to making a difference in the world.

Ultimately, my political aspirations are guided by a vision of a society where every individual has the opportunity to thrive and contribute to the common good. By working towards this vision, I hope to make a meaningful impact on the lives of people in my community and beyond.

JA: In a previous interview, you touted your father as your mentor. What did you learn from him that is most impactful on you?

OO: My father has been an influential figure in my life, serving as a mentor who has profoundly shaped my values. His guidance has been instrumental in instilling in me the importance of integrity, hard work, and perseverance. From a young age, he led by example, demonstrating resilience in the face of adversity and generosity in giving back to the community.

One of the most impactful lessons I learned from my father is the value of integrity and a good name. He prioritised integrity over profit and emphasised the importance of maintaining a sterling reputation in all endeavours. His unwavering commitment to ethical conduct has left a lasting impression on me, shaping my approach to business and life.

His belief in the combination of hard work and smart work has guided me throughout my career, inspiring me to achieve success through both diligence and innovation.

His mentorship has not only influenced my personal and professional life but has also inspired me to make a positive impact in the world. I am proud to carry on his legacy of integrity, hard work, and community service and I strive to honour his teachings in everything I do.

JA: One very fascinating thing about you is that, although you ‘japa-ed’ to Canada many years ago, you continued to do business in Nigeria and are actively engaged in the country. Why is this the case?

OO: Home is home you know. I think it stems from my early incursion to Nigerian business and the fact that I believe only Nigerians can develop Nigeria. Leveraging one's international experiences and networks to make a positive impact in their country of origin is not only feasible but also highly impactful. Just like Canadian Frank Stronach utilised his Canadian nationality to leverage opportunities in his home country of Austria, individuals can harness their global perspectives and connections to drive change and progress in their native countries.

Maintaining active engagement with business and politics in Nigeria while residing abroad does require proactive effort and strategic use of technology and networks. By utilising various strategies and platforms, individuals can stay connected and informed. Additionally, nurturing close relationships with trusted contacts and advisors on the ground enables individuals to remain connected and engaged despite physical distance.

My international experiences have endowed me with valuable insights and skills that are instrumental in navigating diverse cultural contexts and effecting positive change. These experiences have broadened my perspective and equipped me with the ability to understand and appreciate different cultural nuances. Leveraging these insights, I aspire to contribute to the advancement of both local and global communities, fostering collaboration and driving impactful initiatives that address pressing societal challenges.

JA: As you celebrate your 50th birthday and reflect on your achievements thus far, what are some goals or aspirations you have for the future?

OO: As I celebrate my 50th birthday and reflect on my achievements thus far, I feel immensely grateful for the experiences and opportunities that have shaped my journey. Looking ahead, I am inspired to set new goals and aspirations for the future. One of my key aspirations is to continue fostering personal growth and development, both professionally and personally. I aim to deepen my expertise in social impact investing, while also exploring new avenues for learning and innovation.

Additionally, I am committed to making a positive impact in my community and beyond. Whether through volunteer work, mentorship, or advocacy, I aspire to contribute to causes that align with my values and passions, such as the girl child education, women empowerment, and civic engagement.

Overall, as I enter this new chapter of my life, my goals and aspirations are rooted in a sense of purpose, growth, and contribution. I am committed to living with intentionality, seizing opportunities for personal and professional development, and making a positive difference in the world around me.

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