The newly elected captain of the IBB Golf and Country Club Abuja, Shola Awoyungbo has said his priority is to ensure the dream of the founding fathers of the club is actualised. In this interview, the avid golfer spoke on his plans for the club and challenges of leading some of the ‘big boys’ in Nigeria.
By way of introduction, who is Shola Awoyungbo?
Briefly, I am a retired public servant. I retired from Central bank of Nigeria in December 2014, about four years ago. I am a family man. I graduated from University of Ibadan in 1980 in Economics. Thereafter, I went to UK to study in London school of accountancy. I came back to Nigeria in 1986 and worked in the federal ministry with audit before I moved to CBN in 1990. I put in 24 year in the service of the Central Bank where I retired as a Deputy Director in 2014.
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When and how did you become a member of IBB Golf Club?
I joined the club in 2003. Even when I joined, it took me a while before I started playing the game. I would just come, relax and go back. A friend of mine from Canada who was seconded to Nigeria from the World Bank introduced me to the game. He is late now. He died in the Dana Air crash. May His soul rest in peace. So for many years now, I have been playing golf consistently and I can tell you that the benefits are enormous. You see golf is addictive, golf is sweet for those who play the game. You cannot get tired of playing golf.
What informed your decision to contest and be elected captain of IBB Golf and Country Club?
You see most times people see some qualities in you and come to you. There are insiders in the club who court you when they see potentials in you. It is the same way you court a lady for marriage, if you see that she has good qualities. Initially they tried me out as chairman of Wednesday Kitty group and I think it was a huge success. I was there from 2014 and they said I would run it for life. I was chairman for four years which was unprecedented. In fact I had to run away because it is quite demanding. Every Wednesday, I was here from morning till late in the evening. The responsibility comes with a lot of challenges. I was looking for an escape route so I said let me look for the vice-captainship. I did and then move up to become the captain of the club. It does not happen by accident. There are king makers but you must possess good qualities which members have seen.
As captain of the club, what do you have to offer your colleagues in the next one year?
Before you aspire to lead, you must have a vision. If you are coming in, what is your mission?. You see the vision of the founding fathers of this prestigious golf club was to have a befitting place where we can recreate in a first class environment, where you can play golf and other recreational activities like tennis. They wanted a place which will be a destination of first choice for those who love the game. And for you to achieve that it means your facilities must be first class. Secondly, there must be efficient service delivery to members. However, over the years, we’ve been having challenges in realising that dream. The military government of Ibrahim Badamosi Babangida built this facility and we have to give them that credit. The military were maintaining the facility before it was handed over to the FCDA. Few years back, there was economic depression that compelled government to stop funding the club. Consequently we don’t have enough to meet up with the challenges of maintaining the club and the course. So as the captain, one of the key concerns for me is funding. How are we going to maintain the standard of the facility in our possession?. We have to get adequate funding to be able to maintain this first class standard. Maintaining this golf course requires millions of naira. So we are talking to sponsors to assist us. And to get members to pay for services rendered to them, we want to introduce electronic access system as is obtainable in other parts of the world in top golf clubs. Some members don’t pay but they want to play. The present system of physical identification can be embarrassing. When you have a smart card access on you and you swipe, it will give you access to play, if you are eligible. We would encourage members to pay for service rendered to them in the club. We would do more to raise revenue to be able to keep the high standard. My number one concern is to help in actualising the dream of the founding fathers of this club.
How do you hope to win the confidence of your colleagues in carrying out this assignment?
As the captain and leader of EXCO, I will lead by example. We are transparent and open. I have put some structures in place to see that things are done transparently. We want to completely eliminate the under the table transactions. If you are honest and transparent, members will be very supportive. We would deploy technology to assist us in getting our financial dues from members.
What is that important initiative of the past EXCO that you are going to sustain?
As vice captain, it is learning time. You learn and when you get there, you come with your own ideas. I was a member of the past EXCO and we introduced course maintenance fee. Each time you want to play, you drop N500. This levy was widely accepted by members because they saw how the money was being utilized. We were making over N2million monthly for the maintenance of the course. This is one initiative that we are definitely going to sustain.
Your successor said it is a difficult task leading the ‘big boys’ in the club. How prepared are you to contend with their ‘intimidating profiles’?
Our approach to life differs. That was my successor’s perception about leadership. I am an open person. I interact with everyone. They elected me, I am their leader. We all belong to the same constituency. So I don’t see myself as the boss. I go to them and I relate well with them. I have been here for three weeks now and when they ask me how it has been, I tell them it has been overwhelming support and response from members. I don’t know what they see but they are happy. All of them are ‘big boys’. Yes, IBB Golf Club is a microcosm of Nigeria but it depends on how you take it. Once you carry along the team you are working with, they can speak for you even when you are not around.
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