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Managing Director | Rural Electrification Agency

This article first appeared in The African Power & Energy Elites, 2019. You can read the magazine's articles here or subscribe here to receive a print copy.

WHO WERE YOUR ROLE MODELS DURING THE PIVOTAL STAGES OF YOUR LIFE?

Over the years, a combination of mentors, professional personalities, and peers have influenced and inspired me. These include Olusola Oworu (former Honourable Commissioner for Industry and Commence in Lagos State), H.E. Babatunde Raji Fashola, SAN (Honourable Minister of power, works and housing) and H.E. Yemi Osinbajo, SAN, GCON (The Vice President of Nigeria). The encouragement and well of knowledge that they imparted to me have helped shape the individual that I am today.

WHAT DO YOU THINK MAKES A SUCCESSFUL LEADER?

A successful leader is one who is able to recognise the strengths and abilities of their staff while harnessing the team’s skills, driving them to perform at their optimum and achieve the overall objectives of the organisation.

WHAT ARE YOUR GREATEST STRENGTHS?

Passion and commitment afforded to a project or initiative. My enthusiasm gets others excited because they can see and feel my dedication, which I believe motivates my team to perform at their best.

WHAT ARE YOUR BIGGEST BLIND SPOTS?

Control. As a leader of an organisation running multiple projects, I feel I have the responsibility to keep abreast of the various project developments at a granular and macro level. Keeping a hand on the finer details can be challenging; however, with the backing of a great team and modern technology, I am able to manage this role effectively.

WHAT IS THE ONE THING IN YOUR OPINION THAT PEOPLE COMMONLY MISCONCEIVE ABOUT YOUR CHARACTER?

People often mistakenly believe that I am not approachable and that everything comes easily to me. Having worked hard to achieve a successful career, being fair and accessible are in fact top of mind in my work environment. I am dedicated and committed to succeed at reaching the goals set out for me.

WHAT TIPS DO YOU HAVE FOR KEEPING A TEAM MOTIVATED?

Encourage staff members to take on new responsibilities and projects outside of their typical roles. This keeps them motivated and creates an avenue for them to grow and develop in their careers. As an example, my career started out in the construction of residential and commercial buildings. By reaching for new responsibilities this evolved to the position that I am in today.

WHAT’S THE BIGGEST RISK YOU’VE EVER TAKEN?

Moving back to Nigeria from the United Kingdom with my family to begin a fresh start just at the point when I was getting traction in my career. I made the best out of it and have no regrets. The move led me to the power sector, which has been an interesting journey thus far. I am now in a role where I can see how my job directly has a positive affect for the most vulnerable people in my society.

WHEN CONSIDERING A NEW PARTNERSHIP, WHAT FACTORS ARE DEAL-BREAKERS FOR YOU?

Transparency and integrity. I work in the public sector, which means I represent the people, where clear communication and no hidden agendas is crucial in every decision I make. Additionally, the public service ethos of accountability, community responsibility, customer service and integrity are values that they should also share.

WHAT’S THE BEST BOOK YOU’VE READ THIS YEAR?

The ‘Children of Blood and Bone (Legacy of Orisha)’ by Tomi Adeyemi, a 24-year-old Nigerian novelist. The fictional story is set in Nigeria. It is the first book in the trilogy and draws heavily from Yoruba mythology and cosmology. It touches on themes such as race, oppression and abuse of power, which are pertinent in society today. It is a book worth reading, especially if you have an interest in Nigerian culture and tradition.

WHAT ARE YOU MOST PROUD OF IN YOUR PROFESSIONAL CAREER?

The first power project I project managed was the Island Power Project, which is a gas-fired independent power plant (IPP) located in Lagos Island. The IPP is responsible for providing 24-hours of power through a dedicated network to numerous public buildings including hospitals.

One of the hospitals is called Island Maternity, a baby hospital located in Lagos Island.

Within six months of the Island Maternity Hospital getting constant and sustainable power supply, the Medical Director of Island Power reported infant mortality had reduced by 23% as a direct impact of having constant power supply.

The power plant has been running for over seven years now and the positive impact is still felt.

This is one of the most rewarding projects I have ever completed in my professional career.

WHICH OF YOUR LEADERSHIP SKILLS WAS THE MOST DIFFICULT TO DEVELOP?

Balancing authority was challenging for me, as your employees should respect your authority while still feeling that you are a leader who they can communicate their concerns to. I like to be accessible to my employees; however, as a woman leading an organisation in a male-dominated industry comes with its challenges. Finding the right balance was difficult to develop.

WHAT’S THE MOST IMPORTANT LEADERSHIP LESSON YOU’VE LEARNED?

A sense of purpose. Getting your team to know what they do and how to do it. You can make a big difference by sharing a strong sense of why your team is doing what they do, where it’s heading and whom it is impacting. It helps them to develop a broad understanding of the team’s purpose and faith in how their role contributes to the big picture.

HOW DO YOU ACHIEVE BALANCE IN YOUR LIFE?

I make a conscious effort to achieve balance in my life by prioritising my goals and protecting my private time. I feel lucky and privileged, because I work with a wonderful team of people on the work front whom I can rely on; and I have an amazing supportive family on the home front.

WHAT TREND IN THE GLOBAL ENERGY SPACE DO YOU SEE BECOMING INTRINSIC TO THE OVERALL POWER NETWORK, AND WHAT TREND WILL FADE?

Renewable hybrid systems are becoming the preferred energy sources, and new technologies and their ability to integrate the utilisation of varying fuel sources, are increasing the competitive edge of solar hybrid systems and hybrids. The speed of solar deployment and its steeply declining cost in comparison with the cost and the speed of the deployment of the infrastructure for gas and other energy sources, means the demand for renewables is increasing especially for deployment in off-grid and mini-grids. In off-grid areas, renewable energy can provide optimal electrification speedily.