Just as no one could vividly describe how and what exactly the future holds, the former Deputy Governor of Central Bank of Nigeria, Tunde Lemo who was born into the middle class family and grew up in the city of Abeokuta never knew that he would ever get to the last position he held before retiring.
According to Lemo, “my ambition was to be like the principal of my school. I saw him as a role model and as the ultimate that one could be, maybe because of the way he carried himself. He was a reverent gentleman who also doubled as the principal of Lisabi Grammar School, late Rev. Lapese Ladipo. So, my ambition was to be a principal like him one day.
“I thank God because in spite of the fact that my parents were not high up there, they knew the benefits of education and they were very insistent in ensuring that we had very good education, even if it meant my mother going to fetch water or sell books to augment her pittance from the teaching profession.
“She did all she could to ensure that we have very good education. And then, we were also brought up in very strict Christian home and it was compulsory for you to be in the choir, go for singing practice and combine that with education, which meant you had to be on your toes. That was what probably prepared me for the challenges of life.”
After finishing his secondary school program, he realized that there is more to life than just being the principal of a secondary school, and was later fascinated with accountancy because of the honour and privilege that is attached to the profession which made him to end up in an accounting firm and later to banking after years of working in the accounting firm though salaries in the banking sector at that was not so high.
He described banking profession as one of the most rated profession at that time, “factor that appealed to me to be a banker at that time is the respect people had for bankers. The respect of a banker in those days was much better than now. Then, bankers were highly respected in the community because everybody believed that a banker must be morally upright before certain people’s money could be entrusted on your shoulders. In those days, if you wanted to travel abroad and you were given a form to fill, the form was to be signed by any of your priest, your banker or the community leader. I’m not even sure they ask the banker to sign again because of so many things that have happened, unfortunately.”
What he described as an act of God was how he became the second in command of the country’s apex bank that was motivated by the former CBN governor, Joseph Sanusi who recommended him among two other qualified candidate to the former president, Olusegun Obasanjo to take up the job after he had been Managing Director of Wema Bank for ten years.
“What I was telling people at that was that by the time I celebrated my 50th birthday anniversary, I would have clocked nine years as a bank CEO, and that would be a good time for me to retire but that was how it was planned and not in my own plan to be deputy governor of the bank because it was not as if being the deputy governor of CBN was well remunerative as being a CEO of a bank.
“A deputy governor of CBN was not earning half the salary of a bank CEO, but it’s a highly respected position. So, I took a steep salary cut when I crossed over to CBN. Largely, I felt it was an honour to be called in that capacity to serve”, he said.
His appointment at CBN was later approved by President Obasanjo when his colleagues have described him as a good leader to the president before the CBN governor recommended him to the President.
“When Chief Sanusi took the paper to the President, what happened was that the governor recommended three people, so I was one of the three people he recommended, but something interesting happened. As he looked at the three names, he then realised that just a few days before then, somebody had spoken very well about me, so, he thought if my name was also featured as one of the three, definitely there must be something good about this person. Otherwise, he never knew me from Adam.”
For people who always think that they must know someone before they can be recommended, Lemo urged them, especially Nigerian youths to continue doing the right thing.
“It doesn’t necessarily matter who you know. If you are consistent where you are, someone will discover you in your little corner and then you would be celebrated. Don’t wait until you have a godfather or someone who has a broad shoulder on which you can stand. Just keep doing the right thing wherever you are. Someone will seek you out one day”, he advised.
Just as many GMD of banks fell in temptation of involving in dirty deals of increasing their banks capital shares and other illegal businesses, he said he was also tempted of such attempt but because he has covenant with God not to involve in such dirty deals, he just politely tell them to go away.
“I can tell you the temptation is there and you see it on a daily basis, but you have to make up your mind where you want to be, whether you want to write your name in gold or you want to chase mammon. You cannot serve God and mammon; they are two mutually exclusive activities and I have chosen to serve God and not mammon.”
If he would be consider going into politics or not, Lemo who is also part time pastor in Foursquare Church said that partisan politics is not what he wants to do now. “I align ideologically with people who are in power and if they are doing things right, I support them, but I don’t think for now I’m ready for it. I’ve never been a card carrying member of any political party, even as we speak. It is true that about two years ago, I was invited to contest as governor of Ogun State, but when I went around and I saw infrastructural development in the state, I told myself, if it is not broken, why mend it. Why do you want to run just for the sake of running? The person who is there now in his second term performed well during his first term, so I didn’t see the need to go and do that. For me, what is important is to continue to encourage those in public office to put in their best. Whichever political divide they are, if they are doing it right, they are my friend and if they are not doing it right, they are not my friend.