In this interview with Dr. Dauda Lawal a Nigerian foremost banker, strategic business adviser and politician, he speaks with PLEASURES Magazine (https://PleasuresMagazine.com.ng/) on the secrets to achieve greatness, his early childhood and rise to the top. How he narrowly missed being Governor of Nigeria’s North western state of Zamfara and plan for 2023.
Early childhood and education
Dr. Dauda Lawal was born on 2nd September, 1965 in a town called Gusau, Zamfara state in Northwestern Nigeria. He had his primary school in Guga located in the present day Katsina state where he was being raised by his grandparents and proceeded for his secondary school education in Kachia Local Government Area in Kaduna State. Lawal is known to be one of the key players in the financial sector of the Nigerian economy. After working for his father’s company for two years after graduation from the University, he proceeded to work for the Nigerian Embassy in Washington DC for 10 years before returning to Nigeria and in 2003 began working with First Bank of Nigeria Limited now PLC. Over the next decade, Lawal steadily climbed the corporate ladder to become an Executive Director, simultaneously establishing himself as a leading figure in the finance sector. He holds an MSc and BSc in Political Science and International Relations from the prestigious Ahmadu Bello University, ABU, Zaria.
Fantastic early years
My growing up was fantastic, fantastic in the sense that life was so good at that time. We enjoyed communal living even though we were isolated because we resided at the Government Reserved Area (GRA). At that time, only a few people reside there but we had a fantastic life as I said because there was nothing like the fear of being kidnapped or any major security challenges. You could walk freely to your neighbours’ house without fear of being kidnapped because at that time, every child belongs to the entire community, so life was good and even when I left for secondary school, it was a boarding school and then life was also good because we could afford everything in terms food and even the environment was so serene and you would always want to stay in school even during the holidays.
Lessons learnt from my hardworking family
I must say that I come from a very modest family background. My father was a banker. He worked with the current First Bank which was the British Bank for West Africa (BBWA) and later became Standard Bank and after the nationalization policy under the General Murtala Mohammed regime, it became First Bank of Nigeria Plc. So, I will say I come from a very hardworking family, and it has taught me a great lesson even my relationship with people and the community at large.
My father thought me to be independent
I can recall that all my father used to tell me was, I want you to be independent and take care of yourself and don’t assume your father is rich. So really, it sank in me and after I worked with him for two years and I had learned the basic skills in trading, I made up my mind to be independent as he wanted all his children to be and this informed my decision to travel abroad.
I was underutilized in the United States
When I was working at the Nigerian Embassy in Washington DC, I felt I was underutilized and I always love to move forward to something more challenging. So, when the banking offer came in Nigeria I grabbed it. And I joined the new environment and something totally different from what I studied in school. In the beginning, it was challenging but I knew what I wanted and was ready for those challenges. I brought myself so low that I was able to learn from my juniors at that time.
Fulfilment as a banker
As a banker, I was much fulfilled. I joined banking at the manager grade, and was promoted from a Senior Manager to Principal Manager and from there I became the Assistant General Manager. I moved on from there to become the Deputy General Manager and finally the General Manager. From there I was selected by the Board of Trustees to be one of the Executive Directors of the bank. And that is really something I can say I am proud of. The Nigerian banking industry is performance-driven, and I am proud of how my team contributed to this growth.
Commitment and determination were the secret of my success as a banker
The secret of my success is commitment. I was committed and determined to succeed and also to be one of the major players in the banking sector. So, determination is also one of my moving forces. Secondly, hard work. This is because determination and hard work are both juxtaposed as you can be determined but not hardworking so along the line, you abandon your drive. But I was determined and put so much effort to learn and make a difference in the banking sector. My relationship also matters because if there is anything that helped me in my entire life, it is a good and mutual relationship that I cultivated in my secondary and university days and I find it very easy. Anywhere I go, I meet someone either my senior, junior or colleague and that has made life so easy for me. Integrity is also a way of life because life without integrity is meaningless. As far I am concerned, integrity is what can make you succeed in life and generally. Banking is all about trust; it involves the process where someone will trust you with his money. Trust to me should be embraced not just in your financial dealings alone but in all ramifications of life.
Nigeria is a competitive environment
You know you are living in a very competitive environment in Nigeria, and you know you are in an industry where on a weekly, quarterly, half a year and annually, it is competition. It is not an easy journey because you find yourself in the midst of different persons scrambling for the same thing, different characters, different thinking but at the end, I did my best and became successful in the banking sector.
Difficulty coping with the rigid environment
There is now a complete transformation in the banking sector. If I tell you about my experience in the banking sector, it was very challenging. First Bank, where I worked is one of the old generation banks. It was extremely difficult coming from a background where I can socialize to a very rigid environment, a kind of military barracks. When I joined the bank, there was nothing like relationship management. First Bank, Union Bank, and UBA, where like kings were customers will be looking for you so they were relaxed and comfortable because that integrity I was talking about was the driving force for the success of the bank. People felt you can put your money and confidently get it back, but not only that, even the culture changed, from the US to such organizations where I have to adapt, it was something not really easy trying to adapt. At that time people looked at me as an alien, because I was coming in with different concepts and ideology which others were not used to and I was encouraging them too. Initially, I had to accept who they were and at the same time, engaged them on how life should be and how relationships work. And how to satisfy your customers.
My boss Ola Oyelola was my mentor in the banking sector
Interestingly, I have a boss who was very passionate about my career in the banking sector. For some reasons, we always connect his name. Ola Oyelola was then the Executive Director in charge of the north, a gentleman I will never forget. From day one, he believed in me, and he guided me through many things and he is part of my success story because I can remember an incident that happened when I was a Senior Manager and was given the responsibility of the Area Manager. And that portfolio officially can only be managed by an Assistant General Manager. I remember someone telling me what he went through to convince the board to allow me to handle the position at that time and that was the beginning of my turning point because I had to ensure that I did not disappoint him, and as God will have it, I was able to transform that Area Office to one of the most successful business offices in the entire bank and I was given an award as the most enterprising staff in the bank. Generally speaking, considering the challenges that came with the job, only a high degree of commitment and upholding the right standard can make you and your team succeed.
How trust and integrity made me to succeed
Integrity is one key element that helps to shape your way of thinking and give comfort to your business partner. What people majorly look at in business is your integrity. Most people are of the opinion that if they find themselves in any kind of business relationship, they should rest assured that everyone will keep to their part of the agreement. This is not something you buy in the market, so you have to work hard to achieve it and don’t get distracted by anyone. Because there are lots of temptations especially now when young people want to be at the top by all means instead of going through the process. I want to be like that man overnight and in most cases, they crash easily because they don’t painstakingly grow through the process of leadership. You also have to be determined in life, because of challenges that come with the work, it could be the environment, your boss, or even the work you do. Maybe you see someone elsewhere doing the same and you feel you can go to work anytime and do whatever task given to you with a lackadaisical attitude approach, just note that people are watching you, you have to put in your best.
Never underrate anybody
I am always happy to hear that I made huge impact in the lives of people, especially the young generation but to me, I just feel it is nothing so difficult or special in terms of bringing people close to me and be a role model to them irrespective of who they are and where they came from or even ethnic background. The most important thing is, there is value in every human being. Never underrate anybody in your life even the most junior officers. Don’t feel because someone is the most junior officer you can bully him or do things to frustrate him, dignity matters. Treat people with dignity. When you do that, no matter how terrible the challenges, you can excel in it.
At Credence Capital, we offer Advisory services and Assets Management
This is basically about myself and few friends who decided to set up this company after retirement from the banking sector. As you may know, when you are used to doing so many things as the Executive Director, you will not want to be idle so we set up Credence Capital and what we do is advisory services. We also do assets management and stocks as a company. It is more of a company that provides financial services to individuals and the government. Going by what we experience in the country and looking at what the country is going through in terms of fiscal and monetary policies, the fact that the country is not doing too well and so many regulators making life and doing business a little bit difficult. Right now, our focus is Nigeria. We have both government and individuals and companies looking for one thing or the other but we are not limiting ourselves to the country alone. When our services are needed outside the country, we are willing and ready to take it up. We have people showing interest in what we do in the United Arab Emirates, the United Kingdom, Switzerland and so on, but this COVID-19 issue has slowed down business across the world but then we have people coming from Turkey and other parts of the country keying into what we do and getting advisory services because they need to understand the kind of people they are doing business with in Nigeria. Sadly, because of the bad name, 419 and on, so we are doing due diligence for a lot of companies.
We plan to be a global brand in the next five years
We are mindful of the global challenges but we are keeping in touch. We do have virtual meetings and if there is any need to service any company, we are doing that. In the next five years, we will be going more international than local. That is our goal, to become a global brand.
Again, there must be trust and diligence
My leadership philosophy is simple, people should trust you and you must be diligent. Even your staff, when they trust you, they can go to any extent to make you succeed and I see it in all my staff because they see in me somebody they can trust and they are ready to work hard to do the right thing. They work round the clock for me to succeed.
There is a reward for Integrity and hard work
It still goes back to integrity and hard work, when you combine these two things, there is nothing you cannot become. The way you handle the business you find yourself is the same way after the lifecycle of your current job. So that integrity and trust must be imbibed to succeed.
Why smart people are diversifying, especially in a country like Nigeria
Looking at what is happening globally, there is a need to diversify especially in a country like Nigeria where everything relies on the government, and the earlier the better we discover that the government cannot do everything, the better for us. Smart people are doing well for themselves, doing business and excelling so it is important to be optimistic and that is the way forward for the younger generation. We need to be more enterprising and key into all aspects of business and do it with passion.
We need more tolerance in Nigeria
We should forget about the issue of religion and ethnicity, rather these are the stumbling blocks, there is a need for more tolerance for our progress. As a nation, if God doesn’t want us to be one, we would be a different nation so that should be a good reason and basis for young people to be tolerant of one another.
We must believe in ourselves and the country
I think the most important thing for us to realize is that we are Africans and nobody will come and make our country great for us, we must believe in ourselves and our country and begin to think about the way to make Africa and our country better. Also, as an individual, you need to set goals for yourself then sit down and carefully design how you can achieve them. However, while trying to achieve your goals, if any issue comes up you have to analyze them, find a solution and move forward.
Responsible people should join politics
During the last election, I ran for the governorship election in Zamfara State, and Zamfara was in the media for what you can imagine and then I was the consensus candidate for the All Progressives Congress, APC, for Zamfara but of course, we have big challenges where the Court nullified everything and give it to the opposition party and there is still hope and we are looking at the possibility of coming back in 2023 because it is time responsible people join politics not leaving it in the hands of people that will take us to nowhere. Let’s keep hope alive, committed, and determined in transforming this country.