I go off on holiday, when I do, I go on a cruise - Paul Ukpabio's Blog


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Monday, 11 September 2017

I go off on holiday, when I do, I go on a cruise

-Tayo Orekoya (Pearl Awards President)

Tayo Orekoya with wife
In November, it will be another grand celebration of Nigeria's blue chip companies and others on the nation's capital market. The Pearl Awards has stood out over time, all of 22 years with an array of board room visioners and at the centre is the President, Tayo Orekoya.

In this interview with Paul Ukpabio, Tayo Orekoya who is a former banker, chartered accountant and retired director at Lagos owned organisation known as LAMATA, tells us the story of the awards and how life in the financial world has shaped his lifestyle over the years.

As the president of Pearl Awards Nigeria, what kind of awards is it, what does it stand for, and what does it celebrate?

Pearl Awards is dedicated to awarding excellence in the Nigerian Capital Market based on empirical data and actual performance of quoted companies. Pearl in itself is an acronym which is the performance, earnings and returns leadership awards.

How long has it been on?

The awards has been on for the past twenty-two years and it has a reputation of being one of the most consistent awards in the country having been held since 1995 till date. That you must agree with me, has been quite a long time.

How have you been able to sustained the awards for all that while?

I must say what has sustained the awards firstly has been the grace of God, and that is important and also the fact that it has been an award that is based on fact and figures. We decided right from day one to be different. We conceptualised an award whose criteria was clearly defined, we had our objectives well cut-out, we had the vision of the awards, which is to be a first class awards whose institution would be respected for its credibility, objectivity and fairness. This, we have been able to see through over two decades and beyond. 

Over the years, what has been the enthusiasm of participants in the Nigerian Stock Market towards the award?

Being nominated for the Pearls Awards in itself, is a feat for quoted companies. The reason is because it is clear that this is not an award based on sentiments, it is not about one company being liked more than the other. It is about results, facts and figures. The criteria is well defined.

Can you expatiate on the criteria?

You see, companies that emerge as nominees and eventual winners have proudly displayed their achievement at the Pearl Awards based on their annual report, annual general meeting and so on. When you go to the reception halls of most of these companies, you can see the laurels that they have won at the Pearl Awards well displayed. Beyond that, we also ensure that companies that have sustained their winning of the awards of the years are featured in a publication called 'Winning Strategy of Nigeria's Corporate Giants,' for them to share with others the strategies they have adopted over the years. And this is done by the market players themselves, that is the corporate chieftains, the regulators, the operators, and the shareholders. And this has also over the years made prospective investors to have confidence in the Pearl Awards.

This year's award ceremony, when is it going to take place?

It will be holding on November 26th at Eko Hotel, Victoria Island, Lagos and it promises to be another night of rewarding corporate excellence with glamour.

Lets know about the personality behind the Pearl Awards, what can you say about your person?

I am a chartered accountant by profession, also, I am a certified public private partnership specialist, from the Institute of Public Private Partnership in the United States of America. I was a banker for ten years, I have also been in the public sector. I have been a organisational development consultant, I have also been a director at a world bank assisted institution for twelve and a half years. I am happily married to my wife of over 31 years blessed with three wonderful children and a grand father of a wonderful grandson. God has been good to me and I know He will continue to be good to me.

What does success mean to you?

Success to me means having the greatest good for the greatest number of people. I measure success by the number of people that I am able to put a smile to on their faces, on a daily basis.

We understand that there has always been innovations annually in the award ceremony itself. What kind of innovations are you looking at this year?

Well, this year, we are bringing something different (laughs), but right now I think we should just keep it under wraps, the element of surprise is always alluring. We will definitely be having an award that will be worthwhile, there will be a huge success worthy of celebrating by the winning companies.

The last edition is still being talked about because of the way you spiced it up here and there, do you want to compare that with what you are going to have this year, is it going to be bigger?

The last edition we had, was our twentieth year edition. Yes, we had side attractions, multi cultural attractions, but this year, we will be coming from another dimension entirely. It still promises to be the usual Pearl Awards with glitz, glamour, and the, who is who in corporate Nigeria. We are going to introduce the CEO's round table. (Laughs) I just let out a part of it, definitely it is going to be a strong networking platform for corporate chieftains and in terms of entertainment, it is going to be the biggest corporate event in Nigeria once again.

Do you believe that we have cause to celebrate after the recession is gradually going out of the economy?

The truth is that, despite what is happening in the economy, if you have watch the results that have been coming out from the companies this year, you will find out that yes, we have had recession, but we are gradually getting out of the woods. And that is why the theme for this year's Pearl Awards is 'winning with tenacity.' So we want to separate the boys from the men. You know, we are going to celebrate companies that have been able to sustain their growth in spite of the unease in the economy, inspire of the global downturn, inspire of forex fluctuations, inspire of infrastructural decadence, and other challenges we are having in the economy. So despite the challenges that have been there, these companies are returning value to their stake holders. We need to celebrate them and we know that they deserve to be celebrated.

From what you have told us, it is obvious you have been hardworking over the years, so how you been able to cope with the family front? And how have you still been coping?

I am a family man to the core. Incidentally, we met when we were young. We were both barely 19 when we met, and today we still look young. I have been a family man but because God expects that every man should take responsibility for his family if you cannot be a successful man, you cannot be a successful leader. So the leadership must start in being able to lead your family, bringing up your children in the fear of God, and ensure that they follow the tenets of Christian life. In spite of the work, I create time for my children and by the grace of God, they all have done well, the baby of the family is going for her Masters degree, the others have finished their Masters degree and are engaged, so I am happy.

This year, the results so far sounds good, but what is your word to the regulators of this market at this time?

Well, my word to the regulators would be that they ensure and sustain the tempo and also ensure that they raise policy consistency. They should ensure that the market continues to consolidate on the current gains. Even the market is gradually getting out of the woods, the bulls have taken over and we want a situation that it will be sustained so that the returns on investment would be worth the investment made by shareholders. We also want the regulators to ensure consistent education on the capital market operations so that confidence can be fully restored. We want them to look at encouraging more local companies to get listed on the Nigeria Stock Market. They should look at the listing regulations and how these can be streamlined and stepped down so that more companies from the telecoms, oil sector can be listed. They need to get into the market. We believe that if the regulators do this, the market will be better for it. As it will be deepened and then we can consolidate on the gains.

How does Pearl Awards motivate the winning companies?

That is the key factor. First, we want to be able to engender a healthy competitiveness, that is one of the objectives of Pearl Awards among quoted companies. Whereby they would be able to utilise innovations, diversification and enhanced strategy to move forward their performance. When you celebrate good performance, the others will not only want to be nominated, but will also strive to achieve higher performance.

Can you assure investors that coming to the market this time around their fingers will not be burnt like before?

My advice will be that every investor whether retail or corporate that wants to come into the market, should ensure proper investor education. You must know the market and as much as possible, get professional advice in making investments. As much as possible also, you should have your risk well dimensioned and then you should ensure that you diversify your portfolio to ensure you have adequate returns.

With you celebrating the Awards this year, could that be a pointer to the fact that Nigerians should be celebrating, that the economy is coming out of the woods?

I think yes. That is because where we were last year is not where we are now. I mean we are not there yet, but we are far better. If you could recall, Pearl Awards did not hold last year as it was stepped down because of the mood of the economy, the nation was not worth celebrating. But now, things are getting better and I will want to implore the government to do more in terms of managing the economy, in terms of infrastructural regeneration, in terms of ensuring that we diversify the economy. The boost to the agricultural sector I think, is in the right direction. But government should also come up with incentives to keep supporting the average persons and also micro/small medium enterprises needs to be encouraged the more. Government is doing well in this direction, but I believe it can still do more. Again the age where people think that they can get paid employment should be discouraged. People should be encouraged to go on entrepreneurship. And if the conditions and the investment environment is fair, I believe we can get the economy back on track fully.

Life as a grand father, how are you coping?

(Laughs) Its so exciting, as a grandfather you see the greatness of God when you realise that your own child has been able to give birth to a child. I now understand why they say that grandfathers should play with their grand children (laughs), the feeling cannot be expressed until experienced. When I look at my grand son, I see the greatness of God. Its a great feeling.

Are you fulfilled?

I feel fulfilled to the glory of God. Fulfilment is actually inspired by the God in me. I thank God because it is not about just me, but about the things that God has done in my life. I appreciate Him very much.

Some people seem to believe that while the country was deeply in the recession, some other kind of people were making money within the same general economic downturn. How do you put that together?

The truth is, some people could have been benefiting, it is a natural rule of life. But what I think is more beneficial is that a greater number of people should be benefiting. We want to have an economy that is egalitarian, where everybody is able to live averagely, comfortably and conveniently well. It is not a case of determining how the economy is doing, based on the number of people flying private jets, while others are wallowing in poverty. We want an economy that is fair, where people do their normal business and earn a living and from that earning, they can send their children to school, invest in the capital market, get some returns and from there also have a room over their heads and everybody is living a normal life; rather than a few people benefitting from under an economy that is in recession.

The theme for this year's awards you say is 'wining with tenacity.' You have been there year in year out, how have you been able to hold unto that tenacity to keep it going?

I must tell you that it has not been a bed of roses. But one thing that has been clear is that by the grace of God, we had a will to succeed. Right from day one, we determined that this awards will be our contribution to developing the Nigerian capital market and the economy and we are not going to back down. When it was tough, like it is said, the tough gets going, and tough times never lasts, but tough people do. The good thing was also that, right from day one, the awards had credibility. It had integrity. These paid off in the long term and we have been able to sustain the Pearl Awards to the glory of God. So we have kept our name, we have kept it out of controversies, there has not been issues about the winners and we publish a book 'how the winners emerge each year, facts and figures.' That we usually present every year at the awards night. So far, it has been a success story.

You said you met your wife early, did you also marry early?

Yes, we did. I married her at the age of twenty-five after six years courtship. It has been the best decision I took in my life. My wife and I have been friends and still friends today.

What attracted you to her?

Everything about her attracted me. The moment I saw her then, something told me she is my life partner. Way back in 1980, I was 19, and I told her, 'I am going to marry you, and you will be my life partner. I promise you by the grace of God.'

What was her response?

She replied, 'are you sure?' And I said yes, 'the future is bright, we will be there together.' I thank God that we are living that future today.

What does she do?

She read business administration. She is the director of finance and administration of CITC Consulting.

Advice for the youth?

Youths should be focus in life, to have a direction and then to imbibe total submission and obedience to God. When God directs, you can't go wrong.

You are not all about work, what do you do for play?

I like watching movies, I like going on vacation and when I do, I like to go on a cruise. I see that a lot of Nigerians don't know how to enjoy themselves. I was introduced to it seven years ago, and it has been a wonderful experience. I have gone to the Bahamas, Mexico, Jamaica and I have had a good time.

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