A seasoned career coach who spent almost two decades in the banking sector, ardent writer and a socioeconomic analyst, Bayo Adeyinka, last night shared a breathtaking testimony of his life as a struggling young man in the South West region of Nigeria, and how he progressed from a driver-salesman around Ring Road – Ojo axis of the sprawling city of Ibadan, to an award-winning banker getting accolades from General Managers of banks from all over Africa. Mr Adeyinka, who is also a preacher, has been on the forefront of entrepreneurship coaching nationwide for several years now, and commands lots of regard among the Human Resources Management experts in the banking and finance sector of Nigeria’s economy.
Back in 2018, sequel to the ongoing argument bothering on a lady advising her fellow women not to marry a man who earns only ₦50000 or below, Mr Adeyinka was quoted by Motherhood In Style Magazine thus: “When I met my wife, my salary was N33,000 monthly. That was what I earned as an entry level hire then. Yes, I agree that N33,000 that time had more value than the same amount now. However, to put things in proper perspective, a SIM card around the time when I got married in 2002 was about ₦20,000. My salary was therefore just a bit more than the cost of a SIM card. I recall that banks actually gave loans to customers to buy ‘handsets’ then… My wife was in her final year at Olabisi Onabanjo University when we decided to get married. I was 27 and she was 25. I’d been working for barely two years. I didn’t have a car when we started dating but later I was able to ‘buy’ a Volvo 340 DL through a miraculous intervention. The dealer gave me the car and I paid in two instalments- with the first instalment six months after I got the car. I remember driving the car the first time to Olabisi Onabanjo University where she was and she and her friend hitching a ride back to Ibadan from Ago-Iwoye. I slept off on the wheel, veered off the road and almost went off a cliff. My fiancee and her friend were also fast asleep!
“As we planned for the wedding, a few of my friends were scared for me. They felt it was too early and I didn’t have ‘anything’. My wife was writing her project. I couldn’t afford a ready-made suit for the wedding. I went to Ekotedo where a tailor who was introduced to me sewed my suit and that of my best man, Kola Fabeku. I bought the striped material from Mandillas in Lagos. My wife’s wedding gown was sewn by a young male fashion designer around Agbowo.
I couldn’t afford a new leather box to carry my wife’s items during the ‘engagement’ ceremony so I borrowed from Titilayo Tijani who got married a few months before us. My wife magnanimously put some old clothes in the box. I couldn’t afford the list given to me on a 33k salary. On the engagement day, I locked up the box with a padlock and put the key in my pocket. During the ceremony, they wanted to open it so as to look at the clothes I bought for my wife but I joined them in looking for the key. After the ceremony, I took back half of the tubers of yam I bought and a bag of salt. Our new family needed the food more than them.”
Professor Bayo Adeyinka, a great writer who authored “40 Lessons I Learnt Along the Way”, advised that youths need to engage themselves in any legitimate employment and luck will find them if they are diligent with what they are doing.
Adeyinka, who is never shy from offering his opinion on any current affair, had shortly after the election of Muhammadu Buhari as president in 2015, observed that the northern states have more political impetus over the southern part because they are cohesive in their attitude. This gives them an edge over the south as they have far more political participation. He said that the southern part of Nigeria has a lot to learn from the northern people in terms of popular participation in governance and politics.
Below is his testimony which he shared last night:
This Time 20 Years Ago, I Was A Driver Salesman
I sat for an interview with hundreds of candidates. The interview was handled by a foremost fast moving consumer goods company. We initially thought we would be employed by the company.
It was when the final 8 candidates were selected that we were informed we would work for a distributor. Salary was 8k monthly. Scope of job? Driver salesman- you’ll pick up goods from the warehouse, load into your bus, sell along an allocated route and meet specific daily targets
I needed a job badly. I was tired of sitting at home. So I picked up the offer. I couldn’t drive well then but I wasn’t going to fold my hands and do nothing. I wouldn’t allow what I couldn’t do well interfere with what I could do.
At least, I can try. I still recall the first time the key of my bus was handed over to me. It was a branded bus, with images of items sold all over- from shampoo to sanitary pads, confectionaries and other items. A lady was paired with me on that first day.
The bus was a manual drive and I started the ignition with the vehicle in gear. It lurched forward. My partner was scared and the look on her face was as if she doubted if I could actually drive. I told her I was used to driving cars and not buses.
Sometimes, all you need is just courage.
My assigned route was Ring Road to Ojoo in Ibadan. I prospected stores on that axis. I pitched to clients and demonstrated the benefits of our products
I recall that a particular brand of sanitary pad came out and I was at the University of Ibadan to demonstrate how that pad worked better for ladies. I took one out and poured ink to show the absorbent qualities. Some laughed at me. I must admit it took guts to do that.
But I was willing to succeed at sales. I had a daily target to meet. It was a very difficult job- loading cartons of goods, driving, selling, helping prospects and customers arrange their shelves and so on.
I remember I had a pack of multivitamins in the glove compartment of that bus which I took because of the stress.
It was while I was driving that bus that I got a bank offer- I resumed on May 30, 2000, a Tuesday. 20 years after I was a driver salesman, I’ve worked for 7 banks.
I’ve won awards. At one time when I was a Branch Manager, my team sold the highest volume of a particular product and I was rewarded with an all-expense paid trip to Dubai for 2 weeks. I was lodged at the Four Points by Sheraton at Bur Dubai.
I went on the desert safari and had a great time. That was my first ever visit to the UAE. At another time, I consummated a transaction which was the biggest of that type that year all over Africa.
I was over the moon when MDs of various countries of that bank sent me congratulatory messages. I’ve supervised Regions and worked across various geographies. I’ve met people I thought I could only meet in my dreams many years ago. But it started from that driver salesman job.
No experience is ever wasted.
So don’t be discouraged. Work hard at whatever you’re doing at the moment. Give it your best shot. The take home may not actually take you home but go for the experience. Give value and be outstanding.
There is dignity in labour so don’t think any work or job is beneath you. Sometimes, you need to start very low so you’ll be able to last when you rise. Don’t despise the days of little beginnings. Little beginnings often make super endings.
Look ahead with joy.
You may not know for sure what the future holds but if you know Who holds the future, you’re safe. Keep moving. Keep developing yourself. Open your eyes for opportunities. Be ready to take risks. Build relationships. Get ready to fail.
If you don’t know the sadness of failure, you can’t really appreciate the joys of success. Failure is a good teacher. It teaches far more brilliantly than success. Just make sure you don’t give up. If you don’t give up, you’ll certainly go up.
Then 20 years after or even less, you’ll be ready to share your own story. Like I’m doing. If my story could change, yours can also.”
Mr Adeyinka therefore advised youths not to be scared of, or despise starting small. As the Holy Bible would say, do not despise the days of little beginning.