‘Empowerment’ is one of those terms I believe has been somewhat misinterpreted. When we hear about empowerment, we tend to pair it with social issues like female empowerment or youth empowerment. With this comes an unconscious passive approach to life as we are consistently waiting for somebody to empower or motivate us to succeed. A few exceptional people look beyond their surroundings, empower themselves, and strive to become successful in business. One of such people is Samuel Egube.
Sam Egube is a registered Civil Engineer with an MBA from IESE, University of Navarra, Barcelona. He has also worked in Arthur Andersen & Company (now KPMG professionals), United Bank for Africa Plc, NNB International Bank, First Bank Nigeria Plc and Diamond Bank Plc, where he held very senior positions. His journey to success has led him from working as a commercial bus driver and refuse dump coordinator to a successful businessman. Beyond Banking, Consulting and Engineering, Sam Egube is a versatile writer, a mentor and a coach.
‘Thoughts from a wealthy Perspective’- his debut book – was launched at the Muson Centre on the 4th of August, 2016, with various dignitaries in attendance. The book which challenges some of the misconceptions around wealth and poverty has gotten worldwide recognition since its release. Here is an exclusive interview with Sam Egube.
LW: You have quite a portfolio- from Civil Engineering to Banking; what gave birth to the inspiration to write a book?
Sam: Well I am living in an environment right now, where a lot of change is required. I think Africa has remained ‘developing’ for so long and it is a result of the way we interpret our cultures and the result of the structure of our society. Therefore, I just believed that to leave something as a legacy for the earth is important, you never know how much impact you can make. Sometimes even the impact you make continues after you are gone. It was my view that I needed to leave a legacy.
The biggest legacy I felt I could leave are my thoughts on different issues. So, ‘Thoughts from a wealthy perspective’ is a bevy of thoughts on different issues, which I felt will inform the minds of those who read it, hopefully will change their mind-set and make them have a rethink as to the way they view life. The important thing is that it is documented and if I wanted to bequeath anything to my kids, I think these thoughts are going to be a major portion of it.
The other aspect of this is that there are certain pillars of our life pursuit that are driven by thoughts which we extracted from conversations with our parents, mentors and having conversations with people as we grew up. Those things have influenced me a lot, but they were just a few thoughts; so I imagined that if those same people documented the string of thoughts that influenced their lives, and I had the benefit of accessing a lot more of their philosophies of life, how much more development would I have gained as a result. Basically, it was the idea to leave a legacy that drew me to write.
LW: How do you manage Consulting, Banking, and everything else with writing?
Sam: Okay, you have 24 hours and therefore you need to allocate time. Things do not allocate time, you give them time. At every point in your life, there are things that are more important than others; therefore, you allocate them more time. If you do not think in that way, then what you would eventually experience is that you do not have time for what is important. It is about time management and how you weigh your passions. When you look at all of that, you are able to allocate time.
I did write at a point in time where the intensity around the thoughts and the need to document something rose up in its scale of importance compared to my other commitments. I allocated time to it. Nowadays, there is a day in my calendar which I call my writing day. I am either posting something on Facebook or Twitter or writing a book or even an article. I just believe that if you do not give it time, you wouldn’t have time for it. That is how I managed around all the things I am engaged with. Sometimes it is difficult, because there is a clash of demands. If I need to have a board meeting, for example, that day being a writing day for me will be challenged, its time slot have to be reassigned.
LW: Is this day monthly or weekly?
Sam: It is once a week. There is always something to say to people or to say to the society. An encouragement, an instruction, an idea, a thought, an imagination. Just as we wake up and there is no way we are quiet all day, it is in that same way we write, documenting these thoughts to an envisioned wider audience. As long as we speak every day, we can actually write every day.
LW: Having read your book, I noticed the tone was highly controversial. Is there a reason for this?
Sam: One of the ways I have developed in life as a person is to ask questions. If I need to learn, I must be able to ask questions the way they come in my mind. Generally in the African culture and maybe other cultures as well; people do not like to ask direct questions because they feel they may offend other people just by asking them. There are certain areas, especially in the African culture where you don’t even want to ask about certain things. For example, we don’t talk about sex a lot in Africa. We just feel it is something reserved for some particular situations.
Globally, there are certain words that are now seen as profane or wrong words. Words which used to be normal in the past but are seen now as either derogatory, racially sensitive, or curse words. Therefore, a lot of change is going on. I feel that sometimes to get to the heart of a matter, you need to ask exactly what you want to ask. If you ask the wrong questions, you will get the wrong answers. It sounds controversial in some areas because I am truly not scared to say exactly what I mean. I have tried to be as mild as possible but sometimes, we need to jolt people to think. If you want to jolt people to think, you would not jolt them with words or ideas that will pass unnoticed.
So in the way I talk and have my conversations, I like to explore areas that people avoid. I like to understand it, talk about it and learn about it. Many times it sounds controversial but I am sure everybody has an opinion on those things. Many times, we want our opinions to be politically correct. I believe people have a right to be different and I believe that your uniqueness is in your difference. When you say something is really valuable, it is because it is different; if it was common then it loses a lot of its value. If we need to do great things, we need to do things differently, we need to explore things that have not been explored before. We need to take risks even with our conversations in our relationships and that’s what I’m about.
LW: The perspective with which you tackled some delicate issues was that of only the wealthy. Some would say that this was somewhat one sided. What’s your take?
Sam: Well, if you read the book, you would understand that people have biases. I would say it is important for you to have a bias but also know that other people have biases as well, and we need to respect that. Even though you say it is one sided, I don’t believe that those you refer to as the poor really need to be on that side. So I do not think wealth has a side.
One of the things I said in the book is the fact that the race is not for the swift. The book explained that it means the race is for all of us. Wealth is not a side that belongs to a few. It is a side that belongs to all of us. When I am talking from a wealthy perspective, I am talking from a side that we all should belong in. Now, having said that, I know that there are certain things that we have embraced in our thoughts that convinces us that we do not belong to that side- in other words, the wealthy side. I am actually speaking in a manner of speech to say come to where you belong, not that you do not belong here. I am actually chastising the lazy thoughts of those who have embraced poverty to change their position.
Now, when I say ‘poor people’ it would be defined as anyone who has accepted poverty as a state. It is not just anybody who doesn’t have money or wealth because your current state is not who you are. There were times I had money than other times but it did not change the idea that I had a wealthy mind, a wealthy estate and a wealthy status. The first thing really required to move people from a state of poverty to a state of wealth is that they do not embrace that state (poverty) as a final state.
We first must also see that we are wealthy and begin to take steps that makes that belief our reality. I don’t see it as taking sides. Actually, if you read the book, there is a part where I said 1% of the world’s population is wealthier than the 99%. I said what would the 99% do about it? Meaning that they have a right to be a part of that 1%. Why are they not a part of the 1% ? Why shouldn’t the poor make it 2% or 3% by just becoming part of the wealthy? It is the right of man to be fruitful, to be productive. It should not be interpreted as a book against the poor; it is a book actually for the wealthy. It is an invitation for the poor to come home to the reality of being wealthy where they belong.
LW: How has the response to the book been so far?
Sam: It’s been, I must confess, amazing. We’ve had people buying from all over the world; it’s on Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and outlets and distribution centers across the world. It has also been great in Nigeria; I have hardly seen anyone who read it that didn’t feel it was outstanding, unique, inspiring or challenging. Sometimes when you say the things that people are not willing to say, it connects with something inside them. It is just that now you have someone helping them and asking the questions that they really would have loved to ask.
Sometimes we don’t ask these questions because of our religious biases and our respective cultures. Some of those cultures are actually different from what the religion actually teaches but we have mixed some of our cultures with religion and religion now looks like those cultures. Based on that posturing, it is unacceptable to ask certain questions like I said earlier. So I have been really encouraged; I actually feel like coming out with a revised version at some point.
As you interact with life you generate thoughts, there are a lot of lessons that come from it and those lessons, if you believe in them, and you need to communicate them, will really help somebody. Lessons that help national development that molds the minds of our people, that motivates them to go in the right direction and makes them do bigger things. I think we need to participate in spreading those kind of news. The news about Africa, the good of Africa, the good of our people, the good of our land, the good of our possibilities and, I dare say, the good of our leaders.
Our leaders are not all about bad; there are certain good elements about them and if we explore these elements and inform our people of the good, maybe when they also become leaders they will remember the good rather than the bad. But if we keep speaking of evil, what we leave for the coming generation is a memory of evil and they have no other way than to be less evil when we really just want ‘good’.
LW: Should we be expecting more books from you?
Sam: Certainly. There are two books I’m working on right now. One is focused on relationships and it is coming from the thinking that relationships are the heart of development and humanity. We should be strategic and unapologetic about how we select and mind our relationships because our true worth is driven by the value we can extract from the relationships we acquire. The truth is, relationships are only driven by the value we bring to the table.
The other one is a story about myself and lessons drawn out of that. I’m still working on that. Hopefully, the one on relationships would go out first because I like it a lot, it is the most developed idea in my mind and has stayed longer with me than any other thought. It was just the difficulty to communicate it that made it take time, otherwise it would have been the first book. It comes also from the idea that the principles for relationship management are the same. Whether it is in romantic relationships or business relationships. We tend to think they are different. For example, in romantic relationships even when we know there is competition we don’t want to talk about it. The book focuses on embracing the idea that competition does exist in every kind of relationship and should be embraced. It will help us improve the value that is possible.