You have been captain for a while now. How has it been sir?
Yes, I have been captain since March 20015 and sincerely, it has been quite interesting and challenging as well. I have learned so many things that I never knew before. Things like human elements to the management of the club. I have also discovered that the truth is very hard to tell. There is this old adage that says that “there are many lizards lying on their belly, but no one knows which of them has bellyache.” That notwithstanding, it’s been a worthwhile experience. Many of our members are quite supportive and understanding but you must understand that the change going on is affecting everybody. And that explains why we didn’t have too many competitions. And I don’t think it’s only in Ikeja golf club anyway. If you go to other clubs, the story is not different.
Beside the challenges, we dedicated our effort towards providing a conducive Club house for members. If you check, you will see how much we have put between then and now.
The Lagos state government actually bankrolled the re-construction. Our original building was there but they came and twitched it here and there to give us what we have today.
Is it coincidental therefore that the commissioning or completion happened under your tenure?
No, if we had finished long ago we would have commissioned it. But inadequate funding stalled it until now.
How challenging is it trying to bring members who are equal under one’s control?
We have a constitution that spelt out a lot of things and there are disciplinary implications for flouting the rules. Golf is game of etiquette; we all know what to do whether we are equal or not, because when the chips are down the constitution will apply.
Is that what happened at the Ladies Section?
I wouldn’t want to talk about the issues at the Ladies Section for now because the case is in court. But if we are all disciplined, if we know our rights and obey our laws and rules properly, there would have been no problem. But don’t forget that what affects the ladies affects the club as a whole. What affects the Ladies Section also attracts the sympathy of men, and that makes it a bit more difficult to deal with. From what has happened so far, I still give the ladies lots of kudos, they are law abiding. But as I said earlier, you never can tell…
As regard the incident within my tenure we went through the constitutional requirements and what is expected was done. So, I wouldn’t want to explain more than that because the case is in court.
Over the past months the course has looked very neat and attractive. What value did you add?
It is not a question of adding anything per se, part of my philosophy right from the onset was that I can achieve what others can, especially the white man. That we blacks have the same brain as the whites. If you go to some golf courses out there, you will be amazed how well they maintain their courses. And that is why I said cleanliness will be my watchword, though I get frustrated a lot because some people are naturally less tidy. Otherwise the type of course I would have at this stage would have been a lot better.
The wiring meshes bordering the clubhouse from the hole-1 area looks good too. Did you have this plan before you came in?
They were part of the beautification plan. If I have my way, I will extend the wiring mesh to the end of the fence and divide the training area into two, get a car park somewhere there. But funding is limited.
Do you have any regret committing yourself to serving the members?
No. No regret at all, because nobody forced me, I wanted to do it. I told people I wanted to serve, and I don’t believe in telling people something and doing another thing. That is why I come to the club every day. Even my own golf is suffering because I have little time to play. That notwithstanding, it’s a service worth doing. I pray that I will have so many things to show for my effort at the end of my tenure.
You are a gentle golfer, with military background, but your quiet look gives you away as someone who can’t succeed in managing a club like Ikeja Golf Club…
Well, you might be right in a way. I am just like General Obasanjo, in his schooling days. They call him Mumu. But mumu went to school, mumu went to University, mumu became head of state and mumu became president. I don’t know why I have this kind of face but it’s all right. Now, when you see a man who looks gentle, be careful of him because if you push him too hard and he bounces back, you will be shocked.
In the military too, they say the man is gentle, but I was doing my job and effectively too, such that I spent 35-years and 89-extra days before I was retired. In fact, I was the last to retire among my mates.
How did you get into golf, sir?
Well, I fired my first golf shot in Abuja in 2002. This was because my Chief of Air Staff, Jonah Wuyep, was a golfer and I was his Chief of Plans. Every Wednesday at 2.pm, he carried his bag and say, ‘Ajumole, see you later’. But there was this occasion when we went to Ghana on a visit and had to go to Achimota Golf Club to play golf. When we got there they gave us two golf bags, and my Chief looked at me and said ‘are you going to walk round or play?’ And I replied, ‘I will walk round sir, because you know I don’t know how to play’. He said ‘ok, when we get back home we will explain to ourselves’. On the second day of our return, I saw a golf bag in my office. “This is a golf bag and you must play golf,” he said. I was actually on the corporate list for Air Force but I never had the time to play. But when I now got the golf bag, I didn’t have any choice but to play, so, I went to IBB Club one morning and that was the beginning.
I was posted out shortly after to Lagos and had to play in Ikeja. In fact, I got my handicap in Ikeja. I started with 27-handicap. That same year in 2003, I won a match play in Ikeja here: The Oyinlola Singles Matchplay.
Some say they regret starting golf late. Do you have such regret?
Of course, I have my regrets. When I was in charge of Airforce sports, I had people approach me that I should release fund for sponsorship to become professionals and I used to ask them then that ‘if you retire will it be useful to you?’ They say, ‘just approve’, and after they came back and said Oga come and join. To me, it was like ‘you mean I will leave football and be running after the smaller ball’? But after going to Abuja and returning, I even saw some of those colleagues who use to invite. It was like, ‘Oga’, so you are here now. It was then that I realise that I need this game.
At what point did this idea of becoming captain occur to you?
I retired in 2007 and in 2008 I came here fully to enjoy my golf. As a member here, I saw the way the management was working and I said to myself, ‘since it’s a free thing, anybody can come and serve’. So the following year, I applied to be Membership Secretary. But I lost the election. In 2010, I lost the election again. In 2011, I wanted to be Club Secretary but I lost the election yet again. At that point I told myself, ‘I am not going to contest again’. I will just play my golf and go home. Then in 2012, in the Tunji Adeyemo era, he said ‘this man that has been contesting, what does he want to offer?’ He then said, ‘let’s try him’. Adeyemo put my name on the nomination sheet and I got in unopposed. It was during that year that they saw what I could do. From there Sowole came in and said ‘don’t go’. It was after that the issue of who becomes the Vice Captain came up and I said, ‘why not?’ But then nobody really gave me a chance as my opponents were saying, ‘this one can’t do this or do that’. But I believe that whatever will be, will be and that only God helps.
Some golfers believe that one year is not enough for a captain to achieve much. Would you subscribe, therefore, to two years for a captain?
In term of personal businesses to attend to, if captainship is more than one year, it will run some people mentally imbalanced. It will affect one’s business, especially if you are the dedicated type. So one year is enough. Whatever you are able to do in one year; the next captain may come and even do better. Indeed, what everybody wants is development of this environment.
Is there is any decision you have taken so far that you didn’t like?
I was supposed to have taken some decisions which I didn’t even take for extraneous factors; because if I were to bring in my experience as a military man, I would have sacked so many people. But whatever decisions I have taken so far, I have no regret taking such decisions.
Final message to your members…
Let me first say that I have been very lucky because I have members that are very understanding. So, I will tell them to continue to remember that golf is a family game and they must not deviate from that spirit at all. They should also reckon that golf is not a do-or-die sport. I will urge them to continue to do the right thing, obey the rules and don’t keep enmity. They must not take over what does not belong to them and must always remember that in Ikeja, nobody is indispensable. Nobody should think he knows all. Above all, it should be golf first in Ikeja.