‘My posture as a critic earned me mandate to run as Lagos country club president’ – Bamkole
Arc. Funmi Bamkole is the new president of Lagos country club. He succeeded Chief Tajudeen Akande FCA, in October last year. In this interview with Daniel Adeleye, the president of the elistist club debunked the widespread believe that only people with deep pockets win election in the club, how been a foremost criticism earned him the seat of number one member of the club, the economic impact of pandemic on the club, the effect of insecurity on tourism sector in Nigeria, amongst others.
How does it feel to be a president of Lagos Country Club?
So far, I will say it’s been fulfilling. I have been a member of the club for about 27 years. So attaining the position of president is like a pinnacle of my club participation. Lagos Country Club is a divert club full of interesting people and being at the helm of affairs, for me has been very interesting. Of course there are challenges but we are happy that in our normal community way we have known how to involve in such issues. So for me, having won the election just recently has been so good.
What really inspired you to contest the position of number one seat of the club?
Like I said, I’ve been a member of the club for almost three decades. And am one of those who one can easily called critics of the people. I have always been wanted to give advice or suggestion on how things can be done or improved upon. And so when the election for the office came, a number of people did come up to me and said, since you know how to criticize the position is now open, why don’t you come and try your luck and let us see what you can make of it. And of course judging by our record of participation over the years in other smaller position of service we felt that we are in position to render service. And so we were inspired to come with hope of improving on the past performances of Lagos Country Club.
Since assumption of office, what has been your greatest challenge?
We came in and met a number of disciplinary issues on the ground that intend to rock the fabric of the club but we thank God that the management council under our leadership, we were able to manage it. Unlike other club, we don’t find our members going to court for litigation. We have able to manage the crisis that we inherited because this club is a family club.
And of course we are all aware of the pandemic which has restricted our activities very significantly. Because of the pandemic we cannot do much because we have to abide by the guiding rules of COVID. We have to congregate outside and maintain social distancing. And that has automatically limit how to socialize and interact with one another. So those had been our immediate challenges.
As a managing director of a construction company, how do you combine running that organization with that of multidimensional club like Lagos Country Club?
You know at a certain level; you have to be multitask. The presidency of this club is not full time management. My responsibility is more to ensure that every other person does what they are supposed to do. As a management council, we are collective. The sectional committees, the administrative staff, the managers and likewise in my office I have staff members. So we rely on each other to get things done. In fact, apart those two offices you mentioned, I have other interests which I also superintend. But I ensure that we act collectively in all the interests. And country club for instance, the chairmen of sections are doing well, the portfolio officers are doing well. The club management staff are doing their works very well then the work of government should be reduced.
What really drives you?
My challenge is that I cannot see something wrong and close my eyes. And I’ve been doing that all my life. Each time there are complaints I got up and do something about it. And in my own little way before anybody complain to me I invite the person to join me and work together. So if I think I can make a difference it’s better for me to try and make the difference rather than complaining about those people in the other side. And that has been my guide.
There is a widespread believe that only people with deep pockets actually win elections in Lagos country club. How true is this and was it applied to you?
Well, I don’t know about that saying but let me just say this, one thing about this club is that you cannot get more than one vote from a member. There is no room for malpractice of any sort. So every vote you have is earned. Our members are so strict that you cannot put a wool over their eyes. Practically everything that went for my election was donated. We run very low budget election and we are lucky to clinch victory because we called it people’s movement.
What would be your appraisal of hospitality industry in Nigeria; Do you think the industry has fared better?
Although am not a professional in that regards but yet you can classify us as one of them. The economy of our country has been a challenge which has been having implications on tourism and hospitality industry in the country. Unfortunately, when things were good the industry was not developed to good potentials. We have issues bothering from economy, security and now the pandemic has also reared its head to compound the issues on ground. So under these challenges there is no way the industry can thrive. We are fortunate here that we are private club and we are like enclave within which we are able to guide ourselves appropriately and make the best of bad situation which the country has found itself. So we guide our own rules and manage our own expectations. And that’s what we are trying to do here for now. But in terms of general quality of tourism and hospitality am very expectant that by the time we are able to chase COVID and by the time economy and security improve, things will automatically look up in the industry.
With the current security challenge in Nigeria, don’t you think future of the industry bleak if government did not take steps to curb the situation?
We are hitherto given suggestion to government, but again I will say that government needs to take security very important. Security is the foremost problem. The inability to move freely affects every other thing in life not only tourism and hospitality industry we are talking about. It affects education, trade, health and all other sectors. So government need to rethink and rejig the security apparatus in the country. And again I want to also join other Nigerians who have suggested that security should be devolved as much as possible to smaller units of government, that is, region, state and local government. If this is done I think every other thing will follow.
What has been the economic implication of the pandemic on Lagos country club?
Yes, it has affected so much in the respect of fund generation. As the saying goes that nothing can be done without money. Even in terms of annual contributions the pandemic has affected that too because some of our members have stopped coming and they are not paying. But yet we have to continue to pay salary and fulfill other financial obligations. So we are greatly challenged by the pandemic. And also because we are private club, most of the things we do come from sponsorship and for the fact that we closed down both social and sporting activities due to the COVID, that has closed door for sponsorship and that inflow has been blocked. So in terms of funding, the pandemic has brought those challenges which were not there before. But again we are hopeful that very soon the pandemic will go away and life will come back to normal and very optimistic that hospitality industry will bounce back after the pandemic. Apart from Lagos country club, my business revolves around hospitality industry and so am very optimistic the industry will bounce back well.
Can you tell us how much the club has lost to the pandemic?
Well I will say in terms of attendance, we are averaging about 30-40 percent of the total attendance we had pre-COVID. And that itself pose a big loss. If we have 30 or 40 percent attendance that means, we have that amount of subscription intake. Going round the club now you will meet only few people whereas at closing hours, we were all struggled to enter into the door. In terms of actual figure, we have not done any calculation to that but I can tell you that in terms of sponsorship this year we must have lost up to a hundred million naira to the pandemic. And that is at the Centre. At the sections too, we have ten sections and if you quantify it that each of them has five million naira lost, that means we are looking at about 150 million naira in sponsorship that we have lost to COVID this year.