This is the story of Abib Olamitoye the chairman and chief executive officer of Tolu Medical Centre, Ajegunle Lagos; Ibadan Central Hospitals; Academy Suites Hotel and author of many business books. Presently he’s in the league of Robert Kiyosaki, Miguel Ruiz, Steven Covey, Dale Carnegie among others who are imparting knowledge in the lives of the people through their works. In this interview with our Publisher/Editor-In-Chief Segun Ogunbunmi, he speaks about his life and how he conquered poverty. Excerpts…
Can you tell us who you are sir?
I’m Abib Olamitoye a medical practitioner, businessman, husband father and friend of Global News.
Your background, I mean your parental, educational and others.
I was born some years ago in a farm. My first 12 years in life was inside a hamlet, a mud house and from there I would go to school on Monday and return on Friday. My parents were poor in terms of money but were rich in love and kindness. They were hard working. I later followed my brother to Ajegunle in Lagos after my primary school. From there I completed my secondary school education and proceeded to the university, and here I am today.
Which schools did you attend?
I attended three primary schools in Ikare. I attended three secondary schools in Yaba Lagos, Ilesa in the present Osun State, Ode Remo in Ogun State and then University of Ibadan to do medicine and University of Ibadan again to do my masters.
Is it a coincidence? You attended three primary and three secondary schools, what happened?
I wasn’t doing well in the first one and I was relocated to another and the teachers were fed up with me there too and I was moved to the third one where I managed to finish my primary education. Why I was not doing well was because I had no textbooks to read, I only depended on the class work. I wasn’t doing homework and I couldn’t read English and whatever we were taught had to be translated to me in our dialect for me to be able to know what they were talking about.
Was it the same when you were in secondary school?
Because I couldn’t enter secondary school through entrance examination, I had to go to school that needed no entrance examination and they were about to close the first one because it was not accredited and I ran to another one and that also was about to be closed down but it was at that time the principal was about to relocate to Ogun State and he took me along. That was how I was able to enter a government-approved school in my final year, and that was where I did my JAMB and gained admission into University of Ibadan.
What’s the rationale behind your studying medicine?
My uncle who was paying my school fees had a chemist then and I just felt it won’t be a bad idea if I studied medicine.
Since you graduated as a medical doctor, how has it been?
While in school I came across a book in my first year by Napoleon Hill titled, “Think and Grow Rich.” The book granted me some hopes that I could make a difference in my life compared to the kind of lives my parents lived. We were poor and here is a book that showed me how to move from poverty to prosperity. That became a bible to me as a medical student and I was always reading the book throughout the six years and at a particular stage I could rewrite the book without looking at the original copy.
The principle there stuck to me and it has remained with me up till today and it was the inspiration and motivation I got from that book that really inspired me to start my private hospital, Tolu Medical Centre three days after my NYSC with all the resources I could pull together using my allowance. I never had any CV and that’s how the journey started.
You started your first hospital three days after NYSC programme; how did you do it?
Yes three days, by that time our money was doing well. Our allowance was N200 and capital from my locum; locum means part-time job and I was able to pull together N1,500. Then the norm was to have like N300,000 before you can set up a hospital but I made do with that meagre amount. I bought everything like Paracetamol, 100 pieces; Multivite, 100 pieces and six drips and whenever we ran out of stock we purchased from chemists nearby and that’s how we were growing.
Were you not afraid that you will fail without money?
When you are loaded with motivation failure becomes nothing to you, you don’t consider failure at all. A lot of my friends relocated to Canada, UK and America but I was so convinced that that was my choice and I couldn’t consider any less than to excel. When you prepare that this is a chosen path for you and you have what it takes in term of management skills you will grow gradually.
Apart from that book, shall we say your background motivated you?
Yes, it was my background that made me stick to that book because I was determined not to live the life of poverty and mediocrity. I’ve seen the sting and symbol of poverty. It’s absolutely horrible to be poor. As a child, no toys, we were not raised up to eat meat because there was no money to buy meat. I had episodes of kwashiorkor at every given time and I grew up being called olori nla, meaning a person with big head. My buttocks were flat, big tummy and my legs were like tooth picks and how could you carry this big head and not fall down? Those were the experiences of my childhood.
What were the challenges with no money, nobody to help when you set up your first hospital?
I read two books; one by Mark Fisher, “The Instant millionaires”, and another one by George Classon. Those books taught me how to save and I read the books many times during my housemanship. That was the year immediately after my graduation from school so I was able to learn to save.
During the nine months of the housemanship, I never entered taxi to school. I had to trek about eleven miles from doctors quarters to the hospital because I realized that if I’m entering taxi I wouldn’t be able to fulfill my dream for that year which was to own a car. I was saving every penny and allowance I made during this period and within nine months I was able to buy a rickety car from Owode Onirin. A lot of the parts were not there. I bought tokunbo tyres and became a good friend of mechanics.
What type of car?
Datsun 180k and I used that car during my NYSC. When I started saving within one month people noticed me that I used to trek either rain or sunshine. I had one umbrella then, my co-workers at state hospital, Ijebu Ode, started calling me ‘Dr. Olurin’, meaning trekker. Some were calling me ‘land cruiser’. Some were calling me ‘pathfinder’ but when I came out with my car my name came back to Dr Olamitoye because there was no way they could call me Olurin again because I helped lift them with my car. I would tell them, ‘come I will drop you at the junction of your house.’
Even as a “corper” I was saving my allowance and used what people used to tip me and my income from private practice to feed and my savings was what I used to start my hospital. When I see youths who say they have no capital and because of that they can’t start on their own, what they don’t know is that the capital they need is brain. They need to learn what they need to do to start a business, because whatever they start will grow but they fail to consider what they have. If you look at what you have, you can lose what you have but when you look at what you don’t have that paralyzes your thought and ambition; that paralyzes your initiative, your creativity, your drive and your dream.
Tolu Medical Hospital by all standards later became a big and popular hospital in Ajegunle. Why did you relocate to Ibadan?
Yes, I was doing well. A dream is so important to happiness. My dream was to be happily married and then to leave a legacy for my children. Legacy for the kind of knowledge that I have; the passion to succeed or the passion to prepare to succeed… What they call personal development enthusiasm. If I could put that in my children then it’s going to help them to take over whatever I’ve created.
Back to your question, I’ve had the dream of living here in Ibadan during my undergraduate days because of its serenity, happiness and peace. A number of my friends used to tell me there’s no money in Ibadan but I always look at them with pity because where there’s bank there’s money even if it’s one bank. A bank would not survive where there’s no money. Your job is to find something wherever you are. My own is hospital, but you can create the best of whatever you’re doing.
If you’re running a school in the city and if it’s the best your income is going to be equivalent to the second and third best put together. I said to myself if I can create a hospital that’s the biggest and busiest I would be okay and it would just be like other hospitals in Lagos or Abuja. I felt that the only thing I would do differently would be to learn how to delegate well so that my patients would agree to see the doctors I put there and then I have to teach the doctors how to run the hospital without me around and then the hospital must be organized in a way that any doctor there can work and go on vacation in a way that it would run on the system. When you run a system, it would run in any capacity, the last time I consulted was the last day I relocated to Ibadan 18 years ago.
I have four hospitals, two in Lagos and two here in Ibadan, and I run the same business system. It may take time but once you run it like that, you don’t have any problems. I also have a hotel. I don’t have an office there, because I ran the business well. I was able to go to University of Ibadan for two years for my MBA and after the course I relocated to UK. During the first two years I was reading books on how to run a successful business in England.
After that I started my first company in Peckham in 2003 and after five years of successful outing there I relocated to Nigeria and since then I’ve been teaching people how to run a successful business at seminars in four centres here Ibadan, Abeokuta and Lagos. We have our own seminar house in Abeokuta for entrepreneurs where we teach how to run business without money.
Earlier you said you relocated to England, but you already had successful hospitals both here in Ibadan and Lagos. What informed that decision? At least you were doing well.
When I finished my MBA I’d so delegated the job that I have nothing to do. It’s just like somebody that retired from government job but who has not planned for anything to do. I began to feel tired, lose in interest in so many things that used to excite me.
I went to my hospital that they should do general checkup for me and they didn’t find anything wrong, went to University College Hospital Ibadan to meet my friends who were consultants and after many tests they said I had chronic stress and recommended that I change environment at least for six months. So I acted on recommendation. When I got to London I began to also read books on alternative health, how to live healthy lifestyle and when I finished that, like I said earlier, I was already looking for how to start a business. So the issue of coming home after six didn’t occur again…
And the hospitals were doing well back home?
Yes, doing very well and I was not wasting whatever they sent to me, I was saving and with the money, I was feeding my family and I later bought a house in London.
Everything you’re doing is about hospitality, the hospital, hotel and the seminar. Why this sir?
Focus is very important; if you live a life to make a difference in the lives of others you gather some knowledge, experience and passion on that line. That makes you happy, when people come they will say ‘Doctor thank you,’ and when people sleep in our hotel they are comfortable. We make the place conducive for academic learning, so if you look at my life, it is knowledge that has brought me this far and that knowledge is what I share with people.
I go to NYSC orientation camps to talk on how they can start business immediately after the service year. It’s what I did myself so if you have done something you can teach others. All of them may not take to it but some might. The impact of that few will make a big difference in the nation. After going there for six years I didn’t have time to go again and I decided to write a book for them called “Permanent Solution to Youth Unemployment” and I used to send 1000 copies to them free.
There’s also a book I wrote, “Constitution of Prosperity”. There are 30 laws there that I wrote myself which if you follow for 30 days you would be loaded and I do send it to corps members, one law per day through phone and other means of communication.
Human capital is a problem. Even Robert Kiyosaki the author of “Rich Dad Poor Dad” said this in his book that the first lesson one will learn in business is that there are no good staff. Here you are, you delegated your duties to people. Many people would want to know how you were able to do it.
Thank you, there is money everywhere but what we don’t have is resourcefulness. If you have this you have the resources. People are available everywhere, Nigeria parades the greatest number of able-bodied qualified applicants in Africa. The job of the employer is to locate the best for the job, that’s why you conduct employment interview; from there you will be able to find the right person which is the first law in management. You will hire the right person in the female ward, in the male ward, the theatre and so on; then it’s very easy to coach the right people.
What is failure to you?
Every failure brings additional knowledge. The more you fail the stronger you are and this gives you an opportunity to overcome. In my primary school I failed a lot, when they called number one, two, three, even my parents would be there but they won’t bother to look in that direction because they knew that I would be the last but by the time I realized that there were things to do to pass, the energy and zeal to do these things became extra for me.
The way you’re talking, it looks so easy; have you failed in any of your businesses?
Sure, many times. Like you said earlier about staff, one of the challenges I had when I started my hospital was that I would train a doctor, you would see them collect all the data of the patients and move to the next street to start their own hospital but since they don’t have the kind of experience and knowledge that I have, all of them are still struggling to survive.
You have conquered poverty. What is your feeling now?
I feel good and happy because I was able to break its yoke. Poverty is not good, it’s unnecessary, it’s escapable and avoidable. We as human beings have the capacity to eradicate and we can only do that one person at a time and that has been my concern that I’ve been running seminars to save people from the jaws of poverty. I have 13 books to my credit now, “The Laws of Money” is the last one and over 10,000 people have read it, and my joy is that they get the message and they come back to ask me, ‘how can we help others?’ I feel happy when I see people growing. I paid for all the venues of our seminars and after years of paying rents I built our own hall in the area because I want people to break away from this evil called poverty.
The money I have is okay, I don’t need houses in America, Canada, Germany or Lagos. The only house I have in London is okay. My joy is to see people growing and that’s what I’ve dedicated my life doing now.
What are the things that motivate you?
I thank God that I’ve been able to derive some blessings from God like you said. Imagine a village boy talking to you and saying I have a feeling of contentment, and the ability to share this thing among people is tremendously motivating. I read books about motivation and business every day and I impact it into the lives of people. I wrote a book for doctors called “Doctor and His Money” because I suffered as a medical doctor as the person paying my school fees was not my father and I had to bear some pains just not to ask him for money. So coming out of the university I look at doctors that after spending all these years they are still jobless and doing all these that can help them. It motivates me and whenever I’m doing this there’s one joy oozing out of me that many people are getting away from poverty.