MODUPE OLUSOLA:Changing the Dynamic of Corporate Leadership By Keem Abdul

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It was the American singer, songwriter and actress, Pink, who said, “Once you figure out (as a woman) what respect tastes like, you find that it tastes better than mere attention.” 

There are women who command attention – and often DEMAND respect as a consequence (as if the two were one and the same, and mutually automatic). And then there are women, like Mrs. Modupe Olusola, who command respect, not by asking for it, but as a consequence of their relentless pursuit of excellence, their hard work and determination to add value in whatever capacity they find themselves, their commitment to higher standards, and their fidelity to the needs of the people, communities and interests they serve – needs which they not only strive to meet to the satisfaction of an ever-growing client and customer base, but try to anticipate well in advance. 

Being excellent at what you do, and attaining to success and prominence as a result, is  remarkable in itself. But doing so as a woman in a field (indeed in a world) that is traditionally seen as the preserve of men, is an outstanding feat worthy of the highest respect. 

And that’s exactly what Mrs. Olusola has done. 

Commonly referred to as Dupe by her family, friends, associates and teeming admirers, Mrs. Olusola is the Managing Director and Chief Executive Officer of one of Nigeria’s foremost hospitality companies, Transcorp Hotels Plc, (which is a subsidiary of the Nigerian conglomerate, Transnational Corporation of Nigeria) – having been appointed to that position in 2020 and in the process becoming only the 2nd woman to lead that organization since its inception. 

A former banking executive, Mrs. Olusola sits at the helm of an organization which, in many ways, has come to define the leisure and hospitality industry in Nigeria. Transcorp, which apart from its signature establishment, the Transcorp Hilton in Abuja, also has properties in Calabar, Cross River State (the Transcorp Hotels, Calabar) and prospective properties in Lagos and Port Harcourt, is part of a commercial juggernaut with interests in the power, hospitality, agriculture, and oil and gas sectors. With its headquarters in Lagos, it has, since 2015, enjoyed a robust showing on the Nigerian Stock Exchange. 

Under Mrs. Olusola’s employers and predecessors, Transcorp Plc has had an eventful evolution. Stakeholders and watchers of the company’s profile and fortunes will recall that in 2005, the Federal Government of Nigeria implemented the privatization of NIRMSCO Properties Limited, the owner of the Nicon Hilton Hotel, Abuja, at the time. Transcorp Hilton Hotel Abuja, in particular, was originally owned by the FG through NIRMSCO Properties till that year, when it sold a 51% stake to a consortium of investors led by Transcorp Plc. In 2007, the name NIRMSCO Properties Limited was changed to Transnational Hotels & Tourism Services Limited (THTSL), which became the hospitality subsidiary of Transcorp Plc. It purchased a proprietary stake in the company and became the core investor, while the FG retained the remaining 49 percent. In time, Hilton International LLC, the global leisure and hospitality conglomerate, was engaged to manage the property.

In 2013, Transcorp bought out other consortium members and became the sole owner of the aforementioned 51 per cent controlling shares in THTSL. One of the highlights of this period of expansion and rebranding – which in 2014 saw THTSL officially renamed as Transcorp Hotels Plc ahead of an initial public offering in October that year – was its feat of securing the hosting rights for the World Economic Forum on Africa in that same year. 

In July 2021, Transcorp Hotels Plc signposted its continued expansion and innovative strides by launching ‘Aura by Transcorp Hotels‘ (an online platform for booking accommodation, including hotels and apartments, and ordering food, in addition to other auxiliary services).

The choice of Modupe Olusola to lead the organization in the midst of this evolution was, arguably, an inspired one by members of its board of directors.  She brought to the table a combination of academic achievement and exposure, innate acuity and learned expertise, as well as a wide and eclectic range of professional experience – some of it gained in previous roles in that organization. 

The young Dupe had her secondary education at the iconic Queen’s College, Lagos, where she obtained her GCE O-levels in 1991. After that, she enrolled at the University of Leicester in the United Kingdom, graduating in 1996 with an Economics degree before proceeding to the University of Kent, also in the UK, where she obtained a Master’s degree in Development Economics in 1997. She boasts additional certifications in programs such as Prince 2, Project Management Professional (PMP), and Investor Management, also from reputable UK-based institutions. 

Before returning to Nigeria at the end of her educational sojourn abroad, Dupe Olusola had working stints with reputable organizations such as Bloomberg and Northern Trust in the UK, where she worked with distinction in various roles. On her return to her home country, she worked for a spell in SecTrust (as it was then; it is now known as Afrinvest), before moving on to Africa’s leading private equity firm, African Capital Alliance, where she served as SME Manager. 

This was followed by a stint at the United Bank for Africa (UBA) Group, where she joined the investor relations department of the banking group, before her first move to Transcorp Plc, as Director of Resources in 2010. In 2014, in recognition of her undoubted mettle, Olusola was appointed to lead Teragro Commodities Limited (the now-defunct agro-allied arm of Trancorp Plc) as Chief Executive Officer and Managing Director. It was a role in which she was responsible for the acquisition of two farmlands measuring 10,000 hectares in the central Nigerian state of Benue for citrus farming. In addition, she spearheaded a partnership with soft drinks giants, Coca Cola to produce Five Alive Pulpy Orange Juice – thereby making Teragro the sole local material source for said juice.

Dupe Olusola briefly returned to her old employers, UBA Plc, where she took on the role of Group Head Embassies, Multilaterals, and Development Organizations (EMDOs) and Global Investors Services (GIS), in which role she oversaw the department that provided multilateral development organizations and embassies operating in Africa with specialized finance solutions. In 2018, she was appointed the bank’s Group Head of Marketing – responsible for the development and delivery of the integrated strategy for all UBA Group Bank and non-bank subsidiaries.

In March 2020, she was back in Transcop Plc, this time as Managing Director and Chief Executive Officer, taking over from the previous MD/CEO, Owen Omogiafo.  

Mrs. Olusola’s record of outstanding performance, before and during her current role at Transcorp, has not escaped the notice of influential organisations and stakeholders within and beyond the hospitality industry – who have over the years bestowed on her a plethora of awards, honours and recognitions – such as her inclusion, in 2015, in Ventures Africa’s list of ’10 Most Influential Nigerian CEOs for her work as boss at Teragro. In 2021, she was listed as one of the recipients of the Top 4 Women in Africa for the Strategic Women in Leadership Award (SAWIL), and the following year, she was named as one of the 100 Most Powerful People in African Hospitality by the International Hospitality Institute. 

Outside of the hospitality ecosystem, Mrs. Olusola has been named in Leading Ladies Africa/YNaija’s list of ‘100 Most Inspiring Women in Nigeria’  for her passion for the empowerment of women and the advancement of their rights, as well as for  economic development in under-developed countries, and for financial inclusion for vulnerable groups especially at the grassroots. 

The Transcorp Hotels CEO is also a member of the advisory board of the Africa Hospitality Investment Forum (AHIF), the continent’s leading hospitality investment conference, which serves to connect business leaders from the international and local markets. 

On the home front, this brilliant and powerful lady is one-half of a veritable power couple. She and her husband, Lanre Olusola, the eloquent, dynamic and charismatic Life, Career and Relationships Coach (to whom she has married since 1999) are blessed with two children. Widely known in Nigeria and beyond as ‘The Catalyst,’ the urbane Mr. Olusola is also an author and media personality who has shared the benefits of his wisdom and powerful insights on life isues with a staggering diversity of clients – both individual and corporate – from every stratum of society. 

A woman with a voice, such as Mrs. Modupe Olusola, is by definition a strong woman. In a patriarchal society such as ours, however, the search to find that voice – and the opportunity to showcase the mettle behind it – can be remarkably difficult for many potentially accomplished women. It is to the credit of entities such as Transcorp Plc, the parent company of the hotel chain she heads, that they have entrusted their fortunes, going forward, to one of Nigeria’s brightest and best daughters. The world – and Nigeria in particular, especially at this critical juncture in her evolution as a nation, where able and dynamic leadership is at such a premium – needs strong women, women who – in the words of Amy Tenney – will lift and build others, women who will love and be loved, women who will live and act bravely, women both tender in conpassion and empathy, and fierce in the pursuit of high ideals and impactful outcomes, and women who will demonstrate indomitable will in the face of the barriers put up by human and institutulional adversaries in a male- dominated world. 

It is a lucky entity – whether corporate or geopolitical – that is led by such a woman. 

Modupe Olusola’s ascendancy so far – and hopefully, her continuously upward trajectory – is a clear demonstration of the fact that we, as a society, need women at all levels, including at the very top, to change the dynamic, to reshape the conversation, and to make sure women’s voices are heard and heeded henceforth, not overlooked and ignored as before. 

 

 

 

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