KAYODE AJULO: ‘I manage the rich to defend the poor'
By Oluwatosin Amoke
DR. Kayode Ajulo, a Constitutional lawyer, human rights advocate, is the Founder/Managing Partner of Castle of Law, an upscale law firm with offices in Nigeria and other countries. A onetime National Secretary of the Labour Party, Ajulo began his law career as a Federal Attorney/State Counsel at the Office of Attorney General of the Federation about 20 years ago. He also served as Counsel at the Law Office of Afe Babalola, Abuja and was equally Head of Chambers of Tunji Abayomi & Co, also in Abuja. In this interview with FUNKE COLE, the University of Jos trained Attorney from Ondo State who is also the Founder/Initiator of the Egalitarian Mission of Africa, a non-profit, non-governmental organisation speaks on his management style, career trajectory as well as pastime. Excerpts:
When does your typical day begin?
My day usually commences by 5am and after saying my morning prayers, I proceed to do my morning exercise, basically brisk walking, in order to keep fit and therefore do some golf practice at the lakeside not far from my residence. I reserve the main golfing to the golf courses at IBB and Buratai Golf Club among other places. On a less busy day, I resume office work at about 10am. On a busier day, you will definitely find me behind my desk at about 9am in the morning.
What is your management style?
My management style is to scout for hire, good raw talents, train and trust them to deliver on the job and I try to understand individual strengths and weaknesses.
What is your management philosophy?
My management philosophy is to create the right environment for my team and give credit to them when they deserve it.
Do you delegate responsibility or micromanage people?
I always give room for everybody to learn and as the adage goes, a tradition that is not passed down will perish. I try to show my workers how it is being done, I allow then room to work on a project as well as assignment and I then supervise it. Above all, I imbibe in them the ethics of the profession and how to be indispensable.
Sure I am. My learning experience with being a team player started way back in my elementary school days when I joined the Boy’s Scout. And I could remember that when I was a member of the Young Pioneer Movement by Bola Ige, we were instilled with the need to succeed as a team!
What are your other areas of interest besides business?
Beside my business, my areas of interest include: human right activism, lecturing, charity. I think I must distinguish between philanthropy and charity. People believe you have to be wealthy to be a philanthropist. However, you may be reeking in wealth and yet not involve in charity. Give the little you have to better the lives of others and without money, you can still solve problems.
How do you unwind?
I am always a busy person, however anytime I get to unwind, I listen to the great and classic hymns via a piano. Music is therapeutic and inspiring. I’m an Anglican and hymns’ being played by acoustic stringed musical instruments is it for me to unwind. The feeling is indescribable that’s why I have grand pianos in my offices and homes.
What was the last book you read and when?
Before I used to count the number of books I have read. However, it is instructive to note that the COVID-19 pandemic came with both good omen and bad omen. Good omen in the sense that same has exposed the world to a new world of learning and the lockdown period has being a learning experience for me. Now I count the number of Massive Open Online Courses (MOOC) I take. I have taken over 30 both verified MOOCs and a lot of unverified courses from prestigious universities including Imperial College, Harvard University, Oxford University, Cambridge and a lot more on the EDX online platform.
What is your choice holiday destination?
I have traversed some great places in the world; from Europe, America to Asia, some parts of Africa. However, the place where I feel at home is in the United Kingdom. This I think may have to do with my progression, their customs and legal system always fascinate me, though, the United Kingdom has no written Constitution, yet the culture and the ambience that pervades the United Kingdom is pacifying. In addition to that, whenever I am in the United Kingdom I utilise the opportunity to do some research, and visit their endless monumental places and engage in arbitration proceedings.
What motivates you?
What motivates me is the need to always be available to solve people’s problem when confronted with same.
What makes you tick?
What makes me tick is knowledge, diligence and the need to exude perfection in whatever I do and these qualities have given me the privilege to have working relationships with many, both high and mighty as well as the not privileged. I took the pride sometimes ago when one of your colleagues described me as someone “who manages the rich and defends the poor.”
What is you sense of style?
I make sure I am confident regardless of the situation and I exude energy to make sure I am on top of my game.
How do you maintain your looks?
I exercise to keep fit and I try to dress well. And I have always developed a style that distinguishes me from the crowd.
How do you motivate your staff?
I motivate my staff by commending a job well done and encourage them to give their best to every task given to them.
Do you apply stick and carrot approach?
I prefer the carrot approach. I try to ensure a relaxed working environment for my staff in order to allow them bring their best to the table. I have never sacked any of my employees. I would rather suspend them that’s where being indispensable comes in. I also ensure to keep a cordial relationship with every person I ever work with. I don’t burn the bridges with any of my former
employees or colleagues. You know, devil can be dined with provided there’s a long spoon.
What is the best decision you have taken thus far?
I have had a lot of best decisions in life. One among others that stands out for me was opening my law office when I did. I am glad I took the bold step to open a law firm at the time I did. It’s somewhat a leap of faith which I never regretted.
What is the worse decision you have taken in your working career?
I never had a worse decision in my working career regardless of the choice of clients, employers, employees and steps taken. I, at one point tried to be a Senator, but that didn’t work out. For me, whatever seems to be a bad decision is to me only a learning experience. I believe life is a rollercoaster.
How did your background and growing up influenced who you are today?
I was raised by a family of booksellers. Growing up, my toys were the books in the bookstore and that afforded me the opportunity to learn a lot about different areas of life. Similarly, my mum was an entrepreneur. These two shaped my life both as an academic and an entrepreneur.
Do you cook?
I enjoy cooking and my culinary skills are superb (smiles).
Do you do the dishes after eating?
Well, occasionally, I do the dishes. I can vividly remember that during the lockdown, I frequently did the dishes after eating in the morning to while away time. Doing the dishes is not a chore for me.
What is your favourite Nigerian dishes?
Hot Amala with Jollof Okro soup or Fisherman soup.
What lesson has life taught you?
Life has taught me that whatever the mind can conceive, with persistency and the right attitude, it can achieve it!
What are your hobbies?
I enjoy writing, reading, critical thinking and playing golf.
What is your definition of success, career-wise?
Success in the legal profession is quite relative. To be called to Bar alone is a success and I’m yet to see an unsuccessful lawyer. Well to me, success for me as a lawyer is to be able to solve other peoples’ problem and to be remembered for amiable feats in the profession.
Reacting to the recognition of June 12 as Democracy Day and declaration of a public holiday to mark that day, he noted that, “June 12 Democracy Day has come to stay, it’s even prescribed by our law, it’s one of the outstanding achievements of President Buhari. It’s a recognition of the collective aspiration of the people. It is to celebrate the notion that power belongs to the people,” he observed.
In the statement with a title, “June 12 President’s Speech: My Take”, Dr Kayode Ajulo, who is a renowned Constitutional Lawyer besides being a former National Secretary of Labour Party lauded President Muhammadu Buhari over his infrastructural drive, saying Buhari within the six years of his stewardship as the President of Nigeria has done a lot in the area of transportation and other critical sectors of the economy.
While commending the President in his reaction to the President’s speech on the occasion of the commemoration and celebration of Democracy Day on Saturday in Abuja to Nigerians everywhere, Ajulo said, “let us be sincere when it comes to infrastructural development, Buhari has done a lot and such kind of laudable achievements should not be wished away.
dr. Ajulo however called on the President to redouble his effort in the area of electricity, while urging him to, “look into the electricity sector as little or nothing had been achieved in that area”.
On security, Ajulo said that, ” more premium should be placed on security to curtail the present security challenges. There is a need for me to stress here that the President should give more attention to community policing.
“At this particular point in the history of our nation, there is a need for a clear cut policy on community policing. As a matter of urgent priority, the President should lput structures in place that would look into how the policy would work across the socio-sectotral setting in the country.
“The only addition I have to make is that such a policy should be able to bring a lasting solution to the issues of banditry, kidnapping, attack on security personnel and infrastructure as well as the general insecurity that has taken over every region of the country in recent past.
In his alignment with the President’s stance on constitutional amendment that only the National Assembly could amend the constitution, ” Ajulo reasoned that, “the President just said it as it is, only the legislative arm of government can alter the constitution. The matter is a constitutional issue and it is so enshrined that the President has no such power but only the Legislators can go through the process and effectively carry out the amendment of the constitution.
He however opined that.”the President could use his power as the President, Chief Executive Officer of the Federation, the only office whose constituency is the entire Country and the leader of his party, the All Progressives Congress(APC) to lobby the lawmakers whose party are in the majority to achieve the process.
"Buhari has a role to play as the leader of his party with majority in both chambers of the National Assembly. Anybody can lobby but the President can do more with the enormous power he possesses to change the constitution,” he said.
On the claim of Employment for millions of Nigeria youths, Ajulo said from his experience much need to be done to tackle the state of unemployment in the country.
In his words, “the statistics being peddled is not cast on stone as from his experience the youths that depend on me have increased with triple figures within the last 5 years and there’s urgent need by the government to arrest the dire unemployment situation on the country, because unemployment is a dangerous fuel for the insecurity flame that is currently burning across the country.