March 16, 2021
On 3rd March, 2021 at about 12.10pm, I had just finished a stressful Zoom Meeting when my phone rang. It was a call from Victor Onyenkpa, the COO of KPMG, my bosom friend of many years starting from our early days in Arthur Andersen in the early 90s. “Leye, how are you doing?” “I dey here, dey shine eye” I responded. The previous week, Victor and I had spoken via FaceTime call and I had showed him the view of the Lagos Lagoon from our new office location in Karaa Place, Osborne 2 Ikoyi. He had promised to come see the office soon. So I thought he wanted to tell me he was close by or he called to agree a time to visit. “Definitely, you don’t know what is happening. Seyi is dead” There was a sternness in Victor’s voice.
“Which Seyi?” I asked incredulously. “How many Seyi do you know?” Victor responded. He explained to me that he had just left Seyi’s house as the ambulance was taking Seyi’s body to the morgue. In truth, if Victor and I were to discuss a Seyi, it could only have been Mr. Bickersteth. But for me, I had always believed Seyi would live beyond 90 years given his incredible fitness. He was selective of what he ate. He didn’t drink any alcohol, not even tea or coffee, only sparkling water. At noon on that day, the sun set for the week for me.
How do I start my story? I joined the Tax Division of Arthur Andersen on Monday 2nd September, 1991. Dick Kramer was the Office Managing Partner and Seyi was the head of the Tax Division. He had interviewed me a few months earlier and we kind of hit it off immediately.
I got the first dose of leadership training from Seyi early November 1991. In the BRS Unit, I was mainly the point person for Abuja liaison with the regulatory officials- in the days of ₦150 Return Ticket to Abuja, and ₦80 per night stay at the then NICON NOGA Hilton Hotel (now Transcorp Hilton). One of my colleagues wanted me to help her submit the application for expatriate quota positions for a company called PushPa Petrochemical Limited at the Industrial Development Coordination Committee (IDCC) in Abuja.
Seyi had introduced me to his friend in the Ministry- Mr. Elue, who was always very helpful in doing the initial review to ensure the documents were complete before passing it in officially. Mr. Elue checked the application and pointed out that we didn’t include the Permit from the Department of Petroleum Resources (DPR).
I went ahead with my other assignments, but unfortunately, on that trip I couldn’t get anything done. I returned to Lagos and gave the PushPa application back to my colleague (it was her assignment) and relayed Mr. Elue’s message to her. She asked me to help with the DPR Permit. The Desk Officer at the DPR looked at the papers and burst out laughing. He explained that even though the company was called PushPa Petrochemicals Limited, it was mainly into production of plastics and therefore did not require the DPR Permit.