Hard work has kept me at the top of my game, says Lola Visser-Mabogunje


Development Management practitioner, Ms. Lola Visser-Mabogunje, is a versatile performance monitoring and evaluation expert with more than 20 years experience behind her in designing result-based monitoring and evaluation frameworks, conducting evaluation in policy issues, macro-economic stability, governance and reforms, economic growth, job creation, skills acquisition, trade, investment, agriculture and agricultural information, transportation and energy.

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Talking about her work life and ethics, this multi-disciplinary professional says, “I am a very busy person that I just go professional in things that go with my work. I am still aiming higher because I believe in hard work. Though I’m not a young person, I am over 65years old and I still work till 2 to 3am daily. I enjoy doing what I’m doing, exploring and learning, because I think till I die, I will keep on learning. I learn from others. I am not too proud to want to learn from others, I am a perfectionist.

In the course of her enviable career, Visser-Mabogunje, who was once a senior technical adviser to the former Minister of Industry, Trade and Investment, Mr. Olusegun Aganga, says she has been able to cope and hold her own even among her male colleagues.

But inspite of that, she likes to treat people in such a way that they will not feel alienated, but have a sense of belonging.

She says, “I will say I’m an activist because, for me, a woman also has her class and I will not believe I’m a subordinate to any male counterpart. No! I don’t take that at all, but at the same time, they must be respected.

“Right now, I’m the Executive Team Leader in my place of work. My team leader is a male and I’m his deputy. We have been working together many years back and other members of the team are males, too; I respect them. I won’t say because I’m their boss, I will disrespect them. Even the cleaners and drivers in the office, I have respect for them, including my security guard, who is allowed to enter my sitting room. I won’t say because I’m the boss, I won’t respect them.

“You have to learn how to treat people right. But in Nigeria, this is where I have problems with people, where they feel because they are at the top, thereby looking down on others because they are not so fortunate. I don’t forget that my security personnel was born by somebody the same way I was born. You have to give respect to others, no matter how low they are, because one day you might need them somewhere.”

When it comes to diligence and accountability, this Amazon does not suffer fools gladly.

“As a development management practitioner, my focus is on performance, monitoring and evaluation because I believe in accountability and whatever I do in life, I know that I am accountable to some people. I am very conscious of that, which is why I keep on striving to do my best,” she says.

She is also a strong believer in the maxim that an employee’s pay cheque should be commensurate with the volume of work done. She, therefore, frowns on the fact that government workers in Nigeria are underpaid.

She, however, says that if the government wants people to deliver, it may have to scale down its workforce and pay those who are supposed to work, well. But one thing she won’t tolerate is seeing people doing nothing or just resting their heads on the table in their offices.

She explains, “If you pay a director N200,000 per month and this director has three or four children, coupled with the cost of living, how do you want that person to survive? Really, the society we live in, something urgently has to be done to public servants so that they can perform effectively on their jobs.

“Office holders must perform at their respective duty posts. I cannot tolerate idleness and laxity. So, if government wants people to be accountable to the people who put them in key positions, they must endeavour to remunerate people, accordingly.”

Regarding her current engagement, Visser-Mabogunje says, “I left Aganga in March 2015. I am on a European Union programme called SUSEBOUR, which is in support of governance programme in Nigeria. It is supported by the European Union and I’m the deputy team leader.

“I am also a key expert in policies monitoring and evaluation and I’m embedded in providing technical support to the Ministry of Budget and National Planning. I enjoy my work there because I respect people and they reciprocate that towards me. The two ministers of that ministry have been excellent; also the directors there have taken me as part of their family; at the same time, showing professionalism while working with them. When you show them you are interested in working, people will respect you and that is very important.”

Advising the younger generation, she says, “What we have now in the world, I cannot blame people but I think people are going too fast. Like my nephew staying with me, I tell them that really I am a self-made woman. Nobody can say they made me, because I made myself. I started working when I was in the UK years back. I had to do cleaning jobs to support myself, but you will see these days, people will expect money from aunties and uncles to pay school fees.

“I didn’t wait for that during my younger days. My grandfather was the owner of Agbonmagbe Bank, who also owned Okupe Estate. But I didn’t wait for them to give me any money. I just put some money together to go abroad and to make ends meet I had to be doing cleaning jobs for the first one year before I could find my feet. But these days, they want Ipad, they want to enjoy and they don’t want to work hard and they want you to give them money so as to help them.

“No, I didn’t wait for anybody. At 21years, I was already working and independent at the same time. So, hard work is the key. Though it may not add up immediately, if you keep on that path, you will laugh in the end. Many youths look at what their mates are doing, you know peer pressure, which is not supposed to be so.”


And reminiscing on life generally, Visser-Mabogunje believes, ”The best thing in life is to give to humanity, give back to the society in your own way, whether by helping people or empowering them so as to give their lives a boost.  I would rather help people on my own free will than for someone just to depend on me, especially the older people, who cannot take care of themselves.”

She has a lot of sympathy for the elderly, who she believes are not provided for in Nigeria, noting that most of them are always on their own after retirement, especially the ones without children.

The situation of the old people in Nigeria touches a chord in her heart and makes the milk of human kindness in her to overflow, prompting her to always be willing to lend them a helping hand.

Visser-Mabogunje says, “I have helped several people to start their business and that gives me pleasure because I don’t believe in being the only person making it. I want people around me also to make something out of their lives and that is another problem we have in Nigeria. People here do not want others to rise or benefit from them, because they want to shine in the spotlight alone. I am happy when other people around me have something to rely on and that is the essence of life.

“Within the last one year, I have set up more than 10 to 15 elderly people that I find having challenges in their old age, those who are not able to feed themselves. I buy Okada (motorcycles) and pepper grinding machine for them in order to empower them. These people are not my relations; all these I do out of love for humanity.”