I can’t be intimidated – Olumodimu, UNIDO-ITPO boss


The Head of the United Nations Industrial Development Organisation’s Investment and Technology Promotion Office, Nigeria, Mrs. Adebisi Olumodimu, is an embodiment of hard work, diligence and dedication to duty.
After serving her fatherland for the mandatory 35 years, she joined the UNIDO and from
there, she emerged head of the UNIDO-ITPO Nigeria office, the only one in Africa. With plurality of efforts, she has been able to steer the ship of UNIDO-ITPO Nigeria to an enviable height, despite all odds, proving that she can stand out where many fear to tread.
In an exclusive chat with The Point, she said, “I started my career in the federal civil service, immediately after my National Youth Service Corps in 1977, and I worked in various capacities. Along the line, in the course of service, I found myself in the women and children desk, in social development. At a point I was on the international family social desk.
“After a while, I moved into the pool as a director, and I spent 35 years in the service. In
17 of those 35 years, I was in the directorate cadre. In my last years, I was in charge of planning, research and statistics. I started working with UNIDO in the last four years of my civil service years.”
After she left the civil service, Olumodimu was invited as the national coordinator of UNIDO’s country programme. “I was in charge of all UNIDO country programmes,
before I was eventually appointed head of UNIDO-ITPO Nigeria,” she said. Determined to maintain an edge over her male counterparts, Olumodimu said she was never intimidated in any way by the menfolk in the cause of doing her job, but remained diligent, hardworking and committed to her duties.
She said, “Of course, Nigeria is an African nation, and men will always be men. But I must say that when you prove yourself to be competent, when you have the right qualifications,
when you are intelligent and in spite of the intimidations, you remain calm and bold, the men will accept you for who you are and also respect you.
“They won’t have any option than to accept you. I spent the greater part of my career on the women desk. So I know what it means when they are talking about affirmative actions, but I would rather want a man to acknowledge my quality than giving me either 35 or 50 per cent affirmative action.
But above all this, Olumodimu believes that a woman should always be a woman, no matter the level she has risen to as a professional or a career woman. She declared, “I believe being a mother should not be an excuse for non-chalant behaviour in the work place. Women should always be able to maintain a balance between the home front and the job.
“As a young woman, I never believed in using my children or my home front as an excuse and to the detriment of my job. I was so passionate about my job and I strongly believed that professionalism and the family should be evenly balanced.”
She, however, explained that this would not translate into neglecting critical duties at home. She noted, “Of course, the children will be there. For instance, you have to take them to the hospital when they are sick, and get back to work. By the grace of God, I was lucky to have a husband, who gave me a car and a driver, even before I got to the level where I was entitled to a car in the civil service.So, movement was not an issue.
“Many of my colleagues then easily used their children as excuses to neglect
their duties, when they were sick, even at the slightest ailment. They stayed away from
job for weeks, just to ‘attend’ to that child. Often, people asked how I got to this level; and I tell them it was all about dedication and hard work. No two ways about it.”
She paid growing tribute to Prof (Mrs.) Bolanle Awe, whom she said was her mentor as a child and from whom she learnt her dedication to work. She said, “I don’t know if I should
mention a woman whom I adore so much. Her name is Prof (Mrs.) Bolanle Awe, a professor emeritus. When I was at the university, she was my role model. As a young girl, I went to her house and saw her life style, especially in the area of the relationship between her and her husband.

Harassments can come, but… when you say no to such advances, the man may put up a difficult face, but when you do your job diligently, he would have no choice than to acknowledge you, especially when he knows only you can do what he wants done

Uba Group

“She supervised every bit of her husband’s meal. She supervised the pounding of the yam, prepared the food and brought to her husband on the table. She then said, ‘Darling, food is ready.’
This, to Olumodimu, was the height of dedication for a woman as intelligent and busy as
Prof. Awe. She noted, “I was amazed as a little girl, watching the level of humility she exhibited, despite her accomplishments. That singular act alone impacted so much on my growing up and it sank.
“When I graduated, I went to work, and I was given an assignment to invite her to come
and talk as a guest speaker during one of our international women days. Even though it wasn’t convenient for her, with the support of her husband, who volunteered to write her speech, she was able to squeeze out time to attend that event.
“And her husband actually wrote the speech she delivered, telling her to just go to the venue on her return from her international trip. “Again that is humility, and it speaks volume.

The topic she spoke on was ‘Balance in Success. She didn’t know the impact she and that speech had on my life. It affected me positively.”

Olumodimu has an advice for young, upcoming professional and career women: they should be able to balance their profession or career and their homes.

“My advice to young girls is that: no matter what their career is, they should balance it. The children will grow up; you have your own life and they have theirs too. Take care of
them, see to it that they do their homework, but do not allow that to affect your job. Your
job shouldn’t suffer,” she advised. Narrating her experience working with people from other countries at the UNIDO, she said it was a different ball game.
She said, “Here in Nigeria, there are lots of things we over look and take for granted. People break rules and regulations, people break laws, and people break protocols. It is
a Nigeria thing.

“But internationally, you have to be professional to be accepted, you have to be thorough
in all you do to be able to blend or fit in. My joy, however, is that, from my experience
working with UNIDO, I have seen that it is one organisation that is really committed to partnering with the Nigerian government to foster sustainable and inclusive economic

On harassment from the opposite sex at the workplace, the UNIDO ITPO head advised,
“Harassments can come, but the way round it is to remain resolute, firm and be professional about one’s job. When you say no to such advances, the man may put up a difficult face, but when you do your job diligently, he would have no choice than to acknowledge you, especially when he knows only you can do what he wants done. And at the end of the day, you may both become the best of friends with no strings attached.”
Comparing the civil service today with the civil service of her days, Mrs Olumodimu disclosed that the difference was very clear. She said, unlike now that professionalism, dedication and hard word had been thrown to the dogs, the civil service of her time was an epitome of dedication, hard work, diligence and professionalism.