EKO CLUB – Gunning for the Heights

Formed in 1974 in a rather unique manner by ninety-four distinguished Lagosians, Eko Club, right from its inception, took on a character, developed a culture and charted a course for growth and into the future that are quintessentially its own. In its over four decades of existence, the Club has grown, like the proverbial mustard seed, into a big oak, having members and branches spread across the Globe and waxing stronger and stronger in its strength and impact, with its shadow lengthening by the day, its figure looming larger on the horizon and its light shining brighter and brighter with its rays warming the Lagos State horizon, in particular, to the pride of its members and the joy of the larger society. It has, indeed, carved a niche for itself in the comity of social clubs in Lagos, nay, Nigeria.

As should be expected of an institution of its age, it has passed through changing times and fortunes but has come out of each phase of its metamorphosis stronger and better. The last one year has been quite momentous for the high ranking club, especially with the coming on board of a new Exco which the Club rightly christened the New Dawn Administration, led by Chief Tunde Fanimokun, a distinguished development economist, civil administrator, and management consultant, as President.

Among other things, Eko Club’s New Dawn Administration set out to deliberately to break new grounds. It thus developed a new blueprint and policy guideline through which it introduced what is now popularly known to all members as the “BBRT” model of budgeting which simply means Budgeting Beyond Round Table. It also adopted what is called Development Planning Perspective, DPP for a comprehensive forward-looking plan for the turnaround of the Club. Resulting from this was a shopping list of 30 potential projects which it embarked upon as it hit the ground running at its inauguration last year.

At the end of its 1st year in office, the administration has brought about infrastructural development to the club including purchase of three brand new generating sets (275KVA, 250KVA, and 150KVA); purchase and installation of 12 units of 5-horsepower Air-conditioners  out of which nine were installed in the Club’s Blessing Hall to give it a new look; the Club’s Arcade – a newly built ultramodern event center has been made fully functional through the purchase of 1000 banquet chairs and 100 banquet tables and a second (brand new) 25KVA generator  as a standby generating set. The welfare of the Staff has also benefitted from the wind of change which has been blowing in Eko Club, courtesy of the new administration as it has established a staff Co-operative Society duly registered with the Lagos State Government. This is a first-of-its-kind development in the history of the club. And, with effect from May 2018 the current Exco has approved a 50% upward review of staff salaries across board!

Moreover, in the last quarter of this year (2018), the Administration has unfolded a Three-in-One project package which includes Redevelopment of the Bamboo section of its premises into an event center; an upgrade of its annex also into an event centre; and developing a recreation/swimming pool also within its premises.

To shed more light on the Club in its over four decades of evolution and, in particular, the revolutionary strides of the New Dawn Administration, Chief Fanimokun spoke with MARKETING EDGE’s AMOS OLADELE and OLAWUNMI ABIONA in an exclusive interview. It is both revealing and refreshing.


The process that brought you into the presidency is quite historic and unique as a person; Sir, did you ever nurse the ambition of becoming the president of Eko Club?

For many reasons, I did not ever contemplate becoming the president of this club. First, you can become a member of Eko Club at the age of 30 (years old) but I was not a member until I was 50. You must be in the club for about twenty-five years before becoming the president and I think I am just around that figure. Thirdly, I have been the Captain of the Boyz section for some years. In Eko Club, we have about nine (9) branches of which one of them is the Boyz; it was created in the year 2001 and I was appointed the Captain – that is the name for the head of that section – and I have been in that position for sixteen years! Somewhere along the line, it was proposed that I should come and be president but I said no, because I was not qualified or interested. But when the constitution was reviewed that was when the issue came up that the elders of the club considered me to be a good material. I personally never thought or contemplated to be the president.

Could you shed more light on the other branches of the Club? You talked only about The Boyz. What about the others; do they have any inputs, and do they have numerical strengths?

They are associations of like minds within the Club; there is no constitutional recognition of any one of them, but the elders when they came, they formed the Basilica and it has been growing since that time; after that one or before that one there was the Long Bench another old one. After these two, like minds just started forming groups within the club as at the time The Boyz came in, I think we were the eighth (8th) and after us the Digital came, so they all evolve as associations of like minds within Eko Club, not having any constitutional recognition,  but we regarded them now as branches of the Eko Club family and they are all playing various parts. Heads of the sections are involved in everything we are doing, we notify them, there is always a quarterly briefing, where they all contribute. It is like a family tree and that is why we have it like this, the strength vary, the age combination is in no particular pattern and some people belong to different ones. You can belong to Basilica and belong to any other one at the same time. They are formations of like minds to assist the club to grow and they have been coming on board as and when convenient.

As a member of Eko Club is it compulsory that you belong to any of these branches?

No, it is not; there are many members who do not belong to any of the branches or group. But then, they are the key branches we have.

And there are no limits to the numbers of branches a member can join?

No. Like I said, they are associations of like minds; you can belong to any as you wish. As you know, some people are grass roots minded, so there are formations to assist the club and encourage brotherhood.

Are there financial implications for being members of different branches?

Yes, of course; every section has its own rules and regulations, how you contribute, meeting weekly, like The Boyz we are meeting monthly and we are contributing a lot to assist the club, so the pattern varies, but The Boyz came up with a very unique standard and that is what we have been using, but no particular uniform format for everybody.

One stunning thing is the way you came to office envisioned, prepared and the rest of them, how far can you say you have gone, one year has gone out of two, from all those elaborate projections and projects which you have highlighted for your tenure?

I have given my first year report which you can assess. I have given about twenty five (25) reasons why calling my administration “New Dawn” administration. They contain things that have never been done before. Significantly, I did say that Eko Club’s income level, to my mind, was very low so I made up my mind to increase it three-fold, to triple; and at the end of the year I was able to achieve it.

For my second year, I am going to Four Hundred and Forty million Naira; and already, sixty per cent (60%) of it is already in the kitty. My vision for Eko Club has gotten to a stage where it has to operate at a very high level and when I introduced a revenue target of N168million in my first year, some of my friends wondered how we would get it. Even I did not have the faintest idea of where it would come from. Nonetheless, I set the target and we achieved it which gave me the courage to set a target of four hundred and forty million for this (second) year. In a nutshell, my idea is that within two years at the helm of affairs, Eko Club will generate a minimum of six hundred million naira!

One of the secret is this: like other clubs, Eko Club was relying on only annual subscription by members; but when I studied and started preparing for the post I discovered that in a year annual subscription may not be more than ten million (N10,000,000); outstanding annual income when added brings the total to about sixty six million (N66,000,000) but there was no sixty six million naira (N66,000,000) anywhere, because some of the members don’t come here again or they are in other clubs; some have travelled outside the country, so if you are relying on membership subscription you are wasting your time; even the ten million (N10,000,000) was too low for me.

The second source of income, for me, was the rentals by giving out our event centres to make some money, I added that together in about ten years not more than seventy million naira (N70, 000,000) had been realised. I said ten million plus seventy million where will that one take us? So, I did not abandon those ones but I took those ones as given and I now worked out my own way of financing the club, one of which is through project sponsorships and partnerships and I have been bringing some people in, including old members who are wealthy and they have been supporting us. I introduced a new financing system that did not rely only on income which is good; it does not rely on only what we get from our bar and those other things but a unique way of getting money; and the money is coming.

I believe in breaking new grounds; getting the Club to be there; and I am sure that by the time I leave Eko Club will be getting enough money to sustain itself comfortably. I see Eko Club as having a future that is very bright; and we trying to prepare the ground for year 2024 when the Club will be marking its Golden Jubilee. By then, it will be among the top most Clubs in the whole of Nigeria – in in terms of funding, investments, endowments, etc.

Recently, we launched what we call Education Empowerment Endowment Fund programme. I believe very much in the endowment because by my background when I worked with Alhaji Lateef Kayode Jakande (LKJ), his commitment to low cost housing was inspiring; when I worked with Chief Folawiyo’s charity organisation, it inspired in me the belief that the less privileged people should be helped. As such, immediately I came in I said I would do something along that line. So, on this year’s international family day, we launched the education endowment fund programme with a sum of ten million naira from the funds of the club. I now went to my corporate base, the Yinka Folawiyo Group which pledged five million naira. So, right now, we have fifteen million naira cooling off in our account for endowment. Other members of the club, as is convenient for them, will be donating money to the Fund.

The idea is that at the end of this year we should have about twenty five million naira in the endowment fund account. When I came in what was there was not more than N3.6 million (N3,6000, 000)  or thereabouts. This time around, we are starting with ten million as seed money, and five million from Folawiyo Group. Personally, I am making up my mind on what to donate next week (after this interview); but at the end of this year we should have twenty five million Naira; and as you can see in one of the reports I gave you, my target is a minimum of one hundred million naira. Once it is there it will be in the care of the Board of Trustees to help the less privileged members or their children needing one help or the other. You can now see that our current funding style is quite different from what it used to be and it is yielding results.

How will you then feel if at the end of this tenure you are pleaded with to continue in office?

I don’t want to answer that question because it is coming already; they gave me a special assignment at the moment and I am doing it, so, don’t bother me. Honestly, that is not my headache; if you fish me out go and fish out who will succeed me, so it is not an issue I want to entertain now because already I am spending a lot of time more than I thought, it is for them now to look for a successor. Will they give me another two years to groom someone? That is not my concern. Let set up the standards, set up the models, let somebody come in to continue from wherever we stop. It is really not an issue I want to discuss now. I am still on seat till February 2019 and that is my concern for now.

We cannot but wonder that in spite of your age, your leadership of the Club has been so dynamic, so pragmatic, purposeful and progressive; where do you get the strength from, what is your driving force? 

Please, recall that I became a permanent secretary at the age of thirty five (35); I was among the first eleven team of Jakande; not only that I was the right hand man for Jakande, and for all you know Jakande still remains the action governor of Lagos state, in terms of vision, in terms of programmes, in terms of everything. Being his right hand man, I learnt a lot from him, including my inauguration speech!

As such, at age seventy four (74) now, I feel comfortable doing what I am doing and using it to help Eko Club, more so because Eko Club is mainly for Lagos indigenes. Lagos is rich but many indigenous Lagosians are not that rich; we want to throw in an idea on how to let people know about entrepreneurship and so it is a long story and a long journey.

Do you have non indigenes of Lagos state as your members?

Yes, we have some friends who have been here; they don’t know any other place, we have just appointed someone now as ou patron, he was number five among the founding fathers, but some people are calling him an Ijebu man, what is the meaning of that? An Ijebu man that has been staying here, working here, and he is the number five founding father. He is our patron as we speak and the whole club supported me on this. So, we have non indigenes; if you are not too detached you are welcome, like Alhaji Sule Onabiyi, who is going to mark his 80th birthday soon; he is an Egba man well known to all of us and he is one of us. Eko Club cannot be too rigid about membership; but, first and foremost, preference of indigenes from any part of Lagos, Epe, Ikorodu, Ikeja, Badagry; but not indigenes are very much around and they are doing very well and they are contributing and there is no discrimination.

But the impression, if not for this that you said some people joined when they are in their thirties, people think that Eko Club is for elderly people?

Far from that! We have young people here; the only things is that you must be 30 (years old) before joining, once you are thirty, a professional who has a job you can join, but for those who formed it, they have been in this club for about forty-three years, so when people talk about Eko Club, those are the people that they know. But now, we just initiated about 56 new members and they are mostly young people, one of the groups here, the Digital group, they don’t take people who are over 40 or 45; but in Basilica, we have older people there. Eko Club is not in any way synonymous with only old people; yes, old people started it, they are still rich in mind, they are accommodating and now we have one thousand two hundred and twenty four (1224) members, and out of that only forty-three are foundation members.



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