Oge Funlola Modie
It is always a thing of honour to find women diligently carving a niche for themselves in their respective places of assignment, women who know their onions and are ready to prove their worth when called upon to speak on their areas of concern. This they do with ease. Such is my Leading Woman for this week, a woman who has been a pioneer at various levels. She is Oge Funlola Modie, managing director/CEO, NOI Polls Limited.
I was curious about her names which showed a link to both the western and eastern part of the country, so I asked why. She chuckled but wasn’t so surprised I asked. Obviously, I wasn’t the only one who had ever asked, but she responded: “My grandmother from my father’s side is Yoruba, hence the name. All the children by my parents have Yoruba names.”
What then is NOI Polls about? “NOI Polls,” she explains, “is a dynamic opinion polling and research firm based in Abuja and poised to deliver forward-thinking research and relevant data on public opinion and consumer perspectives on a range of topics, thereby enhancing the activities of decision makers across all sectors of the Nigerian economy.”
Oge had been the fund director (West Africa) for The Makeda Fund, a $50 million SME private equity start-up fund focused on investing in women entrepreneurs across West Africa before she became MD/CEO of NOI Polls.
Corporate finance has always been Oge’s forte for over a decade. It began at Alliance Consulting in 1999, a corporate finance boutique company that was a spinoff from Agusto & Co Limited. There, she managed multiple acquisition assignments valued at over $20 million. In 2003, she joined Heirs Alliance, where she was in charge of managing all acquisition projects under the financial services sector within the group. She was a pioneer staff in Heirs Alliance which produced the Heirs Insurance Company Limited, now called UBA Insurance. After Heirs, she moved to Nextzon Business Services where she successfully birthed the Nextzon Business Incubator, a programme of the World Bank.
Despite her feat, Oge insists that her upbringing, from parents who were astute professionals, has helped her get to where she is today. “My father was a lecturer in the School of Medicine, University of Nigeria Nsukka, and mum is a retired chief nursing administrator at the University Teaching Hospital,” she tells me. “My dad has been such a positive influence in my life. He taught me that ‘NO’ never kills, so if someone says ‘NO’ to you, it only means you keep moving till you get your ‘YES’, which doesn’t necessarily have to come from the one who said ‘NO’ to you. He passed on June 6, 2012 and I remember giving a lecture when I was told the news. I did not stop the lecture, I continued for the next few hours, and when I was done, I left. I did that because that is what my father would have wanted me to do. I learnt that when I left everyone wondered how I managed to keep lecturing after I heard the news. When you draw strength from your maker, you can weather the storms.”
Sharing more about how the polling is conducted, Oge says: “We do random sampling using adult population which makes up the bulk of decision makers so you can get a true representation. We ask them what people think about the topic in question. We engage in telephone conversations, we strategise according to geopolitical zones and gender and that helps the authenticity of our results. After we get the results, we go back to re-check for the purpose of clarity and authenticity of results.
“For the purpose of effective communication, we administer the poll in five languages: Pidgin, English, Hausa, Igbo and Yoruba. We are stratified according to geo zones and we also have people who communicate in the language spoken in that environ at the polling centres knowing well that there are people who have dialects not mentioned in the five listed, and we cover social, political, economic and business issues.”
Speaking about issues raised sometime ago on the dollar-a-day conclusions given by NOI polls, Oge recounts: “We held a poll on poverty wondering if the ‘one-dollar-a-day’ threshold should still be what should be used as a yardstick because people use it freely and it just sounded a bit too farfetched. So we did a survey and we found out that only about 2 in 10 Nigerians (19 percent) live on less than a dollar-a-day, while about 80 percent live above the poverty threshold. The result was challenged as much as it was also commended. There is going to be a debate on this where we will bring it to the fore and discuss openly with those who do not believe in this so we can make available facts and figures because truth is, the figures and facts are available.
“Having said that, we have received a lot of commendations and only one argument which is what I have mentioned above. You can’t always have everyone supporting you. When you have those saying ‘NO’, it only means at least you are being heard and the information is being disseminated and, hopefully, the proposed debate will lay it to rest. Nevertheless, we have received commendations from UNESCO, for instance, for the polls we ran on water saying almost half of Nigeria’s population can’t access clean water. It was a confirmation of what UNESCO did two years ago.”
Speaking more on other polls NOI has conducted, Oge says: “Some other polls we have carried out include: Football (89 percent of Nigerian football fans follow foreign football leagues), Oil & Gas (57 percent of Nigerians buy petrol above the official N97 per litre), Banking (61 percent of bank customers complain about hidden charges), Nollywood (more than half of Nigerians watch Nollywood movies because of the actors and actresses that feature in them, and so on.
“Since it is random sampling, when you call someone, they begin to ask how you got their numbers so they slam their phone and refuse to respond. Some are threatened with insecurity reported in parts of the country and this makes it challenging. So, for instance, for every one thousand calls and positive response we get, it means we would have called at least like 2,500 people. We believe that when the awareness increases, you can call people and say we are calling from NOI and they will respond positively without fear.”
NOI conducts approval ratings for the president every month and in April, the approval rating was very poor. “When we released the result for the rating for April, being poor, it got carried on different mediums,” she says of the outcomes. “For instance, a caller phoned in during a radio programme in Abuja asking Reuben Abati about the rating released by NOI on the president’s low performance and the conversation went on for about an hour. I had people call to say never has it been done that the rating of the president was being discussed and deeply engaging at such level. This just shows that the information we released filtered through, it is catching up and can only get better.”
Oge earned a B.Sc. with honours in Economics from University of Nigeria Nsukka (UNN). She attended Cranfield School of Management where she was awarded a Master of Business Administration degree. She is a UK-certified project manager and writer. She has contributed to a wide range of publications and was a pioneer member of the Policy and Research Group (PARG) in the Economics Department of UNN. She sits on the board of NOI Polls Limited, KSF Microfinance Bank, Affirm Consulting, and Victorious Women.
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