All the way from Ogori, Nigeria is Samuel Tobson, whose love for creativity and building led him to pursue a career in construction industry. Samuel has been involved in many projects spread around Nigeria and the Republic of Niger as a project manager and cost adviser.
My name is Samuel Tobson, I am 36 years old and hail from a town called Ogori in Kogi State North Central Nigeria. I grew up in the cities of Ilorin and Lagos in Nigeria’s South-West. My parents moved around a bit when I was a kid, so I attended two primary schools at a time when my country was still under military rule. I loved school, it was like an escape for me. I am from a small town where education was everything to the locals. The wealth of your family in my town is not a reflection of the house you live in, or the cars you drive or how much luxuries you’ve got but we look at how many graduates you’ve got, the number of professors or PhD holders, engineers, doctors etc. There was always pressure to excel academically in my hometown, we call it the haven of professors.
I was a brilliant teenager in junior high school when my dad passed. That kick-started a very trying period in my life. It was just some years after we relocated to Kogi State, my mother had lost her business and most of us were left pretty much on our own. I was the sixth of seven children and she struggled to make sure we all completed secondary school and earned our degrees. I remember she’d tell us then, “Your ticket out of this town is to get straight distinctions”. I did not want to remain a small town boy, my dreams were bigger than that. That gave me the first value I placed on education. I did not let anything come between me and getting excellent grades.
What were the challenges and great things about growing up?
Growing up for me was challenging. A major challenge I had was not having any real father figure or someone to look up to. My mother was pretty much all I had, I did not want to disappoint her. We had financial challenges, and at a time I was tempted to just give up and be an average kid. I was good with my hands creatively, I remember how I used to make banners and Christmas cards and so on to survive. My mother once told me, “even if I have to sell all that I own to the last dress for you all to go to school, I will make sure you all graduate”. Well, that spoke volumes to me.
I think my Dad’s passing made me grow up quickly. I stopped looking up to anyone and focused on my studies and having a relationship with my creator. Started singing in the church choir and found mentorship in a pastor who made me start reading books. I read so many books: academic, biographies, motivational, fiction and spiritual books that just opened the world to me and helped me heal from my loss and believe in myself.
I think one of the greatest moments of my life was when I was told that I was the best graduating student at my secondary school, not only that but also one of the top three in my district. My mother was so proud and happy! Not quite long afterwards, I gained admission to study Quantity surveying. I came to believe in myself that I could do anything and be anything I wanted, so I went on to the Polytechnic from there.
Your career? What is it that you do? What inspired you to do what you do?
My love for creativity and building things drove me into the construction industry. I was an intern for a year after graduation and got a job three months after at a consultancy firm involved in project management and quantity surveying services. From 2010 till now, I have been involved in many projects spread around Nigeria and the republic of Niger as project manager and cost adviser. My areas of expertise include: Estimation and budgeting, Project Management, Housing projects, Cost control and Contract administration. I am currently the Project Quantity Surveyor at H&M Nigeria Limited, a civil engineering company based in Kano, North-West Nigeria.
I am excited about the project we are working on currently because it’s massive! It’s a refinery in Lagos Nigeria and when completed, will be the biggest petrochemical refinery in Africa and one of the biggest in the world. Most importantly, it is going to solve problems of availability of petroleum products and provide employment for our people.
I was a member of a project team assigned to build an eye hospital complex in the Republic of Niger sponsored by a non-profit from Saudi Arabia two years ago. The project made me realise how basic health care is still a major problem in many African countries. The locals always showed their appreciation whenever we meet with them just because we came to solve a huge problem for them. The need to solve problems that affect people and help them have a better lives drives me. Sometimes, these project may not even have much value financially to a contractor, but it means the world to the beneficiaries.
I also co-run an internet solutions company with a friend and associate called Meronix Consulting Ltd. It is an Information and Communication Technology company in Abuja Nigeria where we deploy telecoms solutions to consistently exceed the expectations of our clients. Our services spans across telecommunications, ICT infrastructure setups, access control systems, security and surveillance systems, broadband systems and ICT project management.
Lastly, I am a member of the Nigeria Institute of Quantity surveyors and also heading back to school to get a second degree in economics soon.
What do you like most about yourself and the work that you do?
I am not a quitter. The one thing that scares me is failure, I do not like to do anything at all unless I am absolutely sure I can make it work.
My work allows me to travel a lot and get to see different peoples from different places and understand their cultures. Then there is the fact that every building, road or bridge we build solves a problem and helps peoples’ lives get better.
What are some of the challenges which you’ve faced and how did you overcome them?
Firstly, it was finance to pay my tuition in school. My mother helped with the little she had at the time considering we were five children she had to send to school. I had to juggle between work and school every day for three years. But I eventually found a balance and still manage to come top in class.
The corporate world is not a fair place. It is either you stand strong or you will be devoured by others. Competition is key. That is why it is important to consistently improve on myself. You never finish learning, and I mean from everyone and everywhere- what to do and what not to do.
Quantity surveying is a very wide field, it is largely about the economics of construction so I always have to be up to date on prices of resources and identify/control project risks, advise management, and be prepared for prompt project deliveries. I always have to be on my toes.
What are some of your life highlights for you so far? What are you most proud of?
Impact. That is what I am most proud of, it did not matter whether it was on one person, one child or a community. I like to touch lives in every little ways I can, I do use my social media platform to motivate and encourage people by sharing my story just to inspire someone.
I am proud that I turned out well, that despite the many challenges I was able to get on my feet and graduate. Often times, I meet young people who are living in my past. Some of them could not pay their tuition or have a roof over their heads. School Education may not be everything you need, but it is the most important to me. So in all you plan on getting, get educated too!
What, in your opinion, are the most important factors to keep in mind to make it in your career or life in general?
Hard work, self-development and living a healthy lifestyle. When you are diligent at what you do and have also acquired the relevant skill set, you will have opportunities and trust me, there are people who will see and notice what you do. Just be ready and prepared. Above all, God blesses your diligence. It’s worked for me, I must say I also take my spiritual life very seriously too.
Where would you like to see yourself in the next three years?
In three years, I plan to be completely independent and working at my own pace running my company and doing what I love. There are still many things I want to do in life, I love doing charity work but have not been able to create sufficient time because of the demands of my job and other activities.
If there was anything you could do differently, what would it be?
Hmmm, yes. Some relationships I developed in the past slowed me down I believe. If I could, I would undo them.
Are there any specific people or organisations that you look up to and draw inspiration from and why?
Career wise? Yes, one of my mentors Aminu Bashir, a consultant surveyor, arbitrator and lecturer and so much more. He is so much packaged in one single person.
Some of the people I look up to include Aliko Dangote, Paul Adefarasin and T.D Jakes. Aside the last name being clergy man, he’s inspired me a lot because he has done excellently well as a business man too.
Are there any inspiring projects which you’re involved in?
I volunteer for a non-profit called Tiny Beating Heart Initiative (TBHI) where we focus on reducing neonatal and maternal mortality. Over ten percent of babies born globally are born too soon, most of them in Africa, my country inclusive. Complications from pre-term births accounted for 25% of neonatal mortality in Nigeria, so we harness available resources to help premature babies have a fighting chance by doing what we can to reduce neonatal mortality and morbidity because we believe every beating heart counts.
Lastly, what advice would you give to others out there looking to follow in your footsteps?
Follow your passion. Develop and equip yourself for your future and be ready for opportunities. Opportunities do not give you notice of their arrival most times, you cannot afford not to be ready. Most of the skills I have today were not handed to me in the four walls of the school. The desire to know more and see every opportunity as a learning experience helped me to where I am today. Develop good character and learn to socialize, life itself is a lot about relationships.
How can the public contact you?
Facebook: Samuel tobson