Mr. Sunday Olorundare Thomas is surely not a new fry in the insurance industry. He stands as one of the sparkling lights in the firmament of an industry that many Nigerians are yet to come to grasp with its relevance to their lives and avocations.
A graduate of insurance from the University of Lagos, and of course, one of the earliest to obtain such degrees in the discipline, the Kogi born Thomas is a chip off the old bloc, having had a robust and worthy work experience that lapped between two generations of insurance practitioners. Despite this, he has succeeded through abundant emotional intelligence, professional adroitness and diligence to navigate the two divides without any known blemish.
His work life spans raw underwriting where he made impact in life insurance and annuity with AIICO Insurance, one of the consistently leading brands in the nation’s insurance market. Along the line, Mr Thomas joined the burgeoning National Insurance Commission (NAICOM) where he combined efforts with many other heads to build the institution from a mere department in the Federal Ministry of Commerce to a recognizable regulatory institution in the country. He rose through dint of hard work and professionalism to the position of Director, (Technical), of the Commission, working with the likes of ebullient Late Chief Oladipupo Bailey as Commissioner for Insurance (CFI).
Most significant was the fact that Mr Thomas was one of the “silent hands” in the mills that saw that the insurance industry wadded through the murky waters of the first recapitalization of the industry. Although as a through technocrat, Mr Thomas’ invisible hands, profound thoughts and wits could be felt by operators in many policy moorings of the Commission. He was well respected. On his retirement from NAICOM, the Nigerian Insurers Association (NIA) was just smarter to have harvested the golden fish, making him the Director-General of the Association, through which he brought to bear his rich reservoir of knowledge as a technocrat to open new vista of intra and inter-industry relationship for insurance underwriters and members of the Association.
Also while in NIA, Mr Thomas maintained his dignity and panache as a respected industry voice and thought leader. In another twist of destiny, the position of Deputy Commissioner for Insurance Technical has opened at NAICOM again, for which he was appointed. It was a case of the bird coming back to roost! It must be stressed that Mr Thomas’ appointment at the time brought a great relieve to many industry operators who had many issues of discontent with the Commission. It’s now history that with the exit of Alhaji Mohammed Kari as CFI, Mr Thomas was appointed as Ag. CFI and was on the position for more than a year before he was confirmed as a substantive CFI by President Mohammadu Buhari, recently.
On receiving news of his appointment, the entire industry was agog with deluge of felicitations expressed on all platforms of social and professional interactions by operators across all the divides. For instance, the Nigerian Council of Registered Insurance Brokers through its President, Dr ( Mrs) Bola Onigbogi said the appointment was one of the best things to happen to the Nigerian insurance industry and opined that the industry’s contributions to the country’s GDP would leap frog under his dynamic leadership. The same measure of good wishes had been expressed by the leadership of the Chartered Insurance Institute of Nigeria, Mr Eddie Efekoha and Chairman of the NIA, Mr Tope Smart. Rarely does such a gale of acceptance greet any appointment for an occupant of that office as far as this writer could recollect.
But while all these are going on, many operators and pundits have continued to hinge the secret of Mr Thomas’ appointment on the three pivots, espoused in the book: “Where have the true leaders gone” by Le Iaccoca. They are: Idea, People, and Action. In action, Mr Thomas has over the years, particularly in the course of his acting demonstrated sound knowledge and idea about the operators and operation of the regulatory body.
He exuded very sound people skill which comes through humility and friendliness with all across board, while being firm in enforcing the rules where necessary. He is reputed for his uncanny way of saying “No” without the recipient being offended. His deft handling of the ongoing recapitalization exercise with the diffusion of the attendant tension could only come under a man of experience and knowledge.
Infact, Mr Thomas has brought great harmony and tranquility to the industry while providing oversight. The Insurance Brokers body would continue to appreciate his initiation of continuous channel of communication and dialogue on issues that had before now often pitched the Commission against the Brokers body. Of course, he is a man of action. Since his acting period, Mr Thomas has helped the industry’s image to inch up significantly through forging profitable synergies with trade and regulatory bodies as well as other reputable institutions for them to appreciate the place of the industry. One could not remiss the various stakeholders’ engagements facilitated by the Commission for the industry and other stakeholders, notably Board of Directors of companies and Insurance Consumers from different orientations.
It is on record that Mr Thomas scored an unprecedented first for the industry, through the initiative of insurance industry coordinated relief support for Covid 19 victims through the federal government. This stride fascinated the President, Mohammadu Buhari, to single out the industry for praise during his recent nation-wide broadcast on the pandemic. This is quite unheard of in the history of the insurance industry in Nigeria. The euphoria of this adulation is still pervading the industry till this moment.
Obviously, if the pulse of the environment at the moment is anything to go by, insurance industry operators and watchers of the industry are of the consensus of opinion that the best choice has been made in Mr. Sunday Thomas as the right man to occupy the office of the CFI. They are only eagerly waiting for the magic wands of he and his team to stabilize the ship of the industry, post-Covid 19, as well as provide consultative and progressive regulatory oversight that would take the industry to its pride of place in the nation’s economy. The clock of history is already ticking!