By Tope Daramola
The insurance industry is in the news again, gladly for another positive development, with the emergence of the Osomegbe, Etsako, Edo State born Edwin Friday Igbiti installed as the 51st President of the Chartered Insurance Institute of Nigeria- CIIN-a professional body that has carved a good niche in offering cutting edge training and certification to insurance practitioners in Nigeria.
Edwin’s life and meteoric rise through the ladder of life and the profession is quite fascinating and somewhat emotional, worthy of being relayed for the motivation and edification of those upcoming generation who may still allow their aspirations to be cocooned by lack or other besetting challenges.
For good watchers of history, the world is replete with many successful persons who struggled through life rising from obscurity to limelight. In the epic book, “The story of my life”, former United States of America President, Bill Clinton, narrated his battle through grinding lack, occasioned mainly by crippling family challenges. It was told how Bill had to be taken up and trained by different people including his step father. It was clear from his story that the surname, “Clinton” was given to him circumstantially.
The sweetness of the tale is that Bill still trudged on to become one of the most powerful presidents in the world. It appears God often allow men that would be great to pass through afflictions or grinding challenges at one point or the other in their lives. And so, for Edwin Igbiti, he was born in Lagos into a family of seven children of which he was the second and a boy. Growing up turned awry for him when his father, late Momoh James and mother, Regina, could no longer cater for the needs of the family due to inexplicably vicissitudes of life.
The situation got to the abyss at some point, their landlord had to send the family packing for inability to meet their rent obligations. They eventually took succor in a room apartment offered them by a well-wisher. It’s better imagined crowding a little room with about nine persons inclusive of adults. Life was hard for the Igbitis. Happily, in a twist of fate, many years from then, all members of the Igbiti family who suffered ejection from one house to the other in Lagos are now today, landlords in the same city!
Naturally, the financial situation took a grievous toll on Edwin as he struggled through primary school at Catholic School, Apapa Road, Lagos and later secondary school at Royal Polytechnic College, Yaba, which was later closed down, due to an educational policy initiated by the State government then. He had to enroll for his West African School Certificate at the Awori Ajeromi Grammar School, Apapa in 1981. Though sufficiently intelligent to gain admission to a higher institution, young Edwin could not, due to finance.
Since in every situation God always have his way of escape, Edwin knew what laid ahead of him and was prepared to turn the lemon to lemonade. By providence he secured a job with defunct Phoenix Insurance Co. Ltd with his secondary school certificate.
This was when legion of his age mates were still literally strapped to their parent’s feeding bottles. Situation of life forced him to grow up working in a formal environment under a British Managing Director, called Mr. Knotcher. While eking a living and partly providing succor for his other family members, Edwin had the nudge to start the much dreaded chartered certificate examinations in Insurance by correspondence from Chartered Insurance Institute, London.
It was a period when passing just a stage in the exams was literally akin to opening a door to paradise. Though maturity and intelligence were two great keys to passing the exams, Edwin amazed his co-workers and bosses with his excellent progress in the exams, not without the dread of Mr. Wiggle, the Admin Manager of the company who brooked no nonsense, but before whom young but precocious Igbiti found favour.
He passed the exams by instalments and qualified as a Chartered Insurer even before the age grade that his contemporaries were finishing their higher education, if they were lucky to be admitted directly.
There was no doubt that armed with the prestigious insurance certificate, there was no stopping Igbiti anymore, he was already a golden fish that could not be hidden. He was recruited and made Deputy Manager in 1992 in the high profile American International Insurance Company (AIICO) which was a fascination to many young professionals and job seekers at the time.
While in AIICO, Igbiti became an asset to the company blending loyalty, good naturedness and intelligence. For many years he distinguished himself as one of the egg heads of the company and the industry, particularly in fire underwriting, taking after the likes of late Oladipupo Bailey and Bolaji O Banjo, a.k.a, BOB.
By dint of hard work and providence Edwin rose through the ranks of management, perched a little as General Manager, Non-Life Underwriting, and eventually to the hallowed Board of the company when he was promoted as Group Managing Director in 2013, following a “corporate holocaust” that took place in the foremost life company. He gave his all to AIICO and revealed how AIICO also wrote the juiciest part of his career history, including during daunting periods of his life. Leaving AIICO as GMD after five glorious years, Edwin offered to assist in rescuing beleaguered Niger Insurance plc, but the long term endemic challenges the company was enmeshed in seem not easily repairable in a flight.
Edwin left and horned more Broking experience, this time from Quick link Insurance Brokers limited as Executive Director. From the company he garnered experience needed to start his own brokerage company which is up and running today.
Ostensibly having his gaze on the crystal ball, Edwin plunged himself into industry affairs becoming very active in affairs of the Chartered Insurance Institute of Nigeria and the Nigerian Insurers Association NIA.
Remarkably he served on the NIA as a Governing Board member and Assistant Treasurer. In CIIN, he was not just on the Council but performed impeccably on different strategic committees such as Chairman, Activities Committee; Deputy Chairman of Accreditation Committee; General Secretary of Fire Offices Committee; Deputy Chairman of Insurance Industry Consultative Committee and Chairman, College of Insurance and Financial Management (CIFM).
Not allowing his scholarly aspirations to diminish, Edwin Igbiti in 1996 bagged an Advanced Diploma in Management from the Department of Business Administration, University of Lagos and in 1997 became a Chartered Insurer from the Chartered Insurance Institute of London before proceeding to The Redeemed Christian Bible College in 2002 to obtain a Diploma in Theology.
In 2005, Edwin completed the requirements for a Master’s degree in Business Administration (MBA) from the University of Ado Ekiti and also became an alumnus of the Howard University Business School in the United States of America.
As an astute insurer, apart from his academic qualifications, Edwin garnered outstanding professional certifications both within and outside Nigeria. In 2008, 2011 and 2015, he obtained several Executive Leadership Programme certifications from Howard University School of Business and Chief Executive and Directors Programme from the Management School, London, respectively.
A man suffused with impeccable native intelligence and social skills that makes him an admirable friend to many in the insurance industry, Edwin is also a Fellow of the Chartered Insurance Institute of Nigeria (FIIN), a Fellow of the Risk Managers Society of Nigeria (RIMSON), Associate of the Nigerian Council of Registered Insurance Brokers (NCRIB) and a Fellow of the Risk Surveyors Association of Nigeria (RISAN).
He also served the Nigerian Insurers Association (NIA) as member of the Governing Board and one time Assistant Treasurer of the Association. It is on record that Edwin was Chairman of the Nigeria Insurance Liability Pool under whose tenure the organization witnessed significant leap, with the purchase of a befitting building complex.
Today, Mr. Igbiti, aside from being a chartered Insurer is a Fellow of the Chartered Insurance Institute of Nigeria (FIIN); chartered Member of the Nigerian Institute of Management, Chartered (NIMC), certified Business Continuity Systems Lead Auditor from the British Institute, UK and Alumnus of the Howard University Business School, U.S.A. is also an Ordained Pastor of the Redeemed Christian Church of God.
There is no doubt that mounting the saddle at this time as the 51st President, Edwin Igbiti would bring to bear his vast knowledge of the industry and Institute to cause a paradigm shift in the new knowledge orientation required of a professional training Institute of the status of the CIIN and by so doing enriching the overall knowledge base of insurance operators in Nigeria. He is a perfect fit.