By Eric Elezuo
When men of timbre and calibre are counted, the name Rasak Akanni Okoya will be prominent on the list. This is because the billionaire businessman, whose stock in trade is humanity, has primarily become the peoples’ general considering his philanthropic gestures, unassuming personality and not forgetting his kind mien.
Oko Shade, as most eulogists would like to fondly address him, in reference to his beautiful last wife, is a man who has achieved milestones after milestones, creating a niche for himself and for generations to come through a dint of hard work, culminating in the birth and sustenance of the formidable Eleganza Group.
On January 12, the man of means, whose eldest wife is Alhaja Kuburat Okoya clocked 81-and it was an understated celebration attended by his closest and dearest due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Born January 12, 1940, in Lagos, Chief Rasak Akanni Okoya, a business man of no mean repute as well as Aare of Lagos, have seen all there is to see, and continue to hold his head high in triumph. He was educated at Ansar-un-deen Primary School, Oke popo, Lagos. He is the owner and founder of Eleganza group of companies, which has a market spanning Western Africa.
Rasak Okoya, as he is known, was born to the family of Tiamiyu Ayinde Okoya in Lagos, under whose tutelage he mastered the art of tailoring and sales of tailoring accessories. He combined the values his parents taught with dexterity and prudence, and saved every penny he made until he had 20 pounds. With an extra 50 pounds gift from his mother, and blessings from his father, he launched into the world of importation, and that tells the story of his meteoric rise in the world of trading.
A man of vision, he didn’t stop there, Okoya continually looked out for glimpses of opportunity to take advantage of, and that was when he realised that medals used in designing costly jewellery were readily available in Nigeria, and cheap too. He therefore, travelled abroad and bought the machines for cutting, and that was how Eleganza Jewellery came to be. With his Midas touch, the business grew in leaps and bounds, and they could hardly keep up with the demand because, the products were beautiful, durable and cheap.
Gathering more impetus, Okoya delved into more endeavours, travelled far and wide, learnt how things were manufactured and began the importation of shoes in large quantities, subsequently.
Like everything in life which has a cause and effect, Okoya later began the manufacturing of shoes himself after placing orders for his consignments from Italy, it was not delivered in spite of his payment. To his disappointment, he realised on travelling to Italy that his money has been channeled to other things. He was so angry that he took a decision there and then to start manufacturing his own shoes. He imported all the machines and brought in some experts who trained his workers.
Chief Okoya’s phenomenal growth in the world of entrepreneurship could well be attributed to his ability to make a decision early in life. He has been quoted as saying that “In school, I could see my teacher in worn and often shabby clothes and at the same time, I could see the well-dressed businessmen of Dosunmu Street, the heart of business in Lagos then. It was easy for me to choose business life.” Obviously, he understood quite on time why he should opt for business at the detriment of prolonged education. And it paid off. As far as he is concerned, education gives people ‘false confidence’.
His magnificent residence, nicknamed “Oluwanishola” (The Lord creates wealth) Estate on Lekki/Ajah Expressway is a clear testimony of how successful he has become. The Estate, which is home to a good number of expatriates, is well equipped with uninterrupted power and water supply, marble floors, central air-conditioning, sauna, lush gardens, billiard room, tennis court, swimming pools, expensive sculptures and lots more.
His business acumen as the Chairman, has helped to tutor Eleganza Industries, and today, it produces a wide range of household goods and utensils including cutlery, collieries, food warmers, ice chest, electric fan, cosmetics and ballpoint pen.
Located at various centres including Oregun-Ikeja, Isolo, Alaba and Iganmu, Okoya’s Eleganza directly employs over five thousand Nigerians and non-Nigerians including those working in his RAO Property Investment Company. The Group is one of the biggest homegrown conglomerates in Nigeria today, with over six factories, and its products are household names in neighbouring African markets.
Explaining the secrets of business success, Okoya revealed that “You do not do business for the ego value. You go for what the people can afford. In business, you have to ensure that the masses are able to afford the cost of your products. That is one of my secrets.” He added that he was motivated by the desire to be rich, and that explains why he had to work very hard to achieve that very aim.
On politics, Okoya has made it clear that he is not one for that, saying he does expose himself to intrigues. Hear him: ” I keep to myself. I do not look at other people. I am content with myself. I do not look for cheap money. I am not interested in contracts and I do not expose myself to intrigues and politics.”
Okoya’s achievements have been recognised in different spheres among which is the Lifetime Achievement Award as Business Entrepreneur of Our Time by ThisDay Newspapers. He is also a recipient of CON national honours.
A diligent and disciplined family man, Chief Okoya, a devout Muslim is a philanthropist extra-ordinaire.
As you revel in the euphoria of four scores and one year sir, we wish you the happiest of birthdays!