When men of substance are born, there is always a sign heralding such a birth. The atmosphere reacts, and gives it support and consent, and so it was with Razak Akanni Okoya, the billionaire industrialist and Aare of Lagos, who is the owner and founder of Eleganza group of companies with a market spanning the entire Western Africa.
Razak Okoya, a Yoruba man by tribe was born in Lagos on January 12, 1940 to Tiamiyu Ayinde and Alhaja Idiatu Okoya. It is to hard imagine that he had his only formal education at Ansar-un-deen Primary School, Oke popo, Lagos yet had the capability of conquering the Nigerian and African sub-region’s business empire.
As a first start to his business conquest, the young Razak worked with his father’s tailoring business which also included the sales of tailoring accessories. With determination and resilience, he garnered the experience which gave him the confidence to start mini tailoring activities on his own.
With prudence, he saved every penny he made until he had 20 pounds, and with the extra 50 pounds his mother gave him, and the blessings of his father, he started importing and trading in goods from Japan.
By a dint of hardwork, Razak Okoya’s business expanded swiftly, and he travelled far and wide and learnt how things were manufactured, having at the back of his mind the strong feeling that Nigeria could match that quality if not better.
Being a man who puts his eyes down and observes his environment, he was thrilled and baffled at the cost his first wife, Kuburat Okoya, who was obsessed with costly jewellery, told him of her jewelleries. He immediately saw and noticed a business angle to it, and strongly felt the prices were outrageous since the metals could be designed at a cheaper price and of course, the metals were readily available in Nigeria.
So challenged by his perceived healthy demand, he travelled abroad, and bought the machines, and that marked the birth of Eleganza Jewelry. The success was phenomenal but not surprising as the person of his intelligence was expected to do great things. Even his superhuman efforts couldn’t meet up with the demand because as the products were beautiful, durable and cheap. Both him and the products became instant best sellers.
Not being a man to rest on his oars, he diversified, and also started manufacturing buttons and jewellery as well as delved into the importation of shoes in large quantities, subsequently. When on one of these occasions, his shoes were not delivered despite his payment, he travelled to Italy to see the manufacturer only to discover that they had used his money to settle their bills. His justified anger made him decided there and then to start manufacturing his own shoes. He started by importing all the machines and brought in some experts who trained his workers.
Today, under his Chairmanship, the Eleganza Industries has so grown that it produces a wide range of household goods and utensils including cutlery, collieries, food warmers, ice chest, electric fan, cosmetics and ballpoint pen. His factory locations include Oregun-Ikeja, Isolo, Alaba and Iganmu, with a direct employment of over five thousand Nigerians and non-Nigerians including those working in his RAO Property Investment Company.
Okoya’s Eleganza Group is one of the biggest homegrown conglomerates in Nigeria today, with over six factories, and its products are household names in Nigeria neighbouring African markets.
With these achievements, he had been noticed and had received many awards among which is the Lifetime Achievement Award as Business Entrepreneur of Our Time from Thisday Newspapers.
His life of humility made him name his magnificent and outlandish estate, where he lives “Oluwa ni shola”, meaning ‘The Lord creates wealth’ Estate at Lekki/Ajah Expressway is his primary residence.
Unlike the situation obtained in many parts of the country, the “Oluwa ni shola” Estate, which is also described as an expatriates Estate because of the high number of expatriates living there, 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 benevolence was also the reason a musician was allowed the use of the estate to shoot his musical video.
For those who know, Razak Okoya is also a man of words, and has been credited with so many quotable quotes, among which are:
“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.”
“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.”
“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.”
“My main motivation was that I wanted to be rich and I knew I had to work very hard to get there.”
“I have nothing against education. But at times, education gives people false confidence. It makes people relax, trusting in the power of their certificates rather than in working hard.”
The ebullient industrialist is blessed with three wonderful wives; Kuburat, Ajoke and Sade, and they are blessed with Taofeek and Biola.
Sir, for your resilience, indefatigability and humane nature, you qualify to be our boss of the week. Congrats!