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Boss Of The Week

Aliko Dangote: Standing Top Among World’s Black Billionaires

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By Eric Elezuo

Among the 28 black billionaires in the world, Nigeria’s business mogul and reference point to entrepreneurial ingenuity, Aliko Dangote remains at the top echelon, leading with a total worth of $13.5 billion, according to the newest publicly declared data.

For the President of the Dangote Group, Alhaji Aliko Dangote, and his multifaceted group, playing second fiddle has never been an option. Both the enterprise and the entrepreneur have maintained market leadership to the extent that Dangote himself has appropriated the richest man in Africa status to himself, and has hardworkingly sustained the tag for as long as anyone can remember.

Since 2014, when Forbes magazine named him the world’s 23rd billionaire, jumping 20 spots on the scale from his previous 43rd position among the elite club of the world’s richest people. Aliko Dangote has not looked back, winning back to back the accolade among African billionaires, and never slipping from the world ranking.

Again, as expected, the famous Forbes has proclaimed the soft spoken businessman as Africa’s richest man for the 12th time in a row; a proof that the name Dangote is synonymous with consistency. He is a businessman, who understands that no man rest on his oars if turnovers have to continue to turn over. With marked differentiation, he has demystified the business terrain, and proved that if it can be done, then it must done. His establishment of the humongous fertilizer and sugar plants and the ambitious refinery in Lekki, Lagos, Nigeria, are testimonies of the trajectory of one who knows his onions.

Worth $13.4 by the last Forbes ranking, which sustained him as the richest man in African for the 11th time, entrepreneur extraordinaire  has the following points to his name:

  • Aliko Dangote, Africa’s richest person, founded and chairs Dangote Cement, the continent’s largest cement producer.
  • He owns 85% of publicly-traded Dangote Cement through a holding company.
  • Dangote Cement has the capacity to produce 48.6 million metric tons annually and has operations in 10 countries across Africa.
  • After many years in development, Dangote’s fertilizer plant in Nigeria began operations in mid-2021.
  • Dangote Refinery has been under construction since 2016 and is expected to be one of the world’s largest oil refineries once complete.

The above and many has remained the factors that have made it easy for the billionaire to remain in the top echelon of world’s money men, and the supremo among African businessmen. Like wonder he is one of the few recipients of the GCON national honours reserved for top politicians of vice president ranking and top government appointees. He has never been any of the above.

In 2021 when his 3.0 million metric tonnes of Urea per annum Dangote Fertiliser Plant, sited at the Dangote Industries Free Zone, Ibeju Lekki, was commissioned. During his speech, at The Fertiliser Complex, which occupies 500 hectares, and built at a cost of $2.5 Billion, Dangote had the following to say in his much sought after humility:

“The commissioning of this Fertiliser Plant is historic. It marks the official opening of the largest Granulated Urea Fertiliser Complex in Africa. The new plant will make Nigeria self-sufficient in fertiliser production, with excess capacity to export to other markets in Africa and the rest of the world. Our products have already reached the markets some African countries, the USA, Brazil, India and Mexico.

“It is an ambitious developmental project, which will drastically reduce the level of unemployment and youth restiveness in this country, through generation of direct and indirect employment. Agriculture accounts for over 20 per cent of Nigeria’s GDP, and the country is a leading producer of various agricultural commodities. The sector has the potential of becoming the biggest source of income for our Nation, providing employment and raw materials for industries. However, low fertilizer usage has been a major reason for low productivity in the sector.

“It is common knowledge that non-availability of the product, in quantity and quality, rather than affordability, is the primary constraint to the use of fertilizer.

“Our goal is to make fertiliser available in sufficient quantities and quality for our teeming farmers assuring greater agricultural output. To help realise this potential, we are rolling out initiatives that will transform the agricultural sector, including extension services for small and medium scale farmers. We have also established well-equipped soil-testing laboratories to ensure that the appropriate fertiliser blends are applied to specific soil and/or crop types. This will boost productivity, enhancing output across the Nation.

“Dangote Fertiliser will partner with key stakeholders in the industry, including Farmer Associations, NPK Blenders, NGO/Development Partners and State Governments across Nigeria, who are committed to a sustainable approach to improving soil quality and farm yields.

“Our continuous efforts to innovate, create value and invest in Nigeria are borne out of our firm belief in the vast economic potential of our dear country. This has also informed our desire to continue with our investment strategy, with a focus on driving import substitution, ensuring that we increase local production to achieve self-sufficiency, and even export excess production.”

He proved that his entrepreneurial skills are not just geared towards uplifting him as a person, but to create an enabling environment for the Nigeria youth and child to grow and development in an environment he can proudly co-own. His vision is practically for the greater good of the world, and Nigeria in particular.

Born in Kano in 1957, Dangote proudly shuttles between three wonderful tags as the richest man in Nigeria; the richest man in Africa and the richest Black man in the world. He has paid his dues, and mankind is the better for it.

Releasing impacts, Aliko Dangote Foundation (ADF), the private charitable foundation of Alhaji Aliko Dangote. Incorporated in 1994, as Dangote Foundation, is saddled with the mission to enhance opportunities for social change through strategic investments that improve health and wellbeing, promote quality education, and broaden economic empowerment opportunities. 20 years later, the Foundation has become the largest private Foundation in sub-Saharan Africa, with the largest endowment by a single African donor.

The primary focus of ADF is child nutrition, with wraparound interventions centered on health, education and empowerment, and disaster relief. The Foundation also supports stand-alone projects with the potential for significant social impact.

The Foundation works with state and national governments and many highly reputable international and domestic charities, non-governmental organizations and international agencies to advance its humanitarian agenda.

In one of its biggest collaboration to date, Aliko Dangote Foundation started working in partnership with the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and key northern State Governments in Nigeria from 2013 to eradicate polio and strengthen routine immunization in Nigeria.

Worthy of praise is the fact that nearly a decade, the Foundation has spent over N7 Billion in the course of feeding, clothing and the general welfare of the Internally Displaced Persons in the Northeast.

To make his host communities feel at ease, and the impact of his presence, Dangote has embarked on an initiative to provide further support to improving educational systems in Ibeju-Lekki and Epe locality. The educational support initiative is a tripartite programme consisting of scholarship, capacity building for teachers and school infrastructure projects.

In addition, Scholarships have been awarded to 52 secondary school students whilst some financial support was provided to their parents and/or guardians. Tertiary students will be included in the next batch of the scheme.

Furthermore, about 100 teachers, principals and school administrators were trained in teaching techniques for the 21st century. After which they were monitored in class on how they were using the skills acquired.

There is hardly any sector that has not felt the milk of human kindness running through Aliko Dangote; the military, media, politicians, governments across boards and more.

Dangote is surely an asset to this world!

As at today, there is no space for slowing down for Dangote as he continues to trudge on, creating firsts after first for himself and for humanity. He is blessed with three wonderful daughters, who have followed the rewarding footprints of entrepreneurship, and is looking forward to hitting the richest man in the world status. And very soon too.

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Boss Of The Week

Music Maestro, Ebenezer Obey, Celebrates 82nd Birthday in Style

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By Eric Elezuo

The Decross Mission Church in Lagos during the week wore the best of looks in gratitude, blessings, thanksgiving and more, as juju and gospel music maestro, Evangelist (Prof) Ebenezer Obey-Fabiyi, celebrated his 82nd years.

In attendance were the who’s who of Nigeria’s top society including the governor of Ogun State, Senator Ademola Adeleke, who led the retinue of outpouring of encomiums, eulogies and hype upon the octogenarian.

Extolling the virtues of the much celebrated singer, whose hit tracks have reverberated over the years, remaining evergreen, Gove Adeleke described him as a meaningful singer, whose songs go beyond the ordinary.

“We thank God for the life of Baba Ebenezer Obey because it is not easy after all these years to reach the age of 82 years. That is a big one and that is why we should continue to thank God. All the songs he has been singing all these years show that he is a philosophical singer. There is no song that he sings that does not have a meaning.  You have been taking care of us since we were young and we are always happy whenever we listen to your songs. That is why I am here to surprise you and celebrate with you. I also use you as a point of contact that Nigeria will go from strength to strength,” the governor eulogised.

In his response, the elated celebrant, who couldn’t hold his joy, expressed his gratitude to God, and to a crowd of friends, colleagues and mentees, who turned out to celebrate with him. While citing the Bible in the book of Psalm 92 of the holy scriptures, Evangelist Obey said, “I am using this scripture to express myself. All my life, God has been so good to me. I was born into the church and I used to crawl to where the choir played their instrument. As I crawl to the choir, my mum would carry me and I would always crawl back there. And the pastor took me from my mother and said definitely, I was going to be a renowned musician. That prophecy came to pass in my life. I became a professional musician at the age of 15, precisely in 1957, that was when I had my first album.

“I thank God, who has seen me through several surgeries. In 1980, I had surgery in London and prostrate enlargement was the last surgery I had. I am preparing to release a record to educate parents and the people on prostate enlargement.”

Other dignitaries present at the event included the Osile of Oke Ona Egbaland, Oba Adedapo Tejuosho, Dele Momodu, Bola Obasanjo, Esther Ajayi, and a host of others.

THE MAN, EBENEZER OBEY

Born Ebenezer Remilekun Aremu Olasupo Obey-Fabiyi MFR on April 3, 1942, the music maestro is from Idogo, Ogun State, and of Egba-Yoruba ethnic background. He is also of the Owu subgroup of the Egba, and known professionally as Ebenezer Obey.

According reports obtained from Wikipedia, “Ebenezer Obey began his professional career in the mid-1950s after moving to Lagos. After tutelage under Fatai Rolling-Dollar’s band, he formed a band called The International Brothers in 1964, playing highlife–jùjú fusion. The band later metamorphosed into Inter-Reformers in the early-1970s, with a long list of Juju album hits on the West African Decca musical label.

“Obey began experimenting with Yoruba percussion style and expanding on the band by adding more drum kits, guitars and talking drums. Obey’s musical strengths lie in weaving intricate Yoruba axioms into dance-floor compositions. As is characteristic of Nigerian Yoruba social-circle music, the Inter-Reformers band excel in praise-singing for rich Nigerian socialites and business tycoons. Obey, however, is also renowned for Christian spiritual themes in his music and has since the early-1990s retired into Nigerian gospel music ministry. It will be worthy of note to also say that Chief Commander just as he is fondly called by his fans, has played alongside popular gospel music veteran, Pastor Kunle Ajayi during his 30 years on stage concert in Lagos.

“Obey married Juliana Olaide Olufade in 1963. His wife, known as Lady Evangelist Juliana Obey-Fabiyi, died at Lagos State University Teaching Hospital on 23 August 2011, aged 67. They have several children and grand children.”

The life of Ebenezer Obey is quick a study and worth celebrating. His brand of music of music has transcended ages and time, and even at his age, he is still a much sought after performer at high profile events.

We celebrate you sir, and wish many more years in good health.

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Boss Of The Week

Adaora Umeoji: Prolific Amazon Blazing the Banking Trail

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By Eric Elezuo

With effect from June 1, 2024, the newest kid on the block in the banking world, Dame (Dr.) Adaora Umeoji, will mount the topmost echelon of the Zenith Bank brand as its Group Managing Director/Chief Executive Officer. She will be the first female that has ever held the position in the near three decades history of the bank. Many do not know that the Amazon has spent 26 years of her total 30 years in the banking world with Zenith.

It is therefore, not out of place to say that her appointment was not out of place, but very well deserved.

Umeoji’s ascendancy to the citizen number one position of one of Nigeria’s most prolific banks was not a fluke. Many has described her sojourn to such great height as nothing compared to a walk in the park. She came prepared. She has over the years, seen and conquered, granting her unfettered leverage to kiss the reward of hardwork.

To many, the news was a surprise, and to a grat number of others, the news was a fulfillment of well orchestrated analysis when Zenith Bank Plc announced the appointment of Dr. Adaora Umeoji as its new Group Managing Director, effective June 1, 2024.

The disclosure was contained in a statement signed by the Company Secretary, Michael Otu, which was instantly filed with the Nigerian Exchange Limited.

Umeoji will take over from the current GMD, Dr. Ebenezer Onyeagwu, whose time in office expires May 31.

The statement acknowledged that “Dame (Dr.) Adaora Umeoji is the first female GMDCEO since the inception of the bank, and her appointment is consistent with the bank’s executive transition tradition, succession plan, and strategy of grooming leaders from within.”

With this appointment, the admixture of brain and beauty will swell the number as well as join the ranks of female bank MDs in Nigeria, a pack she’s likely to lead, consider the market value of Zenith, which has continued to soar ever since her appointment was announced.

Before her appointment however, Umeoji has been the Deputy Managing Director of the bank since October 28, 2016 and has close to 30 years of banking experience of which  26 years has been with Zenith Bank.

According to her profile, Umeoji is an alumnus of Harvard Business School, where she attended the  Advanced Management Programme, and an alumnus of Columbia Business School with a Certificate in the Global Banking Program. She holds a bachelor’s degree in sociology from the University of Jos, a bachelor’s degree in accounting, and a first-class honours degree in law from Baze University, Abuja.

She holds a Master of Laws from the University of Salford, United Kingdom, a Master in Business Administration from the University of Calabar, and also has a doctorate in business administration from Apollos University, USA. She holds a Certificate in Economics for Business from the prestigious MIT Sloan School of Management, USA, and has attended various management programmes in renowned Universities around the world including the strategic thinking and Management programme at Wharton Business School, USA.

Zenith Bank is one of the banks in Nigeria that has large asset banks and belongs to the elite club of banks with a market value of over N1tn.

In February 2023, Dame (Dr.) Adaora Umeoji, who also has a national honour of OON, and then Deputy Managing Director of the bank emerged The Humanitarian Services Icon of the Year at The Sun Awards, in recognition of not just for her outstanding banking career and contributions to the development of an effective Nigerian financial services sector, but more importantly for her many philanthropic works and a sustained commitment over the years to improve the lives of less privileged persons.

A career banker notwithstanding, Umeoji has her hands in many welfarist pies including ownership of Pink Breath Cancer Care Foundation, which undertakes several healthcare programs annually within the six geopolitical zones of Nigeria.

The Foundation provides the much needed medical care for persons living with cancer and other ailments. She also donates relief materials and provides free healthcare to internally displaced persons nationwide, through several other intervention initiatives.

Among her recent philanthropic gestures eas the donation of a Church building to the Catholic Archdiocese of Abuja. She also holds Yuletide programmes running for close to two decades now, and have positively impacted the lives of over 5,000 indigent children.

Dame (Dr.) Adaora Umeoji, OON, is a Peace Advocate of the United Nations (UN-POLAC), a Lady of the Order of Knights of St. John International (KSJI) and a Papal Knight of the Order of St. Sylvester. In 2022, the Federal Government of Nigeria honoured her with the national award of Officer of the Order of the Niger (OON), in recognition of her contributions to nation building.

 

 

MORE ON DAME ADAORA UMEOJI

Presently the Deputy Managing Director of the bank, a position she has held since October 28, 2016, she is an alumnus of the prestigious Harvard Business School where she attended the Advanced Management Program (AMP) and an alumnus of Columbia Business School with a Certificate in the Global Banking Program. She holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Sociology from the University of Jos, a Bachelor’s Degree in Accounting and a First-Class honors in Law from Baze University, Abuja. She holds a Master of Laws from the University of Salford, United Kingdom, a Master in Business Administration (MBA) from the University of Calabar, and also has a doctorate in business administration from Apollos University, USA.

She holds a Certificate in Economics for Business from the prestigious MIT Sloan School of Management, USA, and has attended various management programmes in renowned Universities around the world including the strategic thinking and Management programme at Wharton Business School, USA. She also attended the executive program in Strategic Management, and has a Certificate in Leading Global Business all from Harvard Business School, USA.

She is a fellow of notable professional bodies including the Chartered Banker Institute, UK, Chartered Institute of Bankers of Nigeria, Nigerian Institute of Management, Institute of Credit Administration, Institute of Certified Public Accountants of Nigeria, Institute of Chartered Mediators and Conciliators, and the Institute of Chartered Secretaries and Administrators of Nigeria among others.

In 2022, the Federal Government of Nigeria honored Dr. Umeoji with Officer of the Order of the Niger, as a recognition of her contributions to nation building. She is a Peace Advocate of the United Nations (UN-POLAC).

She has impacted many lives through her philanthropic and humanitarian activities through her NGOs; Pink Breathe Cancer Foundation and the Adorable Foundation that educates, caters for Cancer patients and indigent children education especially the Girl-Child. Her contribution to humanity was recognized by the Sun Newspaper which recently bestowed on her the Humanitarian Service Icon Award for 2023.

As a result of her passion for promoting professionalism in the banking industry and improving the well-being of the less privileged, Dr. Adaora Umeoji, OON founded the Catholic Bankers Association of Nigeria (CBAN), a platform she uses to promote ethical banking and service to humanity.

She is a Lady of the Order of Knights of St. John International (KSJI), and was awarded a Papal Knight of the Order of St. Sylvester by His Holiness Pope Francis.

At 52 years, Umeoji, who is happily married and blessed with children, can easily be passed for a 30-year-old lady as a result of her well kept beauty and physic.

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Boss Of The Week

Dr Stephen Akintayo: Leading Gtext Homes to Strategic Marketing Advantage

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By Eric Elezuo and Omotayo Omidiji
There are very few Nigerian billionaires, who have remained accessible, display humility among humanity while engaging ferociously with the legitimate business of creating and recreating wealth, making live liveable for the citizenry and giving the government of the day the leeway to provide adequate democratic dividend for all and sundry. Prominent among them is the multi-faceted, multi-talented, resilient and ebullient entrepreneur par excellence,  Dr. Stephen Akintayo, the Chairman/Chief Executive Officer, Gtext Homes, and its many affiliates, the Stephen Akintayo Consulting among very many others.
In this brief chat, the soft spoken go-getter, who practically rose from the proverbial grass to grace, tells the story of determination, resilience and focus. His life trajectory culminates in why everyone is a candidate of success, irrespective of the background. He tells how he doggedly built his empire via strategic marketing advantages, and rising to the status of king of real estate.
Excerpts:

HOW DID YOU COME ABOUT THE RELATIVE HUMILITY YOU ARE TODAY ASSOCIATED WITH?

Well, I think it is relative as you said. I am not sure everyone believes I’m humble, and the reason is that, I am a very straight shooter. When issues come, I confront them headlong. In my office, you will hear people say do not go and report people to oga because if you go, he will bring both the person that said something and the accused and you will confront each other. And because of that, some people have the perception that I am a straight shooter. For me generally, I have been through a lot in life, capable of making anyone humble normally. I grew up in the northern part of Nigeria, and at some time, in the village, where there was no running water, and no electricity. I had to fight for everything in life.
It’s humbling however, to note that I started my business with one thousand naira, and for us to be in the four continents of the world, I had to keep proving myself. Sometimes, I get into rooms, and overhear people saying I’m fronting for someone. They are like how come he had achieved so much at such a young age. Some even make bold to say…maybe he is doing hard drugs. I just laugh, and keep proving myself.
IN YOUR LIFE TRAJECTORY, DID YOU BY ANY MEANS MAP OUT YOUR STAGES BECAUSE EVERYTHING ABOUT YOU SEEMS TO BE FOLLOWING A WELL PLANNED SEQUENCE 
At the age of 17/18, I read the books that changed my life. I read Rich Dad, Poor Dad, Think and Grow Rich and others. The books woke me up to know that it is not degrees that is going to make me rich. It made me know that degree is just about going to school and being enlightened. If I want to be rich, I needed to do a trade. Having gone through that book at the age of 18, I started my first business as a very shy person, and my first business was multilevel marketing of food supplement by GNLD. It was difficult to market a drug, as I couldn’t look a potential customer in the face, but the book I read said if I could do this, I would become rich. So I had to.
I started business by selling e-books from day one in the university. I was just sold to doing business; hawked electronics and all stuffs. I failed many times doing business but I kept at it because I had no choice, and because we were not rich and money was always an issue, so I just had to keep at it and that was it for me.
SO YOUR TARGET WAS JUST TO BE RICH?
My target was to be financially free. I hated poverty. My mother was always borrowing money to pay my school fees from our neighbours, who incidentally were her juniors, but she had five children and my dad wasn’t financially stable to support her. They will then look at her with disdain and still not give her the money, saying our children too have not seen help. I just hated it. I hated that we were poor. I did not see a toilet we could flush until I was 13 when we moved to a new house, a government quarter because my mum worked with PHCN. It was just marvelous that we could sit, defecate, and flush a WC. At that teen age that I read that book, I just started planning that this is what I needed to do, and I remember as a student, I had a picture Ark. I had a list of companies I was going to own from media to real estate to production companies. Now, I am beginning to tick them out.
AT WHAT TIME IN YOUR LIFE COULD YOU DESCRIBE AS YOUR TURNING POINT?
A lot of people ask me this question often times, and my answer is always that there wasn’t really a major turning point except for 2015. The business that eventually became a mainstay for me was the bulk SMS company. We tried to convince companies that we could market their products by sending SMS. We had email and phone number database where we could help them send SMS to a large number of people. But at some point, I became indebted without even borrowing money. This was because I was representing a university in Hungary then. Along the line, we did a transaction, which the university later cancelled despite receiving processing fees from some applicants. They insisted I must refund their money, to the extent the matter was settled at the police station. The Police advised I should sign a post dated cheque for the refund to avoid embarrassment. This was in 2012. That is why when people ask why am I this bold, I tell them, I have been through a lot.
I came out of that experience, and restrategised, and within a twinkle of an eye, companies like Chivita, PZ, Unilever, Indomie became our clients, and by 2015 election, we were handling Ex-President Goodluck Jonathan’s SMS Campaign nationwide, Buhari’s e-mail Campaign nationwide. I was even picked up by the DSS in the cause of the job. I have been through a lot.
WHY WERE YOU PICKED UP BY DSS?
I was never told other that it was order from above. I told them I was the one handling the president’s SMS campaign but they did not bother a bit. So I followed them to their office until my lawyer, Dr. Ope Banwo, arrive to help secure my release. I also did an article that went viral titled, “How Jonathan sent DSS to arrest me.” In 48 hours, we had over 5million hits worldwide, infact some opposition thought I was part of why Jonathan lost. All in all, that 2015, was our breakthrough year because everybody was our customer. We had a single transaction worth 30million and I think at the end of the year, we made over 200million naira. And that was the year I also know the next thing to do?
It was in October of that 2015 that we went into Real Estate. We couldn’t just continue to rely on the Tech thing, which is always through third party platforms. But now, we are using all platforms for our  social media clouts, and digital marketing. We train companies on how to use social media. I wanted to build something that is standing on something solid, and that was why we delved into Real Estate.
WHAT WAS THE FEELING LIKE WHEN YOU MADE YOUR FIRST MILLION?
It was actually the first 30 million, and it was exciting. I paid off a lot of debts. I remember I had to lodge in Protea Hotel, the one in Alausa for that night. And incidentally, that day was my birthday, I laid on my bed and just said thank you Jesus. So I started calling my debtors, I paid all of them and this excites me that I could pay back, because these were people that insulted me then.
I grew up with only values, no money. We were poor but we were taught key values, key moral. My mum and dad were not rich but they were people of sound values. I was so happy to pay back. Infact I need them to know that I have integrity. Those experiences made me know Nigerians are bullies by culture and character and you need a bigger bully to deal with them.
This is why businesses are dying in Nigeria, Once you are still small, everybody wants to cheat you. I was happy to pay; to pay my landlady after owing for like over a year. I earned who I am today, at least with God’s grace and mercy. I worked hard for what I own, and what I represent today. I worked hard every single minute of my life.
WHAT WAS IT LIKE DELVING INTO REAL ESTATE, GTEXT AND OTHER BUSINESSES, AND HOW ARE THEY THRIVING NOW?
For me it was a case of asking yourself what’s next because my dad, based on his own level became successful as a young man at age 20 as a construction contractor. He had a breakthrough in the Northern part of Nigeria but he is from Ogun State. In no time, before I was even born, the business collapsed as the northerners started doing their own construction. So I grew up meeting a father who practically had no job, and became a prophet. So growing up, I made up my mind that I will not build my business on government contracts, and that is why it is easy to be upfront. I did not collect any contract from the government even real estate. I buy from families. My dad’s story taught me to innovate and evolve, and that was how real estate came in. I needed to have a back up; something solid on ground. I needed something physical so that when people talk, they will know we are doing a real business not audio real estate business. We needed something that is physical and not social media. I needed to document my journey.
AT THIS AGE AND LEVEL OF YOUR ACHIEVEMENT, CAN YOU SAY YOUR ARE FULFILLED?
I can not say I am fulfilled. You know I told you I have this ark, and I have only touched 10 percent of it. My advice to people that are worried about me is that they should not worry, I have not started, you will have to ask questions for a long time. We have a long plan, and it is a global empire that we are building and as the Lord keeps us alive, we would redefine what it means to be wealthy in Africa.
WHAT IS THE NEXT ITEMIZED STEP IN THIS GREAT ARK OF YOURS?
Media and movies. We are hoping to achieve them this year. We are looking forward to getting a radio licence, buy an existing radio station, and a production company. We are into Netflix, Amazon and Prime. We have two movies we are working on, and one is actually about my mum.
You know, as you start building an empire, cost of marketing and PR becomes heavy so it is wisdom to own your own media to make it cheaper, and for collaborations.
Also, we are building up to four hundred houses on credit union, to help our balance sheet, and it is a 150 million dollar project in Texas. And we are looking at introducing Credit Union too in Nigeria to make mortgage easy for people who want to buy properties.
ON A SCALE OF 10, HOW FAR HAVE YOU GONE ON THE AFOREMENTIONED PROJECTS?
For us, vision is key, and it is a process. By August, we would do ground breaking and begin proper construction. It is seven to ten years plan so we are hoping that phase one will be done in two years, that is fifty unit housing which is residential. It will be the largest in the US. We would use solar, wind energy and it is going to be smart housing so we go commercial from the seventh to tenth year, and will be putting a golf range, acquarium, shopping mall and a couple of other commercial facilities.
YOU WERE RECENTLY RECOGNISED BY FORBES, TELL US ABOUT IT
We got Forbes Best of Africa and Real Rstate Mogul award. It is probably the biggest award I have received so far; it was humbling, and I am probably the youngest recipient ever. In fact, recently, Forbes African team were in my office in Ikoyi to talk about possible areas of collaboration. They recognised us on two levels; one is on investment coaching because they have seen how I have written over forty books and a good number of them is about teaching and mentorship. This is what it is; it is not really about building businesses because we know about how entrepreneurs thrive on other people’s money.
One level is African investment coach and another level is as real estate mogul. For the real estate mogul, there are companies that are way bigger than us and for us, there were a lot of innovation we brought into the real estate space. For example, we started 24/7 operations where customers can call us at 2am and make payment and we attend to them. We pioneered that and it is free. We also partner with DHL, to ensure documents are safely delivered anywhere in the world. So if you buy land from us in Nigeria and you are in Australia, DHL will deliver your document to you in front of your house without any extra cost; those were the innovations. We are also into virtual inspection and virtual allocation. We brought a lot of ideas into the industry, so for us when we grow into a sector, we look at how we can deepen the sector, things that others will copy from us, but we do not mind since we are able to help increase transparency. We were also the first to talk about green and smart homes in Nigeria, and at some point, we had to slow down because of dollar issue.
Now what we do about our estate; we just model and house our staff. For some reasons, we have moved to Dubai and now we have over hundred housing units there just to be sure that our investors were getting good Return On Investment, but I must say, we had our hands burnt, I lost over a million dollars in Dubai.
In business, you don’t give up, you learn from the mistakes and challenges, and move on. The problem most enterpreneurs have is their inability to learn from elders. Personally, I enjoy the counsel of elders. They will help you shape some perspectives of your businesses. Many think I am a one man business, but they don’t know the many people behind me, who can vouch for me. I run my business in a very transparent way so integrity is key for me.
YOU STUDIED MICROBIOLOGY; HOW COME NONE OF YOUR BUSINESSES ARE RELATED TO IT?
I always encourage young people who follow your platform. I had this brother who has a university degree. By the time I visited him, he was living in one room with eight of his siblings. He said egbon things are difficult, I remember going back to school that day and I kept saying to myself I will never end up like that man. I will not only focus on the course I am studying, but I will try many things, and whatever will bring me out of poverty, I will embrace. You know many of us studied courses based on what was given to us. While at school, I wasn’t even the best student. It is interesting to note that the best student then once begged me for job after graduation. I just told her I can support her but I won’t give her job for obvious reasons.
When I left school, I tried printing hundreds of CVs in a bid to secure a circular job, but all to no avail. One of my potential employer even advised me to go and continue with my popcorn business, that one day something great will come out of it. I did bulk SMS, I posted it on walls, at every bus stop from Sango-Ota to Ikeja-Along, that was the only thing I could do. I would go to school, beg them to subscribe to my bulk SMS business, that was the only thing I had, and my mother had died of Ovarian cancer then, and she was our breadwinner. I was chased out of my friend’s house where I was squatting, and I had to go back to the only house my mum built at Sango-Ota.
We hardly eat, but at least we had a roof over our heads, and that explains why real estate is important to me. I have been through a lot in my life but one of my biggest regret is my mum not being alive today. She died because we had no money to take her to a private hospital. By the time she was taken to a private hospital with help of colleagues, it was too late. She died two days after she was operated upon. The disease had already spread. For that, I don’t joke with people’s health, and my employees can attest to that. I lost my mum because I had no money. She couldn’t even live to witness my graduation.
So, that is why I have serious dislike for poverty, and also why I am writing books to teach people. I am sent to my generation and I want them to know how to make it and that is why I am writing books. I am open to writing a book with Dangote so that he can at least teach us, share his story of how he started, built his career so that young people can follow. The youth just want the elders to show us the way, to let us know they also passed through the same phase so when I am going through my own, I can understand that it’s a phase that will pass. Look at what Tony Elumelu is doing through his foundation. We also have foundation through which we give out grants. We also support widows and pay many children’s fees.
WE ALSO KNOW YOU ARE A PASTOR, TELL US ABOUT IT?
I started pastoring as a teacher in my secondary school. I went to a Christian primary school. My fellowship in secondary school and university took me as their pastor. I also pastored Winners Chapel Campus Fellowship then in few years I became ordained in my church but after a while, I pulled out of pastoring and the reason is obvious. I realised that it became a tool for blackmail. I am a businessman and that’s why I do not use the pastor title. The title I use is doctor because I have been given honourary doctorate degree and I have decided to stick to that.
PEOPLE ATTACH YOU TO WINNERS CHAPEL, WERE YOU ORDAINED THERE?
Yes, but I am no longer part of the pastoral thing, but I’m still a faithful and loyal member. For me, I do business with you because I am a businessman not church member or because I am a Christian. My advice is do not use sentiment, do not get carried away by religion, investigate whomever you want to do business with, do business because you are convinced they have something of value to offer you. Always remember we have a bullying culture.
I believe strongly in giving; my life has changed because of giving, and I am very much committed to that, but sometimes it is good to separate some things from some things; business is business, church is church, ministry is ministry, and I am not involved in any administrative thing in church. I used to be involved in church adminstration, but I pulled out because I started travelling, I got so many responsibilities. So, if you hear people call me pastor, know they are members from time past. They still call me pastor privately, it is between us, not everybody.
IN A NUTSHELL, CAN YOU CONFIRM THAT YOU ARE A MAN WHO BECAME RICH BY BOOKS?
By books, yes, fear of God, and integrity. Like I said, people cannot start trusting you with millions of dollars if you have not shown some level of integrity, I think that is important and I want to encourage the young people that business do not always go right, but do your best to show integrity. I have a consulting programme where I charge twenty thousand dollars but it is for business owners whose business is bringing over a million dollars and they are trying to take the business international, they want certain structure. What I make from coaching is more than enough. I still loan my company till today, a lot of people do not know that there are some rich people in this country, I manage personally their social media page and there are things behind the scene that some people do not know. Some people think my only company is real estate; business is business, but what has helped me more is integrity and transparency.
I am a Havard trained real estate investor. I also have the fear of God and mentorship. I also have enjoyed counsel and support from people who study me. We started real estate in Nigeria then moved to Dubai where some average property is almost five hundred thousand dollars and in one year, we became the largest black home brokerage by volume of what we were doing. And this is owned by a black man. We are in the U.K and US as well. We have housing units in Alabama, and everybody plays by the rules including family members.
WHAT CLOTH DO YOU FEEL COMFORTABLE IN?
I love Agbada, I used to be a suit guy but as I start doing things internationally and I saw the reputation of Nigerians internationally, I had two options: either I pretend not to be a Nigerian or I wear it as a badge of honour. It is when they see that integrity you bring to play that you can start changing that perspective and perception because many of what is going on is the perception internally, we don’t trust ourselves.
AND YOUR BEST FOOD?
It used to be fura when I was in the north, in the south it is Amala and Abula, gbegiri and ewedu together. I am an African man.
I have been to about hundred cities in the world
AND WHICH OF THE CITIES IS MOST EXCITING?
Manhattan, New York. This is because of my love for real estate. Whenever I’m in Manhattan, I always insist on high floors, from where I can have an overview of the city. For me, it is a way of meditation, love and attraction. I will be looking at those buildings and say to myself, one day I will build one.
DO YOU FOLLOW SPORT, WHICH OF THE TEAMS DO YOU SUPPORT?
I used to follow Chelsea but I changed to Liverpool.
HOW LONG HAVE YOU BEEN MARRIED?
Twelve years, I got married at twenty six.
DIDN’T YOU THINK EARLY MARRIAGE WAS GOING TO AFFECT YOUR BUSINESS?
No, my wife and I have been in business together since our campus days. We met on campus during the days of bulk SMS. She understood my dreams and my aspirations very well. Now we travel a lot with the kids. We spent Christmas partly in London, the U.S. and Dubai. I just move around with them.
ARE YOU IN COMPETITION WITH ANYONE, ESPECIALLY IN REAL ESTATE
No…but it’s rather unfortunate that you are not in competition with anybody but people are in competition with you. I wish everybody well, and for young people, I now run a CEO retreat, where i train real estate developers. If you sit somewhere and envy me, that is your business; there is nothing I can do about it, but I have learnt that it is a sign of growth. For me, where I am going is more important.
WITH YOUR EXPERIENCE, AND THE WEALTH YOU HAVE ACQUIRED, WILL YOU DESIRE POLITICAL LEADERSHIP IN THE FUTURE?
As at today, No. But the truth remains that I am politically aware, and I understand political strategies. I can sit you down and tell you how you can make your move, and remember I am a trained digital marketing guy, I understand all those things but if I want to do politics, what am I going into politics for? I am a young man, I have connections, contacts but must I go into politics to have power? No.

I advise young people who rush into politics to build a name, if you do something solid the politicians will beg you because they know you have the solution, the capacity, and the answers. For me, I am very well positioned globally, growing my business is very important to me, supporting people in government across the world. We want to start partnering with people in government but we want to make sure our record is clean, our stories are clear because if you do not tell your stories, others will tell their own and their own will become the truth so we need to tell our own.

I have no political agenda, I have friends in all parties and I will continue to have friends in all parties but no plan to join politics. However, no one knows tomorrow, and can’t tell what the people can demand tomorrow. But as at today, that is not a headache I can afford to carry.
THANK YOU FOR YOUR TIME SIR

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