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Boss Of The Week

Femi Otedola: The Story of a Billionaire’s Consistent Strides

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By Eric Elezuo

Call him the simplest and most easy going Nigerian billionaire, you won’t be wrong. The likes of Femi Otedola, as he is simply referred, to, are rare. Some schools of thoughts believe his likes are even extinct. He is an enigma and a worthy philanthropist, even to a fault. His stupendous flow of human touch and attachment to people and humanity are his greatest endearment, and he has gone a notch ahead when he against all odds he acquired 5.5 per cent shares at the prestigious Transcorp Plc, a conglomerate that accommodates the best of business concerns in the country, dishing out unquantified services to mankind. He therefore, becomes the second largest shareholder of the company.

The transaction was facilitated by an agreement between an entity owned by Otedola and Asset Management Corporation of Nigeria (AMCON), and the entrepreneur now owns about 2.245 billion shares representing 5.52 percent of the company.

Transcorp controls subsidiaries like Transcorp Hotels, Transcorp Power, and Transcorp Energy. These entitled also have businesses under their care.

It is also worth noting that Otedola is also the chairman of Geregu Power, a company he took public in the third quarter of last year, and owns 2.388 billion worth of shares indirectly through Amperion Power Distribution Limited, which is 95.56 percent of the company’s total ordinary shares of 2.50 billion, according to data from the NGX website. His business networking is admirable, and that has placed him on the pedestal of Nigeria and Africa’s business greats.

Otedola, early in 2022, also acquired significant control of FBN Holdings when he announced he had acquired shareholdings above the 5 percent threshold, a development that triggered a bidding contest for stocks. He is a game changer.

In addition to his network of gigantic strides, the billionaire businessman was appointed as a Vice President of popular UK-based charity, Save The Children, a position that further portrayed his philanthropic worldview.

“I am elated to be associated with the organisation. We have to save our children from all manner of challenges and deprivations. And giving to the needy, particularly children, is the greatest love of all,” the father of four said excitedly.

According to a statement by the organisation, “Save the Children’s vice presidents are a group of high-level supporters and critical friends of the organisation, actively involved in advancing the work of Save the Children, through advocacy, volunteerism, introductions, and philanthropy..

“Mr. Femi Otedola’s addition to the vice presidents group is a testament to his long-standing support to the organisation. Since 2019, Mr. Femi Otedola has supported Save the Children’s programmes on prevention and treatment of malnutrition and on advocating access to quality education for Nigerian children, impacting over 6000 children in Adamawa, Borno, and Katsina States.
“In November 2019, Mr. Otedola hosted a gala in Abuja where he made a personal donation of N5 billion,” the statement explained, adding that Otedola’s global influence and rich experience of the African continent would advance Save the Children’s efforts in building sustainable partnerships with stakeholders across Africa to create more impact for children on the continent.

To some, it is still a mystery how the son of a prolific politician, who rose to become the governor of Lagos State, did not dabble into politics as is the standard in this clime. However, one thing is clear, and that is the fact that billionaire businessman, and Chairman, Geregu Power Plc, simply addressed as Femi Otedola (CON), is a focused and determined man. He made his choice from day one, and has refused to be derailed. This explains his prolific nature in the world of entrepreneurship, which has directed his life.

But one thing is very obvious before all and sundry, and that is the fact that the dotting father of four adorable children is really an Epicurus son, and has no place for half measures when it comes to giving himself, and of course everyone around him the good life. It was no surprise therefore, when the philanthropist lavished a whopping Three Million Pounds to rent a cruise boat in celebration of his 60th birthday in 2022.

Born on November 4, 1962, in Ibadan to the family of the late Sir Michael Otedola, a former governor of Lagos State, Otedola is a definition of everything good, positive and encouraging. He has lived his life representing the very essence of living, affecting lives as a philanthropist, developing careers and manpower as a businessman, industrialists and entrepreneur, and raising biological children, who has stood their own in the society. There is hardly anywhere this tall, handsome phenomenon of a personality can be faulted.

The billionaire businessman started his education at the University of Lagos Staff School before attending Olivet Baptist High School from where he was admitted into Obafemi Awolowo University in 1980. He graduated in1985. 

A former chairman of Forte Oil Plc, the Chancellor of St Augustine University, Epe, Lagos, is the founder of Zenon Petroleum and Gas Ltd, and the owner of a number of other businesses across shipping, real estate and finance. He has recently invested in power generation as part of the liberalisation of the sector in Nigeria.

He never leaves anything to chance, and so used his 60th birthday to fulfill a childhood fantasy and lifelong ambition of cruising on the most expensive boat in the world, the Christina Onassis. The yacht is owned by late Greek billionaire, Aristotle Onassis. He had adopted the Greek Shipping guru, as his role model since he was 13. It was a dream come true.

The man, who has homes in Lagos, Abuja, Dubai, London and New York City has a much impressive existence since he set out to take the bull by the horns in the field of enterprise. This is as chronicled by wikipedia.

In 2003, having identified an opportunity in the fuel retail market, Otedola secured the finance to set up Zenon Petroleum and Gas Ltd, a petroleum products marketing and distribution company.

As owner and chairman of Zenon, in 2004 he invested N15 billion in downstream infrastructure development and acquired storage depots at Ibafon, Apapa as well as four cargo vessels, amounting to a combined total storage capacity of 147,000 metric tonnes. The same year he acquired a fleet of 100 DAF fuel-tanker trucks for N1.4 billion.

By 2005, Zenon controlled a major share of the Nigerian diesel market, supplying fuel to most of the major manufacturers in the country including Dangote Group, Cadbury, Coca-Cola, Nigerian Breweries, MTN, Unilever, Nestle and Guinness.

In March 2007, it was announced that ten banks had approved a syndicated loan of US$1.5 billion (N193.5 billion) to Zenon as working capital to build the largest premium motor spirit storage facility in Africa. Later that year Zenon acquired a 28.7 per cent stake in African Petroleum, one of Nigeria’s largest fuel marketers. Zenon also invested across the financial sector, becoming the largest shareholder in a number of Nigerian banks including Zenith Bank and United Bank for Africa (UBA). As well as diesel, Zenon also became an important player in the kerosene market.

In 2012, Zenon was among a number of companies named in a report into an alleged fuel subsidy scam. According to the report Zenon owed the government $1.4 million. It was further reported that Farouk Lawan, the Nigerian legislator who compiled the report, had apparently been filmed collecting $500,000 of a supposed total sum of $3 million from Femi Otedola to remove Zenon from the list. It subsequently emerged that Otedola had previously reported Lawan’s harassment and demands for bribes to the State Security Services, who had orchestrated a sting operation. Lawan was charged with corruption in February 2013.

In 2007, Otedola was appointed chairman and chief executive of Africa Petroleum through the acquisition of a controlling stake in the business. In December that year he personally acquired a further 29.3 per cent of the company for N40 billion. A merger of this personal holding with Zenon’s brought Otedola’s total stake to 55.3 per cent.

Following Otedola’s entry into the company African Petroleum’s share price rose sharply, increasing the market capitalisation from N36 billion to N217 billion in six months. In 2008, in response to public concerns over the availability and pricing of kerosene, African Petroleum launched an initiative to saturate the market and sell fuel at N50 per litre from more than 500 service stations across Nigeria.

In March 2009, Otedola became the second Nigerian after Aliko Dangote to appear on the Forbes list of dollar-denominated billionaires, with an estimated net worth of $1.2 billion. In October 2009, Otedola announced a move to upgrade African Petroleum’s liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) storage terminals in Lagos, Kano and Port Harcourt. Difficult economic conditions caused by the slump in world oil prices and credit squeeze of 2008–09 led African Petroleum to record a loss in 2009.

In December 2010, African Petroleum rebranded, changing its name to Forte Oil PLC. Otedola carried out a restructuring of the business, focusing on technology and improved corporate governance. Forte Oil returned to profit in 2012.

In 2013, as part of the Federal Government’s push to liberalise Nigeria’s ailing power sector, Otedola financed 57% of Forte Oil subsidiary Amperion Ltd, which acquired the 414 MW Geregu Power Plant for $132 million.

Forte’s improved financial position and diversification into power generation resulted in a 1,321 per cent rise in its share price during 2013. The first half of 2014 saw the company’s pre-tax profit more than double year-on-year to 4.19 billion naira ($25.7 million). Revenue growth for the whole year was 33 per cent. In November 2014, Otedola returned to the Forbes rich list having dropped off it following the fall in share price during 2009.

In September 2015 Forte Oil sold 17 per cent of its equity to Swiss commodity trader Mercuria Energy Group, giving Forte access to global commodity markets. The deal was thought to have given Otedola an estimated $200 million. In 2019, Femi Otedola sold Forte Oil Plc and announced plans to change focus from oil to power with his company, Geregu Power Plc.

In 1994, Otedola established CentreForce Ltd, specialising in finance, investments and trading. Otedola is also the owner of Swift Insurance.

The Otedolas

Otedola is Chief Executive and President of SeaForce Shipping Company Ltd and was at one point Nigeria’s largest ship owner after extending control over the distribution of diesel products. One of his ships, a flat bottomed bunker vessel with a storage capacity of 16,000 metric tonnes, was the first of its kind in Africa.

In January 2006, Otedola was appointed a non-executive director of Transnational Corporation of Nigeria Plc, a multi-sectoral conglomerate established in 2004 by then-President Olusegun Obasanjo to respond to market opportunities requiring heavy capital investment in Nigeria and across sub-Saharan Africa. He held this post until February 2011.

Otedola has made a number of real estate investments, including a N2.3 billion acquisition in February 2007 by Zenon of Stallion House in Victoria Island in Lagos, from the Federal Government. The following month he was appointed chairman of the Transcorp Hilton Hotel in Abuja and tasked with driving its expansion and upgrade to a seven star facility. He is the owner of FO Properties Ltd. Otedola has been reported to be a financier of the People’s Democratic Party and is said to have contributed N100 million to President Obasanjo’s re-election expenses in 2003. He has served as a member of the Nigerian Investment Promotion Council (NIPC) since 2004, and the same year was appointed to a committee tasked with developing commercial relations with South Africa. In 2011, Femi Otedola was appointed by President Goodluck Jonathan to Nigeria’s National Economic Management Team.

In 2020, Forte Oil rebranded to Adrova PLC.

Currently, as at October 2021, he was announced as the single largest shareholder (5.07%) of First bank PLC.

His philanthropic gestures have remained a reference point to other wealthy individuals. He is known to have made several donations to the Michael Otedola University Scholarship Scheme, which was established in 1985 to give underprivileged students in Lagos State access to higher education. In 2005 Zenon donated N200 million to the scheme’s fund. Since its inception the scheme has benefited more than 1,000 students.

In 2005, Otedola made a N300 million personal donation to the completion of the National Ecumenical Centre; Nigeria’s primary place of Christian worship, in Abuja. In 2007 he was among a group of donors who gave N200 million to the State Security Trust Fund in a drive to reduce crime in Lagos State. Later that year he donated N100 million to the Otedola College of Primary Education in Noforija, Epe. In 2008 he donated N80 million to the Faculty of Agriculture at the University of Port Harcourt. He also promised and fulfilled his pledge of 25,000 dollars to the Super Eagles in the match against Algeria in the 2019 AFCON.

 

Recently in September, 2022, Otedola was appointed as a member of the National Peace Committee (NPC), which is headed by former Head of State, Abdulsalam Abubakar, ahead of the 2023 elections.

Highly blessed of God, Otedola, who holds a National Honour of the Commander of the Niger (CON), owns a private jet and a few of his caravan of cars include Mercedes Benz AMG G63 worth N73 million; G–wagon costing N53 million; Mercedes SLR McLaren worth N250 million; Rolls–Royce Phantom worth N162 million and BMW 6 series worth N30 million. In the recent past, he gifted his three daughters with a costly Ferrari sport cars.

An unrepentant dotting father, husband and family man, Otedola is married to Nana, and has three daughters and one son. They are Tolani, a singer, Florence Ifeoluwa and Elizabeth Temi, and a son, Fewa. Florence Otedola, aka DJ Cuppy, is a Disc Jockey and music producer, as well as a tourism ambassador for Nigeria while Temi is an actress, a style blogger and aspiring designer.

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Boss Of The Week

John Olajide: The Meteoric Rise of a Tech Solution Provider

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By Eric Elezuo

His technological vision is spread, covering software, engineering, healthcare among many others. He is a person, who has demystified the theory of silver spoon origin as the sure point of success. He has proved even from Ajegunle, stars are born. He is John Niyi Olajide, the brain behind world class enterprises leveled in technological acumen vis a vis Cavista Holdings, a renowned global software engineering solution firm and Axxess Global Partner, a leading global home healthcare technology company.

Endowed with a great can-do attitude, Olajide is an ardent believer in the efficacy of passion, which has seen him through the turbulent world of entrepreneurship, and coming out strong and conquering. He was quoted as saying “I’m very passionate about economic development; about leveraging business and economic investments to improve the lives of everyone and create opportunities for a lot of people.” He is without an iota of doubt a human-oriented businessman.

His Axxess has played and continued to play a major role in shaping the $100 billion home health industry in the USA and the $600 billion global industry, in addition to helping to process over $30 billion in claims for over 3 million patients served by over 9,000 organisations around the globe.

A native of Erinmope-Ekiti, in Ekiti State, Olajide was born and raised in Ajegunle, one of the slums in Lagos State, noted for criminality and other unwholesome activities, yet through a dint of hard work, determination, focus, had one of the meteoric rises to stardom in history.

He attended Nigerian Navy Secondary School, Abeokuta after his nursery and primary education before proceeding to the United States of America for his university education, where he had to work harder to pay his through school. Today, he is both a Nigerian and an American, creating firsts in technological know-hows. It would not be out of place to say that Olajide’s entrepreneurial acumen is both inherent and inherited considering that his father worked his way out of Ajegunle to Ogba where he was a distributor for Unilever.

Other than being a prolific Nigerian-American entrepreneur, Olajide is an investor and an incurable philanthropist, whose humanity speaks volumes. His leap of faith to establish Axxess, world’s leading global home healthcare technology company, headquartered in Dallas, Texas, in 2007, Axxess has like the proverbial oak tree spread and established a presence in the U.S., Europe, Asia, Middle East and Africa, and boast of more than 1,200 employees from over 45 countries. Even as he enjoys prominence in inventions and innovations in the US, Olajide remains a man, who knows his roots, noting at every point in time that Africa, and in particular Nigeria, always remained in thoughts. “We have a lot of work to do, but I live every day with the belief that anything is possible,” he once said.

Highly patriotic, he celebrates Nigeria and its teeming youthful population, “Nigeria is the hub for the best brains in the IT sector and software development. It’s my own way of contributing my own quota towards ensuring sustainable growth and opportunities for job creation in the economy. I am passionate about increasing access to quality healthcare for people everywhere in the world and with technology, we can make that possible.

“Nigeria is blessed with highly cerebral youth who are doing great things with limited resources when it comes to all aspects of software development, robotics, artificial intelligence, machine learning and the rest. This spurred my interest in partnering with CAVISTA Nigeria.

“Today, CAVISTA is creating solutions to the challenging issues of health care delivery in Nigeria and employing great young minds to solve problems, rather than allowing them to leave Nigeria to use their skills to develop in another country,” he said.

He currently supports and partners with leaders in Africa across government, business, and technology. A rare feat, all in a bid to ensure the continent remains self-sustaining. John is also the Chairman of Cavista Holdings which fully owns Cavista Technology Limited, the global technology company with operations in Nigeria, the Philippines and India. With over 300 software engineers in his employment, he focuses on helping training and developing young talents to solve complex challenges in the Nigerian technology space, while creating job opportunities for development and growth. He has also partnered SheCode to get more female engineers in the process.

Also in his spread of influence, Olajide has set up a world class farm, know as Agbeyewa Farms, an agro-allied company operating in Nigeria, and situated on 50 acres of arable land in Ekiti, with the aim of providing thousands of jobs for the young ones. While most people know him as a tech mogul, his foray into agriculture through the multi-million-dollar Agbeyewa Farms is promoting food security and creating thousands of jobs. Olajide has the aim of restoring the idea of dignity and prosperity in farming. The farm is already making waves in the food cultivation and production industry.

A man of many positive parts, Olajide’s interests also include tourism development, and he holds the concession through his Glocient Hospitality Limited, to revamp Ekiti State’s flagship tourism destination, Ikogosi Warm Springs in Ikogosi-Ekiti, Ekiti West Local Government Area of Ekiti-State into a world-class golfing and vacation. He is equal to the task.

The “100% Nigerian and 100% American is an entrepreneur, investor, care at home innovator and global community builder, who moves easily in all social, political, economic and intellectual circles with the sole aim of building constructive relationships and advance the best ideas to make the world better. With his Axxess Holdings and Cavista Holdings, he is helping improve access to healthcare everywhere and creating tens of thousands of jobs in various industries.

Olajide is not new to awards and recognitions. In 2022, he was appointed Vice Chair of the Board of the Corporate Council on Africa Board, a business association which promotes trade and investment between the US and countries in Africa. His commitment to building a stronger community resulted in him being chosen by his peers to serve in 2020 as the youngest-ever chair of the Dallas Regional Chamber of Commerce’ board of directors and executive committee, and he successfully led the Dallas business community through the COVID-19 pandemic and shepherded the DRC to create a permanent board-led council to advance diversity, equity and inclusion. He currently serves on multiple boards, including the board of the Presidential Precinct, the Executive Committee of the Dallas Regional Chamber, and the Board of the Dallas Citizens Council where he works with other leaders to provide guidance on the policy issues that will move the region forward.

Through Axxess’ corporate citizenship efforts, John has benefited numerous organizations, including the University of Texas at Dallas, Business Council for the Arts, Texas Women’s Foundation, Visiting Nurses Association of Texas and many more. In 2019, John was named Humanitarian of the Year by Grace for Impact, an international non-profit organization focused on providing access to high quality healthcare.

Olajide has been recognized as the Outstanding Healthcare Executive of the Year and a Leader in Diversity, and AXXESS is recognized nationally and internationally as a Best Place to Work.

In 2016, Olajide was recognized as the youngest-ever Distinguished Alumnus of the University of Texas at Dallas.

He has endowed the largest scholarship fund for the Engineering School for Computer Science students. He is currently chairing the billion-dollar campaign fundraising campaign for the University. He is also co-chair of a capital campaign raising $750 million to provide future opportunities for students at the school. He also serves on the Executive Committee for the Chancellor’s Council of the University of Texas System.

The proud graduate of the University of Dallas, Texas, also serves on several other boards, including the National Association for Home Care and Hospice. He is in the business of helping to attract businesses to the most prosperous region in the United States.

Through his holdings’ corporate citizenship and philanthropic initiatives, Olajide has benefited numerous organizations addressing healthcare, education, poverty and women’s issues, among others, and he is not stopping.

Olajide’s corporate social responsibility is topnotch. He believes strongly in community engagement and invests actively to ensure that the local communities benefit through educational, health, transportation, and other infrastructural schemes, examples of which are numerous.

RARE STORY OF HOW AXXESS STARTED

ThisDay, after an counter with Olajide told the his story of the emergence of Axxess as follows: “…while in college, nothing gave him the clue that he would be involved in the technology of healthcare. Regaling THISDAY of his foray into this field he said while he was in college, he had an aunt that worked for a local healthcare organisation.

One time in 2001, he went to visit her and noticed there were lots of people working at different workstations at different desks. This prompted him to ask questions about their paper works and computer network? When he revealed that there was a tech lacuna, the aunt took him to her boss who expressed interest after hearing the benefits of a computer network.

“This computer network was supposed to help them improve their business, track their revenues, streamline their operations, decrease cost of doing business and help them be more successful as a business and healthcare business. Over all, it would help improve their patients outcomes.

“Immediately, he set out to build a computer network for that organisation.

“Getting the job done, he started getting referrals and with that, he paid his way through school. But beyond that, the opportunity opened his eyes to the tech lacuna in the healthcare industry and he went on to fill it. Backed by his business acumen nurtured way back in Nigeria, his entrepreneurial spirit sprung up and he helped his aunt set up a business.

“First he researched what the licencing and regulatory standards for that type of business in the US was, in the state of Texas in particular. He proceeded to get her licence and everything else she needed. He was just 20 then and the business still exists and thrives.

“With the success recorded, he began to get referrals, “but I realised that here’s an industry that’s underserved from a technology perspective. Overall, they need to help and I saw the ability to create technology”. And so he did.

“Giving a break down of what the job entails he said it made the healthcare industry benefit from cloud-based technology or web-based software in the clouds to help them be more efficient.

“Noting that the old order of documentation was not effective he thought to create technology that provides excellent health care and gets information in real time. With this, it decreased cost of business and boosted efficiency.”

Olajide has done well, not just for himself, and his beloved Ekiti, but for humanity in general.

Let’s raise a toast to Nigeria’s own export in human capacity development, technology transfer and a czar in tech problem solving.

Congratulations sir, you are our boss of the week!

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Boss Of The Week

Why MicCom Cables and Wires Remain the Preferred Choice – Mrs. Bukola Adubi

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By Eric Elezuo

If you call her a woman of many parts, you won’t be wrong. She is a Pharmacist by qualification, an Engineer by vocation and hospitality practitioner by passion. She is Mrs. Bukola Adubi, the Chief Operating Officer of Nigeria’s foremost indigenous cable and wire company, MicCom Cables and Wires Limited.

Adubi’s sphere of influence is overwhelming as she compliments her official responsibilities with wifely and motherly duties as well as the presidency of the Cables Manufacturing Association of Nigeria (CAMAN), which is the umbrella body for essentially all the cable manufacturers in Nigeria.

Her intelligence, an adequate blend of genuine personality and beauty, was brought to the fore when she spoke to The Boss Newspapers on diverse issues bordering on family, nation building and the need to protect local content, especially in the cable manufacturing sector.

Excerpts:

What does it feel like managing this company set up in 1978, over four decades ago, and keeping it afloat through thick and thin?

Well, I was born into this. It was founded by my parents, and it is a joy to also see the company continue to exist beyond them. For every family business, it is probably one of the biggest wish that their legacy exists beyond, and overstays their own time. That is a joy on itself. This is what I have always known.

We branched into hospitality over twenty (20) years ago, but this has always been the core business of the family.

It is something I have always known; something that has been a source of joy for the family, and I am happy to be here. There’s a special sense of fulfilment that comes with the fact that you are part of the team that is bringing the company to a different level in a different generation. There’s a whole different joy that is associated with this.

Can you trace the trajectory of MicCom Cables from inception till when you became the CEO

In 1978 when the business started officially, the company was more or less an electrical contracting company. Then there were only two manufacturers and these were tied to foreign affiliates. This gave my parents the nudge to reason that if others can do this, then they could as well.

My parents were both engineers, and that’s how they started. They gave it a shot. From a humble beginning, the factory started in the Akowonjo area. We started small, and very gradually. We are the very first indigenous cable manufacturing company, and we set the bars very high.  We opened the trails for lots of newer Nigerian companies that joined after us.  Between then in 1978 and sometime in the early 90s, it was just my parents doing their thing. My mum was the factory person, more of technical, and my dad was more of sales and marketing. While dad transverse the nook and crannies, my mum was saddled with managing the factory. They had a very good balance. It was in the early 90s when my older siblings started to graduate from the universities that they started to join the business. There are three engineers. They all passed through the system, and it is interesting to know that all three of them had a stint in the business, and they had their part to play in wherever the company has found itself now. One particular sibling ran the company for over 15 years, and that was a joy for him too because then, he took the business from where my parents sort of dropped off for him and brought it to a new level. The system had been run by different hands up until when I officially started…well, I have had one leg in and one leg out since 2012. It was in 2015 when I officially took the reins as the COO. I do report to my superiors (of course, I have ‘ogas’ too) and to the board as well.

I am the face of the company and the chief oversight officer so to speak. Some people think I have PhD in Engineering, but the only real PhD I have is the fact that I was born into this, and it was very easy for me to grasp, and honestly, this is my life.

So if you are buying a MicCom product, you can go to sleep because I know the processes that we go through in the factory. I know how intentional we are about quality. We are certified with the quality management system. We are currently being certified for the occupational health safety and the health & safety management systems. We are particular about safety and quality. I can assure you.

Does it mean that MicCom is the only place you have worked?

No, remember that I am not an Engineer. I have worn many different hats. I graduated as a Pharmacist from the United Kingdom, and I worked as a Pharmacist in the UK for a couple of years. Then I came into Nigeria, and did some kind of pharmacy exchange programme. I worked briefly as a Pharmacist and also did some business consulting as well. But then in the middle of my youth service, something came up. I was not posted in Lagos; I was posted somewhere else, and there was an imbalance doing the work I got in Lagos. At a time, we had started a golf hotel and resort in Osun State, again part of the family business – the MicCom Golf Hotel & Resort. That, I will always say is my baby. It was birthed officially in 2003. I grew that business from scratch. It’s such a joy, especially because I never had any experience in hospitality. I literally learnt on the job.

I love where it was when I had to hand it over in 2013 when I had to assume my present position. So you can see my life has been spent in different industries including medical, hospitality, and engineering. I wear different hats, and of course, I am also a wife of almost 20 years, mother of two beautiful teenage girls, and so you can conveniently say that Buki is a woman of many parts.

From 2015 to date since you took over as the COO, what has been your achievement as a person

I feel a lot of pride. In 2015, we took over management as a result of the company going through some changes. Unfortunately, it wasn’t doing so well; we’ve lost a lot of market share owing to some wrong decisions that had been made. It is therefore, a joy to see where we are at today, and to have been part of that is something I will forever be proud of.

One thing I will always hold dear is the respect people have for the company, and for the quality name it had made for herself. That definitely helped our growth again.

Now, being the first indigenous company, what was the competition like when other rivals started joining the market?

I think this is also something that my parents have instilled in us. It is that feeling of inclusiveness. They have always been proudly Nigerian, and would say it anywhere, and they raised us also to be proudly Nigerian. When more people started coming into fold, there was joy all around. There was no feeling that they were coming to compete with us. MicCom was very supportive of the new businesses.  At the end of the day, we are all still in the business.

We continue to talk to government, SON, CPC, Ports Authority, Customs and more just to see how we can minimise all these fake cables that come inside the country. SON is doing well, but there’s more to be done. That is the number one issue that affects everybody’s bottom line.

Over the years, we have tried to distinguished ourselves and have carved different niches for ourselves. For instance, you will not find MicCom cables in the open market. That is one very significant thing that we did. Everyone else is in the open market. If you have a good thing, you protect it with everything that you have.  The open market unfortunately messes up our brand equity. We know how they adulterate and produce fake cables. Out of every 10 coils of cables that is in your name, you will be lucky if you find one that actually came from your factory, and it is a problem; a big problem. A few years ago, we took the odd decision to take ourselves off the open market, and it has segregated us from everybody else. So when you buy MicCom, you know you are buying the real thing because there is no chance of its fake being anywhere.

That’s really a tough one. How do you manage to control that decision knowing that dubious staff to frustrate the effort and take it out to the open market

The truth is that those who deals in fake things feed on the availability of the real thing in the market. If there’s nothing to copy, it becomes difficult to copy, and there will be no fake. If we have a distributor, and we are in the market, it becomes easier for them to say it is from their distributor, and then we can’t deny. But if it’s not there, then it’s one less thing to think about.

Well, take trust into consideration because among the staff, there may be some who can be mischievous, do the unthinkable, and take it out. What measures are in place to dissuade staff from acting contrary

For the longest time, I think one of the greatest assets we have, apart from our product itself, is our people. I am a strong believer in the fact that it is how you treat your people that they will treat you, and whatever it is they are handling for you. Simple. If people around feel mishandled, mistreated and that their integrity has been wronged in anyway, people will be people and people are human – the bible says that the heart of man is continually wicked. It doesn’t take anyone anything to say ‘so you think you are smart abi?’. But we have people here who have been working with us for decades. So I have such short turnover of staff that is unbelievable. For every new staff, they come into an environment where they are taught; the older staff are happy to transfer the information, and they see that there is a path here, and they stay. Yes, people come and go, but the core of my staff are very loyal, and I thank God for that.

Feelers around say Nigeria cables are one of the best in the world; can you beat your chest and say that as the first indigenous cable manufacturing company, you set the path to that victory?

Absolutely! We are the most experienced of all the Nigerian companies. We have been around longer than anyone else so we can actually track history, and so we know how the whole thing started and much more. Even in the lull of the business once upon a time, one thing that spoke for us was our quality. When you have a good product; forget it, people will find you.

Why do you think that those who are not customers of MicCom should come on board, and why would those already on board remain on board

If you want to sleep with your two eyes close, you choose MicCom. We have heard of buildings collapse, of fire outbreaks; the reasons do not go beyond the use of substandard products. I can beat my chest and say that because MicCom products are not in the market, there’s no chance of a fake product. So if you are buying a MicCom product, you can go to sleep because I know the processes that we go through in the factory. I know how intentional we are about quality. We are certified with the quality management system. We are currently being certified for the occupational health safety and the health & safety management systems. We are particular about safety and quality. I can assure you. A lot of my other colleagues in the industry wonder why we are not in the market and there’s a reason.  Sometimes you have decide what is more important – whether it is money or to protect the quality of the name. This, for us, is just about out name, and nothing can stop that.

Have there been challenges in your sojourn, and how have you been able to surmount them?

You know I mention as well that I am the president of CAMAN i.e. Cable Manufacturers Association of Nigeria. Obviously, all legitimate cable manufacturers in Nigeria belong to that group. So whatever challenge I have as MicCom is the same challenge all of us have. Part of what the group does is lobbying to make sure we get all the challenges sorted. One major challenge is this issue of fake cables. The reason Nigeria cables remain the best is because we checkmate ourselves. If one person is doing anyhow, we call him to order, and so everybody is on their toes. That makes us conscious of that quality. You are protected buying cables from any company in the group.  We continue to talk to government, SON, CPC, Ports Authority, Customs and more just to see how we can minimise all these fake cables that come inside the country. SON is doing well, but there’s more to be done. That is the number one issue that affects everybody’s bottom line.

There is also the issue of foreign exchange. A lot, if not all of our materials are imported. We don’t have access to CBN rate. We have to buy from the black market. Even the raw materials – we are bringing comes with a tariff. This makes us expensive unfortunately.  That’s where all those dealing in fake are enjoying because they make themselves cheaper by short changing on the main ingredients of the product, and you hear people say, this is cheap, yet they don’t know what they are buying.

But have you and your team embarked on any kind of sensitization campaign against the menace?

That’s what we are doing now. There’s a lot of online, print, TV, radio and more going on now campaigns going on the moment to let people that there are certain things, as a consumer, you can do yourselves to checkmate what your electrician is buying for you, just to be sure you are buying the right thing. It is a good thing that I am here right now in this capacity as CAMAN President. I know what it costs to keep a company like ours running. The overhead alone are huge; power alone is a problem. We have processes in the factory that even if there is power from the DISCOs, you have remain on alternative power because if they take the power from the grid, the whole process is messed up, resulting in waste. So I am very passionate about getting things right for us as an industry, and I am looking forward to that. And I am again looking forward to this transitional year for the country as it is a perfect time to get our issues heard.

Again, by the time I’m 50, I want to be thinking of dialing down a notch. I have spent a lot of my years in work. I do enjoy working, and put everything I have in my work, but it will be time to dial it down. I want to travel around the world. I want to enjoy myself. I want to travel for once without thinking about or taking my computer as I do now.

Are you members in CAMAN giving you the necessary cooperation to ensure this is achieved

The biggest thing we have been able to achieve is the unity among us over the years. As much as we are competitors outside, once we come into that meeting, we see ourselves as our brother’s keeper. Again, the fact that we are allowed to be checkmated by ourselves means we understand why we are doing what we are doing. We go to one another’s factory to inspect production process, and no one is afraid when we visits his factory because he has learnt to understand this is the right thing. There is the belief that no one will sabotage the other.

That’s very rare. How did you managed to achieve that?

Yes, very rare. It’s really amazing and I am very thankful for that,  I believe it is also because everybody is vested in the industry. It is a very hard industry to break into because the start-up capital is huge. So it is better to have collaborative power among your selves so that you can fight a common enemy.  It’s a of challenge but the fact that we are all focused on the same goal helps and goes a long way.

Tell me, is cable manufacturing business very lucrative?

It can be if you don’t have all these other issues

But it is, considering that you have been in business this four decades and counting

That’s why we are still here (laughs). You know one of the better things that could happen to the industry is localisation – local content. There is at the moment an executive order by the president that says that every parastatal must buy from local companies certain items that they need. I really wish that order is being followed to the later. It’s still a bit shaky but we are getting there.  However, there a board; the Nigerian Content Development Monitoring Board (NCDMB). They monitor local content in the oil and gas industry. They are so insistent. All the foreign oil companies including Total, Shell and others doing business in the country can’t import directly any goods or service, otherwise the board will shut down their project. They are that powerful & effective; they are really efficient. They opened a new door for us.  Five years ago, we wouldn’t have been able to go to say Total, and they will give you RFQ – Request for Quotation, and say they want to buy cable – never – they see you like you can’t solved their problem. But now, the Board has made it easy to approach them so they have no choice but to patronize local content. However, the Board also checkmates you on the gains you make to make sure that you improve and expand. So don’t think you are making free money. It must reflect on everything you do so you can make yourself better – cause investment in your systems.

Already now, a lot of our members are enjoying this benefits because they listed some from where cables must be bought from. They are not saying buy from only this person, they are giving options, saying as long as it is from these people, we are okay, and it is made in Nigeria.

Again, you the beneficiary must live up to expectation. They have to see traction, and it is developing us. We are increasing capacity, buying machines, employing more people, giving revenue back to the government, and everybody is happy.

But the NCDMB is only in the oil and gas. If only we could have similar thing in construction, have them in telecoms, and other sectors, local companies will be better off

So what efforts are you making to have them in other sectors, especially yours?

That’s the reason behind all the lobbying. We thank God for the new government that are coming in now because this is a fantastic time for us to make our voices heard from a different perspective. We have plenty things to show that we have done well and deserve the assistance. By the time everyone settles down, we will begin to make our voices heard so that these things can be replicated in all the industries, and then the cable industry will be versatile.

Now what do you think is future of cable and wire manufacturing industry in Nigeria?

The way we are going, two things can happen because things are pretty bad now in terms of infrastructure, power, foreign exchange and all of that. The best thing that can happen is that all these issues are dealt with. If all these issues are dealt with even by 50%, the traction we would get will be double for the industry. So either things go that way or things get worse, and nobody is praying for things to go worse. So we can only pray that things get better, and with better things come a win-win situation for everybody. It is looking bright; that is my optimistic belief.

And I guess it will look brighter if government shows more interest in the sector

They don’t have a choice; they must show interest but we have to get very vocal as well. This is my industry so it’s not about MicCom. It is about the survival of the industry. And people need to take it serious. Unfortunately, a lot of unfortunate things are also happening – buildings are coming down every other day. There’s a lot of attention on fake building materials and the causes, and cables form an intricate part of building. Even if you put up a ramshackle building, you must put light there. Even if the building is not made from concrete, it must have a bulb, and you must have wire for the bulb. So whether we like it or not, we are an industry that nobody can just ignore.

Are cable manufacturers consulted before buildings are erected?

It depends on your electrician because he is part of the process. But yes, in making up the BOQ during every project, where it is decided what and what is need, cable has to be there, and somebody needs to be able to rationalise that cable need. One way or another, we are getting involved.

How do you juggle being an ‘engineer’, a pharmacist, a hospitality personnel, mother and wife, and still maintain your composure?

It is the grace of God…

But the NCDMB is only in the oil and gas. If only we could have similar thing in construction, have them in telecoms, and other sectors, local companies will be better off

And…?

Good support at work because a lot of the things I do involve late nights and traveling. I am happy now that my children are teenagers. When they were small, every job I had had always been involving, and it is good to have people that supports you. Of course my husband is my number one champion. If he had made it difficult for me to explore, I wouldn’t be there today. The grace of God is major as it is a lot to pile up. Then again, I saw my mother did it. She raised a fantastic family, and she was very hands on at work. So if she can do it, I can. And I see how she managed it, so it’s just to take a peep off her own handbook. Nothing is impossible.

With all the work load, how do you find time to recreate, and which areas of recreation do you find attractive?

That is one thing I’ve always been told I need to do more of. I’m not much of a social butterfly. So if I am going out, it is because that person is important to me. If I am not doing anything, I am in my house because my Mondays through to Saturdays is all about work.

Notwithstanding, there must be something you do to maintain your youthful outlook

It’s the grace of God

Yes, but there’s always something that the grace of God use to accomplish it

I think one of the biggest thing for me is I try not to worry. I discovered that worry is one of the things that cause high blood pressure, headache and other diseases that then overwhelms someone. I don’t worry. People have approached me and asked what kind of human being I am. In the middle of all the issues, something will happen. You know, when you hit a brick wall, it’s either you pass through the wall or you bounce back; something will happen. So if I can’t control the narrative, why give myself headache. That is one thing I know has given me a lot of peace. And when you have peace, everything else become easier. But I won’t tell you it’s because I eat a definite kind of food or do a certain kind of exercise.

Do you actually have a certain kind of food – best for you?

Plantain – in any form. This is something I eat anytime. I eat well and good. I don’t do breakfast, lunch and dinner in that order necessarily. I can wake up and say I want to eat eba or pounded yam and I’m good for the day.

How about sports? Do you support any team?

I’m not really a sports person. I’ll flow with any situation around me. My husband is the more ardent football fan. I keep myself busy; I don’t like wahala. The fanaticism of most football fans makes me wonder if they are sharing the money with them. I walk away from whatever is going to cause headache for me.

What target have you set for yourself by the time you clock 50?

Oh…50 is very close. To be honest, I have actually been thinking about it recently, and I am pretty fulfilled. I will be 50 in five years, my children will be much older. I have a daughter now going into the university, and the other one will be joining her in a few years. By that time, the one going in now would have graduated, and the one following would be almost graduating. That, in itself is fulfillment for me. That I have two girls that are self-sufficient. And that God has helped me to have done the best I can with them, then it will be them and God.

Again, by that time, I want to be thinking of dialing down a notch. I have spent a lot of my years in work. I do enjoy working, and put everything I have in my work, but it will be time to dial it down. I want to travel around the world. I want to enjoy myself. I want to travel for once without thinking about or taking my computer as I do now. I can sit down and read. Of course, that’s one thing I do enjoy very well. You are transported to a different world when you read. It takes me away from work, and I love that.

Who are really your parents? How did they motivate you so much that you are giving so much?

My mum, Comfort Olufunke Ponnle is late now. It is worthy of note that MicCom is a combination of two names; Michael and Comfort. My dad’s and mum’s names. One couldn’t have asked for a better parent – growing up was a joy. I am the last of five, and by the time I came along, they were already rich, and sometimes I used to wonder that if we can afford to do this, why are we not doing it – if you afford to take the children to a different school, why are they attending public school – if you can afford to hire a house help, why are you doing things yourself – so some of the trainings we went through, we might have thought they were pointless at the time, but now I see a huge difference to our lives. I’m sure I speak for the rest of my siblings. My mum was very intentional with us – she was very busy, but very intentional. She has been late over 10 years now…

…And your dad?

Dad is very much alive though retired. He lives in the village. I enjoyed my growing up days. It strengthened and grew me.

And your husband? 

My Wole is such joy, and has allowed a very ambitious and career minded person like me to be what I wish to be. Honestly, I chose a good man, and I am happy. And my children are better off for it. One of us is always available. He’s always there when I’m not. We have a great partnership, and it’s fantastic. I couldn’t have asked for a better husband.

What do you regret in your 45 years of existence?

Nothing. Whatever has happened has moulded me. They say that whatever does not kill you makes you stronger. I am happy for my life, and give thanks for the part God is playing in my life. A lot of the time, it’s not about me. It’s really not about me. The fact that I also realised that, helps me to free myself a lot more, and be able to do more. No, no regrets.

MicCom has seen 44 years already, is there any possibility of MicCom seeing another 44 years.

By God’s grace, yes. The biggest thing I have also learn in this business is the succession. The worse thing you can do to your business is to hold on to something you can’t replicate. It’s a good thing it is family that is replicating the succession now, but even if it is someone else that is going to come in to take over for whatever reason, there’s going to be a succession plan.

I guess there’s already a succession plan on ground

Yes, there is. MicCom can’t die by God’s grace.

What do you think you would be leaving behind for the person that will succeed you?

A good name. A good legacy. That brand equity that we’ve grown.

And there’s every possibility the next person wouldn’t need to go through stress

Well, at the end of the day, it is a different world. The world my parents were in is a completely different world from the one I am in today. Theirs may also be different. So, they need to be ready for that change, and that change starts now. Change is one constant thing in this world. If we are set in our ways, we won’t be where we are today. We would’ve just died a natural death as a result of someone claiming that this is how we’ve always done it. Everybody has to be on their toes.

Thank you very much for your time, Mrs Adubi

Thank you too. I really appreciate.

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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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