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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

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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