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Boss Of The Week

My love for the Arts Immeasurable – Segun Arinze

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By Eric Elezuo

He is still as agile as he was when he first ventured into career entertainment many years ago. A professional to the core, disciplinarian, focused, determined and a gogetter, the person of Segun Padonu Aina, who is best known as Segun Arinze is larger than life.

In this brief chat with The Boss, the veteran entertainer, who has successfully traversed the world of music, movies, voice over and other splendid variables of the entertainment industry, went deep down memory lane to explain the intricate workings of the industries he found himself, his passion for the arts, love for the Glo brand and other down to earth revelations.

Excerpts:

Who is Segun Arinze in a nutshell?

Well, the truth is Segun Arinze is Segun Arinze, and that is me, by the grace of God. I’m an actor, a Nollywood filmmaker, and a media personality.

Segun Arinze; the actor, voice-over artist, and singer. Which of these explains you better?

I believe that the three explain my personality better because they’re all art and entertainment-related drive for me. So I see myself in those three facets of entertainment, and I’m very comfortable with the three of them.

So, how did you all start?

It started years back in Ilorin, Kwara State, many years ago when I was still in secondary school. That’s how I started. I got introduced by a friend called Ayo Orowale, and ever since I haven’t looked back.

Okay, so between then and now, how would you describe the journey so far?

It is actually a combination of many things – tidious, painful, agonizing, joyful…It’s a blessing. It’s a mixed bag of everything.

Segun Arinze is a native Lagosian, Segun Arinze grew up in Onitsha….

Cuts in…No, let me correct that. I was born in Onitsha. But I grew up in Lagos before my parents decided to junket the length and breadth of the country as a result of the kind of work he does then – he was a bit on the nomadic side to out it mildly. So that was how I found myself traversing all parts of Nigeria.

Was your father a soldier?

No, he wasn’t a soldier. He was a businessman. He was a contractor. There are businessmen who move around like that. They settle wherever they think is a comfort zone. They shuttle there and here. So he was that kind of person. We were at a point in time in Asaba. We were at a point in time in Benin. We were at a point in time in Ilorin. And then, we were at a point in time in Ogun State, in Sango-Otta. And then we came back to Lagos. It was after that journey that I said I wasn’t going any further. I decided to carve a niche for myself and said, I wasn’t going any further. I decided to stay back.

And that was when?

Many years back. I can’t remember.

You must have been old enough for you to make that kind of decision for yourself? When exactly was it?

It was shortly before I got into the university. That was before I went to study Dramatic Art.

At that particular time, you were still dependent, I guess. So I am wondering how it was possible.

Yes, I was 18 plus. I think I was 18, 19. Then if I remember very well, I said I needed to stay. So I moved in with one of my friends, Michael Odiachi. So he made it a bit easier for me. He was at Ojota then, and later to Ikorodu. So I made that decision. We were all in a playhouse way back then. That’s as at 1982 to 1986 or so, there about. And I was still schooling in-between.

So your parents continued the nomadic journey while you settled?

I wouldn’t say they continued the nomadic journey. I would just say, well, my dad decided to settle in one place.

I can comfortably say therefore, that your movements made you a complete Nigerian.

Well, yeah.

Can you elaborate on that?

I remember we were in Kaduna as well. I was in Jos, my grandparents were in Jos. I had to stay with them for a very long time in Jos. And I found myself traveling between Kaduna and Jos. And then I visited Kano, Zaria, and Maiduguri.

Does that make you a polyglot? How many languages do you speak?

I speak, well, let’s say five.

Name them, please.

English, Pidgin, Yoruba, Hausa, Igbo, and a bit of Efik.

That means you’re a complete Nigerian since Igbo, Hausa, Igbo languages are there. So I may not even be at liberty to say how come how come the Arinze name came about.

The Arinze is there because my mother is Igbo.

So why did you manage to take up the name Arinze instead of Padonou or Aina which link to your dad?

Well, when I was a recording artist on Premier Music Label, Dean Disi, who was the GM of Premier Music at that time, decided that he needed a name change. So that’s how he asked me for my name. And I told him, and he said, okay, I shouldn’t worry. And the next thing he changed my name from Segun Aina Padonou to Segun Arinze. So it was for marketing strategies. And I was a bit uncomfortable with it, but he said, don’t worry, it will work. And here I am with it. It worked.

Which of these popular names of yours sticks more to your personality? Segun Arinze or Black Arrow?

Depends on who’s talking. Depends on who you want to pick.

But what does it feel like to be called Black Arrow? Because if I remember very well, the character was not a very pleasant character.

Well, that was from Silent Night. Chico Ejiro had asked me to play the role of Black Arrow. He also had Ramsey Noah, Joke Silva, Victoria lyama, Emeka Ike, and Alex Osifo Omiagbo. Quite a number of people were in that film at that time. I wasn’t even the lead, but he asked me to play the role of Black Arrow, and by God’s grace and to His glory, it happened. And that was how that changed. So everybody started seeing me as Black Arrow. I wasn’t even the lead. It was Ramsey that was the lead in the movie then. But that’s how it changed. And then we went on to do Silent Night 2 and 3.

Was your musical outing, Dreams, the piece that showcased you as an artist or was it your acting career?

I would say both. Because I remember, before my recording, I was doing a little bit of acting. And I got signed on because I was with Kingsley Ogoro. We were working at Klink Studios then. And Dean Disi listened to my songs. But before that, I had written a lot of theme songs for the Nigerian Music Awards with Tony Okoroji at the helm of Affairs of NMA. And so when we had done that, he liked it. And then I decided to do some recording. Klink Studios was at Tafawa Balewa Square then. We just started and opened shop. And just about then, Sam Uqua, the producer, called me and said, Dean says he wants to see you. And so I went to Satellite Town and Dean Disi said, “I like the songs that you sent to me. We would like to sign you on.” And that was how I got signed on to Premier Music.

Mind you, Premier Music has the likes of Alex O. And Premier Music was also going through a rejuvenation then. They were also rebranding, so to speak. They were originally Polygram. So we were changing to Premier Music. And Tony Minnis had just bought over Polygram. And so, there was Alex O, there was Blacky, there was Alex Zito, Ras Kimono was there. Oris Wiliki was also on that label. And so we started. And that was how I started to record then. My singing friend, my co-singer then was Ese Agese, who Kiss Latham later got married to. So she got signed on to Sony Music. And that was how everything just evolved. And I recorded the album.

Was it a single?

Yes, it was a single. But there were other songs also that were added later on.

But much later I left the contract. I remember that in 2006, 2007, I decided to come back and I did another album called, In the Mood. And then we had more songs on it. And that’s been my journey so far in music.

But I decided now to focus on my acting career because I’m a trained actor. I got trained in Ife by Chuck Mike in the Dramatic Arts Department. So a lot of things just went on to shape up this person called Segun Arize. It’s actually been a lot of work trying to build that brand.

I’m not sure there is anything about Segun Arinze that’s not in the public space at the moment. However, I want to believe that there is something…

…In terms of my career, my job, yes.

So what is new about Segun Arinze?

I’m still evolving…laughs

At least as of today, something must have evolved.

A lot is evolving. I’m still working. Thankfully, I’m still working. I’m still doing quite a number of things. Some of them I keep to my chest.

But there must be something off the chest that is about to hit the airwaves.

There is something I’m working seriously on. But I’d like to keep to myself. Keep your mouth shut. Work. And when it comes out, people will be surprised. So I don’t believe that I need to open up my mind to announcing all the things that I do. But yeah, but I’ve done quite a number of things that people have seen and I’m still working. I had a talk show called No Holds Barred, as you know, that was run on AIT. It was rested but not totally rested because sometime along the line, I’m sure that it will come busting out again. So there are a lot of things I’m working on, a lot of projects that I’m doing, and I just take them one step at a time.

So at the moment, what do you tell your team and audience out there to look out for?

You’re trying to put me on the spot, right? (Laughs…) Well, let them watch out. We have quite a number of things we’re doing and 2024 will unfold and tell a lot of stories.

So they should just keep their fingers crossed?

Keep your fingers crossed. As at now, I represent quite a few brands. Legrande. Legande is one of them. It’s a real estate company. I’m representing them now and I’m very proud of them. They are doing quite well, and it’s been a lovely journey with them and we’re still together. I’m looking forward to signing quite a number of other brands. Let’s see how it goes.

And for the voiceover category, which companies can you itemize as having worked with?

There’s a lot of them that I have worked with, but I can’t begin to itemize them. It’s quite large.

What about the five most important?

I can’t say the five most important because they’re quite a lot. You say one, you offend the other. So I’ve worked with quite a number of brands. But I wish to work with more brands. I look forward to doing voiceovers with more Nigerian brands. One of the brands that I’m very, very impressed with is Glo. Though I’m not an ambassador nor have I done anything with them, still just go to see their shows and all that. I’m quite impressed with what Chairman Mike Adenuga has done with the Glo brand. I’m very, very, very impressed with what he’s done with it. He has taken it to a different level entirely. Honestly, working with that brand will be a dream come true. I like the way the brand has been packaged. Wholly Nigerian, 100% Nigerian, no foreign influence. That’s good to know. It’s good to know that one can look back and say, okay, this is truly a Nigerian brand, and you can relate to it.

So how have you managed to keep this voice the same over the years? 

It’s been because of tenacity. I’ve been very tenacious, I must say. I’ve been deliberate about it and I’ve been keeping it.

And you will not believe who actually introduced me to voiceover. Soni Irabor. Then I got major influences from the likes of Manny Onumonu, Ike Emokwede, a d Osaze Iyamu. I got quite a number of influences from them. They all influenced me. But one person who kept pushing for me was Soni Irabor. And when I look back, I really say thank you to Soni Irabor. And I was privileged to be on the show with him one day, on his own show. And I told him that he was a catalyst for it.

In all your years of being in the entertainment industry, can you say there are incidents that trigger regrets?

One thing I try not to do is regret. I try as much as possible not to have regrets. What I do is I learn from every incident, and move on. Don’t just stay in one spot, move on.

Which particular incident can you say you actually learnt from and moved on?

A number of them, quite a number of them. There’s this particular one, though the person is late now. It was when I was still an aspiring singer, I wanted to sing badly. I wanted to record. And I went to meet this great Nigerian artist, a great musician. And I asked him, I said, sir, I like what you did with Yvonne Maha. And then he looked at me and say, you just finished secondary school. Yes? Why don’t you get a job as a clerk or something? I felt very bad that I was rebuffed. I was rejected. But many years later, I grew big, I grew very big. And I went on to meet my friend, the late Dr. Paul Oje, who was opening his house. And on the stage was this same great Nigerian musician, and then he was singing my praises. And I was like, God, you’re the greatest humorist. But I didn’t let that weigh me down. Actually, I didn’t let that weigh me down. And I moved on; in terms of creativity, I’m very, very restless. I like to move from one thing to another. I like to do things as fast as possible. I’m a creative animal. I don’t like to stop in my track. And that’s just my kind of person. That’s how I am. And people who have worked with me will tell you, hey, when it comes to creativity, leave Segun Arinze alone. That’s how I am.

Can you please differenciate between the Segun Arinze in the movies and the Segun Arinze as a person?

Segun Arinze in the movies does his work. Segun Arinze as a person is a family man.

What I mean actually, Segun Arinze in the movies is practically voracious, practically…

No, no, no, no. Segun Arinze is an actor. I don’t want to use the word voracious. Because I refuse anybody making me a typecast. I’m not a stereotype and I refuse to be a stereotype. I’m an actor. I want to play any role I’m given and give my 100% to it or even 110% to it. But I don’t want to be stuck in that place and say, yeah, you’re a stereotype. No, no, no. That’s not Segun Arinze. I’m a trained actor and I want to work that way. Granted, there are certain roles I might not be well suited for, but that doesn’t mean I’m not giving it my best shot.

But outside that, I’m a family man. I like to stick with my family. I like to have a good time with my family. When the opportunity comes, we go on holiday. When it’s not there, I do my work. But I always watch over my wife, and my kids. I just love my family.

Okay, tell us exactly how you combine your tight schedule with being a wonderful family man.

Very tough. And the good thing is that God has blessed me with a wonderful wife. A great wife. So where I fall short, she makes up for it. But she also makes sure she carries me along by giving me information on what and what, and where I’m lagging behind. I try to make up for it. It’s not easy. It’s not a bed of roses. It’s also trying to get your children to understand the kind of work that you do. When they were younger, they didn’t understand it. But now they begin to understand the nature of your work and all that. I try to take the pressure off them because wherever they go, they hear your dad is this, your dad is that. And when they come back, they give all the stories. My last born is so inquisitive. She wrote her first book at the age of seven. I try as much as possible to carry her, and all my children along. I have grown-up children and I have younger children.

Talking about wives and family…I remember you lost your first marriage after 14 years…

Can we not talk about that? Let’s move on. I don’t like talking about that. I like to keep her out. It’s done and dusted. Move on!

I’ve moved on from that. Yes, I have a lot of respect for her. I have nothing but good respect for her. And I would not want anybody to tarnish her image. She’s done so well for herself. I have a good and enormous respect for her.

So, how does Segun Arinze relax?

I listen to music a lot. I like telling jokes, I like listening to jokes, I like being among friends, I like staying with my family during my spare time, I sit down with my wife and we all do gossip. My wife is my best gossip partner…laughs.

I like that…Laugh

So we talk a lot. My Gist partner, I’m very comfortable around her. I can say what I want to say, express myself and that’s just how it is.

What was it like when you made your first million?

I can’t even remember what it was. When I made my first million. Ha!

Funnily enough, I didn’t get over the roof. Funnily enough, I didn’t get to the blues. When I made my first million, when the money hit my account, I was like okay. I was calm. I was very, very calm. I didn’t think that money entered my head. And it was from Guinness. I was looking at the money. They’re taking me to South Africa to do something. And that money was some crazy figures of millions. So I was calm. Very, very calm. I took it in my stride. Ever since then, millions have kept hitting my accounts.

Social media quantified you as a four million dollars person in net worth.

That’s social media, not me.

Yeah! Are they right?

They are stupid. They don’tseem to get it. I can’t tell them my worth, because these things are dynamic. They keep changing. I don’t want to say this is what I’m worth or this is not what I’m worth. I don’t want to say that. In fact, when I saw that, I was very upset and I felt highly disrespected. Yes. I felt highly disrespected. I was very annoyed. I was very angry. I felt highly disrespected.

Is it because it is on the low side…

No, no, no. Whether it is on the low side or the high side, I feel highly disrespected.

Are you saying that there’s no need for it?

There’s no need for it. It is my private life. You don’t need to. I don’t need that. I was very, very upset and disrespected. If I had known the person who wrote that thing, I would have given him a piece of my mind. That was extremely stupid, that was silly, and they should not ever and ever try that again. They should leave public figures to their lives, and stop counting their money. It is none of your business; focus on our work. Focus on the work we have, and what we are doing for society. How we are trying to make the society a better place. Don’t go prying into my private accounts or knowing what I’m worth and what I’m not. I think it’s disrespectful.

They will definitely hear. Does Segun arinze have any interest of going politics anytime in the future?

I can’t say for now. I can’t say. I used to think I had that interest but with the way things are going, I can’t say, but whatever it is I’m gonna sit down, observe, watch, communicate, talk to people, have meetings, and when the time is right, I will make the statement. But for now, I’m still observing and I’m watching.

Can you compare the Nollywood of your time and the Nollywood of today, in terms of similarities and differences?

You don’t compare an old Mercedes Benz to a new Mercedes Benz

Tell us more

So many dynamics but the foundation of the Mercedes Benz is still there. All they used in creating the first Mercedes Benz is still there and that’s what they’re using to make the new Mercedes Benz?

Are we making progress or retrogressing in the industry?

We are making progress. I’m very impressed. I’ve seen a lot of talents in Nollywood. I’m so proud of some of the young ones I’ve seen. Extremely proud of them! I’ve interacted with a lot of them, and I know that they have a great future; Filmmakers both producers, directors, and all. In fact, Nollywood can give Hollywood a run for its money right now.

In those days, we can easily mention all the Nollywood actors offhand, but today I’m not sure that’s the case again. Why’s that?

In that wise, yes! You are right. Because if there was a role, you have the opportunity of picking five persons for it. It was reserved within five people for a certain kind of role. You can say if Ramsey doesn’t play this, there’s Segun or Bob Manuel, or Kanayo O. Kanayo you have a limitation of like 5 or 6 in the worst-case scenario. Now, they are like hundreds of talent vying for one role. That tells you the competitiveness of the industry and it’s a welcome development. But they also do themselves a big favor by being very professional and focusing on the work. The worst part of it is that social media has come and taken everything away from the norm. So, social media has expanded it. It’s widened the gap, and within that window and ecosystem. So, you find a lot of people grazing in that ecosystem to get to the top. It’s tough. Then, the ecosystem was limited, but now, it is expanding. I wish them all the best of luck.

Beginning from your period, we have started noticing a little trend in the industry. When an artiste starts getting old, one of these two things starts happening to him, if not the two, either he is impoverished or is struck with a disease, I don’t know if there is anything you can say about this.

I will like to keep quiet on that. I will like to honestly maintain my silence in that and not say anything about it. One is because these are my colleagues; both senior and contemporary. And out of utmost respect for all of them, I will not say anything. Well, I can say that it is well, God will continue to heal all of us. Uh, the rain doesn’t fall on one person’s roof alone, it falls everywhere. So, I would not say anything about it. What I will tell you for free is that I’m in discussions with the president of the Actors Guild of Nigeria, Emeka Rollas. I was a onetime president, so I understand what’s happening and properly. I was also the president of the Association of Voice-over Artists. What I would say is that Emeka Rollas is doing his best. They are working and doing everything they can and also Kate Henshaw, the Head of Public Communication. Let them do what they have to do, but I am not going to say anything about that. In due course, when things are sorted out, we can come out to make a categorical statement. But I also know that there is a health insurance policy, that HMO. I believe a lot of actors would take advantage of that.

Do you play or love any games?

I love football a lot. Although my club is not doing very well we would bounce back. We have won two Champions Leagues, we have won Europa, we have won two FA cups. Arsenal should come and tell us what they have won. We would bounce back for sure. And for Super Eagles, they are doing very well. I’m impressed. I just pray that we qualify for the next World Cup. Oshimen deserves to be at the World Cup. He deserves to be there and at the Nations Cup. In fact, all the young players in Super Eagles deserve to be there.

Talking about football, most African nations did not vote for Osimhen during the Ballon d’Or even Nigeria did not vote for him.

See, I said something today on a football platform. FIFA used the journalists to do what they wanted to do. It was a smoke screen. And I am sure there would have been a subtle threat in between. So they use them to do what they want to do but I tell you before God and man. I think that Halland deserves the Ballon d’Or

I was thinking that because he didn’t win the World Cup

Also, Oshimen deserves a better rating than the 8th position. He did so well for Napoli. So there’s always this politics in FIFA. God help all of them. Just the way we have it in the British league the referees are highly corrupt. I saw what they did to Arsenal. Go and check the VAR, some of them ignored VAR. It’s crazy. It’s not only us, they have done it to all the clubs. Don’t forget, that these referees are human beings, and they have their own affinity that they are supporting.

What about human errors…

Human error is one percent. As far as I am concerned, human error in the UK league is one percent. Every other thing is deliberate. They know what to do. The funny thing is that VAR tells the referees to go and check, but the decision is entirely up to him. See what happened to the referee who has been demoted to the second division. That’s why you don’t find British referees in FIFA events, they are corrupt. They need to wake up. The English referees need to wake up. They really need to wake up.

So what’s your best food and attire?

Anything that fits, that makes me look good and comfortable. As for the best food, I don’t have. Anything I can eat, relish, and make me happy.

And who’s your most admired Nollywood actor now?

Now? I don’t have. We are all colleagues. I can’t mention names. The moments you start mentioning names, you get yourself in trouble. My peer group are all good. I also know a few young ones who are fantastic, but I won’t mention names. I know at least six of them that I can close my eyes and mention their names, but all I would say is the best of luck. And may they continue to grow in their chosen field.

Just a few months ago, we lost Saint Obi. Anything to say about that?

Very sad, very sad, very very sad! But it is well.

I want to say thank you Mr Segun Arinze for your time 

Thank you so much.

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Boss Of The Week

Accomplished Entrepreneur, Taiwo Afolabi, Revels at 62

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By Eric Elezuo

A trained as a lawyer. An accomplished entrepreneur. A distinguished industrialist with a Midas touch. A philanthropist of note with thousands of hangers-on, who are proud to call him their mentor. He is Taiwo Olayinka Afolabi, the ebullient Chief Executive Officer at SIFAX Group, a conglomerate with its hands in various pies including Maritime, Aviation, Haulage, Hospitality, Financial Services and Oil and Gas. He is also the brain behind the jaw dropping new Marriot Hotel, located in Lagos. He is celebrating 62 years of impact, God’s goodness and attention to humanity.

Born on April 29, 1962, as the first child of a set of twins in Ondo State to Chief and Chief (Mrs.) Samson Afolabi, Afolabi is a native of Idokunusi Ijebu in Ijebu East Local Government Area of Ogun State, Nigeria.

A distinguished 2010 Member of the Order of the Niger MON awardee, the prolific business magnate started his education at the Ansar Ud Deen Primary School, Ondo State, before proceeding to the Baptist Grammar School, Ibadan where he obtained his West African Examination Council certificate. His quest to be the best he can be lured him further, and he berthed at the prestigious University of Lagos to study Law. He graduated with a LLB certificate in Law. He became a certified lawyer after a strenuous one year stint at the Nigerian Law School. He was called to the Nigerian Bar by the Body of Benchers on November 4, 2009., and thereafter, obtained a Masters degree in International Law and Diplomacy from the same university.

Pruned, prepared and perfected for the outside world, Afolabi in 1981 launched into professional endeavours, kick starting his career with a shipping company, Nigerian Express Agencies Limited. As a young man hungry for success, Afolabi gave his all, distinguishing himself in every assignment, and earning the respect of all and sundry, thereby rising to become the Head of Operations.

Having seen all there was to see there, and consumed with the zeal to find a newer entrepreneurial world, he stepped out again, like Ulysses, in 1988  to create his own world, and there founded the SIFAX Group; a mustard seed that has grown to become a gigantic oak tree sheltering Maritime, Aviation, Haulage, Logistics, Oil & Gas and Hospitality concerns.

With SIFAX, Afolabi has proved to be a wonder blessed with the Midas touch as from a humble beginning, with little or nothing, he has transformed the originally freight forwarding agency with only a single base in Lagos, Nigeria, to a super mart, which currently operates across the world boasting of iconic presence in Africa, Europe and the Americas. Some of its locations include the United States of America, United Kingdom, Ghana, South Africa, Holland, Belgium, Morocco, Spain and Djibouti.

With over three decades of experience in entrepreneurial networking, having kick started his career story at the age of 28, Afolabi has successfully turned around the SIFAX empire, deriving subsidiaries out of a dint of hard work. Some of them are but not limited to Ports and Cargo Handling Services Limited, a concessionaire and operator of the Terminal C, Tin Can Island Ports, Apapa Lagos and SIFAX Off Dock Limited, a bonded terminal operator.

Others include SIFAX Stevedoring Limited; SIFAX Oil and Gas Limited; SIFAX Haulage & Logistics Limited; SIFAX Logistics & Marine Services Limited; Skypower Aviation Handling Company Limited, an aviation ground handling company and SIFAX Shipping Limited. In glorious addition is the Marriot Hotel, a five star all inclusive home away from home. His invaluable knowledge of the economy, ability to take entrepreneurial risks, knack for newer grounds, focus on the job and desire to affect humanity have in no small measure ensured that all his subsidiaries have emerged and remained the most sought after brands in the business world.

He has further beefed up his skills in the maritime and general business world by attending several maritime and aviation-related trainings both locally and internationally on port operations, aviation ground handling operations and management.

When Afolabi is not unleashing the prowess his business acumen in the boardrooms, he is jovially serving the public. As many that know or have come across him agree that he has built a reputation as a public-spirited individual, possess a philanthropic gesture and is generally a jolly good fellow. He is said to have given hope and support to many public causes including education, which sits uppermost in his heart. He is known to run speedily to rescue whenever matters refer to education and academics. He is also public speaker and facilitator at various industry conferences and mentoring programmes. Some of the many interventions he has achieved in the education sector as part of his social corporate responsibility are donation of a 1,000 capacity lecture theatre at Ladoke Akintola University, Ogbomosho and an 18-seater Toyota Hiace bus to the medical students association of the Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife, Osun State.

He also sponsors The Taiwo Afolabi Annual Maritime Conference (TAAM Conference), organized in his honor by students of the University of Lagos.

Dr. Afolabi’s larger than life existence was made more manifest at the opening of his new Marriot Hotel where the who is who in the Nigerian economic world, entertainment, sports, politics and many more, gathered to give him solidarity.

A seasoned maritime consultant and Fellow of the Nigeria Institute of Financial Management, the Institute of Freight Forwarders of Nigeria, and the Chartered Institute of Arbitrators of Nigeria, Afolabi has used SIFAX and its subsidiaries to positively affect the Nigerian economy as well as generate both direct and indirect employment for teeming Nigerians who are eligible.

For his very many altruistic endeavours, Afolabi has been recognised and awarded in many quarters. Consequently, he has been conferred with diverse honorary doctorate degrees from four universities, including Ladoke Akintola University, Ogbomosho, Oyo State, Cornerstone University and Theological Seminary, Jerusalem, Israel and USA, European-American University, Dominica and Commonwealth University, Belize.

He has also received other individual awards from diverse organizations, running into tens including the 2014 Business Person of the Year which was conferred on him Sun Newspapers, a leading Nigerian media company and he is also the Honorary Consul-General of the Republic of Djibouti in Nigeria.

He is a member of the Institute of Directors Nigeria; Ikoyi Club 1938; IBB Golf Club, Abuja; the Building Committee of the Nigerian-British Chamber of Commerce and Industry, amongst many others.

Afolabi, who is celebrated for his “wealth of experience, organisational prudence and business ingenuity” is a sports enthusiast, addicted to watching and playing football.

A proud and accommodating family man, he is married to his beautiful wife, Folashade, and they are blessed with wonderful children, among whom is a popular recording artist, L.A.X.

For you incredible support growth and development of world economy, and the survival of humanity, you are our Boss of the Week.

Happy birthday sir!

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Boss Of The Week

Prisca Ndu: Celebrating the Amazon of Enterprise at 50

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By Eric Elezuo

In just five decades, a woman that can easily be described as valour, has conquered the entrepreneurial stage, drawing accolades of great tidings, victory and transparent effect on humanity. She is known by many appellations, sobriquet and appendages including flower girl, corporate juggernaut, go-getter, among many others. She is Dr. Priscilla Ndu, known and addressed simply as Prisca by friends, associates, colleagues and family members.

Prisca has proved herself an amazon, a stressless survivor in a world full of challenges, where only the fittest are given the opportunity to thrive and hold their heads high. Her features are a combination of positive curiosity, focus, determination, an eye for details, painstaking and never-say-never attitude.

A former Executive Director at the Resolution and Restructuring Company Limited (a subsidiary of the Assets Management Corporation of Nigeria, AMCON), among many other high profile portfolios she had represented at the establishment, Prisca has exhibited distinct characters that have accelerated her excellence irrespective of challenges. She has given nothing to chance to ensure that even in the world assumed to belong to men, she has remained quite visible, and has demonstrated a level of steadfastness and commitment typical of the managerial and entrepreneurial investments she consciously injected into her career and self.

From the early days as a research analyst to becoming a Laboratory analyst at Global Environmental Consultants, Warri and Nigerian Eagle Floor Mills, Ibadan, she has remained diminutive and indefatigable. Today, she is a renowned technocrat and an icon, having traversed and the conquered the competitive waters of banking, advertising, aviation, logistics and more.

Born on April 28, 1974, to a medical and religious practitioner-father, Dr Marcus O. Ndu, who doubles as a humanitarian; and a caterer and businesswoman-mother, Mrs. Veronica Ndu, Prisca came as the fourth child of a family of seven, comprising five beautiful ladies and two handsome gentlemen. It is imperative to note that her brothers were born after her, and this in no small measure affected her tomboyish outlook to life while growing up.

It is also imperative not to undermine the fact she was brought up under strict tutelage, instruction and discipline of the Christianity doctrine, which is the hallmark of her family’s faith.

 

Highly privileged, Prisca relishes the euphoria of dual origin, having been born in Lagos and being a native of Arochukwu L.G.A, in Abia State, where both her father and mother come from.

“My father was a native of Arochukwu L.G.A of Abia State, same for my mum, who was also a native of Abia State (by her maternal lineage), while her father was a Brazilian National, from Sao Paolo, Brazil, both late now,” she informed.

A very gifted and brilliant child, Prisca completed secondary education at the tender age of 14, having spent only five years in Kindergarten, Nursery and Primary Schools, skipping primaries 2 and 4, in the bargain.

She said: “I had a flawless Junior Secondary School result of Seven A’s and was awarded the Elite scholarship from my community, a feat I repeated in my Senior School Certificate of Education, with Seven As, and an A1 in my favorite subject, Physics.” This is a clear attestation to her great academic prowess right from day one, and an indication of the great woman she was destined to be.

 

Dr Ndu, over the years, has acquired an intimidating resume, which is a product of her desire to continuously garner knowledge. This quest, without mincing words, took her through some of the best institutions of learning in the world, where her skills and world view were sharpened.

After her secondary education, Prisca attended the foremost University of Ibadan, where she studied Biochemistry at the Faculty of Medicine. She was to proceed afterwards to the Lagos Business School for an Executive MBA honours.

And like a typical tigress hungry for academic and professional honours, Prisca has attended several management programmes, in schools within and outside the shores of Nigeria. Some of such schools are IESE in Barcelona; INSEAD Business School in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirate; National University of Singapore Business School, Singapore; IMD, Switzerland, Antai College of Business and Management, Shanghai and Harvard Business School, Boston, USA. She maintains a healthy Alumni relationship with all these institutions of high academic and professional studies.

 

An egghead of monumental quality, she sits on and atop Boards of several companies including as Executive Chairman and Infrastructural Development, Stratevium Technology Services Limited, and as Vice Chairman, Energy Company Limited. Stratevium is an Information Technology and Education solutions provider, with focus on gamified learning for Junior and Senior Secondary pupils (GIDI Mobile EDU Program) and specific content development for both private and public sector organizations, like Central Bank of Nigeria (capacity development training for beneficiaries of the CBN’s creative industry fund), Pharmaceutical Industry capacity training for beneficiaries of the CBN Intervention Fund, Content and Capacity Development for Bank’s Credit customers (Keystone Bank and Access Bank) etc., and creating products for telecommunication companies like GLO, MTN; to guarantee customer loyalty and brand visibility.

Her presence in the banking world looms large, as she traversed the terrain and rose to become Head, Public Projects at the Bank PHB where she was charged with managing and ensuring adequate financial support for major contractors to the three tiers of government, providing them financial services and working closely with State Treasury Offices and Office of the Accountant General of the Federation.

She is until 2023 the Treasurer of Harvard Business School Association of Nigeria, HBSAN, but still to date the Treasurer and Board member of the Harvard University Alumni Association of Nigeria. In addition, she is the current President of the Lagos Business School Singapore Club, “Social Minister” of the Lagos Business School, Shanghai Club and also the past “Social Minister” of the Lagos Business School EMBA 11 Class.

Prisca is highly active; a metaphor for workaholism.

She is a Fellow of the Institute of Credit Administration, ICA, a Fellow of the Institute of Management Consultants and a certified Management Consultant professional, a lifetime Member of the Institute of Directors, IOD, and a member of the Chartered Institute of Bankers, Nigeria, CIBN.

She is not just in active service, she has garnered a lot of laurels to show for her eye to details attitude, painstaking attribute to delegated descriptions and much more.

Consequently, she has won the “Subarctic Survival Situation Exercise” conducted at the Harvard Business School, beating 135 participants drawn from 47 countries across the globe. She made history as the first African to win the honours, projecting the much advertised Nigerian can-do-spirit.

 

In recognition of her sacrifices for the betterment of humanity, the United Nations named her as one of the 100 Most Influential People of African Descent, Globally. The award was also in recognition of body’s celebration of people of African Descent below the age of 40 (by January 2015), doing exceptional things to develop Africa.

Much as the ebullient doctor is surrounded with human oriented achievements, she is looking far ahead into the future for mega discoveries to wow human race. She has confided in as many that has paid heed that her plans for the future is hinged on building a world conglomerate, with activities in at least five major sectors of the economy, employing at least 1,000 people across all its subsidiaries, and having intimidating presence in at least five G8 countries.

Not a woman who stumbles on chances, Prisca has a distinct plan to retire to academic world at 65 (exactly 15 years from now), to disseminate all she learnt over the years with a view to impart mankind; the Lagos Business School, where she had been invited severally to participate as an associate lecturer and guest speaker, appears a sure bet as her launching pad. These opportunities, according to her, has shaped who she is today, and sees herself playing a major role in Nigeria’s infrastructure space, as she still looks forward to roles in the public sector. She does not in any way takes them for granted.

A typical Jack of all trades, Prisca has her hand in almost every pie she comes across. These include Aviation, Oil and Gas Services, Advertising, Banking and Financial Services industries, both in the Private and Public sectors.

 

While at the Asset Management Company of Nigeria (AMCON), where she performed the role of Head Partnerships in AMCON, she singlehandedly put together the Asset Management Partners initiative in 2016, involving over 6,000 accounts, with balances below N100m, which was outsourced to these AMPs, engaged and trained to act in AMCON’s stead, in recovering bad loans and also turning the businesses around where possible.

This was extended in 2017 to cover accounts with balances between N100 million and N1 billion. Given that AMCON is not in perpetuity, it is the hope of the corporation that these AMPs will continue to offer the services AMCON currently does and support the banks in the area of debt restructuring and recovery. Today all of AMCON’s operations is structured around this initiative she put together, even though she is no longer in its employment, but her legacy lives on. She is known to have recorded her most achievements while on this beat.

When you talk about women or entrepreneurs that don’t take no for answer, Dr. Ndu is it. She is a very independent, foresighted, goal-oriented, focused and reputed to never fear any challenge. Above all, she is very adventurous and daring, and that contributed in her ability to discover and open new vistas as well as explore new horizons.

Her towering status over the entrepreneurship world notwithstanding, Prisca is a wonderful family woman, tending with zeal, humanity, gusto and panache to the emotional and physical needs of her home. As a lover of the academia, she has not spared any expense to give her adorable son, Charly, who forms an integral part of her pastime, the best of education. Charly, who wishes to be an Astronaut, has been pursuing a career in Aerospace Engineering, at the EmbryRiddle Aeronautical University, Daytona Beach, Florida, USA.

Addressed variously as Ph.D, DBA, DLM, FIoD, FICA, FIMC, CMC, CCFE, Dr. Ndu sees herself as a social impact advocate and a multi-sector entrepreneur, who has led turn-key economic and social development projects both at Federal and state levels in Nigeria.

Dr Ndu’s social corporate responsibility is as large as her personality. She is actively involved in charity work, empowering the youths and advancing the lot of the nation through the Rock Foundation, powered by the House on the Rock Church, Gemstone Management Development Centre, Lagos, Nigeria, Harvard Business School Association of Nigeria, where she is an active Board member.

A boardroom guru, she also sits on the Board of other companies, including Harvard Business School Alumni Association of Nigeria, as Financial Secretary and Treasurer, Skywise Group as Board Member and Mshel Homes Limited, Abuja, also as a member of its vibrant Board.

 

At the HBSAN, she is helping to champion the mentorship programme of the association, providing mentorship, guidance and career counseling to members of the Harvard University Alumni body in Nigeria.

“This is a role I also play with the Lagos Business School Alumni Association mentorship program, and a host of others. My passion for social service is seen in the various Board roles I occupy both paid and unpaid,” she concluded.

In her continuous quest to aquirre knowledge, she has recently attended the Guardians of the Nation International (GOTNI), top 50 African CEOs Leadership Roundtable, where she was elected as Vice Chairman of its Governing Council and the Vice Chairman of the Governing Council of the African CEOs Leadership Roundtable, organized by the Guardians of the Nation International, GOTNI Leadership Institute.

She is also an active member of the NESG Finance Committee. She is also a founding board member of the Black History and Lifestyle awards, where she supports the founder and visionary leader, Eziada, Chief, Mrs. Folashade Balogun. BHLA is an initiative set up to recognize Africans globally, doing great things in the continent and abroad, and the next event comes up in Los Angeles, USA, in June 2024.

Prisca is a symbol of that all round and complete woman, whose stock in trade is the best, the best and the best.

Indeed, at 50, Prisca has so much to celebrate, including without equivocation, the exceeding mercies of God.

Congratulations ma!

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Boss Of The Week

Done and Dusted: Adesola Adeduntan’s Eight Years of Stardom at FirstBank

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By Eric Elezuo

Like a bolt out of the blues, the news of the resignation of the Managing Director and Chief Executive Officer of First Bank of Nigeria Limited, Adesola Adeduntan, hit the media space on Saturday, April 20, 2024.

The shocking announcement took the financial world by storm, and creatwd diverse questions in the mouth of observers and stakeholders, especially as the Veterinary Medicine graduate-turned-financial guru still has about months before the expiration of his three terms tenure. He was due to retire in December 2024.

“I have however decided to proceed on retirement with effect from 20 April 2024 to pursue other interests,” he said in his resignation letter that has become a topical issue.

But of more importance is that Sola, as he is fondly called, who took over from Bisi Onasanya in January 2016, has held sway as FirstBank’s top shot for eight years and four months, and has verifiable achievements to show for his years of stewardship, which has catapulted him to stardom today.

For a start, only a few persons would believe that the indefatigable financial expert, Adesola Kazeem Adeduntan is just 54 years old. He will be 55 on May 7, 2024. This is as a result of the achievements that have trailed his young life. Adeduntan has bagged an international award as Distinguished Alumnus of the Year by his Alma mater, Cranfield School of Management, United Kingdom. And this was at the time FirstBank was named biggest mover of 2019 according to KPMG Report. It is not incorrect to say that Adeduntan’s tenure at FirstBank was dedicated to creative achievement.

As the first quarter of 2020 was winding down, he was a guest lecturer at the Edinburgh School of Business where he spoke authoritatively on financial institutions’ role as drivers of financial inclusion.

On September 11, 2020, Adeduntan, added additional feather to his cap when he was bestowed with the Forbes Best of Africa award by Forbes Africa in conjunction with Foreign Investment Network (FIN) for his contributions to the financial services sector in the country and the African continent. He wasn’t a stranger to awards.

An all rounder, he practically conquered every endeavour he found himself in, leading the FirstBank group to a height only imaginable as the bank recently marks 130 years of uninterrupted banking. It would not be forgotten in a hurry that a media intelligence report presented by P+ Measurement Services, placed Adeduntan atop the list of most prominent and reputable Nigerian banking CEOs in Q2 2020.

THE MAN, ADESOLA ADEDUNTAN

Born Adesola Kazeem Adeduntan on May 7, 1969, in Ibadan, Oyo State, the banker started his early education at Ibadan Municipal Government Primary School (IMG), Adeoyo between 1975 and 1981, for his primary education before proceeding to Urban Day Grammar School, Old Ife Road, Ibadan, where he had his secondary schooling. His excellent to duties created a space for him to become the Deputy Senior Prefect in his final year in 1986.

In the same year, he was admitted to the University of Ibadan in to study Veterinary Medicine, and qualified in 1992 as a Veterinary Surgeon, a profession he hardly practiced before switching over to financial management.

Consequently, in 1994 he joined Afribank (Nig) Plc., and was posted to the Ibadan Main Branch as a graduate trainee. He spent 18 months there learning the ropes, and working in various areas of banking operations including cash management, clearing, credit risk management, and foreign operations.

Between September 1995 and May 2002, Adeduntan worked with Arthur Andersen Nigeria, rising to become manager in the firm’s financial services industry business, leveraging on the 18 months mentorship he received at Afribank. In this role, he led and managed the statutory audit of a number of leading Nigerian banks.

In August 2000, he served as an instructor at the Andersen World-Wide Induction training for new hires in Eindhoven, the Netherlands. He also served as the lead instructor for the Local Office Basic Accounting Training and Induction course in 1999. It was while he was with Arthur Andersen that qualified as a chartered accountant in 2000.

With more feathers to his cap, Adeduntan moved to the financial services industry in KPMG as a senior manager in June 2002, and served diligently till October 2004 when he bowed out. At KPMG, he co-pioneered the firms’ financial risk management advisory services. He was also a KPMG-accredited Trainer and facilitated several internal training programmes.

 

When he left KPMG in 2004 to study, he pursued a Master’s degree in Business Administration at the Cranfield School of Management, where he was a British Chevening Scholar. He graduated in September 2005.

Armed with yet another great feather, Adeduntan moved to Citibank Nigeria Limited in 2005 where he became the Senior Vice-President (General Manager) and Chief Financial Officer. He was saddled with the responsibility of overseeing the bank’s financial and product control functions, quality assurance and operational risk management. He was on hand to assist the bank in its recapitalisation during the banking consolidation era.

In October 2007, he called it quits with Citibank, and a month later, pitched tent with the Africa Finance Corporation, as the pioneer Chief Financial Officer and Business Manager.

His achievement at the AFC includes leading the team that secured an A3/P2 investment grade international credit rating from Moody’s Investors Service in March 2014. This made the Africa Finance Corporation the second highest-rated lending financial institution in Africa.

In July 2014, he was appointed an Executive Director/Group Chief Financial Officer of FirstBank, where he was responsible for the bank’s financial control, internal control and enhancement, business performance management, treasury and procurement functions.

On Monday January 4, 2016, Adeduntan succeeded Bisi Onasanya, and assumed duty as Managing Director of FirstBank of Nigeria Limited, and its commercial banking subsidiaries including FBN UK, FBN Ghana, FBN DRC, FBN Guinea, FBN Gambia, FBN Mortgages, FBN Senegal, FBN Sierra Leone and First Pension Custodian Limited.

He coordinated his functions so professionally that on December 7, 2016, he was awarded the 2016 Banker of The Year award by the Leadership Newspaper “For refusing to ‘go with the flow’ even when the temptation was high and the reward substantial, and for reminding his colleagues that banking is nothing without integrity”.

 

A man of many beneficial and influential parts, Adeduntan has hitherto sat on the board of the Nigerian Economic Summit Group, and as a non-executive director on the boards of the Nigeria Interbank Settlement System (NIBSS), Africa Finance Corporation (AFC), FBN Bank U.K. Ltd., Universal Payments Plc, and FMDQ OTC Securities Exchange. He is also a Fellow of the Institute of Chartered Accountants of Nigeria.

In his eight years stewardship at the helm of affairs at FirstBank, Adeduntan has turned the tables and rewrote banking narratives, delving into all aspects of human endeavour to see to the development of SMEs, youth entrepreneuship among many others.

His speech at the kick off of FirstBank’s celebration of 125 years of unbroken business operations, has remained evergreen, and stood the test of time as the prototype to FirstBank’s success recipe.

Adeduntan hinted as follows: “From that very modest beginning in 1894, First Bank has traversed an incredible journey of delivering impeccable financial services to its customers and supporting the building of the modern-day Nigeria and indeed, West Africa, including our early pivotal role as the monetary and fiscal policy regulator for the entire West African region,” he said.

“As a long-standing institution, which even predates Nigeria as a unified entity, FirstBank is entrenched in the nation’s development; woven into the very fabric of society, with our involvement in every stage of national growth and development.

“At the amalgamation, independence and through the seasons ever after, we have been here marching hand-in-hand with you and our dear nation. We have enabled financial, technological, industrial and societal advancements, achieving very many firsts over time.”

Overall, Adeduntan has seen to the sponsorship of prolific enterprises to guide the youths on the right path. These include the African Fashion Week which took place at the Oriental Hotel and Youth Empowerment Seminar at the Harbour Point Event Centre. These shows among a whole lot of others in his eight years of prolific endeavors, have a lot of testimonials following.

Adesola is married to Mrs. Adenike Adeduntan and together they have three wonderful children.

Sir, we wish you a prolific retirement from FirstBank, and a more glorious openings for more of your intelligence and expertise to be tapped.

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