|Notable Nigerians: Culled from Newswatch Magazine||See Other famous Nigerians|
Austin Okere: The Computer Wizkid
He is a big player in the information technology sector of the Nigerian economy. His humility will enthral you. He remains unaffected by the lofty heights he has attained in his chosen career, and he is Austin Okere, Group Managing Director of Computer Warehouse Group, Lagos .
A 1986 graduate of computer science from the University of Lagos , Okere is a young man with eagle eyes for business. He saw beyond the fog of Nigeria s economic and political impasse when he resigned his sales and marketing job with Inlaks Computers Ltd. in Lagos to found Computer Warehouse Ltd., which is into the supply and maintenance of computer hardware and ancillary equipment.
It was particularly helpful that Okere left Inlaks on a friendly note, as he soon became their dealer. Okeres business philosophy is to keep the customer happy. Let them speak well of you. That way he got many references, from one corporate customer to another.
In 1997, Dell Corporation, UK , invited him to accept the Dell Distribution Award for the fastest growing business in Africa territories. His Computer Warehouse is today Dells sole service centre in Nigeria .
Through Okeres effective salesmanship, Dell computers outsold many of the older, more entrenched computer names in Nigeria .
Giant strides of the Imo State-born business mogul has not gone unnoticed. In 1997, Corporate Press Services honoured him with Men of Achievement Award. The Guardian newspapers honoured him among Outstanding Personality of the year and Diet Communications Limited named him among 10 Dynamic Leaders in Corporate Nigeria.
In 1999, Thisday newspaper and The Week magazine took turns to honour him. Thisday newspaper named Okere among 50 Most Dynamic CEOs while The Week honoured him with 10 Distinguished Men of Excellence in Nigeria .
Okeres successes are not accidental. They derive from clear-headed, far-sighted business strategies. Okere simply knows where his bread is buttered at the top. Okere said that they set out from the beginning to focus on a niche. Over the years we decided that we are to continue to focus on that niche of the top of the triangle.
The growth in the Computer Warehouse Group saw the birth of Digital Computer Communications Limited that specialises in wide area network, local area network and systems integration.
Expert Edge Software and Systems Limited is another company that was incorporated as a result of the tremendous growth of the parent company, Computer Warehouse Group Ltd. Expert Edge is involved in software development, systems analysis, design and implementation, SmartCard application and packaged training on software.
For those who know when Okere started, the growth in Computer Warehouse group is astronomical and heart-warming. Computer Warehouse controls 20 percent of the market now. DCC stands on the first runs among computer communications companies. Expert Edge has tied up some strategic alliances with some of the worlds software development giants to deliver some of the most sought - after products.
Okere is a member of the Nigeria Economic Summit Group where he serves in the infrastructure development committee.
Okere had his primary and secondary education in Ghana . He attended University of Ghana , Legon for one year before he transferred to University of Lagos where he read computer science. Okere also has MBA which he read at the prestigious Lagos Business School . Okere is married and has children.
Okoya-Thomas: Man of Many Parts
Ample in size and ample in achievement is a mild way of describing Chief Molade Okoya-Thomas. Since December 1959 when he joined CFAO as an accountant, Molade Okoya-Thomas has been a kind of ambassador for French companies in Nigeria . Today, apart from being the chairman of the company, which is a major French conglomerate, Okoya-Thomas is equally the chairman of six French-related companies, including Transcap Nigeria Limited, Studio Press Nigeria Ltd. and Cica Nigeria Ltd.
He is also on the board of five others, namely, Nigerian Motors Industries, Nigeria-French Insurance Company; Commercial Bank (Credit Lynnoais); MBilla Farm and Franco-Nigeria Insurance Limited. Okoya-Thomas has also played prominent roles in French-Nigeria associations. Between 1989 and 1992, he was chairman of the Franco-Nigeria Chamber of Commerce. For 18 years now, he has been the president of Alliance Francaise, Lagos .
Okoya-Thomas relationship with the French started with his father who was CFAOs first Nigerian staff in 1902 when it came to Nigeria . As a result of hardwork and diligence, Okoya-Thomas has, today, warmed himself into the hearts of the French. He has been honoured with Chevalier De La Legion DHonneur, the highest national honour given by France .
For Nigeria , Okoya-Thomas has also been a worthy corporate ambassador. He has served as member, Lagos State Development and Property Corporation; chairman, National Sports Trust Fund; chairman, 3rd All Africa Games Appeal Fund Committee and chairman, National Sports Development Appeal Fund. In all these assignments, Okoya-Thomas performed creditably. He has been honoured with the national honour of Member of the Federal Republic , MFR and chieftancy titles of Asoju Oba of Lagos; Babasuwa of Ijebu-Remo and Odofin of Ife. His office at CFAO is full of several awards won by him.
One of his attributes is humility. In spite of his wealth, he maintains a low profile. He also insists that he is not a rich man. Whatever I have is for all of us - to better the lot of people. This principle informs his philanthropy.
What is the secret of Okoya-Thomas success? He attributed it to level-headedness, diligence, honesty, physical and mental alertness, hardwork and contentment. He advises people to always plan their businesses and know their priorities.
Born June 8, 1935 , Okoya-Thomas attended Baptist Academy , Lagos ; Belham and Tooting College of Commerce, London and Columbia University , New York . He is associate member of the Institute of Company and Commercial Accountants; Fellow of the Institute of Directors , Associate of the National Accountants of Nigeria and Fellow of the Nigerian Institute of Management, NIM. He is married and is blessed with children.
Amzat Adebowale: The Electronics Giant
Amzat Beyioku Adebowale is one man whose middle name can be likened to an entrepreneur with a great sense of business. He happens to be the very first Nigerian to bring Sharp range of electronic products in Nigeria .
Born on April 5, 1929 in Odomola, Epe Division of Lagos State, he had his primary education at the Government School , Epe. Also attended Government Teachers Training College , Ibadan , where he qualified as a teacher.
He taught for many years before resigning to join the SCOA as a marketing manager. It was in SCOA that he actually learnt the skills of how to be a great entrepreneur. When he resigned his appointment with SCOA, he established his first company, Adebowale Stores Limited in 1959, which has engaged in general merchandise.
In 1969, he established Adebowale Electrical Industries Limited, which is both a marketing company and a manufacturer of electro-domestic appliances.
He established Debo Industries Limited in 1975, for the manufacturing of WhiteGreed. The company is the first wholly indigenous company to manufacture refrigerators in Nigeria .
Today, Adebowale is the chairman and chief executive of Adebowale Group of Companies. Adebowale has served Lagos State and Nigeria in various capacities.
He is an ex-member of the governing council of the Lagos State Polytechnic. He is also an ex-member of the governing council of the Lagos State University .
Adebowales forays into commerce and industries knows no bound. He is an honourary life vice-president of the Nigerian Association of Chambers of Commerce, Industries, Mines and Agriculture (NACCIMA). He is a patron of Nigerian-British Chamber of Commerce, chairman, Nigerian Lamps Industries plc, and appointed a trustee to the Lagos Country Club in 1990.
Adebowales philanthropic work are numerous and some of them are donation to students societies in Nigeria; donation to charitable and religious organisations such as the Red Cross, deaf and dumb institutions, women organisations, Christian and Muslim establishments.
Adebowale is also actively involved in community services and he served as a councillor in Epe local government council during the military administration headed by General Olusegun Obasanjo. The stipends and other remuneration due to him were set aside by him and used in providing scholarship awards to deserving students in Epe local government area. He financed and provided electricity to Odomola, his place of birth in Epe local government.
Adebowale is also a member of the following bodies which includes, member, Institute of Directors , a vice-president of the Lagos Chamber of Commerce and Industries; a council member of the Manufacturers Association of Nigeria (MAN); member of Ogun State University Endowment Foundation of Nigeria; chairman of Lagos State Transport Corporation during the military administration headed by Major-General Olusegun Obasanjo then. It was during his tenure in office that the corporation planned for and purchased 300 buses for its services.
Adebowale is also the founder of the Industries Manpower Development Centre in Odomola, Epe.
His numerous contributions to the economy and humanity has been recognised by numerous bodies including the award of the national honour of Officer of the Order of the Niger (O.O.N) in 1980.
Adebowale is married and has children.
Biodun Shobanjo: Jewel of Advertising
Since he was adjudged Nigeria Advertising Man of the Century, Biodun Shobanjo, vice-chairman/chief executive officer of Insight Communications Limited has endeavoured to show that the recognition was truly deserving. Evidently, he had been a chequered history.
In 1979, Shobanjo, a past president of the Association of Advertising Practitioners of Nigeria, AAPN, did what many considered irrational. He resigned his plum job as deputy managing director of Grant Advertising, the second largest advertising agency in the country. I wanted to be number one, he rationalised.
That decision succinctly demonstrated Shobanjos unwavering commitment to excellence. To be the best, youve got to have strength of character, determination and tenacity of purpose, he said. Shobanjos experiences at the Nigerian Broadcasting Corporation and Grant Advertising prepared him for the arduous journey to the mountain top.
In January 1980, Shobanjo founded Insight Communications Limited which, today, is arguably the biggest advertising agency in Nigeria . I started from zero base, he recalls. Through exemplary leadership, sound management practices and human resources development, Shobanjo and his team have successfully positioned Insight as a marketing communications company noted for its doggedness, creativity and integrity.
In the last few years, the company diversified to strengthen its position as a leader in marketing communications. It now has about 10 subsidiaries, making it the biggest communications conglomerate with Shobanjo as chairman. They include All Seasons Media Company, a media independent, African Barter Company, a programme syndication company. Optimum Exposure, an outdoor firm. The Quardrant Company, a PR firm and MC & A, a second advertising agency.
Shobanjo is always thinking ahead. His craving for excellence is putting him to ask for a piece of the global advertising action. A constant reminder of the challenges ahead is a plaque in his office with the inscription: Its good to be big; Its better to be good; Its best to be both. A beautiful painting of Monalisa in his office further underscores his thirst for excellence. His candid advice for young people climbing the corporate ladder is for them to be prepared. People are too much in a hurry. You must pay your dues, he said. It goes without saying that Shobanjo is a strong believer of the axiom, it is only after sowing that one reaps.
Gaius-Obaseki: The Oil Czar
On his deceptively frail shoulders rest the herculean task of managing the nations oil resources. Before the mantle of leadership fell on him, he was a divisional managing director of one of the strategic subsidiaries of NNPC, the Nigerian Gas Company, (NGC). It is the exemplary candour with which he ran the NGC since 1994 that he is bringing to bear in administering the NNPC. Coupled with the cognate experience garnered as Group General Manager of NNPCs crude oil marketing division, a major funnel for the nations revenue.
Barely one year after he became the chief executive of Nigeria s most strategic parastatal, Obaseki has ensured a firmer, trimmer and result-oriented corporation. The NNPC now comprises a corporate head office with three broad functional divisions and twelve subsidiary companies. Such a structure is designed to properly position the corporation to be able to compete effectively in the international business environment. Notable among the subsidiary companies over which Obaseki presides are the Nigerian Petroleum Development Company, Integrated Data Services Company, Warri, Kaduna and Port Harcourt Refining and Petroleum Companies, Nigerian LNG Company and International Trading Company, ITCO.
To effectively integrate the corporations operations and those of the subsidiaries, Obaseki has put in place a comprehensive telecommunications system comprising a digital communication system made up of optical fibre cable and microwave radio. Also, efforts are underway by the group to actualise Obasekis major objective of ushering in a multi-product of NNPC as the hen that lays the golden egg. Obaseki affirms his resolve to help transform the economy for the better. And if his antecedent is anything to go by, then it will soon be uhuru for NNPC and indeed the nation.
Mike Adenuga: The Guru
Easily one of the most accomplished members of his generation, Otunba Mike Adenuga has the uncanny ability to juggle different balls at the same time and getting desired results. His recent take-over of National Oil is a vintage Adenuga move, calculated and result - oriented. Otunba Michael Niyi Adenuga is indeed a man of many firsts. Formerly called The Guru but known simply as Mike Adenuga Jr., the Ogun State - born high chief is a corporate titan of no mean feat. For many years the president of the National Association of Indigenous Petroleum Producers (NAIPEC), Adenuga is Nigeria s equivalent of a Saudi Sheik. Adenuga attended the famous Ibadan Grammar School for his secondary education; he later proceeded to the United States of America and studied at Northwestern State University , Alva , Oklahoma , and Peace University , New York , majoring in business administration with emphasis on marketing. In the 1970s, he made his mark in the buying and selling of commodity and general merchandise as an industrious, adventurous and meticulous young businessman. He was also involved in a variety of other businesses such as oil consultancy as chief executive of Worldspan Consult Nigeria Limited.
Ever rearing to go, Adenuga later took interest in real estate, petroleum marketing and industrial enterprise. He is today chairman, Devcom Bank Ltd., hitherto a merchant bank, widely acknowledged as a leader among its peers. The bank won in 1990, the Best Export Financier Award of The Guardian newspaper. Otunba Adenuga (Jr) is also the main financial muscle behind Equatorial Trust Bank. He is also the chairman of Consolidated Oil, Zug , Switzerland , Mayfair , London . He is also the prime mover behind Consolidated Oil Limited which made history as the first indigenous oil company to strike crude oil in commercial quantity on December 24, 1991 . Adenuga is the chairman of Communications Investments Limited, CIL, one of the comapnies that won the GSM licence bid, but was not allowed to roll out due to disagreement on issues.
Adenuga is also into food processing business with a factory for cocoa cake, butter and vegetable oil. He is on the board of Newswatch Communications Limited and has holding in various quoted Nigerian companies. Otunba Adenuga (Jr), who is meticulous and painstaking, is an exemplary leader. He remains humble despite his huge business success and was in November, 1992, honoured by Ogun State University with an honorary doctorate. This young corporate icon is one of Nigeria s beacons of hope. The future, one can assert, certainly has a place for Adenuga.
Obinna Uzoh: The Gocuz Titan
Obinna Uzoh brings creativity, innovation, style, patience and commitment to his dream of taking his group-Gocuz Group Limited to enviable heights.
Gocuz Group started a decade and three years ago as a trading outfit and now has investment in virtually all key sectors of the economy, namely, engineering, procurement and supply of electrical, power, telecommunication and oil equipment to major end users in the economy. The group is blazing the trail of industrial development in Nigeria . Its mission is to create employment opportunities and diversify the economy. Current activities of Gocuz Group include rural electrification, procurement of industrial tools and machines, manufacturing and export.
The activities of the group which has a staff strength of 63 with branches all over Nigeria and head office at Karimu Kotun Street, Victoria Island, Lagos, is made possible as it stands as sole representative of major manufacturers abroad.
To many, the group specialises in the procurement and marketing of a wide range of technical goods, machinery and other equipment to industrial players. The group is simply sustenance, and to Gocuz Group, it is ensuring the nations technological growth believed to be the bedrock to our economic growth.
Uzoh is also a known philanthropist, his award of scholarship to indigenes of his area and beyond has earned him so many titles. Presently, 20 students of University of Lagos are enjoying the scholarship award. Other students in various other universities and institutions of higher learning like Nnamdi Azikiwe University , Awka, Institute of Management and Technology, IMT, Enugu , Alvan Ikoku College of Education, Owerri are variously enjoying his scholarshop award.
He is into rural development through provision of water, roads, reconstruction of schools and markets and host of others such as the construction of Obinna Uzoh Road at Okota, Isolo in Lagos; donation of transformers and electric poles to the rural communities in Ihiala local government area of Anambra State, to mention a few. He is equally known for his contribution and donation of trophies and cash prizes to primary and secondary schools, and football competition among villages in various towns in Anambra State like the Unity Cup by Ihiala community in Anambra State .
He is a member of Lagos Island Club. He also belongs to many local and international trade and business organisations such as Lagos Chamber of Commerce, Nigerian German Business Council, Nigerian - British Chamber of Commerce, etc.
He ascribes his success to God. He believes firmly in extreme hardwork, honesty, dedication and above all, being consistent and prayerful.
Olusegun Osunkeye: The Beecham Boss
Incumbent chairman of SmithKline Beecham Nigeria plc and former chief executive officer of Nestle Foods plc, Olusegun Osunkeye, is a corporate leader in every sense. He has climbed the ladder through sheer hardwork and relentless service. Nestles dynamism is shown on the market strength of its product range. The company is certainly one of the few family-friendly manufacturers around because the companys presence is felt on the menu of the average Nigerian family.
A deft manager of human and material resources, Osunkeye, an accountant, made a remarkable stride when, in June 1995, Nestle Foods Nigeria plc under him commissioned N550 million hydrolysed protein plant factory. The project under a new company, known as Nestle Nigeria Limited, is located at Agbara Industrial Estate, Ogun State . It is to serve as a regional production centre for the ECOWAS sub-region. Nestle, Osunkeye says believed in ECOWAS, because we can do inter-regional trading, produce to the maximum and export to the other regions and increase the trade in the region.
Osunkeye had worked variously at Kingsway Chemist, UAC Stores, WAPCO as company secretary and Lipton as personnel manager. He attended the Nigerian College of Arts and Sciences, Ibadan between 1960 and 1962. After a stint with Peat Marwick Ogunde and Co., a firm of chartered accountants, he proceeded to England for further studies in accountancy.
A quintessential Nestle man, Osunkeye was made executive director in 1973 and five years after, he travelled to Malaysia where he witnessed the beginning of the Malaysia miracle. In April 1980, he was sent to Nestles International Headquarters in Switzerland where he underwent a number of courses. On his return, Osunkeye was appointed the deputy managing director with the specific task of working out marketing strategies that will make the companys products more family-friendly. In 1988, Osunkeyes hardwork paid off with his promotion as managing director and three years later, he was the chief executive.
On picking the mantle of leadership, Osunkeye pursued with vigour Nestles backward integration. With the assistance of its technical partners, Nestle of Switzerland, Osunkeye supervised the building of a N33 million integrated plant which produces concentrated sorghum malt extract, a vital ingredient of Milo . He retired voluntarily from the company two years ago to attend to other pursuits, least of them the SmithKline Beecham challenge where his industry and experience is showing as he guides the company to profitable growth.
Ralph Alabi: The Guinness Helmsman
Ralph Alabi made great waves as the engine that drives the management and staff of the company. His ambition then was to keep Guinness ahead of competitors. Our mission is to build Nigeria in terms of offering high quality products from our company, back it up with customer services, excellent management and human resources to give us good result consistent with our aim, was how he once put it.
While the ovation was still loud in 1996, he retired from his plum position as MD/CEO but not after deftly managing the 1996 AGM of the company which was very volatile, no thanks to the companys introduction of the strip dividend option which was greatly misunderstood by shareholders. After managing the storm in the teacup, he bowed out honourably. In appreciation of his immense abilities, he was made the companys non-executive chairman in succession to the then chairman of the company and currently Nigeria s minister of defence, Lt.-General T.Y. Danjuma.
Alabi joined Guinness Nigeria in February 1964 fresh from the Technical College , Ibadan , where he obtained a diploma in electrical engineering. His relationship with Guinness ever since had been one of give and take. Guinness offered him a scholarship not only to assuage his quest for more learning, but to bring out the best in him. Says Alabi: This was a sponsorship that had no strings attached. It is only a matter of gratitude and good example that I have decided to plough back into the company the investment that was put in me and also make the contribution as a Nigerian to a company in Nigeria .
No doubt, this reflects in his style of management considerably. Where cooperation fails, management fails. So, management is about developing cooperation, team work and strategies that help you achieve your immediate objectives and also long term objectives. In my career, Ive taken people as the core of my strategy. No matter, his excellent management skills have come in handy. When the federal government pronounced the ban on the importation of malted barley, we took a drastic action and commenced the change over well before any other brewery.
Although it costs us a lot of money, we are proud that we are the pioneer in that respect. Today, Guinness produces its brands with raw materials substantially sourced locally, especially maize and sorghum. The companys turnover has continued to increase as well as its profit-before-tax. The third largest brewery in the world, Guinness remains a formidable institution in Nigeria ; thanks to the ingenuity and guidance of Ralph Alabi as the companys chairman.
Sonny Kuku: Professionalism in Medical Service
Sonny Kuku, joint Chief Medical Director, Eko Hospitals plc, is one of the triumvirate that established the highly successful hospital. Eko Hospital is in many respects a testimony to what the human spirit can achieve with hardwork, dedication, tolerance, and a sense of professionalism. The three young medical practitioners that destiny drew together in the College of Medicine , University of Lagos , have stuck to one another in surmounting many odds to excel. The owners and managers of the hospital have achieved great success by their commitment to offer the best medicare service possible under the prevailing circumstances.
Kuku says that their decision to leave the public service for the private sector was one of the toughest decisions they made. He expressed happiness that the hospital is quoted on the Nigerian Stock Exchange. It is the only hospital to have that distinction to date in the country.
Today, Eko Hospital is one of the largest, best equipped, and recognised medical centres in the country. It has good patronage to show for it. Moreover, it is one of the few private hospitals recognised by the Nigerian Medical and Dental Council for the training of house officers, that is newly qualified doctors, and the only private hospital recognised by the Nigerian Post-graduate Medical College to train general practice resident doctors for parts I and II fellowships. The Pharmacist Board also permits it to train interns and it is the only private hospital that is affiliated with Ogun State University .
Kuku says that the state of medicare in Nigeria is not satisfactory as a result of the dearth of medical facilities. He sees the national health insurance scheme as one of the best things to happen to the country if it is properly implemented. Healthcare is capital intensive, and as the average citizen cannot afford to pay for its services, the insurance scheme will enable the masses access to healthcare, he said.
Kuku advises the youths to be focused and not to be worried if life does not look easy at the beginning. He advised the youths not to chase fortune and fame at all cost. He also advised the youths to always be good to their fellowmen and endeavour to strive for excellence. Kuku was educated at the College of Medicine , University of Lagos ; University of Rochester , School of Medicine , University of Chicago and the Royal Post-graduate Medical School and Hammer Smith Hospital , University of London . He has won many academic awards, and is a fellow of so many professional bodies. He has equally earned for himself a number of chieftaincy titles.
Olusubonmi Balogun: The Inspirer
The eagle is a rare bird and each generation, as they say, is blessed with a few.
Michael Olusubonmi Balogun, executive chairman of FCMB, could be likened to this rare powerful bird because he remains one of the select few in Nigeria that unarguably are fulfilled in all ramifications.
As a banker, he remains a man of towering stature with total commitment to the banking ethic of a timeless period.
He is not only respected for his intellectual vigour but also admired for always giving sound ideas. If life is all about wisdom, experiences, a sense of proportion in all things and at all times, then Balogun would stand tall not just in the council of bankers but in the comity of men.
First City Monument Bank Ltd., which is under the virile leadership of this apostle of innovation was one of the first banks to adhere to the instruction of recapitalising to the tune of half a billion naira.
Balogun once pledged that FCMB will work continuously in developing ever stronger links with its staff, shareholders and the economy. True to his word, the shareholders of this focused merchant bank have always been overwhelmed with the profit postings, which has always ensured not just for the shareholders but members of staff and customers that doing business with FCMB is a pleasure.
The records since 1996 have obviously indicated that institutional banking in Nigeria has not hit a brickwall. Furthermore, the highest quality service intended in their selected charter which FCMB has stimulated is still being highly satisfied.
Not a man to be associated with mediocrity, Balogun attended one of the best secondary schools of his time, Igbobi College , Lagos . He knew he needed sound education to be where he would want to be in life. Igbobi College was the answer and interestingly, he passed out with a first grade result.
From Igbobi he proceeded to the London School of Economics, which came easy with his impressive WAEC result at Igbobi. While there, he took a degree in law. He was called to the English Bar in 1959 and with time, in his unrelenting efforts at excelling in all his undertakings, he underwent a special course in legal drafting at White Hall, London as well.
A very patriotic man, after his studies abroad, he came home and worked with the ministry of justice. Perhaps buoyed by the need for more challenges, he transferred to the Nigerian Industrial Development Bank (NIDB). That decision was a watershed because it marked the turning-point in the history of his life. In an uncanny way, the amount of risk a man is willing to take determines the level of success he is likely to attain. When Balogun joined NIDB, he became the banks first principal counsel and company secretary. The tempo of success since that decision has not only been excellent but very impressive as well.
Ever since his quest for excellence in all things and at all times has remained unchanging and as solid as a rock. He has worked himself up the ladder culminating in his chairmanship of todays innovative and powerful bank (FCMB) that claims its strength from the highly skilled professionals who make up the banking team and who have continued to render services with consistent professionalism as expected and laid down by Balogun.
Abba Gana: The Petroleum Sector Expert
Abba Gana was the immediate past managing director/CEO of African Petroleum plc, before the new investors took over.
When he was at the helm of affairs at the African Petroleum plc, he recorded significant success by marching African Petroleum plc, a company that gives superior service and quality products to its various markets both in Nigeria and outside.
AP plc improved its technology and members of their staff tremendously during the tenure of Abba Gana. Mechanic workshops were organised from time to time for mechanics during the tenure of Abba Gana to educate the mechanics on how to use their products. Visco 2000 is one of the popular brands of AP plc, and it is sold across the globe.
He said that the mistakes drivers make is that they think the thicker the lubricant, the better for the car engine. Engine oil is supposed to do several things. It should be light when the engine is cold to enable the engine oil go round all parts of the engine at the same time when the engine becomes hot later as you use the car, that original thickness or viscosity is static over a range of temperature. If the lubricant is too thick, it will not be able to circulate. When the engine is hot, the oil, which is now thick, turns watery. Again, it does not give the lubricant required.
The mentality that engine oil should be thick is wrong and that is illiteracy on its own. AP plc products are regularly reformulated in pursuit of excellence.
Abba Gana is a technocrat who detests politics for now. He confessed that he would like to be working with factors of production only for now. He said that his people had asked him to go for the governorship of his state in the past and he refused. He said that politics is a very different ball game and he is not cut for it. He described a politician as someone who will tell you what he will do and afterwards be able to come to you to explain why he was unable to do what he said he would do. He concluded by saying that politics is full of turbulence, and that some people are cut out for it, while others are not.
Abba Gana is of the opinion that it is about time Nigeria established trade missions all over America and Europe . He said the world is now a global village and as a result Nigeria should be able to tap from the markets of these developed countries with made-in-Nigeria goods and not just receiving from them.
Abba Gana is a member of many professional bodies and associations. He is married and has children.
Bunmi Oni: The Cadbury Magic Man
Winners, they say, never quit and quitters never win. Such is the likes of Bunmi Oni, managing director of Cadbury Nigeria plc, whose latest trade trick is the recent positioning of Cadburys flagship, Bournvita which has paid off handsomely. Evidently, the perceptive and methodic Oni has remained loyal and hardworking ever since he joined Cadbury as a products development manager in 1977. Through perseverance, determination and good fortune, he has had the privilege of being in high, responsible position and proved that he is always very comfortable with challenges anytime and anywhere.
He was the factory employment manager from where he became Cadburys personnel director, from where he moved up to being planning director and sales and marketing director at different times. Apparently, each designation then meant new sets of challenges and high expectations.
Bunmi Oni has continued to lead Cadbury to a greater height despite the difficult economic environment. Cadbury plc is ever steadily moving on to higher grounds with so much confidence that while some other companies are worrying over how to survive, Cadbury is busy projecting what is to be done in the next six months and even one year ahead. The operating units in the last five years show that there is always an improvement over the previous years performance. This is, however, not unexpected given the far-sighted managerial approach and pro-active nature of members of staff under the virile leadership of Bunmi Oni.
Cadbury has remained one organisation with products that are household names. The art of creating and managing brand names has remained one which Cadbury plc has succeeded in perfecting. The ever consistent quality of products and ability to identify and satisfy the needs of their varying target audience has ensured customer brand loyalty.
The art of effectively creating and the management of its brands is one that is rather difficult to most companies, but Cadbury has over the years succeeded in making this seemingly difficult task look very much like a childs play. The secret of this success lies in the appreciation of the market place and making the consumer the centre piece of its operations. This approach has continued to be of immense help to the company because they have through it kept producing brands that have identity, character and with more irresistible customer appeal.
Ever forward looking helmsman that Bunmi Oni is, he has identified the way forward to greater heights for his team of seasoned professionals in Cadbury as being based on two considerations. The first is ensuring an increase in the local contents of its products while the second is seeking for avenues to earn foreign exchange.
With these two considerations being strictly adhered to, Cadbury has continued to remain a timeless company of yesterday, today and tomorrow.
Deji Sasegbon: The Law Lord
Conservative, cerebral, conscientious and competent Deji Sasegbon in his assiduity, epitomises some of the best that the legal profession can boast of. The tall and suave Deji Sasegbon is one of Nigeria s best known lawyers. Not as a human rights activist, or noise-making attorney, but as a focused attorney and publisher. Sasegbons contribution to society and the law profession stem largely from his earth-shaking and utterly important law publications which have become a must read for most lawyers and even the general business community.
Sasegbon, an urbane six-footer from the historical town of Abeokuta , trained at the law faculty of the University of Ife (now Obafemi Awolowo University ), and was called to the bar in 1980. As a result of his medical doctor-fathers influence, Sasegbon joined the ministry of justice after his NYSC. Those were probably not very exciting years but they were useful years of learning the ropes. As state counsel, the self-effacing lawyer mastered the tricks of the trade before leaving the ministry in 1986. However, those years as state counsel exposed him to the terrible level of scarcity of relevant law books. Not one to complain bitterly about a seemingly insurmountable problem, he decided to offer a practical solution by putting pen on paper. In 1987, he set up Deji Sasegbon and Company, a law firm and its intellectual arm, DSC Publications Limited, of which he is chairman/editor-in-chief.
Though he had a burning desire to actualise his project, he didnt have the money. He moved from bank to bank but no succour came until he went to WEMA Bank whose then helmsman, Chief Adegbite lent him a listening ear. That was the beginning of success for him. With WEMA Banks loan, coupled with finance from family sources, he was able to put together about two million naira with which he executed the project in 1989. The publication of the Nigerian Supreme Court Cases, (NSCC) now in 36 volumes, became an instant success. Encouraged by the success of the first publications, the entrepreneurial instincts came to the fore as he channelled some funds to the publication of The Legal Desk Book which was also well received.
DSC Publications would not rest on its oars as it embarked on the highly sought-after Nigerian Companies and Allied Matters Law and Practice. Arguably, the publication remains till this day the most comprehensive and relevant publication on the provisions of the Company and Allied Matters Act of 1990, which made far-reaching provisions on the way and manner we should do business on our shores. We gave it all we had, said the affable and gentle lawyer of no mean repute. Call him a gentle giant, if you will but one thing remains as constant as the northern star and that is from Sasegbons pen will flow more prodigious works on Nigeria s legal system.
Erastus Akingbola: Intercontinental Banker
If the eulogies that gushed on his 50th birthday few months ago is anything to go by, then Erastus Akingbola, vice-chairman/chief executive of Intercontinental Bank Ltd. is an achiever of no mean order and the quintessential banker. As a child, Akingbola never thought he would be a banker. If anything, he had an eye on foreign service, where he would eventually become an ambassador.
But today, Akingbola, a highly rated banker, is a performer and an achiever, who has taken his organisation to greater heights, even in the face of obvious difficulties. Akingbola, who holds an MBA in general management from University of Lagos, had earlier in life in his career, equipped himself with professional qualifications in major areas of banking, management and administration. He is a fellow of the Chartered Institute of Bankers, London ; fellow, Nigerian Institute of Management , and president, Institute of Secretaries and Administration (ACIS).
Akingbolas eventful entry into banking started with the then Barclays Bank (now Union Bank) where he learnt the ropes and rose to the position of accountant by 1977. He joined NAL Merchant Bank in 1978 as an Assistant Operations Manager (foreign exchange) and by 1984, he had become a senior manager international operations and correspondent banking. In 1987, he was appointed controller of operations in the First City Merchant Bank Limited where he had thorough moulding under the tutelage of Otunba Subonmi Balogun. Akingbola profited immensely from his previous exposure. This became evident when he and other like minds founded Nigerian Intercontinental Merchant Bank, with him as managing director and chief executive in 1989. Since assuming leadership, the performance of the now Intercontinental Bank Limited has vindicated the decision of those who chose Akingbola as helmsman.
One would not be wrong in referring to Akingbola as an advocate of a productive national economy. His panacea for the turn-around of the nations economy is the accordance of manufacturing and the productive sectors its right of place and the development of export. A visionary of sorts, he opines that every society or organisation ought to have a vision and calls for the privatisation of NEPA and NITEL, to ensure efficiency and productivity. As one of Nigerians role models, the astute banker advises Nigeria s young stars to embrace hardwork. He says: What was not laboured for vanishes the way it came. Nigerians, he adds, should believe in God and work very hard. Akingbola prays for an enduring democracy in Nigeria , through which a viable political and economic system would emerge.
Joe Irukwu: Insurance Egghead
Joe Irukwu has remained a man whom destiny has placed in a unique position to influence perhaps a whole generation of insurance practitioners who today are managing top flight insurance firms.
Presently, he is the executive chairman of African Development Insurance Company (A.D.I.C) while also consulting for Nigeria National Petroleum Corporation.
The combination of Irukwus knowledge of insurance and his experience spanning several decades on this same field has earned him a distinguished position in the sector. He was chief executive of Unity, Life and Fire Insurance Company Ltd. and Nigeria Re-insurance Corporation.
At a point in time, he was a lecturer at the insurance department of the university of Lagos .
In contrast to the saying that a prophet is not valued in his domain, Joe Irukwu is very much valued within his country and beyond. Within the domains of his home country, Irukwu commands positive and majority attention. While outside the country, he is a unanimously acclaimed international insurance guru who is capable of sustaining the interest of his audience and beyond.
In recognition of his insurance capabilities and contribution; he has received several awards. He was the founding president of the Professional Reinsurance Association of Nigeria; past president of the Insurance Institute of Nigeria; the African Insurance Education Agency and the Nigerian Insurance Law Association.
Armed with a masters degree in business administration and fortified with a doctorate, Irukwu started his journey into the world of insurance when he was appointed the legal adviser and assistant manager at West Africa Provincial Insurance Company, (WAPIC).
The much he has achieved has been through hardwork and a very high sense of discipline. He does not in anyway have the slightest liking for mediocrity. He is always fired by the spirit of doing whatever is to be done no other way but well done.
When at WAPIC, he seized the opportunity he had in reading up all he could lay his hands on regarding insurance and in no time he became familiar in an earlier unfamiliar terrain. He has used the knowledge as a foundation on which today he has built a super structure that has earned him the position of an insurance guru.
Cosmas Maduka: Entrepreneur par excellence
Unarguably, Chief Cosmas Maduka is one Nigerian whose entrepreneurial skills have touched virtually all sectors of the Nigerian economy.
Cosmas Maduka started business in his native Nnewi town in Anambra State after serving for many years as an apprentice. He initially started as an importer of motorcycles and motor spare parts.
Maduka had a very poor background and with the death of his father, he withdrew from school and went into trading. Today, Coscharis Group has several subsidiaries which include, Coscharis Auto Industries Ltd., Coscharis Technologies and Foods Ltd., Coscharis Exports Ltd., Coscharis Securities Ltd., Coscharis Finance and Investment Ltd., etc. On the whole, there are 10 subsidiaries under the Coscharis Group.
The parent company under the group is Coscharis Motors, which started with the importation of automobile components, which later metamorphosed into the production of motor cycle roller chain. Coscharis Group started production from the experience they gained from imports which was gulping a lot of foreign currency.
Maduka explained that their decision to go into production was informed by the federal governments promise that the Ajaokuta Steel Rolling Mills will go into production very soon. They had expected that the bulk of their raw materials will be coming from the Steel Rolling Mill, but that was not to be.
Coscharis Motors supplies Nigeria and the entire West African sub-region with roller chain. Coscharis Food and Drug sells medical equipment, and Coscharis Technologies Ltd. is into the sale of computer hardwares and softwares. Coscharis Technologies Ltd. today presents itself as an authorised dealer for major information technology product manufacturers like Compaq Incorporation of America, American Power Conversion (APC), and Epson range of printers.
Coscharis Export Ltd. is into the business of export of cocoa and wood to Europe and America to earn the much-needed foreign exchange for Nigeria . Coscharis Finance and Investment Ltd. has the primary responsibility of raising fund for the business of the entire group. Coscharis Finance and Investment Ltd. also manages fund for high network individuals.
Coscharis Group has an office in Ghana and Gabon and are exploring the possibility of expanding their business to other West African countries.
Coscharis father died when he was only four years old. When he attained school age, he could not start school, as there was no money to send him to school. He started hawking for his mother to support her in the family welfare. His senior brother continued school while he continued petty trading with his mother.
His Uncle who was into automotive parts business in Ebute-Metta area of Lagos later decided to take him to Lagos to join him in his business as an apprentice. Cosmas Maduka worked for his uncle for seven good years, before leaving him in 1975 to start his own business. His uncle gave him only N200.00 to start his own business which he took back to Nnewi where he started in a one-quarter size shop and built his empire from there.
By 1979 - 1980, he came back to Idumota in Lagos and started the same line of business and later moved to Ebute-Metta area of Lagos from where his business empire expanded to become what it is today with offices in Maza-Maza, Victoria Island and so on.
Maduka confessed that at the initial stage when he started business, he used to travel to Taiwan and other far east countries together with some of his colleagues. He said that when they made money from such business trips, some of his colleagues would decide to marry more wives, build houses or take chieftaincy titles, without bothering to pay back their creditors or suppliers. He said he rather chose to be consistent and honest by paying his creditors.
Maduka is the chairman of Nigerian Table Tennis Association (NTTA), and his company has sponsored so many Table Tennis Championships in Nigeria .
His group of companies is also involved in social responsibility projects, including the construction of roads in his home town, Nnewi, the donation of Law Lecture Theatre to University of Nigeria , Enugu Campus, donation of N10 million endowment fund and hostel to Nnamdi Azikiwe University , Awka.
For its outstanding performance over the years, the company and Maduka have won several awards including the Ziks Award for Excellence in the year 2000.
Maduka is married and has children.
Augustine Ilodibe: Transport Magnate
If you need a shining example of a man that is tirelessly promoting the virtues of individual initiative and of getting ahead by hardwork and merit, Augustine Ilodibe will surely come out relevant. When this transport giant was thinking of a name for his transport enterprises, he must have been very deep in thought to have coined the name Ekene Dili Chukwu (Thanks be to God). Indeed Ilodibe, the brain behind Ekene Dili Chukwu Transport Services has every reason to thank God. With a very humble beginning as an apprentice motor parts dealer, he graduated to start his own trade which then was beginning to find its bearing until the unfortunate civil war threw a spanner in the wheel of progress.
The worth of a man, it is said, is not where he is at times of plenty but his reaction at times of tribulations. After the civil war, young Augustine picked up the bits and pieces of his life to start all over. Through hardwork, perseverance, unwavering determination and most of all belief in Gods possibilities, he was able to move more from being a nobody to being somebody that certainly cannot be ignored in the scheme of things. Today, the fleet of buses and cars together with the popularity of the name, Ekene Dili Chukwu in the transport sector, projects Ilodibe as a first class transport entrepreneur.
The kind of foresight Ilodibe had in the transport business has now been transferred into other areas of endeavour that certainly could and are recreating and producing wealth.
He has reasonable worth of shares with ANAMCO, Enugu . Augustine Farms, Augustine Ejikeme Properties, United Modern Insurance Brokers and Augustine Printing and Publishing Company, are other areas the transport magnate has ventured into without regrets. Interestingly, like a man destined to wine and dine with kings and princes, the board of Universal Trust Bank, Orient Bank plc and Manufacturers Merchants Bank wouldnt be complete without the presence of Ilodibe.
His knack for hardwork and his enterprising nature has earned him honorary awards within the comity and even as far as America . At least two Nigerian universities noticed the genius in him at different times with different awards and he remains a fellow of the Institute of Transport of Britain . Back at his roots, he is Onwanetiliora of Nnewi a high revered title as well as an Ozo title of Ogbuefi Nnanyelugo.
One obvious asset of Ekene Dili Chukwu Transport Services is the possession of seasoned professional drivers of the finest brand who do what they know how to no other way than the best. This has ensured customer loyalty in the transport company so much so that you find virtually all their clients not thinking of an alternative vehicle other than the one the company has always ensured safe arrival and departure through Gods grace and the drivers careful nature.
Ilodibe is a Catholic and a philanthropist. He has consistently been helping the needy and the poor. His altruistic gestures certainly do not have clandestine motives. They are basically ways of showing his gratitude to Gods infinite mercies on him. He has a scholarship scheme which many students have and are still benefiting from. He believes in the upliftment of the society through education and as such associate with the needs of the students. Ilodibe built and donated buildings worth millions to the Monastery of Awhum near Nsukka and to the Post-Graduate School of the University of Nsukka as well.
Joseph Sanusi: The Bankers Bank
One of the earlier appointments made by President Olusegun Obasanjo was the appointment of Sanusi as CBN governor. A former MD/CEO of First Bank of Nigeria plc, Sanusi is a suave professional banker, motivator and a good manager of men and resources. Like other previous managing directors of First Bank of Nigeria plc, Sanusi strove to make FBN the strongest bank in the country in terms of asset base and contribution to the Nigerian economy during his memorable tenure at the leading bank. Even at a time when many banks are being tossed around by the unfavourable economic climate, forcing some into liquidation, FBN under Sanusi with the aid of height driven technology is going through the storm unscratched.
FBN has over the years expanded into other areas of business with subsidiaries including FBN (Merchant Bankers) Limited, First Trustees Nigeria Limited, Premium Securities Limited, First Dependent Limited and First Nominees Limited. Through several years of experience, FBN now has what it takes to dominate the Nigerian banking sector including its staff training and improved welfare, reinvestment, creative marketing innovation and use of technology.
When Sanusi assumed office as managing director and chief executive as the bank entered a new century, he said his focus would be to improve on the foundation built over the years with a view to maintain its leadership in the countrys business sector. The bank so far has not only maintained that position, it has sustained its pioneered role in modern banking services through various policies that have continued to stimulate the macro-economy.
No doubt Sanusis tenure at First Bank more than any other thing adequately prepared him for his current job as the governor of Central Bank of Nigeria . As the nations foremost banker, Sanusi has brought a lot of savy and dynamism to the apex banking institution. So far, the economy has maintained a measure of stability, the banking industry has been compelled to play by the rules even when the CBN under Sanusi has endeavoured to provide a level playing field for all comers to the banking sector.
The introduction of high denomination currency is part of the strategy to curb inflation and discourage the excessive cash in the system and the prevalence of cash transactions which tends to taint the economy.
Remi Olowude: ATOP IGI
With his meticulous nature, it would not have been unexpected that such a man would only take decision after painstaking scrutiny of events. His painstaking scrutinisation of events enabled him to discover the flaws of the insurance sector. After discovery comes a dream. Not wanting his dream to die, Olowude decided to transfer his dream and theoretical beliefs into an enduring legacy. The result of which today is the story of IGI. Industrial and General Insurance Company unarguably has remained a force to be reckoned with. What with its enviable clientele of a sizeable chunk in all facets of the insurance business. It has remained since inception in 1992, a company whose name has become synonymous with high-risk insurance businesses-engineering, aviation, marine, oil platform and rigs. Just mention it. IGI is certainly there so long as it is an area that separated the fearless (like IGI) from the fearful ones.
This upwardly mobile and unassuming man sees the problems of the insurance sector as including: inadequate qualified manpower, practitioners lacking in sound knowledge of financial management, lack of acceptability and finally, lack of innovatives. To improve on the above listed definitions, IGI, under the tenacious leadership of Olowude, created a working environment where there are more than fifty professionals with sound knowledge of the insurance codes. This, according to Olowude, can only be unveiled by a very few firms. He can also say with confidence that apart from the possession of a good technical base, the financial strength of IGI is equally solid with more than N20 million as at 1997, is regularly beefed up. A combination ensured that claims are promptly settled at this insurance company that is set to revolutionise the insurance industry.
If Olowude has his way, he would have been a lecturer or consultant by now, as these were what he had wanted to be in life while growing up and thinking of future careers. But like it is always said: Man proposes God disposes. Fate had a different package entirely for this Osun State-born insurance executive. He started his higher education at the University of Lagos . Upwardly mobile, he left for the United States of America where he attended the University of Santa Clara in California . Ask this amiable man how far he has achieved his dreams and he would readily tell you he has achieved only some of his dreams. He is still striving to get to greater heights with regards to his endeavours to human existence. He is a firm believer of wealth creation, while his total existence is hinged on commitment to service.
Olowude started work at an early age with the civil service where he rose to become the inspector of taxes II at the Board of Internal Revenue. He left for another arm of the government organisation (federal ministry of economic development) as Planning Officer I. Not one to be found doing the same thing all over without challenges, he joined NICON where the foundation of todays IGI was laid through the experiences and discoveries made in his thirteen years of selfless service there.
Prisca Soares: Matriarch of Insurance
Prisca Maria Gbemisola Soares, managing director/chief executive of NICON plc, the largest insurance company on the whole continent of Africa , was appointed acting managing director/chief executive of NICON plc, in addition to her former responsibilities of executive director (special risks). After about six months in acting capacity, she convinced the presidency of her competence and she was appointed substantive managing director/chief executive of the company, the pride of any insurance manager. Soares appointment is an opportunity to further emphasise that management is sex-blind.
Apart from her wide experience in the insurance industry, Soares has an enviable academic and professional background, which would put her in a good position to achieve her goals and objectives at NICON. Born on January 18, 1952 , in Ibadan , she attended St. Marys Convent School , Lagos , between 1957 and 1964 before proceeding to the prestigious Queens College, Yaba, between 1965 and 1969 where she obtained the West African School Certificate. She also obtained the Higher School Certificate in 1971. With a good WASC and HSC, she gained admission into the University of Ibadan where she acquitted herself creditably, bagging a bachelors degree in 1976. After the mandatory one year national service, she decided to pitch her professional tent with insurance by joining NICON plc., where she threw herself totally into the job, gaining on the job experience and studying for the professional qualifications of insurance-the Association of the Chartered Insurance Institute of London. She earned the much-valued professional qualification in 1989, a development that admitted her into the elite group of insurance managers.
By the time that she qualified, she was already a manager in NICON. That vital achievement was, no doubt, part of what she needed to meaningfully advance her career. By 1994, she was senior manager, aviation in quick succession. For three months, between September and December, 1996, she was acting deputy general manager, (special risks). On confirmation of that position, she continued on her portfolio on special risks. She later moved to handle the portfolio of deputy general manager (technical). She also occupied the position of executive director, special risks. With such a well-rounded experience, coupled with education and honesty of purpose, Soares soared on her job for the good of the insurance industry.
Soares has attended many courses and seminars within and outside the country, including the reinsurance seminar at Swiss-Re, Zurich , Switzerland , 1998, and the advanced reinsurance programme, Munich Re, Munich , Germany 1993.
She is one of the most travelled practitioners, having attended many insurance-related conferences all over the world. Some of such conferences include: FAIR General Assembly/Conference, Kuala Lumpur , Malaysia 1993; International Reinsurance Congress, Hamilton, Bermuda , 1994, and the FAIR Conference in Bali , Indonesia in 1997.
As CEO of NICON, Soares is a director of the following companies: NAL Merchant Bank, Assurance Bank, Daily Times of Nigeria and Globe Reinsurance plc, while she is chairman of NICON Trustees Limited, NICON Hotels Limited, Inland Containers Nigeria Ltd., and Niger Insurance plc.
Tex Egbedi: Absolutely Texen
With a hair style that is distinctively his and a carriage that bespeak panache, Tex Egbedi, the big boss of Texen, a high street fashion outfit that has stood the test of time, ranks amongst the nations fashion supremos.
Egbedis fashion outfit is in more ways than one Nigeria s own version of popular foreign designers such as Armani, Versace, Hugo Boss and Gucci. Egbedi assuredly understands and appreciates the sophisticated test of the fashion, rich conscious Nigerians and strives to assuage their taste.
Smart, lively, determined and avant-garde, Egbedi lives by the credo hold unto your dream, if you believe in them and you work hard, the sky will be your limit. Indeed for the city clothier, the sky is his limit as far as the business of fashion goes. He is focused and does not allow anything to divert his attention. A good entrepreneur, Egbedi started his dream of running his own business many years ago when he was studying abroad.
He had three options where he believed he had some level of competence. These were advertising, fast food business and fashion. He eventually decided in favour of the last option fashion. His decision was partly in response to the economy, which has been churning out graduates with no jobs. He therefore, decided to take the bull by the horns and launched into business. In doing this he relied on my taste, sensible judgment and ability to master.
This was after his stint at Newbreed as business manager and at Nigeria Airways Commercial Agency where he had the free hand to innovate and excel much to his internal relish and satisfaction. Although Egbedi and his likes are doing their best to promote a culture of fashion, it is generally admitted that it is still morning yet on fashion day. Egbedi acknowledges this when he observed that though Nigerians have shaped up fashion wise, they still have a long way to go when compared to their counterparts in France , United States and the United Kingdom .
The affable Delta State-born clothier has gone a step further to establish his own label and create employment for teeming Nigerians and markets for his products. He still stocks foreign labels so as to be able to satisfy the diverse needs of his various customers.
One thing that gives him joy is the increasing realisation by many that appearance compliments reality. Today, Egbedi could be seen in different fora advising on style and pontificating on panache. No doubt it takes skills which are absolutely Texen to have such uncommon ability.
When it was his turn to be bestowed with his own national honour of Order of the Federal Republic (OFR), by President Olusegun Obasanjo, at the November 16 conferment of national honours to some outstanding Nigerians, not a few in the audience believed that he was truly deserving of the honour. At the awards ceremony his very fair skin, like his many accomplishments, shone like a diamond.
Ironically, he is helmsman at Diamond Bank which has continued to dazzle and glitter in the banking firmament. Indeed, Diamond Banks vibrant entry into the Nigerian banking sector and its steady growth amidst the turbulence that has bedevilled the industry in recent years, owes largely to its executive chairman, Pascal Dozie.
Since its incorporation in 1991, Dozie has plotted Diamond Banks fortunes, such that today, it has become a banking institution which is well positioned for sustained growth. He has brought to bear on the fortune of Diamond Bank decades of experience and exposure at the highest levels of Nigeria s corporate terrain.
In its almost a decade of operation, Diamond Bank has surprised not a few with the quality of its products and services. Its full range of personal and business financial services are eloquent testimonies to the quality and commitment of its core management staff.
It established three branches in its first year, despite the harsh economic situation. Not wanting to be confined to run-of-the-mill products and services offered by most other banks, Diamond Bank under Dozie has gone a step ahead to package such products and services that are highly personalised. Worthy of particular mention is the Diamond Integrated Banking Services, DIBS. This trailblazer in total-package banking is structured for increased customer satisfaction and has no doubt endeared Diamond Bank to the public.
Dozie has ensured that Diamond Bank continues to grow from strength to strength. Perhaps, there can be no better testimony to Dozies honour in Nigeria s corporate ladder than his three-year tenure as the president of the Nigeria Stock Exchange, NSE, which ended in 1995. He has also steered the NSE into a veritable instrument for economic growth. His performance as boss of the NSE further confirmed his ability in management as well as his visionary skills in steering institutions to respond to the trends of economic and political realities. He was also the chairman of the highly respected Nigerian Economic Summit Group which strive to advise government on the economic direction to take.
He believes that the way forward for the economy is to achieve macro-economic stability. It is a prerequisite for sustainable economic growth. It also creates a hospitable climate for private investment, both foreign and local, he said.
Jim Ovia: At the Zenith of Banking
If you meet Jim Ovia, the MD/CEO of Zenith International Bank Ltd. for the first time, you are likely to go away with the impression that he is arrogant. This is because he is a man who doesnt suffer fools gladly. He is also very impatient with those who feel there are some things that are impossible to achieve in life. For him, the sky is the limit. He also wears the success of his 10-year old bank, like a badge. He never tires to tell you how well Zenith International Banks performance for the past nine years has been ascending and ascending on a steep and how all the other banks are gasping for breath to meet up with Zenith, at least in terms of profitability.
But the truth is that Jim is not a snub. He is just a man who cannot hide the fact that he runs a very professional bank. That is why he is respected within the banking sector today.
A wholly locally-owned and managed commercial bank, Zenith symbolises everything new generation in banking. Zenith International Ltd. is just nine years old, and has about twenty-three branches, with many still to be opened. It is Nigeria s fifth largest bank in terms of assets and profitability and boasts of the lowest low loss ratio in an industry long burdened by bad debts.
That Zenith is a very healthy bank is evidenced by the banks account for the last financial year which ended 30th June, 1999 . Profit-after-tax was N1.352 billion, an increase of 27 percent compared with N1.06 billion in the previous year. This result ranks Zenith as the third most profitable bank in Nigeria . So remarkable is Zeniths performance that it has received awards and other forms of recognition for excellence in banking by industry and financial analysts. For example, according to Augusto and Company, Nigeria s foremost industry analyst and financial consultants, Zenith Banks Risk Rating (AAF) reflects the strong position of the bank in its defined markets and its very good financial condition. Similarly, Pharez Limited, another risk rating agency assigned a Risk Rating of AAF categorising Zenith as a bank of superior risk.
But how has Jim Ovia been able to achieve this feat many of his peers, wonder. All manner of reasons have been adduced. While some say he depends a great deal on big time Igbo businessmen who do high profile transaction with Zenith, others say it is as a result of the money transfers and the heavy foreign exchange deals.
But Jim Ovias explanation for the tremendous success of Zenith is quite simple. He said it is speed, efficiency and responsiveness of their service and packaging of it that attracts customers to the bank.
Ovia has spent his entire working life in the banking hall, rising from the very basics to the top. Shortly after he finished school in 1973, he was hired by the Ikeja branch of Barclays Bank of UK as a clerical officer. He was to travel abroad for further studies. He was in the USA for five years where he did an MBA at the Northern Louisiana University s Graduate School of Business. He returned to Nigeria after this to join International Merchant Bank (IMB), the Nigerian affiliate of First National Bank of Chicago . At the bank, he rose from financial analyst to manager. He then moved as general manager to Merchant Bank of Africa , owned 40 percent at that time by the Bank of America, where he set up a thriving corporate offering division.
From that point onwards things changed for Jim positively. He was one of the 20 shareholders behind the setting up of Zenith, the success of which has been attributed in no small measure to his previous banking experience.
One thing that has helped him is the fact that he is actually aware of the need to keep ahead of competition.