A titan in the oil and gas industry
KOHI Engineering Nigeria Limited, a wholly indigenous company with technical partnership with Buro and Vision Engineering and Consultancy, Romania, is one of the successful service companies operating under Zeek Group of companies. Chief Dr. Ezekiel Ainabe, the Chairman/CEO of the group is a vibrant and astute business leader whose exceptional level of intelligence, determination and commitment to excellence always shone like a million stars anywherehe went, and everything he touched simply turned to gold, a case of the man with the Midas touch. He has over the years contributed his quota positively to the development of his community in particular and the nation in general, but unfortunately, the Federal government of Nigeria has not recognized his contributions with a National honour. The restless serial entrepreneur is not stopping anywhere to expand his business empire and frontiers going by how he still ventures into other areas of business. The Ojomo of Ekpoma kingdom spoke on the Focus of a CEO in this interview with NnamdiNwokolo.
What were the principles that helped you to get where you are today?
As a young man in my village, we used to attend Sunday school where we were taught to believe and trust in the heavenly father. We were also taught that He was ready to help us as His angels will stand by us every minute of our life. I internalized those teachings from youth with childlike guiding instructions, so at a very young age, I had learnt the virtue of hard-work, vision, total reliance on God and a burning desire to acquire education. If not for the grace of God, I wouldn’t have been born at the time I was born, because how could I have started school if not for the free primary education of the Western region, considering my poor background. After my education at various levels, which was strewn with bumps, I started as a petrol pump attendant in Kaduna metropolis which turned out to be the turning point in my life. I joined the oil companies early in life as I was privileged to work with Shell and Mobil Petroleum companies and rose through the ranks rapidly and steadily that it was no surprise that I became the owner of a flourishing petroleum distribution trade at a young age and later diversified into other areas like Communications, Maritime, Real Estate and Construction.
What has been your biggest challenge and how were you able to surmount?
My biggest challenge was poverty and I was determined to extricate myself from the shackles of it. You may not truly understand the challenge of poverty, unless you’ve gone through the experience. A number of experiences became significantly important in my life as I was touched by the degree of poverty in my family and the consequent effects on our family life. The beauty of all this is that some of these experiences helped me to always strive for excellence. The truth about life is that both of us can see a picture, but what we are seeing might be different. You may see problems; I may see challenges while some other person might see opportunities. For example, during the Civil War when many people were running away from the North, I travelled to the North with the feeling that I could grab a job when I get there. On getting there, to the Glory of God I got a job that eventually turned my fortunes around. In a nutshell, challenges are part of life, which we should embrace with a positive mindset to overcome.
About KOHI Engineering:
KOHI Engineering is an indigenous engineering company that renders consultancy services and engineering solutions for major companies with large process facilities such as refineries, crude oil flow stations, gas processing facilities and offshore platforms with owners and management having well over 20 years of combined experience in the marine and offshore repair business. KOHI Engineering is in technical partnership with Buro and Vision Engineering and Consultancy, Romania both companies are FARO certified in Laser scanning. The company’s main specialty in laser scanning has given it an outstanding delivery name in the oil and Gas sector of the Nigerian economy. KOHI’s vision is to build a world of difference while enhancing engineering excellence.
Impact of the Nigerian Content Act to indigenous professionals:
I believe the Act has redefined operations in the Oil and Gas industry. It will interest you to know that as an indigenous professional, I founded the National Data Reproducing Centre (NDR) in the Department of Petroleum resources and sourced it out from Halliburton. As we speak, NDR is being used for data management of Oil blocks in Nigeria. This will tell you that Nigerian professionals can compete and deliver favourably with expatriates. I believe so much in the ability of Nigerian professionals, so, we have 100% local content in terms of human capital. Over the years, KOHI engineering and its technical partners have gone a long way to train and build up a team of indigenous professionals with outstanding experience in various fields of the Oil and Gas sector of the Nigerian economy. The company team can offer solutions to complex projects in the Oil and Gas industry requiring both long term and short term services, all the way from concept to commissioning. KOHI has a strong, highly trained team of engineering professionals delivering effective solutions to meet the needs of all its clients. The company has as well added value as an indigenous company, knowledgeable in community and labour relations. No doubt, with KOHI, local content has come to stay in Nigeria and its positive footprint will leave a lasting legacy in the Oil and Gas industry.
How do you relate with everyone at all levels in the organization?
If you want people to respect you and the position you occupy, you have to lead by example in terms of what you do. I am truly committed to the development of people around me. I relate with everyone cordially without any airs because I believe that it’s opportunity and Grace that made me what I am today. I try to encourage and build their confidence for the global challenge ahead. It will surprise you that I have someone who has been working with me since 1972. He is still working with me till date and I believe it is my commitment to his welfare that has kept him. There was a time I bought a block of six flats and gave it out to my staff at no cost to them. We have a tradition of retaining our staff and the relationship is of mutual benefit.
What does success mean to you?
I consider a man to be successful when he is willing to share what he has with people out of love. I thank God for his mercies, because it is not by my power or by might but by the special Grace of God. I have seen that nothing succeeds without the hand of God, so to a large extent, He inspires me a lot. Success to me is nothing until you affect and change the life of people around you positively. The legacy one leaves behind determines the level of success he has achieved. You don’t need millions to do that, just touch one person at a time and try to make others happy. I know that a lot of people will consider me to be successful but I only see myself as a vehicle God is using to distribute His gifts to mankind. I sincerely see my life as a rare priviledge, so, I try not to disappoint God. He has given me, so it is my turn to reach out to other people.
For the past thirty-five years, I’ve consistently contributed my quota to the development of the Oil and Gas industry in Nigeria. This is my greatest joy but unfortunately, no government has deemed it fit to recognize my contributions with a national award. It’s not like one is worried about it, but it’s deserving to recognize people who have contributed to the development of the country as it will encourage young people to do their best for the growth and development of the country. The greatest thing I’ve done is the building of the Multi-million Naira Cathedral Church in my village. I thank God that He used me to build His Temple on earth. I equally thank God that I have been able to create an educational foundation to help train indigent students. The founding, building and donation of Ezekiel College of Theology to the Anglican Communion is a fulfillment of my dream. I am a member of the Howard University Business Review Committee; American Professional Club of PI sigma Epsilon, New York; Direct and Professional Sales and Marketing Executives International, New York; Alexander Hamilton Institutes Inc., New York; associate member of Business Administration; as well as a Paul Harris Fellow, Rotary Club Apapa. As a result of my benevolence, the Newport University, Newport Beach, California, USA awarded a Doctorate Degree of Law (Honoris Causa) to me.
How do you unwind?
I feel relaxed when I’ve touched the lives of people. If I have not supported anybody, I don’t feel fulfilled. I make out time to stay with my family and we have quality time together. To the glory of God, my children are all accomplished in their different fields. My desire right now is for any of them to return home, as they are all based abroad, to come home and take this business to the next level.
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