LAWRENCE OMOLE: THE INDUSTRIALIST WHO LOVED BOTH CHRISTIANS AND MUSLIMS
Lawrence Omole was born in Ilesha, Osun State in 1915. His father worked with the railways and was a foreman plate-layer. His didn’t complete his primary school all thou he was a promising student. His father could not afford the fees after retirement because his gratuity was wasted in an unsuccessful cattle trading venture. His family then turned to farming and from 1928 to 1935, he worked on his father’s farm. He wanted to become a textile trader but his family lacked the connections to enable them raise to raise the initial capital.
He worked as a clerk with Nigerian and Lebanese shop owners and became a produce clerk for Pa Aluko and J.J Ibironke. While working with Ibironke, he met a Lebanese cocoa trader who encouraged him to buy low grade cocoa. He was transferred in 1944, to become the produce manager of the Ijesha United Trading and Transport Company which had been set up by some leading Ilesha business men.
In 1945, Omole left to become a produce depot buyer with the UAC. He successfully stockpiled cocoa against price rises, made large profits and purchased his first lorry in 1947. He resigned his appointment to pursue his business. In 1951, along with two other ijesa produce traders, he was able to negotiate a loan for the development of a transport company from the Western Regional Development Loans Board which had been established in 1950. He then started his own transport business, Omole Transport Service, in 1951. The company then expanded to link Ilesha with the major towns of Ondo State and Oyo, Lagos and Onitsha. Later the transport and produce ventures were merged to form Lawrence Omole and Sons Ltd. He was able to expand his business through bank loans using his life insurance as collateral (10,000 pounds) and extending operations to Ife, Ekiti and Ondo. His success was partly due to payment of bonuses and cash advances, which attracted agents because it allowed them to speculate. He was younger and more flexible than most of his rivals. His annual trade forecasts proved to be more accurate than others. In 1957, he became to invest seriously in property, eventually establishing estates in Ilesha, Ile-Ifa, Ibadan and Lagos.
He had a vision to industrialize his homeland but his dream was frustrated twice by lack of support for the Action Group party, in the area and the lack of enthusiasm of educated individual. But he succeeded to bring together a small group of wealthy individuals including I.O Ajanaku, another Ijesa produce trader and transporter and T.A. Oni an Ibadan based civil engineer to form the International Breweries Limited in 1978. The breweries employ over 1,000 people directly and have a network of over 1,000 distributors. A farm was established for the production of maize and sorghum and a grains processing plant set up. A plastics venture was established in 1983. In the same year, financial investments were consolidated in Cardinal Investments Ltd. They included shares in SCOA, Leventis Motors, Daily Times, Triplex and three banks.
His children and cousins launched the Dr. Lawrence Omole Foundation in 1985. This foundation has funded scholarships and the building of a library complex and health centre at the Oyo State College of Education. Omole gave financial assistance to both Christian and Muslim associations.
Of his many children, only three sons are actively involved in the family business.