The Guardian’s Special Focus on Nigeria’s 100 Most Proactive, Result-Driven CEOs in 2020-Part Two
Even before the emergence of the COVID-19 pandemic, the outlook for the world economy – and especially developing countries like Nigeria – was fragile, as global GDP growth was estimated to be only 2.5% in 2020.
Based on this unanticipated and unpleasant reality, the consequences have been devastating and enormous on business organisations, whereby a number of them have resorted to downsizing and laying off staff in order to cut down costs, improve operational capacity, and effectively deliver on set target.
However, despite the daunting challenges and dire outcome on the fortunes of many, some result- driven Chief Executives have been able to
navigate their organizations to optimal operational effectiveness, efficiency, and visibility. These they have made possible through the application of ingenious management practices, prudent management of resources, as well as excellent, proactive and innovative solutions and ideas in achieving set goals and objectives
While they defy the apparent harsh economic environment by piloting the affairs of their companies to profitability, these exceptional men and women deserve recognition for their out-of-the-box innovations and enviable CSR interventions. Indeed, they deserve laurels in their efforts and contributions to the stability and growth of the nation’s economy, as well as modelling other upcoming businesses.
In this Special Annual Series, The Guardian features some of the selected CEOs of excellence in this outgoing year, 2020.
Dr. Obioma Jayne Onwumere: Exceptional, Creating Value, Empowering Nigerians, Providing Opportunities, Globally
Nigeria is no doubt blessed with unique women who stand out in their respective fields or by virtue of the position they occupy and have affected the country and its image positively. These women cut across all spheres of human endeavour, from the political arena to business sectors.
One of such women of distinction is Dr. Obioma Jayne (OJ) Onwumere, Group Managing Director/Chief Executive Officer, PWAN Group. Without mincing words, Dr. Jayne Onwumere has distinguished herself not only as a seasoned entrepreneur, real estate mogul and women empowerment advocate, but has also demonstrated a high degree of integrity and competence in her roles and engagements.
At a time when Nigeria’s employment market was dwindling and some families losing their homes due to lack of funds to pay rent, Dr. Jayne and her husband Dr Augustine Onwumere received a God-given vision to make Home Ownership Dream a Reality for as many people as possible in the country. This dream birthed a Real Estate Network, PWAN -an acronym for Property World Africa Network.
Dr. Jayne Onwumere leads a team of 17 Managing Directors with over 350 Staff spread across 17 Companies that make up the PWAN Group and over 40,000 Independent Network Marketing Professionals also known as PWAN Business Owners (PBOs).
Driven by Onwumere’s creativity, innovativeness and entrepreneurial acumen, PWAN HOMES (an acronym for Property World Africa Network Home Ownership Made Easy Scheme), has arguably pioneered the first real estate network marketing business in Nigeria, Africa and globally.
With a crop of professionals generally called Partners/Consultants PIWAN has created a platform for empowering and changing lives in Nigeria and beyond, providing opportunities for hundreds of thousands of citizens to earn consistent income as real estate entrepreneurs.
True to the CEO’s eye for greatness and creating opportunities for others, three years into its operation, PWAN HOMES began to open other companies in partnership with independent consultants which today form the PWAN Group.
Presently, there are sixteen affiliate companies known as PWAN EDGE, PWAN Plus, PWAN Premium, PWAN Heritage, PWAN Haven, PWAN Prime, PWAN Legend, PWAN Stars, PWAN Lekki, PWAN Royale, PWAN Pro, PWAN Max, PWAN Advantage, PWAN Bazaar, PWAN Legacy and PWAN Signatures. This is a move with no precedence in the history of Business in Nigeria.
Also included in the Group is PHPAC, the company charged with the responsibility of raising and equipping the consultants and partners now known as PBOs. In the last 8 years, PHPAC has trained thousands of people in Network Marketing in general, Real Estate Network Marketing in particular, Entrepreneurship, Management, Leadership, etc.
Apart from her mentorship, Mrs. Onwumere philanthropic disposition is focused on the less privileged in the society, providing for orphanages, paying tuitions and attending to many with rent issues. In 2017, Mama Africa as she is fondly called, single handedly empowered 50 women to start up small business venture or to improve existing ones with Fifty Thousand Naira each through her Empowerment for all Women Initiative. This she intends to establish as an annual event.
She was conferred with an Honorary Doctorate Degree by the European-American University, Commonwealth of Dominica because of her contributions to making home ownership dream a reality for as many people as possible.
Dr Jayne Onwumere, a lifelong learner, is an alumnus of Lagos Business School and is presently in the Owner President Management Programme at the prestigious Harvard Business School, Boston Massachusetts, USA.
Rowland Adewumi: Implementing New Processes And Business Change To Improve Efficiency
With an M.Sc and a PhD from prestigious Universities in the United Kingdom, Dr. Rowland Adewumi, a chartered civil engineer has over 20 years of diverse professional experience gained in the UK, Nigeria, India, and the Middle East, including the World Bank Groups and Department for International Development (DFID-UK).
As a Fellow, Nigerian Society of Engineers; Fellow, Institute of Management Consultants Certified Management Consultant (FIMC); Fellow, Institute for Government Research & Leadership Technology; Fellow, Institute of Policy Management Development (IPMD, Dr. Adewumi has made a significant contribution to several major engineering projects in Nigeria, implementing new processes and business change to improve efficiency.
While reacting to those who call him “courageous at all challenges”, Adewumi explained that he has been simply more committed to any assignment given than to staying convenient with the status quo – an attitude he said brought his career to life.
Zephyrgold Group PLC’s phenomenal growth, significant strength
There is no magic behind the re-positioning of Zephyrgold, its phenomenal growth and significant strength than hard work, dedication, diligence, efficient management, and God. In addition, my vision is my guide, that is, I knew where I was going to from the starting point. I do not risk losing control just because things are bad, I act decisively on all professional matters. Like Florence Nightingale said, “I attribute my success to this: I never gave or took any excuse.”
Industry experience, economic growth, COVID-19, and civil unrest in Nigeria
My experience in the industry has not been rosy, as many people would think. Sometimes, you would work but would not be paid as and when due. However, we are where we are today because we stayed focused. I did not let money be my only motivating factor but rather, passion for Engineering has been the determinant for my recorded success.
Meanwhile, the recent events of COVID-19 and civil unrest in the country poses a challenging moment for all business owners, especially, businesses in the construction industry that have been operating in an unfriendly environment prior to the unrest. However, as an entrepreneur, thinking “without the box” and taking advantage of every situation, are key factors that will sustain any business during unusual phase.
Here in Nigeria, one has to be prepared for whatever situation, learn to accept and move forward. Life is ever-changing and external details keep altering. This change often helps to learn and grow. You cannot control external events but can change the way you respond to them.
In this industry, one has to be steadfast, or else the “big guys” will push you out of business. Nonetheless, with tenacity and hard work, every trying moment becomes a history.
Young entrepreneurs’ criteria to succeed
There are so many qualities required or needed for a young entrepreneur to succeed in Nigeria but most importantly, hard work, tenacity, efficient management and prudence. As an entrepreneur, understand that ‘Rome’ was never built in a day. The only way to success is hard work and diligence. Also, ensure that you acquire necessary skills needed for any type of business you are planning to do.
Local content, protecting indigenous companies, championing ease of doing business in Nigeria
Firstly, government must create enabling and conducive environment for small and medium businesses to thrive. For instance, jobs that indigenous companies can execute successfully should not be given to foreign contemporaries. Unfortunately, sometimes reverse is the case. Secondly, government should encourage local production of raw materials and ensure mandatory patronage by the end users (companies). Incentives especially, tax waiver should be given to small and medium scale businesses, as well as reduction of company registration fee for new businesses.
Chief Joshua Denila: Adventurous, Creative, Serial Entrepreneur, Providing Reliable Solutions, Changing Lives
Even while waiting for University admission, he did a lot of studies on personal desktop computers. He also spent time on the manual typewriter to increase his typing speed on the keyboard. Afterwards, he made friends with specialists in computer business with the intent to understand the various components and assembly parts. Soon enough, he could assemble computers and install software, and already began to fix computer problems for family members and friends
With this strong background and a degree in Computer Science and System Engineering, Chief Joshua Akporowho Denila became a serial entrepreneur with multi decade track record of taking scientific and creative ideas and turning them into successful products and services that change lives, and provide job opportunities.
As a highly skilled technology innovator, he has launched multiple eight figure companies and has been instrumental in many home-grown technology solutions focused on the downstream sector of the petroleum industry. His other areas of expertise include procuring effective and lasting partnerships, creating profitable client relationships, designing innovate hardware and software solutions.
Currently, in addition to other ventures, he is the CEO, PrintLabs Limited – a commercial Printing and Publishing Company with notebook production facility, Petrsoft Limited – a downstream Oil and Gas business management software company, Activeguard Telematics – an intelligent Security Technology/machine to machine (m2m) telemetry company and Hypercom Network Limited – a computer hardware/software engineering company, pioneering low-cost reliable off grid solar power solutions for domestic and industrial applications.
In his submissions, Chief Denila said “Before entering the university, I was already earning money from involvement in the sales and assembly of desktop computer and supported many business centres and cybercafé operators to stay profitable. In the late nineties, we are already selling and building our own branded computers, though not on a very large scale, as we built to customer order.
I introduced several innovative solutions that helped SMEs, business centres and café operators drive down operating cost, especially power cost. We deployed thin clients that help schools and café operators reduce power and other operating cost by over 85%. My client base increased dramatically and I was able to support myself through the university and formally established Hypercom Network Limited.”
He added that “Like every other serious entrepreneur, I am driven by the passion to provide effective solutions to both human and business challenges. During our early days of operations, Hypercom Network provided information technology solutions to clients such as Delta Glass Company, Eternit Limited – a member of the Etex Group with factory, located in Sapele, AllStates Trust Bank, Chevron Nigeria, Halliburton Nigeria, Shell Nigeria and a host of other companies across Nigeria.”
He spoke further that “About eight years ago, we were approached by a major downstream operator on their need for reliable downstream financial software that is tailored to the Nigerian business realities. We took up the challenge and within eighteen months, we were ready with a new set of hardware and software solution developed in-house, which has so far been deployed in over 500 fuel stations and hundreds of LPG retail outlets in Nigeria.
In the same vein, this year we inked a multimillion Naira software deal with another player in the Upstream Oil and Gas Exploration Sector to develop new software solution for their LPG Production Terminal located in Delta State. Our solution for this client is currently undergoing end user acceptance testing phase and would go live in the next few weeks.”
In the same way, we have helped companies and families solve business and domestic power challenges using innovative solar energy solutions assembled in house by our engineers. Many businesses have gone under due to power challenges. We came to the rescue by allowing companies and individual spread payments conveniently for our solar installations across Nigeria. This year alone we have done over 800kw of solar power installations across Nigeria despite the biting economic situation.
At Hypercom, we are driven by the passion to provide reliable solutions that meet client’s need. Also, we continue to carry out research on better and more cost-effective solutions that can help our clients save money and also get more value for every kobo spent on our solutions.
The COVID 19 pandemic brought about a lot of technology innovations as well as untold hardship to many sectors of the Nigerian economy. It also brought significant boost to some technology businesses in different parts of the world, especially those in the cloud-based software business, remote networking software, video conferencing technology and virtual reality sphere.
For us, the impact was minimal as we employed lots of remote working tools to keep our teams connected. During the lockdown, we secured our ongoing cloud-based software contract for a new LPG Terminal management system. Our existing systems also saw a surge in traffic from clients working from home – connecting their businesses and staff.
A whole lot of products and solutions have evolved due to COVID-19. Very soon, we will launch a new low-cost COVID-19 test kit with 95% detection rate and results made available within 5 minutes. This will make testing accessible and affordable for all Nigerians anywhere, anytime. The solution is awaiting FDA approval before we commerce local approval process.
Companies, families and individuals would no longer need to go to testing facilities or wait for days for test results. Offices can perform COVID test for visitors and staffs as often as they need to. Even, airlines can do instant test on passengers on the spot and get result within 5 minutes and the system support hundreds of simultaneous tests with the same level of accuracy and speed.”
Kunle Ajayi: Thriving On Professionalism, Quality Service Delivery, Integrity
With a vision ‘to be the most trusted integrated energy and offshore solutions provider in West Africa’, Schiste Oil and Gas Limited has over the years built a reputation for itself as an indigenous firm in the Nigerian Marine and Energy value chain that thrives on professionalism, quality service delivery and integrity.
Led by an astute CEO in the person of Mr. Kunle Ajayi, a graduate of Petroleum Engineering from the University of Ibadan with an MBA from Obafemi Awolowo University, the company’s activities cut across business development, operations management, logistics, project and marine operations, strategy, sales management, marketing and new ventures.
Having been actively in the Oil and Gas value chain for over 18 years, Ajayi started Schiste Oil and Gas as a chartering and brokerage firm but given his unwavering perseverance and professionalism, Schiste has grown to become a full-fledged Marine and Offshore Integrated Solutions provider with active involvement in key service areas. These include: Offshore Marine Solutions and Support Vessels, Ship Management, Operations and Maintenance Services, Field Development Solutions, as well as gas to energy solutions.
His knack for excellence has also seen the company become an ISO 9001:2015 certified organization. He disclosed that “In the first few years, we struggled to get opportunities. This was not unexpected for new comers in the industry and the segment. One of our major strategies was to pick an area in the industry which we knew was quite challenging for indigenous players. Hence, we kept our focus on acquiring the necessary licences, certifications and technical know-hows, because we were sure of a breakthrough and eventually carve a niche for ourselves.”
Performance-oriented and result-driven, Ajayi knew there were hurdles in his quest for recognition in the industry and as a visionary that he is, he left no stone unturned in gaining visibility for Schiste Oil and Gas by tackling the various challenges peculiar with the Nigerian business environment, as well as those affecting indigenous companies in the Sector.
He added that “As an indigenous company, we knew from start that survival in the industry is tasking given the dynamics of our economy and the capital-intensive nature of the industry which is why most of the activities in the energy-mix value chain are handled by international companies, most of whom have presence here in Nigeria.
To enable us surmount these challenges, we engaged in strategic partnerships with some international companies of similar vision, structure and business model, and with whom we can grow and expand. This, coupled with our capabilities, enabled us overcome the credibility gap associated with indigenous players and to get good visibility and gained recognition in the industry.”
Speaking further, Ajayi explained that “the gradual dearth of professionals in the industry was another challenge but Schiste Oil and Gas was able to tackle this through an expansive in-house resource development system which has produced heads of unit in the company, some of them were initially recruited as trainees. Also, we operate a lean organizational structure – very nimble and dynamic. This gives us a competitive edge in the Industry.
Commenting on how the COVID-19 pandemic has impacted on the operations of the company, Schiste Oil’s helmsman agreed that “despite the challenges posed by the pandemic, it has also opened doors of opportunities which the company has tapped into.”
An unrelenting go-getter, whose quest is to build an organization that would outlive him, Kunle Ajayi stressed that the focus of the company is not just for the Nigerian Oil and Gas Industry, but to spread its operations across Africa.
“In the next five years, we want to position Schiste Oil and Gas as a foremost marine and energy offshore solutions company in Nigeria. We would also like to establish a strong footprint not only in the West Africa region, but across Africa”, he concluded.
Engr. Dr. (Mrs.) Funmilayo Waheed-Adekojo: Courageous, Compassionate, Outstanding Professional
Beneath her youthfulness lies uncommon courage and great success, and despite her self-effacing, humble and modest disposition, her glittering record of achievements in the Engineering Profession in Nigeria has catapulted her to stardom. Since realizing her dream of affecting humanity on a large scale, Engr. Dr. Funmilayo Waheed-Adekojo has never looked back in her quest to better the society, especially, in different areas of Engineering Profession, Philanthropic and Humanitarian Services.
A certified Mechanical Engineer by Council for the Regulations of Engineering in Nigeria (COREN), Fellow of Nigerian Institution of Mechanical Engineers and Fellow of the Nigerian Society of Engineers), Engr. Funmilayo Waheed-Adekojo is the amiable Managing Director/Chief Executive Officer, Funmi Ayinke Nigeria Limited – certified multi-faceted Engineering outfit in Nigeria.
A native of Arigidi Akoko in Akoko-North Local Government of Ondo State, Mrs. Waheed-Adekojo holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Mechanical Engineering from Ladoke Akintola University of Technology, Ogbomoso and Master in Business Administration (MBA) Executive from Babcock University, Ogun State.
After a brief but splendid career in the Public Service, she floated FunmiAyinke Nigeria Limited in 2000 – a fast growing Engineering Company that is competently involved in Project Management, Consultancy Services, Supervision, Design, Construction and Maintenance of Public Infrastructure, Public/Private Procurement, Engineering Surveying, Facilities Management, Capacity Building.
To drive home her love for the less privileged, she established FunmiAyinke Humanitarian Foundation, an Organization she has vigorously used to touch many lives through job creation, empowerment programmes for the down-trodden and vulnerable members of the society. Till date, the Foundation has empowered over 10,000 women and sponsored more than 500 undergraduates among other gestures.
However, despite the daunting challenges and dire outcome of the global pandemic, the result-driven CEO has been able to navigate her organization to optimal operational effectiveness, efficiency and visibility. These she has achieved through the application of ingenious management practices, excellent, proactive and innovative ideas in achieving corporate objectives. It is noteworthy that in the midst of the turbulence, the company has neither downsized, cut wages nor owed any of her numerous direct and indirect staff.
An epitome of professionalism and leadership excellence, Engr. Dr. Funmilayo Waheed-Adekojo has received several awards of achievement some of which include:
- Honorary Doctorate Degree Award for Doctor of Science (D.Sc.Hons), in Engineering Project Managements and Corporate Governance by European American University (EAU), 2020.
- Honorary Doctorate Degree Award in Public Administration from Universite Protestant De’lafrique De’la Quest, (UPAO).
- Humanitarian of the Year by City People Magazine, 2020.
- Award of Leadership Hall of Fame, 2020 by West African Student Union (WASU).
- Outstanding Women in National Development Merit Award (OWINDA), 2019 by Corporate and Media Africa Communications Limited.
- Award of Excellence as an Icon of Societal Development by Progressive Students Movement (PSM) Nigeria, 2019
- 100 Most Proactive, Result-Driven CEOs in Nigeria by Guardian Newspapers, 2020.
Dr. (Mrs.) Ibukun Adedayo: Committed, Focused, Resilient, Result-Driven Amazon
After a degree in Medicine from the University of Ilorin and a few years of medical practice, Dr. (Mrs.) Ibukun Adedayo said it dawned on her that she really was not enjoying the practice enough to dedicate the remainder of her life to it.
Having recognized that early, Ibukun Adedayo started exploring other interests while she prayed to God for clarity. She attempted a few things including interior decoration. However, clarity came when she took up a near-volunteer job at Investment Management and Training firm (Financial Datanet House Limited) which gave her the platform to venture into the investment management and investment banking space. Eventually, she built a career.
In her words, “The career took me through few notable companies such as ChapelHill Denham Management, Lagos, The Infrastructure Bank PLC, a Development Finance Bank in Abuja, where most of the portfolios I managed were real estate-related and I eventually became the head of the Real Estate Department at the bank for about 6 years.
I left The Infrastructure Bank in 2016 to start my real estate advisory and development firm, Rock Realty Limited in 2017. The Company has a focus on middle-income real estate and affordable housing. Recently, I have also created other businesses such as Today’s Bukka & Cuisines Limited and Diva Orders Limited.”
To Ibukun, the magic is all about resilience, focus, in-depth understanding of the market needs, passion for ensuring middle-income earners own homes, a great team and ultimately, God’s favour.
She spoke further “The year, 2020 seems to have brought some disruption to the gradual uptick that the country was trying to galvanize. Furthermore, whilst the socio-economic impact of the pandemic is global, the effect on our economy was further heightened by the civil unrest that accompanied it.
Rock Realty also experienced a few initial setbacks which resulted in the slightly delayed commencements of some projects which supposed to commence in the 2nd quarter of 2020. However, as I advised several entrepreneurs during the lockdown, we utilized the opportunity to update our business model, engage in myriads of virtual training sessions and also implemented so many new strategies that have not only helped us to regain seemingly lost time but are also crucial for better effectiveness and greater profitability going forward.
As an insider, the Real Estate guru maintained that “The Real Estate Industry at large is going through an evolution and I urge the practitioners in the industry to continue to evolve, particularly towards ensuring that their projects are planned around relatively assured offtake and only a small percentage of projected revenues are tied to speculation. This will help the companies and their projects to cope better during periods of project stress.”
Concerning what is required of young entrepreneurs to make it to the top in Nigeria, Dr. Adedayo stressed that “resilience is the biggest quality required. This is important so that when the challenges come, they are able to weather the storms and come out on the other end of the waters; still standing. Integrity and a commitment to hard work are also extremely important.”
In her opinion concerning Government’s policy to protect indigenous companies in Nigeria, the Rock Reality boss agreed that the country needs to look into the multi-layered levies charged to small businesses by different agencies, local governments, etc. and find a way to either moderate those fees and ensure that they are not fashioned in a manner that stifles the growth of SMEs.
The heart of the economy is significantly hinged on the success of SMEs and if the business environment is not friendly enough, the SMEs would have short lives and most of them would die off without achieving significant contribution to the nations GDP. “
She submitted that “The cost of doing business is already significantly high when looking at costs such as power generation costs, security costs, which when compounded with heavy government levies (that are stifling) and taxes, the companies are not able to survive the heavy cost and the, otherwise resilient entrepreneurs then get discouraged.”
In her conclusion, Dr. Ibukun Adedayo believed that “if the problem of multiple taxation is lessened by the Government, more SMEs would survive, as their focus is not narrowed to contending with market forces and relevant charges – not multi-layered levies that give no back-end value to the business in return.
While I understand that many of these levies are linked to State and Local Governments, there is an urgent need for concerted effort across the country to assess these levies and ensure that the totality of these fees are maintained with reasonable bands that are not detrimental to the growth of the economy.”
“Smartek Remains Home of Genuine Consumer Electronics” – Festus Ugwoke
“Being a CEO demands the ability to have the right vision, being able to sell the vision to investors and the ability to make sacrifices when the need arises. Also, one should be able to apply or adapt what will be beneficial to a larger number of people such decision influences as this makes an impartial and unselfish leader”,
These are the words of Mr. Festus Nwobodo Ugwoke, Founder/CEO, Smartek Appliances Limited. A graduate of the University of Nigeria Nsukka where upon graduation he received an award for the Best Graduating Student in Marketing, as well as a Special Recognition by the Chancellor of the university for his outstanding academic performance. Ugwoke is a silent achiever whose lifestyle is characterised by humility and honesty.
Prior to the establishment of Smartek Appliances in 2011, he worked at EIL Telecom and later became the Head, Business Development at PZ Cussons PLC. Subsequently, he became a Co-Founder, Citizens Electronics. He was instrumental to the introduction of Success Ballpoint Pens to the Nigerian market in 1997, as well as the launching of Samsung Mobile phones in the country. He equally played a key role in making Haier Thermocool a leading electrical appliances brand in Nigeria in the early 2000.
A thoroughbred brands management and marketing expert, Ugwoke’s regard for hardwork, dedication to duty and excellence earned him a commendation and recognition of honour in 1995 from former Minister of Information, Professor Jerry Gana as the “Most Dedicated Team Member” for a major project executed by the Ministry between 1993 and 1995.
His love for mentoring and growing businesses has seen him being actively involved in the development of many start-ups over the years.
According to Ugwoke, he found a niche in the sales of electrical appliances as end users are often challenged with distinguishing between fake and original appliance. Therefore, he established Smartek to bridge the gap between manufacturers and end users by offering professional services in key areas which include sales, installations, repair and maintenance of a wide range of consumer electronics and home appliances.
Today, Smartek has become the most sought-after among leaders of industries such as hospitality, event centres, financial institutions and government agencies given its strong reputation as an authorized franchise dealer for major brands including Haier Thermocool, LG, Hisense, Panasonic.
Its wide products range includes Air Conditioners, Freezers, Refrigerators, Chillers, and Washing Machine. Others are modern Television sets, Home Theatres, Gas Cookers, Water Dispensers, Ovens and many other household gadgets and appliances.
In his submission, Ugwoke stressed that Smartek is “not just in the business to sell appliances but equally offers after-sales services which has become one of the company’s major strength in the industry. More importantly, we believe in effective customer service which goes beyond words of mouth. We have a technical team which operates 24 hours and dedicated to helping customers with installations. Meanwhile, wherever there are major faults, such appliances are moved to our service centre where the gadgets will be repaired and returned to the owners within a specified period of time.”
In addition to its various outlets spread across the country, Smartek also boasts of an online presence where customers can place orders at the click of a button. According to him, the online presence of the company has given it an edge in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Focused, intelligent and unassuming, Ugwoke described his entrepreneurial journey as that which has been characterised by perseverance, honesty and contentment. He is currently writing a book which is aimed at guiding start-ups and young entrepreneurs.
“I decided to put my entrepreneurial lessons into writing because I have discovered that most young entrepreneurs in Nigeria do not have the right time perspective. Most of them see entrepreneurship as a short race that will make them rich within two years, but entrepreneurship is actually a marathon and perseverance is very important.”
A philanthropist and community leader per excellence, Ugwoke is the founder of Icon of Hope Foundation – a platform through which he provides support and empowerment to young Nigerians.
Nnamdi Okafor: Purpose-Driven, Innovative, impacting Nigeria’s healthcare landscape
When he was appointed to the Board of May and Baker Nigeria PLC on 11th June, 2003, as Executive Director, Sales and Marketing, decision makers of the company were in no doubt of the outcome of such action. And true to that affirmation, Nnamdi Nathan Okafor cut out a role to rebuild the Pharma business into what remains today the greatest supporter of the organization’s revenue and profit by a wide margin.
Having joined the company in 1985 as a Sales Representative, Mr. Nnamdi Okafor advanced through positions of increasing responsibility in sales, marketing, and management, culminating in being named Managing Director/CEO on February 1, 2011.
Even when he was promoted to the General Manager/Chief Operating Officer of the Foods Division in January 2006, Okafor’s responsibility of pioneering the organization’s diversification into the foods business space was immensely impactful.
Therefore, in the wake of the outbreak of Coronavirus pandemic, which has caused global social disruption, increase in morbidity and mortality rate, business failures, job losses, and decline in demand for goods and services, the May and Baker boss led a multi-field battle and took quick and tough actions simultaneously in different areas to cushion the pandemic effect on Nigerians and the company.
Among these is the feat of retooling and bringing to the market a top quality hand sanitizer brand within 72 hours of announcement of Nigeria’s index case and using this to force down the skyrocketing price and profiteering tendencies of channel practitioners.
Okafor has inventively been able to sustain and improve operational capacity, and guarantee zero job losses related to downsizing. May & Baker during this period, additionally took advantage of government’s prioritization of healthcare sector alongside expanded interest for some healthcare products to adequately deliver on target. He is of the view that COVID-19, in an ironic way, has brought to the fore the value of adaptability, innovation and flexibility.
Okafor has led May & Baker to cross many heights of distinction. These accomplishments include the achievement in 2014 of the current Good Manufacturing Certificate (cGMP) by the World Health Organization (WHO) – one of the few African pharmaceutical manufacturers to obtain this status. The Joint Venture on the production of vaccines with the Federal Government was also ratified and the plans to berth Nigeria’s locally manufactured vaccines are now unstoppable. More notably, however, is the fact that he is driving May & Baker to become a Leading Healthcare Brand in Sub-Saharan Africa, which inspiration influenced the new company vision adopted in 2017.
He is a longtime advocate of diversity and inclusion, and has always been inspired to find ways to be more productive and work more efficiently. Hence, he strived to ensure all aspect of the company’s business, records exceptional performance, accountability, with an unrivaled competency. Since he became the CEO, he has revolutionized the culture, and made integral strategic investments. These efforts resulted in cumulative shareholder returns that were in the top tier of the nation’s pharmaceutical industry.
Today, May and Baker PLC has upheld the company’s 76-year legacy of delivering solutions to the nation’s most urgent unmet healthcare needs, and continued to redefine expectations when it comes to purpose-driven innovation and sustainable growth on behalf of all stakeholders.
No doubt, Nnamdi Okafor’s influence has shaped both the healthcare landscape and the greater business community through his association as Fellow of the Pharmaceutical Society of Nigeria, Fellow of the Institute of Directors, and Fellow of the Nigerian Academy of Pharmacy, among others. He has voyaged broadly and attended many local and overseas courses and conferences. He was named one of the top 25 CEOs by BusinessDay in 2018.
Ismail Adekola: Dogged, Result-Driven, Change Agent in Nigeria’s Maritime Sector
“Big things have small beginnings” – Michael Fassbender
Having started his educational pursuit in 1972 at the Local Education Authority and Ilofa Grammar School in Ekiti Local Government Area, Kwara State, Ismail Adekola Yusuf had a stint as the Executive Accounts Officer with the Niger River Basin Development Authority before he was admitted into Kaduna Polytechnic where he studied Accountancy. He graduated in 1990 with Upper Credit and went on to obtain a Post Graduate Diploma and Masters in Banking and Finance from Bayero University, Kano in 1996 and 1998, respectively.
In 1991, he was posted to Inland Containers Nigeria Limited for his Primary assignment by the NYSC and upon completion of his national service, he was retained by the company as an Assistant Accounts Manager.
He was promoted to the position of Chief Accountant of the company in February 1998 and subsequently made the General Manager/CEO in November 2002. Dogged and result-driven, Adekola Yusuf displayed a rare capacity by navigating the company from a point of dropped container throughput, with attendant adverse effect on revenue and staff welfare, to a point of tremendous increase in throughput with a corresponding rise in revenue and staff welfare. Due to this feat, he was made the Managing Director/CEO in 2010, a position he holds till date.
As soon as he became the CEO, the Inland Containers’s boss did not rest on his oars, instead he took the company to a ground-breaking level by ensuring one of its depots was gazetted to a dry port called the Kaduna Inland Dry Port – the first dry port in Nigeria commissioned by President Muhammadu Buhari on 4th January, 2018.
Today, Ismail Adekola is an erudite Technocrat, Chartered Accountant, seasoned Administrator, learned resource person, and a patriotic Pan-African. He is a Member of many Professional Bodies, which include: Institute of Chartered Accountants of Nigeria, Institute of Directors of Nigeria, Institute of Certified Public Accountants of Nigeria, Certified Institute of Shipping, Nigeria Institute of Management, Port & Terminal Management Academy of Nigeria, Institute of Chartered Administrators and Researchers of Nigeria, and the Association of Corporate Governance Professionals of Nigeria.
In view of his excellent performance and great services to humanity, Ismail Adekola has been recognized and conferred with many awards:
- Award of Excellence by Share Descendants Union, (Youth Golden Ambassador) Lagos Branch.
- Nigerian Ports Business Integrity Award’s “Most Outstanding Personality, 2016”.
- Award of Excellence by Council of Share Ulamau.
- African Leaders of Integrity Merit Award, Accra, Ghana.
- Distinguished Corporate Achievers (Gold) Award for Contributions to The Growth/Development of Nigerian Economy.
- Innovative Achievers Award 2016 in recognition of Contributions to the Freight Forwarding Sector.
- Universal Leader of Peace Merit Award for Inspirational Leadership in Maritime Sector.
- Northern Youth Initiative for Peace and Good Governance Award for Excellence.
- LEADS Africa Merit Award of Excellence 2017 as Africa’s Patriotic Personality”.
- Business Leadership and Merit Award (Logistics) 2018 in recognition of Diligence and Best Business Practice in Nigeria.
- Searchlight Media Excellent Leadership Award 2018 for Sterling Leadership Qualities for Positioning ICNL as the First and Leading Inland Dry Port in Nigeria.
- Honorary Doctorate Degree, Doctor of Science (D. Sc Hons) in Maritime & Corporate Business Management.
He has attended several local and international conferences, trainings including the United State Trade & Development Agency (USTDA) for the Nigeria Rail Sector Reverse Trade Mission (RTM) in Washington D.C USA in Non. 2016, Harvard Business Extension Schools Training on Professional Development and Capacity Building for Strategy and Innovation; Lloyds Maritime Academy Training on Dry Port Management, etc.
Dr. Freeman Osonuga: Strategic, Visionary Leadership, Dynamic
Dr. Freeman Osonuga is a Multi-award-winning Nigerian Real Estate Entrepreneur and global leader who effortlessly dons many caps and has made an easy meal of successfully being a Real Estate Broker, Philanthropist, International Public Speaker, Medical Doctor, and a successful entrepreneur all in his stride!
Prior to Dr. Freeman’s foray into real estate, he was at the frontline in the fight against the Ebola Virus Disease outbreak in West Africa in his capacity as a medical doctor. He volunteered for the Africa Union Support to the Ebola Outbreak in West Africa (ASEOWA) where he worked on a six-month medical humanitarian mission to Sierra Leone. Dr. Freeman is a joint recipient of the 2014 TIME Magazine Person of the year alongside other Ebola workers. He is also a recipient of Meritorious Service Award from President Bai Ernest Koroma of Sierra Leone.
In his characteristic bold fashion, Dr. Freeman did the near impossible – he made a career switch in the year 2016 from Medicine to Real Estate, setting out to build what has become Nigeria’s first and biggest independent real estate network marketing platform, also termed by industry professionals as ‘the largest network of billion-dollar property sellers in Africa’ – The Adloyalty Business Network!
He has spoken at many international events such as Global Property Brokers Conference, One Young World Summit, WIRED, TED X, US Consulate, and many more. He was also a finalist for the Kruger Cowne Rising Star Space Programme organized by London-based talent agency, Kruger Cowne in partnership with One Young World and Xcor Space Expeditions.
Osonuga is a Senator of the World Business Angels Investment Forum (WBAF) an affiliated partner of the G20 Global Partnership for Financial Inclusion (GPFI).
His numerous awards and recognitions include 2013 – One Young World Ambassador, 2013 – Top Ten Outstanding Young Persons in Nigeria, Associate Fellow of the Royal Commonwealth Society UK, 2014 – TIME Magazine’s Person of the Year; 2015 – WIRED Innovation Fellow, 2015 – Meritorious Service Award (Sierra Leone); 2015 – Finalist, Kruger Cowne Rising Star Space Programme, 2017 Top 100 most influential Young Nigerians, 2020 – Nigeria’s Top 10 Real Estate Disruptors among others.
He is an accomplished author of two (2) best-selling titles; Print Money with Zero Capital and The Business Game.
When speaking on his career passion, Osonuga disclosed that “having been a medical doctor for two years with some significant accomplishments and in the wake of 2016 economic recession, I saw a booming system for explosive real estate sales and marketing which was just taking off and as an insightful person, I began to leverage on my research skills and the passion that already existed about that seemingly not so explored approach to know how to disrupt the real estate sector.
Adloyalty Business Network’s growth is based on visionary leadership, a great community of real estate brokers, a superb management team, constant consumer innovation, honest transactions and timely delivery of properties to our esteemed clients both locally and internationally. This has been the magic because with property business, the trigger is always in the customer experience and the value of the environment that the property is situated. These qualities enable easy word of mouth marketing especially with buyers who are not directly present – when they see that what they invested in is secured and valuable, they share with their Diaspora community and that becomes magic.
At Adloyalty Business Network; we have been able to sustain and grow our business in the property sector by being innovative, creative and dynamic. Always on the lookout for various factors that might make business easy, faster and offer better value to our partners even at a reduced cost.
The COVID-19 pandemic and the recent end-SARS civil unrest in the country and the accompanying adverse effect on business has confirmed one of our guiding beliefs: Innovate or Die. We are in unusual season which requires unusual approach to business. The old way is gone. The new is the way!”
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