The day started like any other day, although it was no ordinary day. Instead, it was Monday the 22nd of October, a special day that had been slated for the gathering of some of Nigeria’s most influential decision-makers and business leaders. It was the first day of the 24th Nigerian Economic Summit and as you can expect, Nairametrics was there keeping an eye out for the CEOs and other corporate personalities.
The Nigerian Economic Summit is arguably the local equivalent of the annual World Economic Forum. So, it was unsurprising to see many of the country’s leading business figures gathered. As early as 8:30am on that Monday morning, a lot of them were already inside the expansive conference hall of the prestigious Transcorp Hilton Hotel, Abuja which was the venue of the event.
We observed as they exchanged pleasantries with one another — hushed brief conversations typical of the wealthy. Meanwhile, the photojournalists’ cameras were clicking continuously as they struggled to capture the moment. There is, perhaps, nothing more exciting than watching successful businessmen (and women) greeting one another at a function. It can best be likened to watching ‘money relate’.
Here are the business leaders we met at NESG24
Mrs. Ibukun Awosika, Chairman of First Bank of Nigeria Limited: Mrs. Awosika literally stole the show at #NES24 from the moment she walked in, thanks to her mesmerising physical presence and charisma. She looked beautiful as always, smiling pleasantly at her peers as she greeted them. She then sat through the plenary, listening attentively as Nigeria’s Vice President (Prof. Yemi Osinbajo) and others spoke.
At the end of the first event, the accomplished businesswoman was later seen interacting with the Governors of Lagos, Edo and Ekiti States. She was also flocked by journalists and fans alike, who either needed to ask her questions or take pictures with her.
Meanwhile, Mrs. Awosika’s FirstBank was one of the major sponsors of the event. She also addressed the summit goers later on Monday night during a dinner which Nigeria’s Senate President, Bukola Saraki, attended.
Mrs. Ibukun Awosika is a 56-year old Ibadan-born business leader who graduated with a B.Sc. in Chemistry from the Obafemi Awolowo University. She is also an alumnus of the IESE Business School, as well as the Lagos Business School.
Asides her position as the Chairman of FirstBank, Mrs. Awosika is also the Chief Executive Officer of The Chair Centre Group. She also sits on the boards of numerous other companies and NGOs.
Mr. Urum Kalu Eke, Group Managing Director of FBN Holdings Plc: Mr. Eke arrived at #NES24 almost the same time as Mrs. Ibukun Awosika. He was seated right next to the woman, who is also his colleague. Together, they listened with rapt attention as the initial speakers addressed the auditorium.
Frankly speaking, Mr. Eke is a rather simple man compared to the larger-than-life status his position at FBN Holdings accords him. Seeing him, it would be almost impossible to believe that he is the same man who oversees the affairs of one of Nigeria’s biggest companies. But he is, indeed, that man!
Born in 1964, Mr. Eke is a 54-year old accomplished banker and business executive. He attended the Comprehensive Secondary School, Aba and Government College Umuahia, both in Abia State. He would later study Political Science at the University of Lagos, graduating in 1985. In 2008, he completed an MBA in Project Management Technology at the Federal University of Technology, Owerri.
Mr. Urum has since had a very accomplished career in the financial services sector — over thirty years’ experience. Besides his current position, he also sits on the boards of several notable financial institutions.
Mr. Paul M. Gbededo, the Group Managing Director/Chief Executive Officer of Flour Mills of Nigeria Plc: Mr. Gbededo is yet another high-profile corporate personality that caught our attention at the summit. The accomplished business executive, who was dressed simply in a native attire, was gracious enough to grant the Nairametrics team an interview.
During the thirty-minutes-long interview which took place backstage, Mr. Gbededo let us in on some of the latest developments in his company, including its reason for sponsoring the #NES24. He told us that the Nigeria Economic Summit engages the government to formulate policies that will ensure economic development and help businesses flourish, which was why his company decided to sponsor the event.
He also let us in on a number of other specific issues relating to the company, including why they decided to diversify into the agro-allied sector. According to him, Flour Mills is collaborating with the Government in this regard by taking advantage of credit facilities offered by the Bank of Industry, as well as other special loan schemes packaged by the Central Bank of Nigeria. He expressed optimism that these new investments will help drive growth in the company.
Mr. Gbededo has over thirty years of professional experience. He studied at the Polytechnic of North London, UK, graduating in 1980 with Graduateship of Plastic and Rubber Institute and Associateship of National College of Rubber Technology.
He holds a masters degree in Polymer Technology, graduating in 1981 from the Loughborough University of Technology, UK. He is also an alumnus of Lagos Business School.
Mr. Abubakar Suleiman, the CEO of Sterling Bank Plc: Mr. Suleiman is yet another prominent business leader whom the Nairametrics team saw at the 24th Nigerian Economic Summit. Mr. Suleiman, whose company is a major sponsor of the event, spoke during the second plenary on the need for human capital investment. In his own words, “we need to invest in people so that the invested can further invest in other people. That way, we can secure a long-term value chain of human development.”
He also called on the Government to work towards reducing the risks of business failure, inasmuch as more investments are necessary.
Mr. Suleiman, who was born on August 19, 1973, became the Chief Executive Officer of Sterling Bank in April this year. The University of Abuja Economics graduate is one of the youngest CEOs of major Nigerian companies. He holds a master’s degree in Major Programmes Management from the University of Oxford.
Prior to his current position, he has worked other high-profile jobs in such organisations as Citibank and Equitorial Trust Bank, among others.
Mr. Valentine Ozigbo, the CEO of Transcorp Hotels Plc: Mr. Ozigbo was literally at work whilst attending the 24th Nigerian Economic Summit. This is because the hotel, of which he is the CEO, served as the venue of the important event. Although he gave no speech at the summit, Mr. Ozigbo could be seen walking around, making sure that everything was in order.
Without any attempt at exaggeration, Mr. Ozigbo is such an efficient and down-to-earth human being. Recall that it was just weeks ago when Nairametrics wrote a special profile of him. Interestingly, on the same day the profile was published, news broke that come January 1, 2019, he would be taking up an even bigger role as the President/CEO of Transnational Corporation of Nigeria Plc. Talk about climbing the corporate ladder!
Other notable mentions
The Chairman of Nigerian Breweries, Mr. Kolawole Jamodu (FCA, CFR), was also spotted at the event. The highly accomplished business executive was listening with rapt attention throughout the session while jotting down important points.
Also in attendance was Mr. Pascal Gabriel Dozie, the founder and former Chairman of Diamond Bank Plc and father to the current CEO of the bank, Mr. Uzoma Dozie. The successful businessman, who was a former Chairman of the Nigerian Economic Summit Group, sat in the front row whilst calmly observing everything that was happening.
Mr. Dozie is a widely-admired businessman who, besides founding successful companies such as Diamond Bank Plc, is also the current Chairman of MTN Nigeria Communications Limited.
Lastly, we saw Mr. Aigboje Aig-Imoukhuede. He is the Co-Founder of Access Bank, Founder and Chairman of Coronation Capital Nigeria Limited and Founder of the Africa Initiative for Governance.
He spoke during one of the summit plenaries about the need for reforms in government agencies. This is important for the actualisation of the economic development which Nigeria seeks because, according to him, a public official can end a businessman’s dreams with a single stroke of the pen.
We understand that there might have been other important leaders at the summit which we missed out. But then, it was a big event with hundreds of high-impact individuals in attendance. Therefore, we acknowledge everyone that attended.