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Everything you need to know about Fola Adeola, Co-founder, GTBank Plc

Fola was 34 and Tayo was 33, as at 1988 when they applied for the banking licence.



Fola Adeola, Co-founder, GTBank Plc

Owning a successful bank is not a mean feat for anybody to achieve, and owning one while being in one’s early 30s makes it even more exceptional. It takes grit, ambition and business acumen to pull off such an achievement, and these are all traits that Fola Adeola had in excess when he established his bank in the late 80s. 

In this week’s Founder’s Profile, we bring you Fola Adeola, the serial entrepreneur who co-founded Guaranty Trust Bank (GTBank). 

Early years 

Born into a large family in 1954, Fola Adeola did not have a privileged childhood. Even though his father was a bank clerk at the time, his income was not enough to go round providing 17 children their necessities.  

To supplement the family income, his mother would send him and his brothers to join her in hawking wares on the streets of Surulere, where they lived. While this was not the childhood many would have asked for, young Fola did not allow it go to waste but used it to develop his character and business skills.  

He attended St Paul’s School, Breadfruit and Methodist Boys High School in Lagos, before moving to obtain a Diploma in Accounting from Yaba College of Technology in 1975. 

He had his trainings at Deloitte, Haskins and Sells and D.O. Dafinone & Company (both Chartered Accounting firms) and became a Chartered Accountant in 1980. He has since then received other professional development trainings at notable institutions including Harvard Business School, INSEAD, and the International Institute for Management Development in Switzerland. 

READ ALSO: GTBank Releases Q1 2020 Unaudited Results, Reports Profit Before Tax of ₦58.2 Billion

He served as Senior Auditor at D.O. Dafinone & Co. before joining NAL Merchant Bank in 1982 as a Manager. In 1986, he moved to Continental Merchant Bank Limited as Deputy General Manager & Divisional Head, Financial Services Division 

It was at this time that he moved to Ikoyi with his colleague and childhood friend, Adetayo Aderinokun, who was also a staff at Continental Merchant Bank.  

Barber by necessity 

No business thrives better than one set up for the purpose of meeting needs, and Fola was quite conscious of this. As a new resident at Ikoyi, the first challenge he had was getting a place to cut his hair. Along with other professionals residing in the environ, they had to commute to the mainland to get a haircut.  

Though this was largely inconvenient, the need to solve a problem did not bore a deep hole in Tayo’s heart until he witnessed a fatal accident on the Eko bridge, one Sunday afternoon.  

“The only thing that came to my mind was whether the victim of that accident was also on his way to the barbers! I decided then that we would put barbers in Ikoyi, he later wrote in his tribute to Tayo Aderinokun. 

The two friends pooled funds together and in no time, they put the first barbing salon in Ikoyi – Finishing Touches Barbing salon. Running the salon together, Fola and Tayo discovered they had a similar appetite for business risks.  

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Years later, Fola and Tayo decided to sell off the barbing salon so that they could concentrate on the infant Guaranty Trust Bank.  


As Fola recalled, One of the terms of the sale was that Tayo, myself, and all our male children, would cut our hair for free, forever!”  

Funny clause, you might think, but that said a lot about their shrewd business skills.  

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When Tayo was heading a branch of the bank in Kano, Fola paid him a visit, and together they decided to arrest the problem of a members-only gym. However, this dream could not materialize as planned. They rented a property and set out to remodel it, but when after two weeks, the landlord could no longer recognize his property, he raised an alarm and the two friends had to look for the money to restore the property to its former condition.  

It was a colossal loss for them. With much less loss, some other person may have given up on the entrepreneurial journey, but not Fola. The die-hard businessman in him was ready to make losses if need be, but he was not ready to give up on it.  

Fola Adeola and Tayo Aderinokun in the early years of GT Bank

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Another venture 

By the time Tayo returned to Lagos from Kano, Fola was ready to revisit the topic of starting a bank. It was a discussion they had had in the past, but were yet to take action on.  

READ MORE: Nigerians react as finance expert rates home ownership a bad investment

In a recent interview, he noted that a deeper realization of readiness occurred when he received a couple of offers from others seeking to get a banking license. It was a point where he asked himself, why he had to go run a bank to fulfill another person’s vision, rather than his.  

Fola Adeola and Tayo Aderinokun were both qualified to run a bank individually, but going together meant that there were less chances of failure. They applied for a banking license and set about rallying the needed capital.  


“For me, the idea of a commercial bank never died. I revisited it with Tayo, and told him I was now prepared to go ahead, as I felt the window of opportunity for a licence was narrowing. This was in January 1989. Fortunately, he agreed, and the rest is now history, Fola later wrote. 

They brought about 40 friends into the venture, most of whom were in their thirties and working for different organisations. The likes of Femi Pedro, Akin AkintoyeGbolade OsiboduBode Agustoand Moses Ochu were involved in the project.  

READ MORE: COMMENTARY: Moody’s changes outlook on Nigerian banking sector to negative

Fola was 34 and Tayo was 33, as at 1988 when they applied for the banking licence. It took countless meetings in Fola’s residence, and later in Tayo’s First Marina Trust office in Victoria Island before they raised the required capital.  

August 21990, the duo received the banking licence No. 58, dated August 1, 1990, and signed by the then Federal Minister for Finance, Chief Olu Falae, for Guaranty Trust Bank Limited. Femi Pedro recounted in his 2015 article The Curious Case of Young Generations, “A group of young boys in their early/mid 30s OWNED a bank! We simply dreamt big, and turned this dream into reality.” 

The bank broke even in record time, and was listed on the Nigerian stock exchange in 1996. 

On July 31, 2002, Adeola voluntarily retired from Guaranty Trust Bank, after 12 years, handing over to his friend and partner, Tayo Aderinokun.  

18 years later, he would say, My joy is that in my lifetime, an organization that I birthed, can stand on its own without any input from me or my partners. That means that in some decades, someone can say, GT Bank since 1990, and 1990 would sound to them the way 1550 sounds to us now”. 

Fate Foundation 

While still at the bank, Adeola in 2000 established a non-governmental organization, the FATE Foundation. The aim was to encourage entrepreneurship, using a mix of training, mentoring, loan support and consulting to support young Nigerians. 

As part of its activities, the organisation opened an innovation centre in Abeokuta, the Institute for Venture Design, in collaboration with the Centre for Design Research at Stanford University. It now runs an entrepreneurship program focused on engineering, technology, and innovation, and which aims to promote development of industry in Nigeria. 

In the last two decades, the FATE foundation has served over 30,000 young Nigerian entrepreneurs, with over 65% fully employed by their businesses and employing an average of four staff. 

Other accomplishments  

Since retiring from the bankhe has headed the boards of several companies including Arm HoldingsLotus Capital (where his wife Hajara Adeola is MD/CEO)Eterna Oil, CardinalStone Partners Limited, UTC, Credit Registry Services and MainOne Cable Company Limited 

Fola Adeola also served as board member with Tafsan Breweries and is a member of the Governing Council of Lagos State University.  

In public service, Adeola’s activities are quite notable, and this has formed a major part of his activities since he left GT Bank.  

READ ALSO: Analysis: GTB is minting profits but CBN is squeezing its cash.

He was the Chairman of Lagos State Disaster Relief Committee, a team set up as a result of the January 27, 2002, Lagos bomb explosion, and also a member of the Solid Minerals Committee and the Chairman of Ogun State Development Trust Fund Committee.  

Adeola served as a member of the Global Advisory Committee on Philanthropy of the World Economic Forum for four years. In 2001, he was invited to join twenty-four other business leaders for the Aspen Institute ISIB Annual Business Leaders Dialogue in Aspen, Colorado. In May 2004, he was appointed Commissioner on the Commission for Africa by the British Prime Minister Tony Blair. 

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In 1999, Mr. Adeola was awarded membership of the National Institute of Policy & Strategic Studies (MNI) in Kuru, Jos, after completing a one-year sabbatical at the institute. He is a Fellow of the Institute of Chartered Accountants of Nigeria and Fellow of the Institute of Directors of Nigeria.  

He was the Vice Presidential running mate of the Action Congress of Nigerian (ACN) in the 2011 presidential election alongside the party’s presidential candidate, Mallam Nuhu Ribadu 

Fola Adeola has bagged several awards and recognitions including the distinguished Officer of the Order of the Federal Republic (OFR).  

Ruth Okwumbu has a MSc. and BSc. in Mass Communication from the University of Nigeria, Nsukka, and Delta state university respectively. Prior to her role as analyst at Nairametrics, she had a progressive six year writing career.As a Business Analyst with Narametrics, she focuses on profiles of top business executives, founders, startups and the drama surrounding their successes and challenges. You may contact her via [email protected]g

1 Comment

1 Comment

  1. Otito Ola

    July 28, 2020 at 11:04 am

    Fola’s contribution to the public and private sector also include chairing of the Pension Reform Committee whose report led to the Pension Reform Act 2004.

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Bridget Oyefeso-Odusami: The emergence of a marketing and brand communications guru

Oyefeso-Odusanmi has certainly marked her presence in the corporate world of marketing and brand communications.



Though not everyone can be the Director-General of the World Trade Organisation at the same time, there are women equally etching their names in various industries across the globe. Stanbic IBTC Holdings PLC has one of such women.

As Head, Marketing and Communications, Bridget Oyefeso-Odusami is showing that her 22 years of experience in brand strategy, sponsorships, digital marketing and communications have equipped her in ways a Doctoral degree might not have, especially since Integrated Marketing Communications is hardly offered as an independent course in institutions.

Bridget Oyefeso-Odusami bagged a Bachelor of Science degree in Botany from Lagos State University, and a Post Graduate degree from the University of Leicester, UK, before foraying into marketing communications.

Career journey

She was Marketing Manager of Aero Airlines for 6 months, and was with British Airways for 9 years, serving in several various marketing and sponsorship positions.

Her professional recognition started back from her time managing the British Airways corporate image in Nigeria and other African countries, where she received the highest ratings for creativity, innovation and dedication for functional responsibilities at British Airways Plc, the best of British Airways community volunteering award.

She served as Executive Director at Change-A-Life between September 2009 and June 2010, and was also Head, Sponsorship and Event at First Bank Nigeria Limited for over 6 years.

Oyefeso-Odusami served as Corporate Investment Banking Marketing Manager at Stanbic IBTC for over a year, before assuming the position of Head, Marketing and Communications department in acting capacity. The appointment was confirmed in January 2019.

It was in this position that she emerged winner of the Outstanding Corporate Communications Personality of the Year 2019 at the MARKETING EDGE Marketing and Advertising Awards of Excellence. According to the presiding board, her versatility and inspiring growth in the Corporate Communications sector and performance in the marketing, advertising and brand management environment, had distinguished her among other nominees.
In August 2020, Oyefeso was appointed Non-Executive Director of the Stanbic IBTC Asset Management Limited Part-time.

Professional qualifications

She is a certified member of professional bodies such as Advertising Practitioners Council of Nigeria (APCON), the Chartered Institute of Marketing (CIM), UK, National Institute of Marketing of Nigeria, NIMN and an associate member of the Nigerian Institute of Public Relations (NIPR). She is also a member of Women in Business and Management (WIMBIZ), and has taken part in different global business and economic summits.

Other interests

Outside the business of marketing and brand communications, Oyefeso-Odusami mentors women and joins missionaries to reach out to widows in Northern Nigeria. She is also actively involved in a couple of Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs).

She attributes much of her successes to constant self-development, worklife balance, and properly apportioning time to work, family and self.

In an interview, she said, “Stay true to your commitments and give no room for excuses. Having the right support system also makes the balancing act easier. I believe they go hand in hand and flow into one another, with one fuelling the other and giving it room to flourish.”

She also noted that she had been fortunate to work in organisations that allowed her to grow and rise as far as her talent and desire could take her, irrespective of gender, and had the privilege of good career mentors.

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The story of women shattering the invisible ceiling always seem so rosy and inspiring to others, that the years of sweating it out are almost forgotten. Regardless of this, talent and hardwork will continue to separate the best from the rest.


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TY Danjuma: The retired military general who made Forbes richest list

From the barracks to boardrooms, TY Danjuma has built and is leading some of the most notable companies in Nigeria.



It is not every day you come across a retired Military General who remains in the limelight more than four decades after retiring from active service and for reasons totally unconnected to the military service. This is probably the reason why some might consider General TY Danjuma to be one of the most controversial businessmen and retired generals in Nigeria.

Vocal as he is in Nigerian political matters, Theophilus Yakubu Danjuma is a force in the business environment, pulling weights in some of the most notable companies. Much of his wealth is attributed to his shipping and petroleum interests.

As at 2015, he was worth $750 million and ranked 30th among the top 50 in Africa’s 50 richest list (as compiled by Forbes), until he dropped off the following year due to weak oil prices. His businesses still continues and he remains on several boards still putting his business acumen to use, even in his eighties. The story of his move from the barracks to the boardroom makes for an interesting read.

Birth and education

Theophilus Yakubu was born on 9 December 1938 to Kuru Danjuma and Rufkatu Asibi in Takum, a farming community in Gongola (now Taraba state). Like many other children born during this time, he joined his father to plant yams, rice, cassava, and benniseed.

When he came of age, he had his primary education at Wusasa, and moved to Benue Provincial Secondary School, Katsina-Ala for his secondary education. Theophilus showed great interest in cricket and became the captain of the school cricket team. This, however, did not detract from his intelligence and he still bagged his Higher School Certificate in 1958, and immediately enrolled at the Nigerian College of Arts, Science, and Technology in Zaria (Ahmadu Bello University) to study history on a Northern Nigeria Scholarship. He barely spent a year there, as he left soon after to enrol into the Nigerian Defence Academy.

Military career

Danjuma was commissioned into the Nigerian Army as second lieutenant and platoon commander, and commenced his military career in The Congo.

He took part in the UN Peace-keeping force in Sante, Katanga Province in Congo in 1963, was involved in the Nigerian Counter-Coup of 1966 with the 4th Battalion in Mokola, Ibadan. He commanded the Nigerian Army’s 1st Infantry Brigade, and also led a battalion that freed Jaja Wachuku, first Speaker of the Nigerian House of Representatives as well as first Ambassador to the United Nations and first Foreign Affairs Minister, from detention by the Ojukwu government.

On several occasions, he was sent as Nigeria’s representative within and outside the country for several diplomatic missions. He served in active military service from 1960 to 1979 where he retired as a Lieutenant General, and in the highest office in the military – Chief of Army Staff under the military administration of General Olusegun Obasanjo. He later served as Minister of Defence between 1999 and 2003, under the President Olusegun Obasanjo civilian administration.

Business forays

General Danjuma made his first major foray into the shipping business when he founded the Nigeria American Line (NAL) and leased a ship called ‘Hannatu’ to facilitate trade between Lagos and Santos in Brazil. At this time, Nigeria’s bilateral trade agreement had opened the sea routes to economies in the South American markets and so NAL had patronage from Nigeria’s National Supply Company (NNSC) to bring in government goods.

Its client list later grew to include DICON Salt (Nigeria), Iwopin Paper Mill, ANNAMCO and Volkswagen Nigeria. From about 12 staffs in a single location in 1979, NAL grew over the next three decades to almost 300 staffs.

Danjuma also set up COMET Shipping Agencies Nigeria Limited in 1984 to act as an agent for NAL and COMET grew to become one of the largest independent agents operating in Nigeria, handling many types of vessels and cargo at Lagos, Port Harcourt, Calabar and Warri Ports. NAL-COMET acquired a roll-in-roll-out port (RORO) in Lagos in 2005 and became the largest independent port operators in Africa.

He still retains his stakes in NAL-Comet.

Oil business

After 15 years running the shipping business, Danjuma decided to veer into oil exploration and production and he founded the South Atlantic Petroleum (SAPETRO) in 1995 to serve as a vehicle for this interest.

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Three years later, the ministry of Petroleum Resources in Nigeria awarded the Oil Prospecting License (OPL) 246 to SAPETRO, with a bloc covering a total area of 2,590 square kilometres (1,000 sq mi). The company brought in Total Upstream Nigeria Ltd (TUPNI) and Brasoil Oil Services Company Nigeria Ltd (Petrobras) as partners in its oil prospecting.


The prospecting led to the discovery of Akpo (a condensate field), the Egina Main, Egina South, Preowei and Kuro. In 2004, SAPETRO won a tender process for an oil exploration contract covering 550 square kilometres offshore from the Republic of Benin and this opened the way for other transnational deals.

In June 2006, SAPETRO divested part of its contractor rights and obligations to China National Offshore Oil Corporation (CNOOC), but Danjuma still remains Chairman, while his wife is Vice Chairman.

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He also owns some real estate and has stakes in Notore Chemical Industries (manufacturer of urea fertilizer).

Other interests and honours

TY Danjuma holds the national honour, General Commander of the Order of the Niger (GCON). He also has several other national and international awards and titles, as well as honorary doctorate degrees from different universities, within and outside Nigeria.

Besides the companies he founded, General Danjuma has sat on the board of other companies like the NatCom Development & Investment Limited “NatCom”, (trading as ntel) where he assumed position as Board Chairman in 2016. He also served seven years as the chairman of Agip Africa until 1995 when he left to start SAPETRO.

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He has also been appointed into several committees and councils by the government, like in 2003 when he served as Chairperson for investigative committee on the Warri conflict. Danjuma also serves as Chairman of the Victims’ Support Fund Committee, supporting the victims of terror such as the Chibok schoolgirls kidnapping.


The TY Danjuma Foundation was set up in December 2008 and now partners with several Non-Governmental Organisations across the country to carry philanthropic gestures to the hinter areas and alleviate poverty.

The foundation targets the provision of basic amenities, education for children and young adults, and free medical care for indigent people. Over ₦3 Billion has been awarded as grants to NGOs working related goals in the area. Although the works first started in Taraba, Danjuma’s home state, it has extended to other areas. About 290 projects have been implemented across 31 states and the FCT, with over 8 Million people reached.

Every year since its inception, the foundation calls for concept notes and applications for funds from organisations with projects focused on health and education.


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