At the height of the “backward integration” campaign and calls for manufacturers to source their materials locally, Innocent Chukwuma of Innoson Vehicles stands out as the only manufacturer in the automobile space who has localised the production of vehicles.
From a small start of assembling the automobiles in Nigeria, Innocent Chukwuma has expanded to start producing and sourcing over 80% of his production materials locally, thereby creating employment at the local level.
This week on founders profile, we will be looking at the zero to hero story of this dauntless entrepreneur, the man behind Africa’s first indigenous motor brand, Innocent Chukwuma.
A rough start
A year after independence, Innocent Chukwuma was born on 1st October, 1961 in Uru-Umdim, Nnewi (now in Anambra State). As you may well know, Nnewi is also known as the Japan of Africa, for being a hub for automobile spare part dealers.
His was a very humble family, with Chukwuma Mojekwu (Innocent’s father) working as a junior civil servant and the mother/wife, Martina Chukwuma being a stay-at-home mum. Innocent was the last of six children, comprised of four boys and two girls.
As a child, Innocent lost his dad and was left to be raised by his mum. Though this was a traumatising and shocking experience for him at the time, he would later remark that the love from his elder brothers filled the gap, helping him to pull through the tough time.
He had his education in his hometown, up till the secondary level. All the while, he nursed dreams of becoming an Engineer. However, by the time he completed his secondary school education in 1978, he applied to the university, but failed to attain the cutoff mark and so was denied entry.
Making the most of fate
While awaiting another chance to apply, he started assisting one of his elder brothers who had a medicine store. This brief stint as a teenage sales boy showed Innocent that he had a natural talent for trading.
Combining his interest in engineering with his love for trading, Innocent moved on to commence a one-year apprenticeship with Chief Romanus Eze Onwuka who was the biggest motorcycle spare parts dealer at the time. Onwuka later founded the first private stadium in Nigeria, Rojenny Stadium in Oba near Onitsha.
Within the year, Innocent mastered the act of buying and selling of motorcycle parts, a trade which many others take as much as five years to master. He later returned to his brother, Gabriel to put his knowledge into use.
Gabriel had already registered a business name – Gabros International – to trade in motorcycle parts. So, when Innocent returned, he gave him N3,000 to get the new venture off the ground. With this sum, Innocent purchased the first goods and rented a shop and within another year, proved to his family that he was worth his salt.
When they took stock of the business after 12 months, the brothers found out that the motorcycle part business under Innocent, was generating about 10 times more income than the medicine store. This realization formed the basis for closing the medicine store to concentrate on the spare-parts business.
Gabriel Chukwuma later invested in sports, real estate and hospitality, becoming chairman of Gabros International Football Club, a club which he later sold to Ifeanyi Ubah.
The birth of Innoson
In 1981, Gabriel gave Innocent some money to start up his own business. Adding this to his savings, Innocent started trading in Honda motorcycle spare parts under the name Innoson Nigeria Limited. This was not to last very long because Innocent’s dexterity soon provided him with sufficient capital to start importing motorcycles, not just the spare parts.
The birth or expansion of any business is tied to identifying a problem and proffering a solution. Innocent observed that the costs of motorcycles were a bit outrageous because they were imported in their already assembled form. Importing motorcycles like this made it impossible for a container to carry more than 40 units. As a result, the retail price was relatively higher.
Innocent then reasoned that if he could import the parts and assemble them in Nigeria, he could sell at a lesser price.
At this rate, the same 40ft container that could only take about 36 units of whole motorcycles, could take enough parts to assemble 200 units. After getting them assembled, Innocent had an advantage – he could sell his for N60,000, while competitors who were importing it whole could not afford to sell it less than N150,000 without running at a loss.
He was also able to vary his brands to get the best products at better prices, and very soon his competitors started buying from him. With this, purchase of second-hand motorcycles dropped because people were now able to get new motorcycles at very cheap prices.
With time, competitors like Leventis and Yamako figured out the strategy and also started importing parts to assemble locally.
Innoson takes to sail
Already dominating the spare parts and automobile space, Innocent could have rested on his oars but not so. He later says in an interview that it was always his concern to beat cost and be ahead of the game.
“…I looked at a motorcycle and realised that there is a lot of plastic on the body. So I set up a plastic factory. I decided to produce all the plastic components in my factories so that more units of the spare parts can go into a container.”
The plastic manufacturing firm is now one of the largest manufacturers of plastic products in Nigeria, and also one of the largest manufacturers of crash helmets in West Africa, with his erstwhile competitors now buying plastics from him.
With this done, it was only a matter of time before he dared to produce the first fully Nigerian vehicle under the aegis of the Innoson Vehicle Manufacturing Company. According to Innocent, he decided to go into vehicle manufacturing when he saw that the motorcycle business was becoming crowded out with Nigerians and Indians.
The Innoson Group has several subsidiaries now. Innoson Nigeria Limited (located in Nnewi) was incorporated in July 1987 and is now specialised in the manufacturing of motorcycles, tricycles, spare parts and accessories. It is Anambra State.
Innoson Technical & Industrial Co. Ltd is located in Emene, Enugu state and started operations in 2002, producing household and industrial plastics, storage container, fixture & fittings, health and safety accessories, electrical components and accessories.
Innoson Vehicle Manufacturing (IVM) is located in Nnewi and was commissioned in October 2010, and focuses on producing city bused, safe and cost-effective mini & midi buses, pick-up trucks and garbage collecting vehicles. The company also provides good services for repairs and parts supply.
The locally-made vehicles such as IVM Umu, IVM Umu and IVM Uzo now attract patronage from the political elites, government agencies and parastatals like the Armed forces as well as other paramilitary bodies.
Innoson General Tyres and Tubes Co. Ltd is located in Enugu state and simply produces motorcycles tyres and tubes, currently averaging about 8,000 pieces of motorcycle tyres and 13,000 tubes daily.
Innoson Kiara Academy
Technical expertise needed for the operation of a vehicle manufacturing company is not readily available. For the first few years of operation, IVM had to import a lot of foreigners to get the job done. However, Innocent soon came up with a technical expertise transfer strategy where the foreigners would return to their countries after teaching the indigenous staff.
“There are lot of unemployed graduates in Nigeria and we cannot continue to bring foreigners” he explained.
To further arrest the challenge of manpower, he established the Innoson Kiara Academy, a Technical and Vocational institution established in partnership with an international consulting firm.
The academy (branches in Enugu and Nnewi) runs a 9-months Education for Employment (E4E) programme providing courses that are tailored around the production processes and procedures of various factories within the Innoson Group. The students are taught in a kind of modern apprenticeship delivery format, and are expected to either become self-employed at the end of the training, or get absorbed into the public or private sector.
Innocent recalled that prior to this time, the Innoson groups had challenges of recruiting graduates who did not have any training on the practical production processes, but not the subsidiaries in the group simply recruit staffs from the academy who blend in easily once they resume.
Suits and legal tussles
Innocent Chukwuma and Innoson Group have been involved in several suits over the decades of its operations but most notable are its several legal tussles with Guaranty Trust Bank Plc. In one such suit, the Federal High Court, Ibadan Division, On 29 July 2011, through a garnishee order absolute ordered the Defendants (GTBank) to pay the sum of N2,048,737,443.6k to Innoson Nigeria Ltd.
GT Bank appealed the verdict twice claiming that the judgment was obtained by fraud, but the appeal was dismissed affirming the judgment of the trial Court. In a final note on 12 May 2017, the Supreme Court dismissed the GTBank’s motion stating, inter alia, that GT Bank engaged in double speaking and in a frivolous frolic in bringing the application.
In the fresh suit, Innoson Nigeria Ltd and Chief Innocent Chukwuma maintained that the words published by GTBank – that it obtained the Court of Appeal Judgment by fraud and fraudulent suppression of the fact that Innoson Nig. Ltd. was paid the sum N1,406,515,845.98 in final liquidation of the judgment debt – implied that Innocent Chukwuma and Innoson Nigeria Ltd are dubious, dishonest, dishonorable, and untrustworthy, of questionable character, fraudster, criminally deceptive, cheats and obtaining money through false pretenses.
The co-claimants insisted that GT Bank has injured their reputation, moral character, credibility, office, vocation and trade and demanded N400billion in damages; N100billion exemplary damages; N100billion for injury to feelings – mental pains and anxiety; N150billion for injury to reputation and N50billion general damages.
Innocent was made honorary Life Vice president of the Nigeria Association of Chambers of Commerce, Industry, Mines and Agriculture on 23rd of November, 2013, and is also a grand fellow of the Nigerian Institute of Strategic Management.
He sits on the board of IVM Innoson Group of Companies and is a member of the Manufacturer Association of Nigeria.
He also has on his shelf the Meritorious Awards by Nigerian Society of Engineers (NSE) 2008, Award of Excellence, Manufacturers Association of Nigerian (MAN) 2008 and also serves as a Chancellor at Imo State University, Owerri.
He received Honorary Doctorate Degree in Business Administration by the University of Nigeria in 2014, another from the Enugu state university of science and technology, and also a Doctor of Management from the Nigerian Defence Academy Kaduna.
He also received the Auto Personality of the Year by Guild Motoring Correspondence in 2013, Professor Barth Nnaji Prize for Technology at Igbo Awards in 2017, Best Customer by Bank of Industry, 2011, Officer of the Order of the Niger (OON) 2008 and Officer of the Federal Republic (OFR) 2011, among others.
Mo’ Abudu: From recruitment consultant to queen of modern-day media
From a talk show host to a media giant and to one of Africa’s most successful filmmakers, Mo’ Abudu’s name always rings a bell in the society.
Mo Abudu, the founder of EbonyLife TV, has become quite a sensation for her outstanding media productions and several entertainment deals secured with international partners.
Described by CNN as “Africa’s Queen of Media who conquered the continent,” practically all her film productions have been major cinema hits, holding down records years after their production.
She oversees all five divisions of EbonyLife Media – EbonyLife TV, EbonyLife Films, EbonyLife ON, EbonyLife Studios, and EbonyLife Productions Limited (UK); and has been described by Forbes as “Africa’s Most Successful Woman.”
This week’s Founders Profile focuses on Mosunmola Abudu, the woman who has successfully turned the tables and provided a platform to tell African stories to the world
Early years, early stardom
Mosunmola was born on 11 September 1964 in London, the first of three girls born to her parents, and had much of her early years and education in London, even though her family roots are in Ondo town, Nigeria.
After losing her father at age 11, she worked her way through college. The situation got her off to an early career start and at age 19, she had already become the brand ambassador of AVON Cosmetics for the African market.
She later bagged an MA in Human Resources Development from the University of Westminster in London.
Bold move into uncertainty
Abudu worked as a Recruitment Consultant in 1987, but left the United Kingdom for Nigeria in 1992. She took up a prestigious job as the Head of Human Resources and Training at the Starform Group, ExxonMobil.
After almost a decade on the job, she quit to become an Entrepreneur, a move that her family frowned at.
“Scary thought at the time, but I knew instinctively that I wanted to do more. On reflection now, I understand why some friends and family were worried about my decision. I had a great job, was paid well, the sky was the limit and I walked away from it all,” Abudu recalled.
She joined the train of full-time entrepreneurs. In 2000, she started Vic Lawrence & Associates Limited (VLA), a privately-owned specialist HR development company, and shortly after, she developed an executive training centre at Protea Hotel Oakwood Park.
Four years into this, she started Moments with Mo, and broke her way into the media industry, without any prior experience as a Presenter.
The syndicated daily talk show covered topical issues from lifestyle, politics, culture, health, entertainment, tradition, music to inter-racial marriages, and it was an instant success.
The show attracted frontline personalities like former First lady and then U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton; Fashion designer, Diane von Furstenberg; Nigerian Nobel Laureate, Wole Soyinka; President of Rwanda, Dr Paul Kagame.
Also, others like former Managing Director of IMF, Christine Lagarde; former Nigerian Presidents and Heads of State, Dr Goodluck Jonathan, Chief Olusegun Obasanjo, and General Ibrahim Babangida; African business mogul and philanthropist, Mr Mo Ibrahim, amongst others, graced the show.
“When I first approached DSTV with the proposition that Africa was ripe for its own Oprah Winfrey or Ellen DeGeneres show, I had already planned for a global TV channel opportunity.
“I explored channel possibilities with SKY in the UK and knew that I needed a big platform to project Africa in a different, more positive light. This was what incited me to start thinking of establishing Ebonylife TV and take African Stories to the world,” she explained.
Into the murky waters of film production
In 2013, Abudu took a step that would later earn her Forbes recognition as the “First African woman to launch a pan-African TV channel.”
She plunged all her investments and savings to launch Ebonylife Television, the first fully Nigerian-owned entertainment channel to be carried on the South African Pay TV platform – DSTV.
In several interviews, she said it was all about creating a more positive narrative around Africa and Ebonylife became the platform to achieve this.
Ebonylife TV acquired the rights to “Dynasty” and “Melrose Place” from CBS International and airs in more than 49 countries across Africa, as well as in the UK and the Caribbean. It has also been ranked among the top 25% of the most-watched channels on the DSTV platform.
“There are so many African stories that are yet to be told… Let’s take these stories to the world now, that’s the journey we’re on,” says Mo Abudu.
Achievements like a movie
From being Africa’s first global black entertainment and lifestyle network, Ebonylife went on to become a class act in film production.
Abudu has launched a string of series over the years including The Governor (about Nigeria’s first female State governor); Desperate Housewives Africa (based on Disney’s original series); Sons of the Caliphate (about the rivalry between rich and powerful families in Northern Nigeria); and Castle & Castle, Africa’s first premium legal series, amongst others.
In 2014, Mo Abudu took a deep-dive into filmmaking with Ebonylife Films, with several record-breaking movies.
One of her productions, Fifty, was acquired by Netflix in 2015. It starred Nse Ikpe-Etim, Ireti Doyle, Omoni Oboli, and Dakore Akande, and was Nigeria’s highest-grossing drama and number 1 film in 2015. It was also the only Nigerian film selected to screen at the 59th BFI London Film Festival.
In 2016, she was co-Executive Producer of The Wedding Party, a blockbuster movie directed by Kemi Adetiba, which broke the box office record of 2016. After it was premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival in 2016, it became the highest-grossing title of all time at the Nigerian box office, before it was acquired by Netflix in 2017.
The sequel came in 2017, when Abudu was also co-Executive Producer of The Wedding Party 2: Destination Dubai, directed by Niyi Akinmolayan and featuring the original movie’s main cast. The sequel broke the records of the original movie in terms of domestic and international revenues, and became the highest-grossing Nollywood film of all time.
The Royal Hibiscus Hotel was produced in 2017, directed by Ishaya Bako and featured many A-list actors. The movie made its debut at the Toronto International Film Festival in 2017, the only Nigerian selection and one of only three African features in the Contemporary World Cinema category.
Since the Toronto International Film Festival only beams its light on 48 of the best new films worldwide, it was an ace in the hole when the film festival described The Royal Hibiscus Hotel as a “Hidden Gem.” It was licensed by Amazon Prime in 2018 for audiences outside Africa.
Other productions by her include Chief Daddy, a star-studded film directed by Niyi Akinmolayan, which became the “Official Number 1 Nollywood film of 2018” and the third-highest grossing Nigerian film. It was acquired by Netflix in early 2019 after some weeks in the cinema.
Her most recent production, Oloture, is a feature film to expose the shady business of human trafficking in Nigeria, and the movie is set to create a whole new record at the box office by the end of the year.
The movie was directed by Kenneth Gyang and features Sharon Ooja, Omoni Oboli, Blossom Chukwujekwu, Omowunmi Dada, Kemi “Lala” Akindoju, Wofai Fada, Bukola Oladipupo, Pearl Okorie, Ikechukwu Onanaku, David Jones David, Sambasa Nzeribe, and Omawumi Megbele.
Speaking about her interest in African stories, Abudu said, “I have said it time and time again, the continent (Africa) has remained creatively silent for centuries, our stories are never told. Meanwhile, there is too much of the same in global storytelling.
“The world wants more, and because we are now able to provide a variety of stories told against a backdrop never seen before, we now have a seat at the table. Our stories are being accepted because they are authentic and relevant. Of course, most recent is the clarion call for Black Lives Matter and Black Stories Matter.”
Abudu’s knowledge of Africa’s creative and entertainment industry makes her a highly sought-after resource and she has spoken at the Wharton School of Business, Cambridge University Judge School of Business, and Harvard University.
She received an honorary Doctor of Humane Letters (Honoris Causa) from Babcock University in 2014. In recognition of her outstanding services to broadcasting and enterprise in Nigeria, the University of Westminster also awarded Mo an honorary degree of Doctor of Arts in 2018.
Her name has made it into several recognition lists including the Hollywood Reporter’s 25 Most Powerful Women in Global Television in 2013 and 2017; and The Powerlist 2018, an annual list of the UK’s top 100 most influential people of African and Caribbean heritage.
She was appointed a Director of the International Academy of Television Arts and Sciences, the organization responsible for staging the world-famous International Emmy Awards. She was also nominated in 2018 to serve as a member of the Advisory Group on Technology and Creativity for Nigeria.
Abudu was one of four recipients awarded the 2019 Médailles d’Honneur in Cannes at the Marche International des Programmes de Television (MIPTV) in April 2019.
Ebonylife Sisterhood Awards
In September 2014, Abudu launched the Ebonylife Sisterhood Awards on her 50th birthday to “empower women to work together to accomplish great things, and seek to celebrate women who have excelled in laudable achievements.”
The event was themed – “Mo @ 50, Celebrating sisterhood,” with awardees recognized based on their demonstration of excellence, commitment, innovativeness, integrity, and national impact.
Deals and partnerships
In 2018, Sony Pictures Television (SPT) announced a three-year deal with EbonyLife TV, that would include co-production of The Dahomey Warriors, a series about the legendary Amazons who took on French colonialists in a 19th-century West African kingdom.
This deal marked a first-time collaboration between an American TV production studio and a Nigerian production company – a milestone in Nigeria’s film production.
A similar partnership came in January 2020, when American entertainment company, AMC Networks announced its partnership with EbonyLife to produce Nigeria 2099, an Afrofuturistic crime-drama.
In the middle of the COVID-19 lockdown, Ebonylife signed a multi-title deal with Netflix to create two original series – a film adaptation of “Death and the King’s Horseman,” a play by Nobel Prize winner, Wole Soyinka; and a series based on Lola Shoneyin’s best-selling debut novel, “The Secret Lives of Baba Segi’s Wives,” along with multiple branded films.
It all started as a gamble
Ebonylife TV has taken another step towards independence after leaving the DSTV channel 165 in July 2020 for its own Ebonylife ON app platform. This will provide subscribers with unlimited access to contents and series on the app.
In December 2019, Abudu launched EbonyLife Place, a luxurious lifestyle and entertainment resort, with a boutique hotel, restaurants, 5 luxury cinema screens, an event hall and meeting rooms, in the heart of Victoria Island, Lagos.
“It all started as a gamble,” Mo says about her achievements. “I took a gamble, but I heard God whispering to me, ‘Mosunmola, go out there and live your dreams,’ and so I did.”
Ibukun Awosika: The journey from chemistry lab to board meetings of First Bank of Nigeria
This week’s Founder’s Profile features an amazing woman whose achievements and career has been dominated by many firsts.
Ibukun Awosika is widely known as the Chairman of First Bank of Nigeria – a remarkable feat for a woman in the corporate world, even by 21st century standards.
A versatile woman, she is different things to different people – Businesswoman, Author, Founder, Corporate executive, Actor, amongst others, but became popular to the millennials during the Dragon’s Den programme in 2008 and recently in her stellar role in the 2020 movie Citation.
She was the only woman amongst five Nigerian entrepreneurs to feature in the first African version of Dragon’s Den, where entrepreneurs pitch their business ideas in the hope of getting investment finance. She also hosts a T.V programme called Business His Way.
Nairametrics Founder’s Profile beams its searchlight on this brilliant woman with an eye for opportunities, which she says can spot an opportunity 10 miles away.
Early years and career dilemma
Bilkisu Abiodun Motunrayo Omobolanle Adekola was born on December 24, 1962, to a Nigerian father from Ibadan and a Cameroonian mother – Mr Abdulmashood Adekola and Hannah Aduke Adekola.
She attended St. Pauls African Church Primary School, Lagos and Methodist Girls’ High School, Yaba, and later bagged her first degree in Chemistry from the University of Ile-Ife (now Obafemi Awolowo University).
Ibukun said she was unsure what career path to pursue. She went from wanting to be an Architect as a child to choosing Accountancy and later Law. While studying Chemistry at Obafemi Awolowo University, she desperately tried everything to get into Law.
“Did I enjoy my university days? No, because I didn’t even like Chemistry. In-between that, I wanted to be a lawyer. I put in a lot of effort to make the Dean of Law to accept me into the Faculty of Law.
“But I have to fail chemistry for Chemistry department to release me to Law, and Law wanted me to pass with the best result in order to accept me into Law. It was all confusing. By the end of that year, I changed my mind about wanting to become a Lawyer.
“I decided to be an Accountant. So, I started taking a lot of electives in the department of Accounting from Part Two to Part Four,” she recounted.
After graduation, she served out the mandatory one-year National Youth Service Corps service at Akintola Williams & Co. (now Deloitte) as an Audit Trainee, in the hopes of taking an accounting examination later and going to work in a bank.
However, this one year was enough to show Ibukun that though she loved figures, she hated the idea of moving from one company to the other going through old dusty files.
She said, “I didn’t need anybody to tell me this. I was too restless to just keep following certain procedures that are laid down. I was so restless and I needed to be able to express myself, as there was no room in the Auditing process to do that.
“At the end of my service year, even though they offered me permanent employment, I turned it down.”
She then returned home and took up a job as Showroom Manager with Alibert Nigeria Ltd, a Lebanese-owned furniture company. Ibukun only lasted three and a half months with the company.
In that short time, she rediscovered her love for architecture, and came up with amazing ideas of how she could design and create furniture to play around with space.
Still in her 20s, Ibukun took a brave leap to establish a furniture manufacturing company called Quebees Limited, to give her room for expression.
The company evolved into The Chair Centre Limited and later SOKOA Chair Centre Limited, following a venture merger with SOKOA S.A and Guaranty Trust Bank in 2004, after 15 years of its existence.
The merger became necessary to facilitate successful local production, after the federal government banned importation of furniture.
Awosika is the CEO of The Chair Centre Group, an umbrella for several companies – The Chair Centre Limited, SOKOA Chair Centre Limited, Furniture Manufacturers Mart, TCC Security Systems, and Cubes and Boxes Limited. All of which firms have earned a space in the competitive global industry.
Quebees is a company Ibukun is particularly proud of, especially for the quality of products the company provides its customers.
“I love to walk into your home and say, ‘I sold this chair to you 10 years ago’ and my clients affirm that it is still functional. The CEO of Stanbic IBTC Holding Company, Sola David-Borha, once told me that a sofa I made for her in my first two years in business was still in her possession.
“The sofa is about 26 years old. So, when we celebrated our 25th anniversary, we went to shoot the sofa in her home, because we were documenting some of our products.”
The Challenging early days
Ibukun recalls that as a young girl in her twenties and with no business experience, no bank was willing to loan her money, and she got frustrated because of inadequate machinery to meet the needs of clients.
With some support from her parents and others who believed in what she was doing, she raised sufficient money to buy used machines from some furniture companies, which were shutting down at the time.
From scratch, Awosika built the company around her personal values and virtues, refusing to cut corners to make quick money because she wanted to create a business that would outlive her.
“I am consumed by the fact that I want my business to survive when I am gone, otherwise I would have wasted my life. I started business in my twenties, so why would I work so hard for so many years and not build a legacy?” she asks.
While delivering an address as a Guest Lecturer at the Second Convocation Ceremony of the Entrepreneurship Development Centre, Lagos, she recalled the challenging early days when Quebees had to prove its worth to the market.
The company had made a set of furniture for one of its early clients – Texaco Nigeria, and two weeks after delivering the goods, they were broken due to a failed warranty from a Lebanese company, where the base of the chairs was purchased.
“For a company of our size, it was a big loss. We could abandon the customer and move on. But my name is more important than even money. I chose to maintain our integrity and retain our credibility.
“We replaced them. It was a killer. But I realised that we stood to benefit more if we do the right things at all times. That job produced many other jobs,” she said.
Mrs Awosika gets most of her business ideas when she is on a flight, as this is the time she re-evaluates and takes a lot of critical decisions. “I know my strength and I can see or smell an opportunity 10 miles ahead. I am innately proactive and also an ideas machine,” she said.
Other interests, awards, and recognition
She is the author of The “Girl” Entrepreneurs and Business His Way. Both books are part of her efforts to build an army of strong-minded moguls, particularly in Africa.
She is a regular speaker at the After School Graduate Development Centre, a career centre she co-founded in 2011 to check the high rate of unemployment in Nigeria.
Recently, she received the Forbes Woman Africa Chairperson Award in the Africa Forbes Woman Awards 2020. But she is not new to awards and recognition.
In 2006, she won the FATE Model Entrepreneur Award of The Year, organized by the FATE Foundation. She was also awarded the 2007 Golden Heart Award from the International Women Society Award and the International Women Entrepreneurial Challenge Award in 2008.
She has also been nominated for several recognitions over the years including the 2005 This Day Entrepreneur of The Year award, Success Digests Female Entrepreneur of the Year category of the Annual Enterprise Award, and the Best Female Entrepreneur of The Year 2006 in the Financial Standard and Pan-African Organisation for Women Recognition.
In 2000, when she had already become a successful entrepreneur, Ibukun returned to do a Chief Executive programme at the Lagos Business School, and later to Barcelona, Spain to do MBA Global Executive programme at the IESE Business School – University of Navarra.
She is a fellow of the African Leadership Initiative and Aspen Global Leadership Network, a member of the Nigerian Economic Summit Group, member of the board of Nigerian Sovereign Wealth Fund and co-founder and former Chairperson, Board of Trustees of Women in Management, Business and Public Service (WIMBIZ).
She is also a member of IESE’s International Advisory Board and sits on the board of Digital Jewel Limited and Cadbury Nig. Plc, Convention on Business Integrity and the Nigerian Sovereign Investment Authority.
She was Chairman, FBN Life Assurance Limited, FBN Capital Limited, and Kakawa Discount House Limited. She also served on the board of the Nigerian Sovereign Investment Authority, as well as the National Job Creation Committee (NJCC).
On September 7, 2015, Ibukun became the first woman to be appointed Chairman of First Bank of Nigeria, following the resignation of Prince Ajibola Afonja.
Mike Adenuga: The journey from petty trade to Conoil and Glo
From a humble start, Mike Adenuga has become one of Nigeria’s most successful entrepreneurs whose impact is being felt across the continent.
The axiom goes that “life begins at 40”, but for Mike Adenuga, the CEO of Globacom, who became a millionaire at the young age of 26, life began in his 20s. Today, he is one of Africa’s richest and holds business interests across several sectors of the economy and in various countries on the continent.
Michael Adeniyi Agbolade Ishola Adenuga was born on the 29th of April, 1953 to the family of Oloye Michael Agbolade Adenuga Snr. and Omoba Juliana Oyindamola Adenuga.
He schooled at Ibadan Grammar School and obtained his Higher School Certificate from the Comprehensive High School Aiyetoro, before travelling out for his higher education.
He got his first degree in Business Administration from North Western Oklahoma State University and his MBA from Pace University, New York.
Notwithstanding, Adenuga fondly attributes his business sense to his mother, who was also a businesswoman. Even as a student, the young Adenuga did not have things easy, and even had to hustle as a taxi driver in New York to pay for his university tuition. He also sold drinks and lace materials at one time, doing whatever business he could to raise money.
Fate smiled on him, and thanks to his numerous hustles, he made his first million in 1979 at the age of 26, and has not stopped since then. He went on to start and invest in several businesses over the years, growing his wealth to become one of the richest men in Africa.
Adenuga saw the potentials of the booming oil industry in Nigeria and started applying for a license in the late ’80s.
However, he did not get one until a new policy was made by Professor Jubril Aminu, the Oil Minister during General Ibrahim Babangida’s regime, allowing individuals to venture into oil exploitation and exploration.
He obtained the drilling license in 1990 and started exploration with his new company, Consolidated Oil, in Ondo state.
By the end of the 90s, as the nation returned to the democratic dispensation, Adenuga saw another potential in the telecommunication industry and acquired a conditional GSM license from the Federal Government in 1999.
After it was revoked, he obtained a second one in 2004, when the government held another auction. He used this license to found Globacom in Nigeria, which has now grown into other African countries like Benin republic, Ghana, and Côte d’Ivoire, with millions of subscribers.
The telecom company is considered a major competitor to the giant MTN group, and is still prospecting licenses in other West African countries.
In May 2015, Mike Adenuga made a takeover bid and acquired the Ivorian mobile telecoms operator “Comium” in Cote d’Ivoire for $600m.
Debts and scandals
In 2006, the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission raided the head offices of Globacom, Equitorial Trust Bank (ETB), and Conoil, and invited Mike Adenuga for questioning about a case of money laundering. Subsequently, he was implicated and detained for money laundering.
He later left the country and went to live in London for a while until late President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua’s regime granted him a pardon, making it possible for him to return home to Nigeria.
In June 2016, it came to the limelight that Mike Adenuga was being pursued for a combined debt of over $140.5 million by two foreign and one local company. It was reported in the news that his company Conoil had failed to pay debts owed to multiple creditors including the French oil giant, Total.
Another company owned by Adenuga, Bellbop, had an interim injunction placed on it by the High Court in Lagos, after it also failed to pay the $9.4 million owed to the US oil and gas firm, Baker Hughes. It was reported that some of the creditors had been hit so hard by the huge debts, that they had to shut down some of their operations.
A local oil servicing company, Depthwize, for instance, had been forced to lay off workers and shut down services on two of Conoil’s rigs, saying the debt of $40 million had incapacitated the company to the point that it could no longer afford the day to day running cost of working on the rigs.
Coming a short while after the business mogul increased his net worth by almost $5 billion, the scandal of course attracted a lot of criticisms.
Mike Adenuga carries out his philanthropic activities through the Mike Adenuga Foundation, helping people in Nigeria and other African countries.
He has received several recognitions including the African Entrepreneur of The Year at ATA in August 2007, Grand Commander Of The Order of Niger (GCON) in 2012, Companion of the Star of Ghana (CSG) in 2018, and was listed among the 100 distinguished and Eminent Nigerians Centenary Awards in 2018, amongst others.
In 2018, he was decorated with the insignia of a Commander of the Legion of Honor by President Emmanuel Macron of France.
He also holds a Yoruba Chieftaincy as the Otunba Apesin of the Ijebu clan. He owns stakes in different companies in Nigeria including Stanbic IBTC Bank and Sterling Bank.
According to Forbes recent rating, Mike Adenuga is currently worth $ 6.2billion.