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5 Years of Spreading Luck – Everyone Needs a Little Help

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In business the role luck plays in success and personal achievement is rarely discussed. If luck is mentioned, it is done with slight condescension, and usually dismissed as a product of hard work, not deserving significant attention. While hard work is paramount – and I have written extensively about the importance of working hard – history and my own experiences show that there is often a large element of success that hard work alone cannot explain. It is simply not true that “you make your own luck.”

I started my career as a salesman, a copier salesman to be specific, young, hungry, and hardworking, but the reality was that I was just one of thousands of young Nigerian graduates, all eager to succeed. How did I get from there to where I am now? Of course, hard work, resilience, a long-term vision – but also luck.

A year later after earning my Master’s degree in Economics from the University of Lagos, I applied to join a new generation bank, Allstates Trust Bank. The bank’s one-page newspaper advertisement demanded a minimum 2:1-degree, but I applied regardless, submitting a cover letter and filled out application with my 2:2-Economics degree.

By a stroke of luck, my application was reviewed by the Chairman/CEO, a painstaking man who carefully read my cover letter and was drawn to the confidence in my words. “I know I may not have met the qualifying criteria for the advertised roles, but I am intelligent, driven, ambitious and I will make the bank proud. My 2:2 degree does not demonstrate the full extent of my intelligence and ability, and I know I can do so much more.” He read those words and took a chance on me. Though “unqualified”, he decided to throw me a lifeline, an opportunity.

I was invited to join the shortlist, followed by a long series of interviews and even more tests. At the end of a very rigorous process, I received good news – I had a place as an entry level analyst. Even now, I wonder: What if the Founder had not personally gone through my application? What if my application was rejected at the very beginning? What if I never got the opportunity to work at Allstates Trust Bank?

The story continues: within 12 months at the bank, aged 27, I went from analyst to branch manager – the youngest ever bank branch manager at the time. I was hard working, energetic, creative and prioritised getting things done, but it was also good fortune that my bosses Toyin Akin-Johnson and Ebitimi Banigo took notice, and then, believed in me. They took a chance on me by appointing me as branch manager after an incredibly short time in the bank. They recognised in me the raw materials needed to make a good leader and were prepared to invest in me and my ability. My rise to Branch Manager within a short period is a great story but I know in my heart, I was lucky, as well as deserving.

This position of branch manager was a solid platform which launched me into several top leadership roles. When we, a small group of hungry, determined, young outsiders, took over struggling Crystal Bank, it was as a direct result of the preparedness and exposure that we received early from our superiors and mentors. Without the intervention and goodwill of these people in my career, I would not have been prepared as I was to take on far greater roles. These learning opportunities laid the pathway to future achievements. Put simply, I was lucky enough to be identified and trusted so early on in my career, and this put me on a unique road to success. I keep this in mind – it is humbling and also drives much of what I do today.

When I left UBA as Chief Executive Officer (CEO) in 2010 to pursue other interests, I made a vow that through the Tony Elumelu Foundation, I would “institutionalise” luck and democratise access to opportunities for young Africans.  I promised to leverage the success I have enjoyed, to spread luck and hope, provide opportunities and to empower the next generation of African entrepreneurs to succeed. Without luck in my early career, I would not be the man that I am today. I am a leader and philanthropist today because I encountered people who gave me a chance early in my career. It has been a lifetime goal to pay this forward in a transformative and impactful way.

Over the past three decades I have spent as a banker, investor, and turnaround expert, I have had the opportunity to meet thousands of entrepreneurs, like me.  Many of them young people, with incredible dreams and business ideas but without the experience or the access to mentoring and support required in order to build successful businesses. But most importantly, they have not yet been exposed to the right opportunity.

Our entrepreneurs are hard at work across the continent, identifying gaps in the market for specific products and services, and bridging these gaps with their innovation and ingenuity. Yet, many of these budding entrepreneurs often lack the capital, the networks, the training, the support to take their small business to national or regional scale. All they need is a helping hand, some luck, someone to believe in them and take a chance on them.

This is what the Tony Elumelu Foundation offers: a platform that empowers African entrepreneurs– from business management training, to mentoring, to funding to networking – championing their cause and giving them a global voice to actualise their ambitions. This is precisely why I launched the USD$100 million Tony Elumelu Foundation Entrepreneurship Programme to empower the next generation of African entrepreneurs. Indeed, these may be the next UBAs (United Bank for Africa).

So, when I am asked, “Tony, why are you and your family doing this? What is in it for you?” I smile and recount my own story of luck. Luck is real, it is powerful, and I am committed to spreading it as far as I can. I am a beneficiary of luck, and I am passionate about sharing it across the continent, to all 54 countries.

I want our young aspiring entrepreneurs to apply. I want you to be a part of this global movement for good. I encourage you to be bold enough to let luck find you. There will be 1260 places open from January 1, 2019. Will you be among the lucky ones this year? Take a chance on yourself. Your future may begin today. Apply now at TEFCONNECT.COM

 

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DAPO ABIODUN AND TASCE IMBROGLIO

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By: Ade Balogun

In the twilight of the Amosun-led administration in Ogun State, the media was awash with the heartrending stories of the sufferings of the staff of Tai Solarin College of Education, Ogun State.

We were made to understand, through incontestable facts and figures, that the Ogun State Government owed TASCE staff about 64 months’ salaries. This revelation, coupled with some other excesses of former Governor Amosun, was a major factor in the defeat of his anointed governorship candidate, Adekunle AbdulKadir Akinlade of the APM, at the polls.

Despite gross intimidation, people voted for the incumbent Governor, Prince Dapo Abiodun with the belief that he would undo all the evils of Amosun, especially with his electioneering promise of giving the much needed succour to the staff of TASCE.

Shortly after the inauguration of Governor Abiodun, I was amazed to find the staff of the College still protesting the non-payment of salaries! My amazement turned into pure horror when I later learnt that five of the staff at the forefront of the protests were arrested and incarcerated!

My bewilderment grew in leaps and bounds when the Governor, in a media chat, actually acknowledged that he ordered the arrest of the five staff of the College to instill discipline and respect for constituted authorities, like former Oyo state Governor, Isiaka Ajumobi did to the students and staff of Ladoke Akintola University if Technology (LAUTECH), in the staff of the college. I was greatly disturbed by the Governor’s statements and position on the TASCE issue.

While I will not support anarchy in a system, it is simple logic that a man or woman that is being owed 64 months salaries cannot be expected to be rational. The fact is that the government actually created the state of anarchy through the non-payment of their salary arrears.

In the same vein, the best way to instill respect for constituted authorities is not through draconian actions but through consultations. Respect is different from fear. A government that toes the Machiavellian usage of fear, instead of love, to put the citizenry in a state of bondage will reap a harvest of pure and undiluted hatred.

With the aforesaid, I was greatly elated when I stumbled on an article in the Nigerian Tribune of 23rd October, 2019 titled ‘Dapo Abiodun: Silent restorer of education lost glory in Ogun’. TASCE featured prominently in the said article and the writer made us understand that the Governor had done the needful to return normalcy and sustainable peace to the college.

Given the fact that the staff of the college had stopped their protests, I had no cause to disbelieve the information. I immediately called one of my friends in the College to rejoice with him but to my utmost dismay, I was informed that the Governor has not paid a dime out of the accrued salary arrears and that since his inauguration on May 29, 2019, he has only paid half salaries for the months of June and July, 2019 despite the fact that the 1st semester examination has been held and that the 2nd semester is also about ending.

It was also learnt the Provost of the college, in person of Dr. Lukman Adeola Kiadese had been earmarked 50 million naira for the upcoming convocation of the college, which to be held on December 18, but amount to wastefulness and misplacement of priority, why don’t him expended the aforesaid money to pay the part of the money owing his staff of the college? the Provost also need to be cautioned in the way and manner handling the crisis of the college if he want normalcy to return to the institution and the government should also implement the report of the visitation panel, headed by Prof. Kamaldeen Balogun, by paying the Lecturers six months recommended in the report and call them to a round table and discuss modalities on how to pay the outstanding salaries’ arrears of the staff.

There is also heavy police presence in the college and anyone who dares to protest the inhumane situation in the college is either molested or queried. Why all these? At least, we are no more in military junta which also communicate through armed policemen or soldiers. But, I went back to check the name of the author of the article and I immediately understood my folly in taking the information contained therein on face value. He is no other person than Olamide Lawal, the political jobber who was fingered in the arrest of the five TASCE Lecturers.

If indeed the power strategy is the government’s plan to ensure peace in TASCE, then God should have mercy on all of us in Ogun State.

Balogun, wrote in from Ijebu-Ode, Ogun State.

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DEFORESTATION IN NIGERIA; THE CASE OF SHEA TREE PLANTATION AND IT’S ECONOMIC IMPLICATION

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By: Anuoluwa Openiyi

It is no longer a strange phenomenon in Nigeria the extent to which deforestation is occurring in the wild. Deforestation is basically the cutting down of tress in the forest. It is a process where vegetation is cut down without any simultaneous replanting for economic or social reasons. These trees are known to be viable, useful, both for social, economic and developmental purpose. It is believed that Nigeria accounts for the world’s largest place where massive deforestation takes place.

Deforestation is not without any implication as it affects adversely on the social and economic structure of the country. Deforestation also has impacts on social aspects of the country, specifically regarding economic issues, agriculture, conflict, and amongst many other factors. According to data taken over 2000 to 2005, Nigeria, located in the western region of Africa, has the largest deforestation rates in the world, having lost 55.7% of their primary forests (Wikipedia online Resource, 2019). Whereas, primary forests can be seen as forests with no signs or trace of human activities. It can be rightly said that Nigeria has lost a huge part of her primary forest to deforestation due to human actions.

Deforestation in itself is something that is somewhat inevitable, but it will be rightly justified had it been there are adequate continuous re-planting of tree which are been cut down. As part of cases of cutting down of trees in Nigeria is that of ‘Shea Tree’. The Shea Tree is an economic viable tree which grows naturally on its own as it cannot be planted. It grows in specific places in some parts of Nigeria such as Niger, Oyo, and Kebbi States. In recent times, the Shea Tree faces severe victimization of deforestation as the tree is been cut on a large scale. The Shea Tree has economic importance. The fruits could be used for the production of Shea Butter, moisturizing-related products, and many other related items. It provides local employment and economic opportunities to women in rural areas, and also generates a distribution channel for one of its generating products; ‘’Shea Butter’.

Having involved myself to be among a group of social researchers who carried out an empirical study in Oyo and Niger States on the production of ‘Shea butter’ in 2018, certain discoveries were made. The process of this research allowed me to discover the danger the ‘Shea Tree’ is faced with as a result of deforestation. In the process of our findings, I did some photo-documentary of a number of ‘shea trees’ that were hewn already. Findings and field discoveries show that a large number of Shea Trees have been cut down on a large scale. Considering the fact the Shea Tree grows naturally on its own in specific places, the issue of re-planting is out the case. This poses serious challenge for local women who benefits economically from the Shea Tree.

There is a need for urgent step to be taken across board so as to prevent further cutting down of Shea Trees. It is time for policy makers, stakeholders, and academia to come up with policies which would be implemented for the safe-keep of this magnificent natural resource.

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Awwal Garba AD: A Major Player in the Global Business Sector with Investments across Vast Terrains

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It is not in the pursuit of happiness that we find fulfillment, it is in the happiness of pursuit.” Denis Waitley

Taking a cue from Waitley, it is safe to say since the soul is the power and core of who one is, fulfillment is therefore the feeling of being happy and satisfied with one’s life because of interesting, useful, or important things embarked upon.

Alhaji Awwal Garba is a major player in the global oil and gas sector whose sense of fulfillment is succinctly summed up in the above analogy, as his life for a long time, has been dedicated to meaningful and oftentimes sacrificial commitments to his fatherland as well as to the lives of his countrymen.

With particular interest in Nigeria, Alhaji Garba has been discovering untapped resources within the oil sector upon which he has over the years, successfully built his chain of business interests, under the Magma Group, thereby immensely contributing to the economic growth and development of Nigeria.

With a humble mien, a virtue instilled by his upbringing, Alhaji Garba is a highly self-motivated person with an unbridled and a fervent desire to change the oil and gas sector narratives in ways that will benefit indigenous players and the Nigerian youths.

His words; “I was motivated into the sector by the desire to make a change, especially in the upstream sector of the industry where it is believed that only the oyibos (foreigners) hold sway therein.

“Of course, also in that direction would be the desire to contribute one’s quota to the national economy, in terms of creating jobs, which of course would help in giving the youths a sense of worth and direction.”

Early Years

Born into a family of affluence, Alhaji Garba may well be said to have grown up being fed with a silver spoon. His late father, a traditional title holder ‘Talban Kano’; a king maker, was also an astute businessman, with wide spread interests in commodity trading, exports and imports. It may not be out of place to say that Alhaji Garba cut his entrepreneurial teeth under the tutelage of his father.

However, with strict and disciplined parents, adherence to what is right was the only rule, and this helped in shaping his character and personality, which he himself admits was the greatest gift he received as a child.

“I thought my parents were being hard on us as children, but I have come to appreciate all those moments later in life. It actually made us humble, yet strong. This was the best gift I received as a child because it helped in shaping my character.”

The desire to discover himself spurred him to break away from the comfort and sureties that being under the umbrella of his father provided.

According to him, “I can say that I was born into privilege, but that did not stop me from finding my own niche. The most difficult thing was finding a balance by breaking away from my father’s umbrella in order to find myself. I call it the period of soul searching. It took time to find what makes me tick, and since then, it has become a passion to reach out to greater heights. More importantly, I have worked hard to create and maintain it. And I am still working hard.”

Education

Alhaji Garba had his early education in Kano, Nigeria and spent his early years in Nigeria and the United Kingdom. A Nigerian and British trained Economist of a rare kind, Alhaji Garba attended the Bayero University Kano, Nigeria and the City University, London, United Kingdom, tucking two degrees in his kitty from these institutions.

A Member of the Nigerian Institute of Management (NIM) and a Member of the Chartered Institute of Business Management UK, Alhaji Garba also acquired a Master’s Degree in Business Economics in the UK.  He has in practice been a major player in the oil and gas sector of the global business environment, with particular focus in Nigeria, since gaining his Master’s degree.

Entrepreneurship Drive

Awwal Garba is a man with very strong instincts which, interfaced with his realities have enabled him make life-changing decisions. One of the difficulties he had was deciding whether to go into private or public service. Looking back at the years of successful business entrepreneurship, his instincts to go for the former paid off handsomely, although from hindsight, it is clear to see that should he have chosen the latter, he still would have been profoundly successful.

A global oil and gas business mogul, Garba is an entrepreneur with an innate ability to sniff out business opportunities where many cannot; a rare disposition which has enabled him to excel in countless ventures and investments, especially within the oil and gas sector.

Garba’s major areas of focus cut across sectors like, Telecommunications, Power, Finance, Management Consulting, Marine, Oil and gas Exploration and Production (OEP), oil refinery and real estate development, among others.  He is a consummate professional with strong interpersonal and effective communication skills, integrity, tenacity and strength of character.

Awwal Garba’s core area of specialization in the oil and gas field is Exploration, with eight assets so far. He is building a 100 thousand barrel refinery in Akwa Ibom State at the moment, on a hundred hectare land, close to Exxon Mobil, while also negotiating with 3 marginal oilfields from oil mill 370 with Exxon Mobil.

“In the gas area of the sector, we have made proposals with respect to the Brass LNG, into which my partners and I are ready to commit $1bn. This would cut the issue of oil importation and also provide 300,000 jobs for skilled and unskilled workers in Akwa Ibom.”

Alhaji Garba’s companies include Magma Petroleum Investment Limited; Magma Exploration Production Limited, which is working on a JVU with Total Upstream, and also working with MPDC. His other companies  include  Magma Agro-Allied Limited; Magma Logistics Limited; Magma Gas and Power Spectrum Limited; Magma Pipe and Coating Limited, Rhone Petroleum Limited and H. Oil Limited, among others, all of which are aiding the economy of the country in terms of investment.

“We have Magma Exploration which is working on a JVU with Total Upstream, and also working with MPDC. We have Magma Gas and Power Spectrum working on acquiring the Brass LNG. It is a $1bn project, and already the funds are available.

“We have H-Oil Limited which has assets in Angola as well as South Sudan and Liberia, with offices in Paris and headquarters in Madrid, Spain.  Magma Logistics works with the Department of Petroleum Resources. We also have Magma Petroleum Investment in the downstream sector with our downstream partners, having facility in Amsterdam and distributing finished products all over the world.”

With this wide spectrum of business concerns, there are bound to be challenges. These however, are usually viewed by the astute businessman in the context of growth opportunities.

” The challenge of prospecting for and then drilling of oil is something we enjoy doing. On the exploration side especially, we want to expand and never get tired, that is why we are on the brink of acquiring more assets. We love the challenge. To get in there, prospect and drill the oil is something we just enjoy doing.

“Today, what kills the exploration business is greed. Many want to have everything and there’s no way you could do that when it comes to exploration.  We engage partners from all over the world and our logic is that ‘half bread is better than none’. We can give out an asset with 5% interest, an asset with 2%, it does not matter. What matters is that when you multiply the 2% x 10, you get 20%. This is our logic.”

Humble Mien

It is not really commonplace to find the virtue of humility in the lives of many of the affluent. The life of Awwal Garba is a marked exception because it is the way he was brought up. Whether it was his father or friends of his father, who included the MKO Abiola’s, the Maitama’s and the Babangida’s, they all pointed to the importance of the virtue and instilled that in him. He also admits that life itself also taught him about humility.

“Life has taught me to be absolutely humble. Life has taught me to be analytical as well as critical with myself in my everyday dealings. My heart will never deceive me into thinking I am anything different or special. Ego is a recipe for failure in life.

“I mean all you have to do is to look around you. The seven-year-old selling sachet water or Moi-Moi on the streets of Lagos in the early morning rush hour could have been you. He, also given your opportunity, could perform as good or even better. There are always two sides of a coin.”

    Patriotic Fervor, Leadership and Game Changer

Alhaji Awwal Garba is a de-tribalised Nigerian who sees his country as his constituency. Through his investments, he has been building bridges.

A unique vehicle with which he is stoking the embers of patriotism is ‘Game Changer’, a media established to ensure  that the Muhammadu Buhari administration continues to change the whole game; from Agriculture, Corruption to Healthcare and very importantly, to unite Nigerians and give them a sense of belonging.

He uses Ghana as a yardstick in buttressing the importance of patriotism. “You will be shocked to realise the level of their patriotism. A taxi driver always has the Ghanaian flag in his cab as with every household, like it was in America perhaps before the Trump era when American schools taught American history, the need to be patriotic and love for country. So patriotism is very important. Game Changer is here to bring awareness about patriotism.”

His friends call him the preacher and this is not just based on his knowledge and adherence to the tenets postulated by the Quran, but because he never stops preaching the gospel of unity among Nigerians, believing in the oneness of the country as a pathway to wealth creation in a more sustainable way, strength and endless possibilities. No wonder his house is always like a beehive or a Mecca of some kind.

Garba sees leadership as the ability to see beyond tomorrow and to commit to that vision totally, when those around you follow you with absolute commitment even when they do not see what you see.

“Those who do not remember history are certainly bound to be consumed by it. It has happened in many countries before. The Asian tigers, from Singapore to Malaysia, Thailand to China, they have all gone through what we are going through. Mao Zedong closed up China for 50 years before opening up.  America’s democracy took over 200 years to get to where they are now. Ours is only 50+ and with such multi ethnic groups, patience is the key.”

Philanthropy and Titles

Awwal Garba is a man with a heart of gold, compassionate, kind and in tune with his people. He believes in creating high-points in his life each day and one of those is the opportunity to make someone happy.

“There are just countless moments with that, but what you can do is to create one every day. Most importantly, put a smile on someone’s face and the picture stays with you permanently.”

It is not surprising then that he has been honored with the prestigious traditional titles of ‘Galadima Talban’, and ‘Talban Dan Hausa Daura’.

Family

Alhaji Awwal Garba maintains a closely knit family even as a very busy person, understanding the importance of family. Despite his busy schedule, which has shrunken some social activities, he still finds time to spend with his family.

“The pressure of work increased with growth, so whatever time I can squeeze out now for personal issues, I spend it with my family. We take the children to game parks when they are on holidays and try to have a feel of their minds by coming down to their level and appreciating them. My biggest fear is not being able to meet up with the expectations of my family and my loved ones.”

Even though Awwal Garba a fulfilled man, he believes in breaking new grounds as long as life permits him.

“I feel fulfilled in life, all the time. Yet, life itself is like sweet nectar from the most beautiful thorny fruit bearing tree. Once you taste it, you cannot but go back for another bite. I am always setting new goals to conquer.”

As Eleanor Roosevelt aptly puts it, “Happiness is not a goal. It’s a by-product of a life well lived.”

It is from that standpoint that Alhaji Awwal Garba says,” I believe in what life has dished out my way and believe me when I say if I have to do it all over again, I would not change a thing.”

Indeed, there must be some unique feeling that comes with blazing trails and impacting lives.

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