Prophet of Enterprise! How Femi Otedola Turns Vision to Profit, Bleakness to Goldmine

 Breaking News

Prophet of Enterprise! How Femi Otedola Turns Vision to Profit, Bleakness to Goldmine

October 26
06:07 2021

*Billionaire magnate puts the ease in entrepreneurship, philanthropy, as he conquers petroleum, banking sectors
*The passion and style of a venture artist, capitalist

In an era when both the mainstream and new media commit the systemic looting of accolades, heaping it on undeserving social symbols and demagogues, Femi Otedola attracts recognition by dint of his good works. Yes, like an indefatigable mariner, Femi Otedola, chairman, Geregu Power Plant, rides the storms, bolstered by a tenacious spirit and mulish resolve to excel and arrive with his dreams intact, on pliant coasts. 

Otedola is a  prophet of enterprise. No doubt, he’s one of the illustrious popes of commerce, robed and mitred in the resonance of their exploits. He is the artist, who paints beautifully on canvas with his feats even as he writes wonderful poetry by his exploits. Today, that unyielding spirit of his has paid off. It has seen him through the teething and oft tumultuous stages of the cut-throat world of global commerce till he emerged unhurt and stronger in spirit and resolve like a champ, writes LANRE ALFRED

Yes, in top business schools across the continent and beyond, the corporate exploits of Billionaire businessman, Femi Otedola, are veritable case-studies for academic researches. And there seems to be unanimity of opinions that Otedola  has created phenomenally successful businesses and changed the world in significant ways.

Of course, it is often said that to succeed in the banking sector, you must have the heart of Hercules, the fearlessness of Achilles, the grace of Terpsichore, the memory of Macaulay, and the hide of a rhinoceros, Otedola conveniently exude the aforementioned attributes and more, thus his ascension to the top of the banking industry’s greasy pole.

No doubt, in many ways, several men shared the destiny of many of their forebears who ventured into the fields of enterprise and failed.  Knowing this, Otedola  set out with the passionate intent to survive. Perhaps many failed, he thought, because they yielded too easily to the odds and elements of the world; perhaps the circumstances didn’t allow them to labour and thrive. Perhaps they cowered too easily before the brutal waves of tyrannical storms, or one ill-fated disaster, after another.

Perhaps none of them were cowards, they were simply too weather-beaten, terror- stricken, and maimed by the elements that they were stifled. As a result, those who somehow managed to create became, in his view, martyrs and saints.

In pursuit of his dreams, Otedola resolved to remain passionate, optimistic and humane. Even while faced with the ravage of false starts and defeat and the wicked humour of territorial, dictatorial fate, he kept faith in his capacity to weather the storms and succeed.

Balancing on the metaphorical high seas of tumult and toil, he stood unbending before the brute gale and other elements of the deep, something majority of men, quitters in particular, have always failed to do, generation after generation.

Now, billionaire Femi Otedola has sent seismic waves around the banking industry in Nigeria nay Africa with his recent acquisition of a 5.07 per cent equity stake in First Bank Holdings, the parent company of First Bank of Nigeria. Curiously, when the news first broke, the company denied knowledge of the takeover saying it had not received any such notification of a significant holding by Otedola from the authorities as is typically the case.

However, in a follow-up communication to the Nigerian Exchange Limited last Saturday, the firm said it received notification from APT Securities and Funds Limited that; “Mr Otedola Olufemi Peter and his nominee, Calvados Global Services Limited have acquired a total of 1,818, 551,625 units of shares from the Company’s issued share capital of 35,895,292791.

“Based on the foregoing, the equity stake of Mr Otedola Olufemi Peter and his nominee in the company is now 5.07%,” the notice signed by Seye Kosoko, company secretary, affirmed.

It would be recalled that in its 2020 annual report and accounts, the bank stated that “According to Register of Members as of December 30, 2020, there is no shareholder with 5% of the shares of FBN Holdings Plc.” Otedola, therefore, becomes the bank’s single largest shareholder on record. To underscore the positive reception of Otedola’s acquisition by the industry, FBN Holdings witnessed unusually massive trading in its shares and the cumulative number of units traded within the period surpassed 2.1 billion. The uptick in trading catapulted its share value by 62.3 per cent from the level it was three weeks ago.

The Lagos native is not new to such corporate derring-do; it may as well be for him like another day in the office. Lest the world forgot, he successfully rebranded and transformed a loss after tax of US$123m African Petroleum Plc in 2011 to a vibrant profit-making Forte Oil Plc with an average Profit After Tax of US$35m from 2012 to 2019.

Otedola also oversaw the successful reorganization of Forte Oil’s capital structure in 2013 because of accumulated losses through a scheme of arrangement for the company to be able to resume dividend payments in 2014 after five years of not paying dividends to shareholders. In 2016, the company, under his leadership, announced the closure of a N9bn corporate bond raise to shore up capital in the face of multiple devaluations and an increase in capital requirement. This instrument is listed both on the Nigerian Stock Exchange and FMDQ OTC Securities Exchange.

He also superintended the rehabilitation and commissioning of 30000 metric tons lubricants blending plant to drive the growth of annual lubricant sales from 6 million litres of various grades to 27 million litres while investing in storage assets rehabilitation, which enabled the availability of 60 million litres of white products, 800 MT LPG and 6 million litres Bitumen storage capacity. He did not stop there.

Otedola shored up the product distribution fleet with the purchase of 100 Mercedes trucks with 45000 litres, triple compartment tank capacity giving the company 4.5 million immediately available and deployable rolling stock and delivering a two-year ROI and average annual net freight income of USD1.639 million 

He also ensured that the company filed all its regulatory financial returns as and when due and consistently achieved early filer status with the Nigerian Stock Exchange from the 2012 financial year.

Among other feats, he led Forte Oil Plc to the second-largest major marketer by market share from the sixth position on appointment. By 2014, Forte Oil was listed among the Top 100 most respected companies in Nigeria and one of the top 50 brands in Nigeria based on the brand strength measurement index by the Top 50 Brands Nigeria. Other recognitions include the Most Innovative Retail Outlet of the Year 2016 by the Nigeria Innovation Summit; Best Corporate Social Responsibility marketing company of the year 2015; and Best Customer Service Retail Award 2016 by Oil Trading & Logistics Expo among others.

At the 414-MW Geregu Power Plant, which he acquired during the FGN Power Privatisation exercise of 2013 under a joint venture partnership with the State Grid Corporation of China/Shanghai Municipal Electric Corporation, the largest utility company in the world by size and market capitalisation, Otedola has revamped, transformed and increased the overall efficiency of the plant through a major overhaul exercise at USD 100 million thus increasing its capacity from 414 to 435 MW while operational capacity increased to 90 per cent. Instructively, current production from Geregu Power Plc accounts for 10% of the total power uptake of the National Grid. 

It beggars no misgivings to say unequivocally that in the life of Otedola, nothing trickles, everything pours; and in torrents too. From business to philanthropy, he continues to leave his peers panting streets behind. And for these, he is honoured at home and abroad. In 2020, he was honoured with the coveted ‘Philanthropist of the Decade’ award by Thisday newspaper as part of activities commemorating its 25th anniversary in January 2020. The influential newspaper’s board awarded 24 individuals and institutions for their contributions to the socio-economic and political growth of Nigeria. 

Otedola was so honoured, according to the awards committee, “Given his recent hefty donations to public cause and lifting the needy, it is not surprising that former Chairman of FORTE Oil Plc, Mr. Femi Otedola, is the people’s choice for philanthropist of the decade. His singular donation of N5 billion to assist children of terror-ravaged North-east remains unexampled. Some prominent Nigerians such as Sadiq Daba, Victor Olaotan, both actors; and former Green Eagles captain, Christian Chukwu, were rescued from the jaws of death by his philanthropic intervention in their medical issues.” Daba and Olaotan have since passed but their families would remain eternally indebted to the billionaire for helping to sustain and prolong their lives with his support.

Humanity has, indeed, benefitted immensely from Otedola’s prosperity. The benevolent billionaire has been responsible for the revival of the lives of some prominent Nigerians. He sorted the medical expenses of the famous reggae icon, Majek Fashek, who was sick and stranded in London. Majek later died in his sleep in June 2020. Otedola also footed the N36m medical bills of former captain and coach of the Super Eagles, Christian Chukwu, who had surgery at the Wellington Hospital, London, while he also came to the aid of Peter Fregene, a former Green Eagles goalkeeper, who had been bedridden since 2001. 

A lot of elite philanthropy is about elite causes but not so for Otedola who, in 2019, also offered to assist ailing Nigerian lecturer, Inih Ebong, a former associate professor in the Department of Theatre Arts, University of Uyo, who was wrongly dismissed from his job in 2002 and despite several legal victories, has still not been reinstated. The list of beneficiaries of his large-heartedness is inexhaustible. 

At the outbreak of the corona virus pandemic, Otedola was one of the billionaires who quickly rose to move the needle on rapid response efforts. He announced a donation of N1 billion towards the eradication of the pandemic in Nigeria, stating, “I will be contributing 1Billion Naira towards the eradication of COVID-19 across Nigeria. We must all do what we can to flatten the curve.”

He is not missing in the area of educational philanthropy. Otedola dazzled at the Augustine University’s Fundraising and Founders’ Day event held at the Muson Centre, Onikan, Lagos in 2018 when he pledged to donate a well-equipped Faculty of Engineering building to the institution. The foundation for the building, worth N2billion, was laid at a quiet ceremony on November 27, 2018. 

Similarly, he has made several donations to the Michael Otedola University Scholarship Scheme, which was established in 1985 by his late father, Sir Michael Otedola, to give underprivileged students in Lagos State access to higher education. Since its inception, the scheme has benefited more than 1,000 students. He once donated N100 million to the Otedola College of Primary Education in Noforija, Epe, Lagos State while in 2008, he donated N80 million to the Faculty of Agriculture at the University of Port Harcourt.

On his humanitarian gestures, Otedola was quoted as saying, “God has been so kind to me in life. I feel highly privileged. The only way I can show my gratitude to Him is to use my resources to support those who are underprivileged. This, I intend to do for the rest of my life. In a world full of conflicts, diseases, calamities and inequality, we all need to show the milk of human kindness, to reach out and comfort the sick and give a helping hand to the weak.

 “A lot of people think when they die, they take their money with them, we’ll see. In my journey of life, I have taken the risk, I’ve done the chase, I’ve enjoyed the thrill and I have achieved success and recognition. What next? You give it back!”

Also in 2019, he was named the biggest individual donor to the Lagos State Security Trust Fund (LSSTF). Subsequently, he and some other donors were celebrated at an event, ‘Transformational Security’ and the Lagos State governor, Babajide Sanwo-Olu, personally commended him for consistently intervening to improve the society. All of these have not gone unnoticed by a discerning world.

He was honoured by the Silverbird Group as its Man of the Year 2019. Also, he won the 2019 African Philanthropist of the Year by respected African Leadership magazine for his unequalled philanthropy and charitable contributions to society. At the African Leadership Persons of the Year Investiture Ceremonies and Awards gala night held in Johannesburg, South Africa, Otedola’s famous daughter, DJ Cuppy, received the award from the President of the African Development Bank, Dr. Akinwunmi Adesina, on his behalf.

Otedola was also a winner in the Leadership in Business category of the 2018 Zik Prize in Leadership Awards, instituted in 1995 to award prizes to exceptional leaders in honour of Nnamdi Azikiwe, Nigeria’s first president. “The purpose of this award is to encourage and nurture leadership in the African continent and Diaspora,” Professor Pat Utomi, a member of the advisory board, said. 


Why Buhari Should Be Impeached – Sanusi Lamido

About Author



Related Articles


No Comments Yet!

There are no comments at the moment, do you want to add one?

Write a comment

Write a Comment