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British Prime Minister, Fiancée Announce Birth of Baby Boy

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British Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s fiancée, Carrie Symonds, on Wednesday, gave birth to a “healthy baby boy” in a London hospital, a spokesman for the couple said.

“Both mother and baby are doing very well,” the spokesman said in a surprise announcement, as Symonds was not thought to be due until later in the year.

(AFP)

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Personality in Focus

How Title Deed is Responding to Stolen African Art

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By Jane Efagwu                                                                               Photos by Olaseni Okedairo

It is no longer a secret. 2020 has proven to be the year of something bigger than anything else: The black revolution. Africans everywhere are taking a stand against systemic oppression, discrimination and objectification of the African culture and her people. While this major cultural reset now dominates public spheres and has initiated major social discourse everywhere around the world, it is important to look back at where it all started. Africa. Before the now popular violence and commodification of Africans themselves, there was the very unpopular violence and commodification of African art.

Stolen. Shipped. Sold. Copied. Displayed. And now, owned by major museums around the world, the journey to the world stage for African art has been a painful one. However, if it’s one thing about art, it’s that it will always turn pain to power. This power is what Title Deed, a collective of seven young Nigerian contemporary artists-Wasiu Eshinokun, Maureen Uzoh, Ken Nwadiogbu, Lekan Abatan, Emma Odumade, Margaret Otoikhine and Yussuff Aina have employed in correcting the narrative and telling their own stories through their own art and in their own spaces.

Re: Mediation. An exhibition which was held at the African Artists’ Foundation (AAF) at Victoria Island, Lagos featuring works that boundlessly explore the theme of restitution. In these works, these artists demonstrate the importance of understanding the past and appreciating the present as a means of predicting and owning the future.

 

Eshinokun’s display features masking tapes dangling in an unending W motion, flooding the ceiling and connecting to the three art pieces on the wall which are also connected to themselves and each other. The artist goes a step further to pull the art out of the frame by featuring a live remake in a painted and taped human form. This one step produces several painted and muddled footsteps and the artist explains that this represents the movements of Africans and their culture such that we no longer know where it starts or where it stops. Wasiu also explains that the tape represents bondage as well as continuity of life for Africans, African art and of course, African artists.

For Ken Nwadiogbu the renowned hyperrealist, the eyes will always have it. This is how he represents consciousness in an unconscious world. He depicts the sale and commodification of consciousness by putting eyes on a coin. Nwadiogbu’s clever irony stings again when he puts open eyes on bodies and cages them with something made to cool us down – a fan.

To execute the theme, Maureen Uzoh employs a brilliant fuse of new media and old culture. Her works also feature heavy themes of sisterhood, African feminity and family. In one frame, Uzoh attempts to ridicule the idea of the West renting, selling or discounting African art to its rightful owners despite being aware and even wearing the countless headlines of stolen African art being reported in the media.

Abatan’s Our Ancestors Wear Prada shows the aftermath of a cross-fire meeting between Africans, their art and the West thus birthing popular phrases like ‘African American’. His works feature portraits of historical Benin, Ife and Nok art pieces dressed up in Calvin Klein, Adidas and Lacoste with African fabrics as the background. The mix up is almost comical yet thought provoking.

Restitution is literal for Yussuff Aina as he presents three dimensional versions of a recreation of Eniyan, his signature mask style. Eniyan, meaning person in Yoruba, takes on the form of newly excavated art pieces whose facial/body features have been damaged due to the gruesome unearthing process. One piece features Eniyan with palms pressed together and a marked cross on one palm. He explains that this is a way of using Western religion to beg/pray that the Westerners return the stolen pieces back to Africa.

Choosing a dramatic yet creative approach to the topic, Maureen Otoikhine casts African art and its stories in movie posters that attract you with their colors and captivate you with their details. The only photographer in the group, her use of black and white imagery on one of her pieces, Queen Idia, sees the filmmaker and photographer attempt to tell the Queen’s actual story before the tragedy. It is Maureen’s way of telling her own story as an Edo born Nigerian. She explains that the poster was actually for a short film that was supposed to be shot but was put on hold because of the pandemic.

What better way to change the narrative than to educate? But how do you educate people on what they can’t even see or understand despite how much it affects them today? Emma Odumade captures this glitch in the system by depicting the after effects of the looting on education and African children, who he says he used to represent dreams. His works are set against the heavy backdrop of the past while projecting the uncertainty of the future especially for the younger, upcoming generation.

The ‘Re: Mediation’ exhibition is a very refreshing take on the conversation surrounding African art and it’s movements because it offers a contemporary yet genuine view on the topic. The works serve as an intermediary between a distant past and an uncertain yet inspiring future. ‘Re: Mediation’ commenced on the 26th of September, 2020 and showed at the African Artists’ Foundation until the 12th of October, 2020.

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Personality in Focus

The Phenomenal Rise of Estate Giant, Sijibomi Ogundele (Sujimoto)

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The story of Sijibomi Ogundele, better known as “Sujimoto” who is now one of the youngest billionaire in Nigeria is inspiring and a reference point for a youngman, who desires to conquer. It is worthy of note that as at today, Sijibomi sits atop over $400 million worth company.

Dressed in a simple Polo T-Shirt on a Friday Evening, Sijibomi Ogundele, Nigeria’s youngest Billionaire and Luxury Real Estate Czar, can be seen on the Lucrezia project site, in the prestigious Banana Island neighborhood, inspecting the work done and ensuring every ‘i’ is dotted and every ‘t’ is crossed.

No one would have thought that this man, who is currently worth billions, was once a Souvenir hawker in France and also did alabaru for his trader Mum in Africa’s most populous market – Oke-Arin, where he was nurtured by enterprising Igbo Traders, which ignited his passion for business.

Growing up in the slum of Agege, as a little 8-year-old, Sijibomi’s first introduction to Entrepreneurship was when he started a bike business popularly called‘Okada’ business, from his little savings. Despite the usual African Parent’s disapproval, he drew inspiration from his mother’s entrepreneurial spirit and grew his Okada business from 1 to 6 motorcycles, a testament to his strong, resolute and resilient business mind.

A rose that grew from concrete, Mr. Ogundele who is only 39 has built his company, Sujimoto Group, in just 5 years, into a Luxury Construction behemoth, focused on building extraordinary edifices in premium neighborhoods of Ikoyi and Banana Island. With annual revenue of approximately $30 million and many other pending projects, Mr. Ogundele believes the Sujimoto group is worth over $400 Million.

His look may be modest but his ambition belies his modesty. After an encounter with the King of Dubai who pushed his ambitious project – LorenzoBySujimoto, from 15 Storey building to a 30 storey building, reminding him that; “To be second is to be last! If people in their 30’s are building 5000 units annually in Asia, 75 units shouldn’t scare you.”According to Mr. Ogundele; “I believe in Nigeria. My passion comes from my patriotism. I believe that the Nigeria that produced the MKOs, the Dantatas, and the Ojukwus, also has something great in store for me.”

The Lawyer tuned Entrepreneur who is son to a John Holt Manager and a trader mother never had the opportunity to attend King’s College or other expensive private schools but attended public schools. With a dream to revolutionize the Nigerian Luxury real estate space and an ambition taller than the Burj Khalifa, one can only wonder how he has steered his company to survive the brutal economic recessions within the last 5 years, growing stronger, bigger and better, to the consternation of the pessimists.

Sujimoto’s Giuliano project which is 100% covered in travertine stone, fully automated, 1st project with each unit having its private elevator and an award-winning Zaha Hadid Bathroom for Porscelanosa, set the standard for a luxury terrace in Banana Island, attracting clients like MD of multinationals, billionaires and music entrepreneur – Davido.

From Grass To Grace: The Story Of Sijibomi Ogundele "Sujimoto"
Sijibomi Ogundele ‘Sujimoto’

A stone throws from the Giuliano; Sujimoto is building what has been dubbed the tallest residential building in Banana Island – the LucreziaBySujimoto. A revolutionary building, never before seen in Nigeria or Africa! The first building with Glass Reinforced Concrete (GRC) façade, Full Home Automation, private IMAX Cinema for the residents, standard crèche, Indoor Virtual Golf with over 2,500 courses worldwide to play on, swimming pool in the sky and other exciting features. Sitting on the 12th floor is the best penthouse in Africa. A project that sets an enviable standard for luxury residential apartments in Nigeria with a sales value worth $46 and a delivery deadline of December 2021.

Speaking on the Lucrezia, Mr. Ogundele made a startling revelation; “We are building the best condominium not only in Nigeria but also in Africa. The Lucrezia Penthouse comes with a private elevator, private cinema, private golf, private gym, and a private pool! The Lucrezia is very special to us because Sujimoto is divesting from Residential Projects with 80% of our real estate interest into Commercial Projects.

When asked about the company’s plan to accommodate smaller units, Mr. Ogundele was very quick to add that the company has a new project that is almost sold out! According to him; “Many people have approached us about building smaller and more affordable units with the Sujimoto standard and we have responded with a revolutionary project called the LeonardoBySujimoto. With LeonardoBySujimoto, you can own a Sujimoto Apartment without breaking the Bank. We have studied the best apartments and what we are creating, beats the best.

The Affordable Luxury Project – Leonardo, comes in 2, 3, and 4 Bedroom Units and it is a great investment offer as the 3 bedrooms which are currently selling for N250million will go for N450million once the project is launched later in the year. According to Mr. Ogundele, the present pricing still beats the best apartments in Bourdillon and Eko Atlantic. He also noted that the current price offer will expire by the end of the month.

PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) Hotel Outlook for 2018-2022 has projected that the hospitality market in Nigeria will experience a compound annual increase in the next 5 years.

According to Ogundele, the same passion with which we redefined luxury living in Nigeria, is the same passion we are bringing into the Nigerian Hospitality and Commercial space. We have toured some of the best hotels in the world such as the Address Hotel, Downtown Dubai, the Baccarat Hotel in New York City, and the Dorchester Hotel in London. Sujimoto is building the S-Hotel, African hospitality with a Four Season services. We are building a hotel that is Customer addictive, where putting the customer 1st becomes our priority, from Janitor to General Managers.

Three fundamental qualities separate the S hotel from others: Design, Price, and Service. The plan is to get rid of mediocre experience in the hospitality industry, building one luxury hotel at a time. The focus, therefore, is to build one luxury hotel in the State capital city of every African country, starting from the six geopolitical zones of Nigeria. The plan is before 2030, we would have built over 100 luxury hotels with 16,000 rooms, worth $1.9 billion in the portfolio, a move which will bring the company’s overall worth to over $5 billion in 10 years.

In addition to the company’s expansion plan, Mr. Ogundele made it known that Sujimoto is building a world-class Plaza, first of its kind, in Ikoyi and Abuja, with a 2021 and 2022 projection for completion. This 6-in-1 Plaza by Sujimoto is a contemporary one-stop-shop retail and hospitality center, featuring innovative state-of-the-art equipment, rooftop lounge, and bar, premium restaurants, world-class gym, retail shops other premium features.

Upon completion, each project should be valued at approximately N47 Billion, with a combined rental income of about N11billion annually. According to Mr. Ogundele, ‘By 2030, we hope to have completed 61 different malls and plazas in Nigeria and across major African cities, a portfolio worth about $3billion.”

Despite the huge effect of the COVID-19 on businesses and economies, where banks have put a halt to every construction project, Sujimoto just raised N3.5 Billion for the Lucrezia which is sold out with just 2 units left! According to Mr. Ogundele Sujimoto;

“At Sujimoto, we do not see a recession, because for us crises are opportunities disguised as problems! We have developed a highly viable and profitable strategy and found an opportunity for savvy investors to invest N5 billion into Sujimoto and get N10 billion back in 3 years.

This is debt and not equity, and it is guaranteed. Treasury bills and other money market instruments will give you a 5 – 10% ROI on your investment but this is 100% ROI and it is guaranteed! This investment is NOT for everyone, it is ONLY for the vital few, who can identify opportunities when they see one.

One of the reasons why Sujimoto can stand out and guarantee good price and quality is the strength of the company’s procurement capacity and global reach. Mr. Ogundele explained that “We don’t use 3rd parties when it comes to projects; we speak directly to the manufacturers because we want to guarantee two fundamental things – prudent spending and assurance of quality. With offices in Dubai, Gwanzo, and New York City and numerous ambitious projects, one wonders what Sujimoto Group will be worth in 10 years to come.

According to Mr. Ogundele; “Our biggest motivation is our critics because, without them, we couldn’t have come this far. There’s nothing we have today, that we got on a platter of gold. We worked two times harder, 3 times more, just to prove that without a rich Aunty or Uncle, you can get to your destiny”.

Speaking on some of the challenges he has had to contend with in business, Mr. Ogundele recalled the event of 2016 and 2017 where he had conceived and developed the biggest project in Nigeria, over 90 Million USD to build the tallest residential building in Sub-Saharan Africa – the LorenzoBySujimoto.

“After all the investment in time, money, and passion, the recession hit badly, and investors pulled out. The economy was so bad that I had to refund hundreds of millions to our off-takers. Amid the chaos, like the phoenix that rises from the ashes, the Giuliano project was born! A project of terrace houses in Africa’s richest neighborhood – Banana Island. And 20 months after, the record-breaking Giuliano has metamorphosed from a proof-of-concept to a proof-of-product! Fully sold-out 6-Months before completion.”

Many have opined that the young and dynamic Motomatician might be eyeing a political position, but according to Mr. Ogundele, “the business of politics is bigger than the politics of business. We are focused on business but we shall support the government. To us, the Government is like a beautiful woman, marry her only when she is an asset, not a liability.”

When asked if he was married, the single and eligible bachelor who insisted he was married without a wife, claimed that his wife is young and very jealous, she’s Sujimoto.

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Personality in Focus

John Okelue Okpoli: Pacesetter, Pathfinder and Pioneering Expert

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By Eric Elezuo

The ultimate measure of a man, they say, is not where he stands in the moment of comfort and convenience, but where he stands in times of challenge and controversy. The willing man is an achiever in whatever situation he finds himself. He don’t just achieve, he creates or rather pioneers a million ways to getting things done. There are however, very few men in the universe, who have worked extremely hard to create opportunities, even from nothing, carved out veritable future for not only themselves but also for generations to come. One of such men is Delta born finance and asset management guru, Okelue John Okpoli.

Fondly called The Pioneer, John Okpoli, who is reputed to have pioneered almost everything he is involved in today ranging from academics, career, family, associations and many more, was born into the family of Dr. (Sir) Felix and Lady Dorothy Uzor Okpoli on October 6, 1978.

He started at a very young age to exhibited the featues and qualities of a gifted child, becoming a pathfinder and pace setter for his mates, contemporaries and collegues both on the home and academic fronts. His leadership abilities threw themselves to the fore, and could not be extinguished as he nurtured it step by step through to the adult he is today.

Young John kicked off his academic journey very early in life when at the age of four, he enrolled at Delta Steel Primary School, Owvian Aladja Delta State in 1982. But owing to geographical relocation because his father was a civil servant, he continued and concluded his elementary education at Iyobosa Primary School, Benin City in 1988, and obtained his First School Leaving Certificate.

John started his secondary education at Greater Tomorrow Secondary School, Benin City in 1989, but moved to Lagos thereafter and attended Ikeja High School, Ikeja where he concluded his seconadary i education in 1994. He was at the end of the day, rewarded with the prestigious West African School Certificate as he ‘cleared’ his papers in a single sitting, and with notable grades.

His exploits while at Greater Tomorrow Secondary School Benin City created a leverage for him to become a member of the Interim Executive committee of the 1994 set later in life

In 1996, John Okpoli was admitted into the University of Benin with the 1995/96 set to study Mathematics and Economics. He graduated with B.Sc honours in 2000 as a high flyer.

Being a goal getter with unquenchable zeal to acquire and sustain, and one whose focus and attention to details is second to none, Okpoli undertook a Special Executive MBA Programme at the Metropolitan School Of Business and Management in 2013. He knew what the future was going to throw at him, and he was prepared.

Highly equipped to face the harsh business environment, Okpoli began turning things around, and practically became a builder, an apostle of some sort, creating firsts and pioneering strong financial business ventures, which have stood the test of time, and are still flourishing till date. In fact, Okpoli has the proverbial Midas touch to make things happen and turn anything to gold.

As the Managing Director/Chief Executive Officer of Fundvine Asset Management Ltd, Okpoli singlehanded pioneered the setting up of all the company’s subsidiaries. He didn’t stop there. When the cruise boat of job relocation took him to AT&A as the Chief Operating Officer, Okpoli again brought his wealth of experience to bear, creating new vistas and breaking barriers. It is not by accident that the firm is today a force to reckon with.

The pioneering achiever went ahead to work with Sasware, a Signal Alliance agency as Head of Operations, and his story has bordered on performance, capacity building and expansion. He is a go-getter in its simplest term.

It is worthy of note that under his watch, Fundvine Hathaway Asset Management Ltd, rebranded and rolled out new enticing products.

Hear him: “I think I owe everything that has happened to me, and still going to happen to me to God. He has been more than kind to me, releasing in me the right words and actions at the right time.

“My success stories of pioneering ability, expansionist approach and general achievements, have remained legendary, and I hardly fail. This is the zeal and call I take to any establishment I find myself for the service of mankind.”

Among many other pioneering activities of John include but not limited to being among the pioneer set of Mathematics and Economics department of the University of Benin. He went ahead to become the pioneer president or leader of distinct associations while on campus, including Project committee, UNIBEN Mathematics Class of 99 and Emerging Leaders Network (An Intiative Of Centre Of Leadership).

A very humble person, Okpoli gives credit to God for his ‘little’ efforts so far, and to his father, Felix Okpoli, who retired as a zonal General Manager with the National Electric Power Authority (NEPA). The senior Okpoli was the first product of Electrical/Electronic Engineering from Ubulu Uku in Delta State.

In the same vein, his maternal grand father Reverend S. I. Nwabuoku was the pioneer/first Anglican priest in the Anioma part of Delta State just as his uncle, Ven. (Dr) I. E. Nwabuoku was the pioneer Chief Medical Director, University of Benin Medical Centre and Vicar General, Anglican Diocese, Benin City.

Basically, pioneering ability runs in the family. It is left to the imagination what a person of John Okpoli’s Calibre can do to an establishment or best still, a political institution. He is truly an asset; a much sought after one for that matter.

Okpoli, among many secular and formal endowments, is blessed with so many professional qualifications such as:

– Project Management Institute U.K 2011

– Nigerian Institute Of Management 2002

– Institute Of Credit Administration 2004

– Institute Of Cost Management 2002

– Economics Institute 2004

He may be a man about town, hovering from one boardroom to another, yet he is an accomplished family; a beloved and cherish husband to his beautiful wife, Oberhi Mary Okpoli, a prolific lawyer and Head of Chambers of Prince M.P Ohwovoriole (SAN) in Lagos.

Between John and Oberhi are wonderful children, who are steadily following the greater heights footsteps of their parents.

Congratulations John, you deserve our personality in focus honours

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