By Eric Elezuo
Humble, humane and extremely accommodating, Bayo Fatusin is one of Nigeria’s prolific entrepreneurs, busy building industries to absorb the crowd of unemployed youths and professionals. In this brief chat at one his hotels, House J, situated at the highbrow GRA, Ikeja, Lagos, he highlighted what it means to be fulfilled, saying the happiness of the common man on the street is the only reason one can confidently say he is fulfilled among many other ground breaking revelations. Excerpts:
Can we meet you sir?
My name is Bayo Fatusin. I am an entrepreneur. I am from Ondo town in Ondo State. Among the many institutions I attended is the University of Lagos where I studied History and Strategic Studies. I am a practicing Christian, and I believe in God.
What kind of business are you into, and can you itemize it?
I will rather say we, because I am never alone and I can’t do it alone. So, we are into Construction, Real Estate, Agriculture; and as you know agriculture is the new frontier in Africa now, and we are investing heavily in it. Also, we are into hospitality among many other businesses I do for now.
As a business man in Nigeria, what are the challenges?
Doing business in Nigeria is a huge task, and the challenges are enormous, especially when you talk about power, funding and the likes. But what can we do, we believe in the system; we believe in Nigeria, and we believe in what we can do for our people. Therefore, we would stay and work things out until it gets better and better.
Most businesses have folded up as a result of the harsh economic realities, but your organizations are still standing strong. In what way have you been able to surmount these challenges?
By being proactive and continually thinking out of the box. The change we are talking about must practically start from us; within our own establishments – meaning that we have to be a good example to our staff, and we have to advice them to be good example to others and do the right thing. We know the government cannot take care of everything, so the need to support the government has made us refuse to give up. We are supporting the government with the use of Non-governmental Organisations (NGOs). And of course with a lot of social corporate responsibility initiatives to affect the general public as well as making sure that we build and educate people.
While other companies were downsizing and relieving workers of their jobs as the recession bites harder, none of your organizations was reported to have sacked staff. How were you able to retain your workforce during the recession?
That credit belongs to God for not allowing us to retrench our staff during the recession. Moreover, discipline was our watchword, and we tell ourselves the whole truth. There was no room for waste in our system, and a lot of sacrifices were made. We insisted on prudency, and cut down on unnecessary cost and spending; that was how we managed ourselves out of the recession period. Whatever we don’t need, we don’t go for it, and we only sort what we needed. And to the glory of God we are still standing today.
How many people have you empowered as part of your corporate social responsibility?
We are busy creating more employments, and we do that by creating more businesses, and looking for ways to create more businesses. And it is for this reason that we recently diversified into agriculture, and through this, we will be able able to employ close to another 1000 citizens of Nigeria.
Which area of agriculture did you invest in?
We are into poultry, rice and cassava farming. We are also into processing and export. Our base is in Ondo and Oyo states.
Having traveled around the world, which country gives you more insight and inspiration?
I will say the United States of America. Again, Asia, more especially Singapore, inspires me too because of their rapid development. Singapore is one country you can credit with will power because they were once like us. I think the credit should go more to their leaders. To me, Singapore is an inspiration.
Do you believe we have leadership problem in Nigeria?
I am not a politician, and the Bible says we should pray for our leaders (laughs).
You are not a politician now, but is there any possibility of becoming one in the future?
I don’t know, and I can’t tell because business is my calling for now. But if at the end of the day, God says I have to serve my people, I will. I can’t take any step without God.
Based on the CSR you are committed to, and the assistance you are known to have provided, is it not possible for your people to invite you to come and lead them?
I still must consult with my God before I take such decision. If I do anything without God, it means I am ready to bear the consequences if anything happens. I won’t take any step without God. The truth of the matter is that I am not even thinking of any political position unless God approves it for me. All I am doing to make life easier for the people is what I am doing presently. Also I am creating jobs to get people off the street, and put food on their table. When that time comes; when we get to that bridge, we will definitely cross it.
Where do you see this agricultural sector you are investing in, in the next 5 years?
Like I said, it is the next frontier for Nigeria, and in the next five years with the way our government is investing in agriculture presently, I believe it will take us to the next level, because when we are able to feed ourselves; stop the importation of rice and other produce, then we are okay.
One of your business organizations is named House J, what does it mean?
It means House of Joseph.
Your background has nothing to with hospitality, how did you get into hotel business?
It is a passion. I have passion for hospitality even before I came into the industry. This is my passion in life. Far back in those days, my home was just about entertainment, and I’d always known I will make it a business.
You are known to hold fellowships in your establishment on a regular basis unlike most entrepreneurs, what prompted the routine?
This is because God is my only source and my pillar, and always at my back. Not only do I hold fellowships regularly on Thursdays, every Monday, I fellowship with my staff and every first day of the month, we give glory to God; and give praises to Him. And as you can see, business men come from far and wide between 12 and 1 every Thursday just to sing Hosanna to God, because He is the owner of our life; without God I am nothing. And with God, I am everything.
Is there a possibility that these weekly or daily fellowships can lead to a full blown ministry someday because of the passion you have for God?
I really don’t know, but if God says we will operate on that level, who am I to say no… (laughs).
How many children do you have now?
I have four children; four beautiful girls. The eldest is 24, the second is 21, the third is 19, and the youngest is 10 years old.
So, as a busy businessman, how do you relax?
I engage in sports like track and field, and tennis.
When you are not doing your business or engaging in spots, what do you do?
I relax. I read my Bible; I study the Word of God, and that relaxes me more because I want to know Him more, I want to know about what happened in the ancient times. I want to know how to have solid relationship with my creator. So, that gives me peace. Every time I am with Him, I find peace and I enjoy that a lot.
Do you hold a position in church and which church do you attend?
Not at all, I am a catholic. I am not a pastor, but I am a deep believer in the Word of God.
Can you name the people who can be called your product, I mean those you have empowered to stand on their own today?
Uncountable! I can’t mention names; my religion will not allow me to do that.
So, what are we expecting from you in the nearest future?
By the grace of God, to build more businesses; I am looking forward to a day I will have like 10,000 staff, and that will make me really happy.
And are your businesses spread across Nigeria?
Yes. We are in Lagos, Ondo, Oyo and Abuja.
How many languages do you speak?
Three. I speak Igbo, Yoruba and English.
How did Igbo come about?
My late mom is from the East
How Title Deed is Responding to Stolen African Art
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.
The Phenomenal Rise of Estate Giant, Sijibomi Ogundele (Sujimoto)
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.
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.
John Okelue Okpoli: Pacesetter, Pathfinder and Pioneering Expert
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