with six packs, his stature smacks of grace, confidence and brilliance.
Though taken away from his family at a young age and with little or no
hope of having a formal education, he did not allow any unpleasant past
to hold him down. Eternally grateful to a schoolteacher who took an
interest in him, he would have to struggle to become successful in life.
Managing Director of Improject Limited, shares with Adedayo Adejobi how
he rose from being a dispatcher to becoming an importer and franchise
owner. He also talks about his marriage, business and what he would do
if he were Nigeria’s president. At 60, he also reflects on youth and
Tell us about your childhood. What values did you embrace that guided into becoming who you are today?
I didn’t grow up living with my parents. When I was in Primary Two at
St. Ann’s Primary School, I went to live with one of my schoolteachers,
Mr. Fakanmbi. Seeing that I was hard-working even at that age, he
decided to take me to Lagos to further my education – I was going to be
in Primary Four then in 1966. We lived in Lagos Island at Ita Akanni. It
wasn’t in my father’s agenda for me to have a formal education. But I
loved education. So, I decided to sponsor myself to have an education by
working during holidays while in school. By 1972, I was working as a
dispatcher for Peter Obe, the photography genius. We delivered
exclusively to Daily Times and Nigeria External Communications for
overseas reporting. Peter Obe’s photographs were exclusive, as our speed
and quality was unrivalled. Anytime I arrived late to work then, I
would turn the hands of my wristwatch to show I was on time. Peter Obe
was very hard-working, and those were good old times.
When he found out that I started showing keen interest in accounting,
Peter Obe then teased me on how I couldn’t become an accountant by
reading on duty. With his tease, I decided to prove I could be better. I
later worked with Z.O Ososanya and Co., as a copywriter. Even then, I
assisted the company’s accountant out of keen interest whenever I came
across an error; he would sometimes call me accountant by thievery when
he saw my corrections. I took study leave to join Yaba College of
Technology, where I graduated as an accountant. Before my Institute of
Chartered Accountants of Nigeria final exams, I was already grounded in
accountancy. Today I’m proud of myself and thankful for the guidance of
great men that I met during my life’s journey.
You seem so fulfilled. What would you have done if you had not ventured into accountancy?
I would have been a trader.
Little wonder you are the sole franchise owner of Primavera Premium
Red Wines across West Africa. What influenced the drive into the
Asides my professional practice of accountancy, I ventured firstly into
floor and wall tiles business. That became unsustainable for me as an
investor, majorly because of embargo and import duties. The government
takes tile business very seriously as edible products. Besides, the
import duty on it is discouraging as if the government wants to run it
by themselves. If they don’t encourage home-grown investors, how do they
expect the country to grow in its international relations? I had to
improvise after a visit to a trade fair in Valencia, Spain, where I met
the manufacturer of Primavera Premium red wine. I went back to the hotel
to discuss with my wife about it. She loved the idea and we headed to
Portugal and we were in business. People love the brand of red wine we
market because of its quality. I hate to settle for less. My
satisfaction comes from positive reactions I get from the consumers, and
that’s my major drive.
What kind of red wines are you talking about here?
We have different variants of Primavera Premium red wine now – up to six
distinct flavours. Its acceptance in the wine industry has been very
encouraging. Nigerians love quality and that’s what we brought to their
table. The Primavera Premium red wine business is one that will always
thrive because at one point in time or the other, people will want to
relax and catch fun with a bottle of chilled wine – for those who can
Where are the best wines grown?
The best wines in the world can be found in places like Portugal, Italy, France and some parts of Spain.
Are there potentials for wine business in Nigeria?
Yes. Nigeria has a huge market for wines and the business is a thriving
one in the country, especially now. However, the first three months of
the year is not usually a favourable period for business people because
of the heavy spending of the festive periods in December. Besides,
Nigeria of late has not been too good for business because of its
hostility in the area of power stability, government policies, and
import duties amongst other economic factors militating against
businesses. The insecurity is another factor that has affected business
generally. Everyone has to provide everything for himself. You have to
provide electricity, water, security and everything you can imagine, and
as if that is not enough, the tariff you pay on these goods are
significantly high. So, if you are not determined to stay in business,
you may end up being frustrated out of business.
Are you saying the situation doesn’t stimulate good business or encourage entrepreneurs?
It’s not encouraging at all. So many factors stack up against
entrepreneurs – from power to government policies on duties, to loan
facilities and so on. On a container of wine, by the time you calculate
all the duties and tariffs paid, it is running into almost 50 per cent
and the import duty on wine is supposed to be common to all African
countries in accordance to the external tariff structure and that was
what made a duty on wine 30 per cent. This made the price of wine to
skyrocket quite substantially, coupled with the devaluation of the
naira. Nigerians would have to pay more to get good wines. We need God’s
intervention. Don’t get me wrong; whom God wants to bless can’t be
cursed. The ideal entrepreneur needs perseverance, patience and
persistence, and he’ll surely make it.
How did you meet your wife?
I met her at Apapa Road, Lagos. She used to pass along my house often,
so I tried to woo her by offering her a ride a couple of times. But she
declined all the time. I tried to woo her for almost five years. When we
finally decided to date, almost everybody discouraged us because they
misunderstood her shyness for pride, and there was no way she would
explain herself. We decided to forget everyone’s opinion and the union
has been heavenly ever since.
At what point did you know you wanted her to be your wife?
After my Higher National Diploma and Institute of Chartered Accountant
of Nigeria (ICAN) certification, I initially wanted to have her as a
girlfriend. Then, I looked at her pedigree and realised she would be
best for me as a wife and not as a girlfriend. I informed my brother of
my intention, but he said I was aiming too high for my status. I didn’t
listen to him. I can say proudly that I married my Soulmate. We almost
never quarrel as a fact. We’ve never got to seek the intervention of a
third party to settle our differences. We deal with our problems by
ourselves. I married my Soulmate, and in another life, I would still
Was there ever a point you wished you didn’t get married?
Never! We understand one another well. The only time we would have had a
problem was when I wanted to go into business all by myself. She
thought at that time it was a bad idea. So, she tried to discourage me.
But, I was adamant and I advised her to stay with her parents while I
struggle to build my business – telling her that if I became successful
she should return. On hearing that, she allowed me to go into business. I
started with selling frozen fish with a cold room in Ojota, Lagos.
Then, I distributed in the morning, after having taken our kids to
school. It wasn’t easy, but with time the business grew and I learnt on
the business. Even at that point, I made sure my kids attended good
schools. Now they school abroad. It’s all a good story now.
With such a strong bond of love between you and your wife, who is more romantic?
I think I am; mainly because I grew up unbounded. Her parents were
strict, so she didn’t have the freedom that would have exposed her to a
lot of things. I was exposed to the street life, and I made good use of
it in my youth. Basically, we do everything together now. We enjoy each
other’s company a lot. Even if I want to go out for a drink, I take her
along. We go everywhere together.
You look young. How do you feel at 60?
I feel good. I feel young and healthy at 60.