Building Great Companies in Nigeria: Lessons from Jimoh Ibrahim

Legal Law

Nigeria is fortunate to have many prominent capitalists and wealthy industrialists who own multi-billion dollar conglomerates with assets exceeding trillions of naira and who collectively employ thousands of Nigerians in their various business operations, which contributes significantly to the size, scope and direction of our nation’s business. economy.

Notable among these groups are Aliko Dangote, founder and president of the Dangote Group, who has large-scale interests in the commodities, agriculture, real estate, and oil subsectors of our economy, and is now ranked by Forbes magazine as the most successful man. rich from Africa. With a net worth of US $ 20.8 billion, as of November 2013, Otunba Mike Adenuga, the telecommunications mogul whose operations now span central West Africa and is worth US $ 4.3 billion, in March 2013, as well as the young Femi Otedola, founder and CEO of Forte Oil Plc, which was ranked by Forbes in 2009 with a net worth of $ 1.2 billion.

Yet among these enviable lots, none is as inspiring, to me, as Jimoh Ibrahim, the 46-year-old lawyer-turned-oil baron from Southwest Nigeria’s Ondo State, who is now said to be worth a few hundred million dollars. Dollars. dollars, and is the founder of a large conglomerate in Nigeria, which has interests in the insurance, hotel, oil and gas and media sectors of the Nigerian economy.

Unlike Dangote or Otedola, Ibrahim is a man who had a humble beginning as he was born without a silver spoon and came from a very harsh environment with many deprivations in his growing days. From a polygamous family, Ibrahim reportedly managed, against all odds, to gain admission to the University and eventually graduated as a lawyer from the University of Ife, now Obafemi Awolowo University in 1991.

So, while the Dangotes and Otedolas of this world had the privilege of being born with silver spoons (Dangote, coming from a wealthy industrial family from the North and Otedola, the son of a former civil governor of Lagos state), Ibrahim had no such luxuries but there was an intense desire and strong conviction to succeed in life, and in his mind he concluded that obtaining a college degree was the only promise of a better life and a rewarding future.

The story of this great entrepreneur is one that I believe every Nigerian young man and aspiring entrepreneur should pay close attention to as it could serve as the much-needed inspiration for great breakthroughs in business as well as great achievements in life. After earning his law degree from the OAU, Ibrahim saw that waiting to gain work experience as a lawyer by taking an internship at an established law firm, as is common practice among many young lawyers in Nigeria today, could take many years, so he decided to specialize. on taxation, which was an area of ​​interest to him during his undergraduate days and even the subject of some of his dissertation papers.

With this wealth of information on the practice of taxation in Nigeria, Ibrahim, unlike many recent college graduates in Nigeria, some of whom believe that getting paid employment first after graduating from school might be the only way to charting a successful future, established by conducting tax trainings and workshops for local and state governments and later the federal government of Nigeria, becoming in the process a nationally acclaimed tax consultant.

Perfecting his experience in the areas of tax administration, reform and financial management and later obtaining his master’s degree in Public Administration and international taxation from the OUA and Harvard University in the United States, respectively, Ibrahim was at one time a chief executive consultant for the federal government. of Nigeria on Oil Tax Payment, Collection and Tracking, member of the Federation’s Accounting Committee, IMF consultant on tax reform in Croatia and Lithuania and also a key member of the team that designed the tax reform for the state of Bangladesh

Needless to say, by the time he turned 30, while some of his peers were still looking for work, Jimoh Ibrahim was already a billionaire! So when he decided to establish his conglomerate in 2003, after sadly failing in an attempt to become executive governor of Ondo state on the platform of the former All Peoples Party (APP), he was well armed with a wealth of experience on how they work. business. in Nigeria, how government policy is formulated and implemented and how to raise enough capital to start a business.

For many budding entrepreneurs, what are the lessons they can learn about building great businesses from Barrister Ibrahim’s journey and strategy? For me, one of those things is that, when planning to start a business, going out and raising all the necessary capital may not be the most important thing and sometimes it can even put the cart before the horse.

This is because, in a country like Nigeria, dreaming of raising capital to start a business through bank loans or debt stocks, without having grown the business to a substantial state in which financial institutions can adequately demonstrate a sound financial management and ambitious growth plans. or investing angels, it may seem like a mirage!

Looking at the phenomenal growth of some of Mr. Ibrahim’s business ventures, one is eager to note some of the principles he has assimilated, which have contributed greatly to the growth of those businesses today. Some of them include good financial management, perseverance, planning for the short, medium and long term, effective use of credit, as well as the prompt repayment of said credit when it is obtained.

However, while Barrister Ibrahim’s passion for building and growing large business organizations that provide paid employment to thousands of young Nigerians while positively impacting our economy is to be commended, it remains to be seen what the clear goal of corporate social responsibility (CSR) of some of these businesses and how they seek to improve lives and impact people and communities, as well as create jobs.

It is interesting to note that while many large corporations and giant companies in Nigeria, such as those of Ibrahim, Dangote or Otedola, make a lot of profit through patronage of the majority of Nigerians and even repatriate those profits home at minimal cost or nil, in the case of multinationals, only a few do very little to give back to society through scholarships, plans and life-changing programs that can benefit the entire population. Very few wealthy Nigerian capitalists or industrialists possess notable foundations such as those established by Bill Gates, the world’s richest man and founder of Microsoft and his wife, as well as those established by notable American entrepreneurs such as Henry Ford or John D Rockefeller.

Another important noteworthy point among the most successful Nigerian entrepreneurs is the lack of a system or structure where adequate mentorship can be provided to build an ecosystem of notable great entrepreneurs and young entrepreneurs in Nigeria. To this end, many budding entrepreneurs are often left confused about how to establish their businesses, what tools to use and what to discard, and how to harness the brains of many of these great entrepreneurs who have advanced. It is through efforts like this that big Nigerian entrepreneurs like Ibrahim, Dangote, Otedola or Adenuga can leave a worthy legacy because, as far as many Nigerians are concerned, the legacies of some of these men remain unclear, if not totally unknown or undefined.

Email: [email protected], Twitter: @ ayomidepraiseng

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