Legal Law

Building Great Businesses in Nigeria: Lessons from Jimoh Ibrahim

Nigeria is blessed with 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, thus contributing significantly to the size, scope and direction of our nation. economy.

Prominent among these are Aliko Dangote, founder and chairman of Grupo Dangote, which has large-scale interests in the commodity, agricultural, real estate, and oil subsectors of our economy, and is now ranked by Forbes magazine as the richest man. from Africa. With a net worth of US$20.8 billion as of November 2013, Otunba Mike Adenuga, the telecommunications magnate whose operations now span across central West Africa and who is worth US$4.3 billion in March 2013, as well as the young Femi Otedola, founder and CEO of Forte Oil Plc, who was ranked by Forbes in 2009 with a net worth of US$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 Nigeria’s Ondo state, southwestern Nigeria, now said to be worth a few hundred million dollars. . dollars, and he is the founder of a large conglomerate in Nigeria, which has interests in the insurance, hospitality, oil and gas, and media sectors of the Nigerian economy.

Unlike Dangote or Otedola, Ibrahim is a man who had humble beginnings as he was born without a silver spoon and came from a very harsh background with many hardships in his growing up days. Reportedly from a polygamous family, Ibrahim managed, against all odds, to gain admission to the University, eventually graduating 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 privileges of being born with silver spoons (Dangote, being from a wealthy northern industrial family and Otedola, the son of a former civil governor of Lagos State), Ibrahim had no such luxuries but had an intense desire and strong conviction to succeed in life, concluding in his mind that earning a college degree held the only promise for a better life and a rewarding future.

The story of this great entrepreneur is one that I think all young Nigerians and aspiring entrepreneurs should pay close attention to as it could serve as the much-needed inspiration to make giant strides in business as well as great achievements in the industry. life. After earning his law degree from OAU, Ibrahim found that waiting to gain work experience as a trainee lawyer with an established law firm, as is common practice among many young lawyers in Nigeria today, could take many years, for what he decided to specialize in. on taxes, which was an area of ‚Äč‚Äčinterest to him during his undergraduate days and even the subject of some of his thesis.

With this wealth of information about Nigerian tax practice, Ibrahim, unlike many recent university graduates in Nigeria, some of whom believe that gainful 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 a nationally acclaimed tax consultant in the process.

Honing his expertise in the areas of tax administration, financial reform and management, and later earning his Masters in Public Administration and international taxation from the OAU and Harvard University in the United States respectively, Ibrahim was at one time chief executive consultant to the federal government of Nigeria in payment, collection and control of oil taxes, member of the Federation Accounts Allocation 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 Bangladeshi.

Needless to say, by the time he turned 30, while some of his peers were still looking for jobs, Jimoh Ibrahim was already a billionaire! So when he decided to set up his conglomerate in 2003, after failing miserably 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 of 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 to be learned about building great businesses from attorney Ibrahim’s journey and strategy? For me, one of them is that when planning to start a business, going out to raise all the necessary capital may not be the most important thing and may even amount to putting the cart before the horse, at times.

This is because, in a country like Nigeria, dreaming of raising capital to start a business using bank loans or debt capital, without having grown the business to a substantial state where financial management can be adequately demonstrated to financial institutions solid company and ambitious growth plans. or angel investors, it may seem like a mirage!

Looking at the phenomenal growth of some of Mr. Ibrahim’s business ventures, one wishes to note some of the principles he has instilled, which have contributed greatly to the growth of those businesses today. Some of these include sound financial management, persistence, short-, medium-, and long-term planning, effective use of credit, and prompt repayment of credit when taken.

However, while Lawyer Ibrahim’s passion for building and growing large business organizations that would provide gainful employment to thousands of young Nigerians while positively impacting our economy is to be commended, it remains to be seen what the clear objective of corporate social responsibility is. (CSR) of some of these businesses and how they seek to improve lives and impact people and communities, in addition to simply creating jobs.

It is interesting to note that while many large corporations and giant-sized companies in Nigeria, such as those of Ibrahim, Dangote or Otedola, make huge profits from the patronage of the majority of Nigerians and even repatriate those profits back home at minimal cost. or free. In the case of multinationals, only a few do very little to give back to society through life-changing scholarships, schemes and programs that can benefit the entire population. Very few wealthy Nigerian capitalists or industrialists own 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 businessmen such as Henry Ford or John D Rockefeller.

Another important point worth noting among the most successful businessmen in Nigeria is the lack of a system or structure where proper mentorship can be provided to build an ecosystem of great businessmen and outstanding young businessmen in Nigeria. To this end, many budding entrepreneurs are often left confused about how to set up their businesses, what tools to use and what to discard, and how to harness the brains of many of these great entrepreneurs who have made it through. It is through efforts like this that great Nigerian businessmen 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 still remain unclear, if not! completely unknown or undefined!

Email: [email protected], Twitter: @ayomidepraiseng

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