They were virtually unknown, like millions of others, before coming to Lagos. But, through determination and dint of hard work, they soon became forces to reckon with not only in the ‘Centre of Excellence’, but throughout the country and beyond. Their stories are typical of those who made their millions in the face of many limitations. In the spirit of Lagos @ 50, ISIOMA MADIKE, in this report, highlights some of these inspirational tales to fame and wealth
POLITICS: Joe Igbokwe
Joe Igbokwe, like many others, came to Lagos relatively unknown. Today, he is the Lagos State Publicity Secretary of the All Progressives Congress (APC) and Chairman of Conference of the party’s Publicity Secretaries in Nigeria since 2014. Before now, he had held the same post for the Action Congress (AC) and Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN), Lagos State chapter. Igbokwe, according to him, was driven to Lagos by poverty, after his primary school education in 1971.
His aim was to find something to do to help his poor mother and siblings. The Civil War that raged for almost three years had devastated his father’s thriving business in Onitsha, Anambra State, and left the family penniless. With four wives and 34 children, his parents could not cope any more, forcing his brothers and sisters to drop out of school to learn trades. “Because I was a little ‘sharp’ in school, my father encoBuraged me to finish primary school. It is needless here to recall how I and few of my siblings survived to finish our primary education.
“Consequently, when my mates were writing their Common Entrance Examination, I did not because there was no need to do so. No money, no three square meals a day, no good clothing, just nothing. My mother encouraged me to travel with friends to Lagos. We landed at Sawmill Ebute Metta, where I worked as a sawdust carrier earning seven shillings and six pence a day.
My job was to pack sawdust from the machines to the Lagoon from 7am to 5 pm daily. I did this for nearly two years and later I became a Danfo conductor plying the Idioro/Ajegunle axis. “From there, I joined my brother in a supermarket business at Ijesha Road, Surulere. I did this until I returned home during Christmas in December 1973. I came home to meet my friends. I was beaten academically in school trying to make me feel and look inferior.
Again, I also noticed while in Lagos that if I failed to go to school, I may end up doing menial jobs meant for illiterates till the end of age. I decided to go back to school to add values to my life. But where are the school fees? There was nothing. How I managed to get the first school fee to start and what happened thereafter will take a book to do the narrative.” Igbokwe, who was the head boy in secondary school, left with Division One. He taught in the same school as an Auxiliary Teacher from 1979
to 1980, before gaining admission in 1980 to read Mechanical Engineering at the University of Nigeria Nsukka (UNN), where he graduated in 1985 with honours. “I did my Youth Service in Ogun State and thereafter I returned to Lagos in 1986 to begin a journey to where I am today.
I walked the streets of Lagos from 1986 to 1988 until the then military government headed by Gen. Ibrahim Babangida set up the National Directorate of Employment (NDE) to encourage graduates to start their own businesses. I got a loan of N27, 500, using my NYSC discharge Certificate and my Degree Certificate as collateral at nine per cent interest rate.
“I set up a restaurant business on Western Avenue, Lagos, and hit an instant success. While doing this business, I spread my nets also to the auto spare parts market in Lawanson, Surulere where my brother thrived as a very successful importer. I opened a shop there and got a boy to take charge of the business. From there, I entered into auto dealership along Western Avenue, Surulere. I paid back that loan in full and collected my certificates.”
Igbokwe did not stop there. He said: “In 1995, I wrote my first book: ‘Igbos: 25 Years After Biafra’. I also established ‘National Vision Newspapers’ in 1997. In 1999, I wrote my second book: ‘Heroes of Democracy’. In 2004, I co-authored ‘2007: The IBB Option’ with my good friend, Peter Claver Oparah. One thing led to another, I became an opinion moulder, a public commentator, political analyst, writer and an advocate of the peoples’ cause. I bought my first car in 1990 and became a millionaire in 1995 after launching of my first book.”
MEDIA: John Momoh
John Momoh is a broadcast journalist and media entrepreneur. He is at present, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of ‘Channels Television’, a n independent and multiple award winning 24-hour news and media television channel based in Lagos. Momoh, who was born on July 1, 1957, is widely recognised in Nigeria as a transformative industry pioneer with over 37-year-long career in news television broadcasting. Momoh was brought up in Lagos State, and his father was a cook. Over the past decades, he has built a commercial satellite television station with a reputable integrity, which placed him in the league of comfortable millionaires.
He graduated from the University of Lagos with a Bachelor’s degree in Mass Communication and a Master’s degree in International Law and Diplomacy. Prior to starting Channels Television, which he founded in 1995, Momoh worked variously as news anchor, senior reporter and senior producer for Nigeria’s national radio and television stations -Federal Radio Corporation of Nigeria and the Nigerian Television Authority. In December 2005, he was proclaimed ‘Officer of the Order of the Niger’ by the Federal Government.
He was also honoured with a Lifetime Achievement Award by the Nigerian Information Society in 2006. Two years later, he was nominated as Nigeria’s Entrepreneur of the Year by the Fate Foundation. By October 2014, he had become member, Board of Directors of the Constituency for Africa (CFA), an African-focused Organisation located in Washington, District of Columbia. He also received the Leadership Award at the 2014 Planet Africa Awards held at the Grand Victorian Convention Centre in Canada.
BANKING AND FINANCE: Tony Elumelu
Tony Onyemaechi Elumelu was born in Jos, Plateau State, on March 22, 1963. He hails from Onicha-Ukwu in Aniocha North Local Government Area of Delta State. Elumelu, an economist, entrepreneur and philanthropist, is the Chairman of Heirs Holdings, the United Bank for Africa, Transcorp and founder of The Tony Elumelu Founda- tion. He has two degrees in eco- nomics from Ambrose Alli University, Ekpoma, Edo State and a Masters of Science degree f r o m the University of Lagos. He is also an alum- nus of Harvard Business School’s Advanced Management Programme.
In his early career, Elumelu acquired and turned Standard Trust Bank into a top-five player in Nigeria. He led the acquisition of United Bank for Africa (UBA), in 2005, and later transformed it from a single-country bank to a pan-African institution with more than seven million customers in 19 African countries. Following his retirement from UBA in 2010, Elumelu founded Heirs Holdings, which invests in the financial services, energy, real estate and hospitality, agribusiness, and healthcare sectors. In the same year, he established the Tony Elumelu Foundation, an Africa-based and African-funded philanthropic organisation dedicated to the promotion of excellence in business leadership and entrepreneurship and to enhancing the competitiveness of the private sector across Africa.
In 2011, Heirs Holdings acquired a controlling interest in the Transnational Corporation of Nigeria Plc (Transcorp), a publicly quoted conglomerate that has business interests in the agribusiness, energy, and hospitality sectors. Elumelu was subsequently appointed chairman of the corporation. The man, who is reputed to have made $123 million in three weeks, has a net worth of over $700 million as at 2015.
He holds the Nigerian national honours of the Commander of the Order of the Niger (CON) and Member of the Order of the Federal Republic (MFR). He was also recognised as one of ‘Africa’s 20 Most Powerful People in 2012’ by Forbes magazine.
P-Square is a Nigerian R&B duo of identical twin brothers, Peter and Paul Okoye. They produce and release their albums through Square Records. In December 2011, they signed a record deal with Akon’s Konvict Muzik label. In May 2012, they signed a record distribution deal with Universal Music South Africa.
P-Square began in St. Murumba Secondary School, a small Catholic school in Jos, Nigeria. They joined their school music and drama club where they began singing, dancing, and mimicking songs by MC Hammer, Bobby Brown and Michael Jackson.
Later in 1999, Peter and Paul returned to music school to develop their skills on the keyboard, drums, bass and rhythm guitar. Their work includes the soundtracks for a number of films like Tobi, Mama Sunday, Moment of Bitterness and Evas River. It was in Lagos in 2001 that their musical career took a turn for the better.
It was the year they won the ‘Grab Da Mic’ competition, which prompted Benson & Hedges to sponsor their debut album, titled ‘Last Nite’. It was released under Timbuk2 music label. From that time, it was fame all the way as they got nominated as ‘Most Promising African Group’ in the Kora Awards. That was three months after the release of their debut album. They eventually won the 2003 Amen Award for ‘Best R&B Group’.
In 2005, they released their second album, ‘Get Squared’ under their own label, Square Records. This album was marketed nationwide by TJoe Enterprises, although they were still managed by Howie T of Adrot Nigeria Limited. The video for the second album held the #1 position on the MTV Base chart for four straight weeks. Late in 2007, they released their best-selling album, ‘Game Over’.
It sold over eight million copies worldwide. On April 4, 2010, P-Square was named the Artist of the Year at the Kora Awards in Ouagadougou, Burkina-Faso, while they were in London for a concert at the Troxy, and they were to receive a sum of $1 million as the award winner, in Ebebiyin City.
RELIGION: Sam Adeyemi
Pastor Sam Adeyemi, a native of Yagba, Kogi State, and motivational speaker with focus for positioning people for success and leadership qualities, was born on February 3, 1967. He is the founder of Daystar Christian Centre and the president of a non-profit organisation, Success Power International that specialises in organising financial, leadership and motivational seminars. Adeyemi inaugurated Daystar Christian Centre on November 18, 1995 at the Eko Chinese Hotel on Allen Avenue, Ikeja Lagos.
Apart from presiding over the church, he also hosts a radio and television program, ‘Success Power’, and personifies the saying, ‘behind every success and achievements lies plenty stories to tell’. He recounts how tough things were for him in the beginning when he and his wife, Pastor Nike, had to go on fasting and prayers asking God to show him the next face of his life and ministry.
“I received the vision that led to the establishment of Daystar Christ i a n Centre and Success Power International Ministry and in July 1994,” he said. The church, which is now worth over N2 billion, was at its infancy, unable to pay its rent at the many locations it had held its services in Lagos.
There was also a time that the manager of one of his church’s rented space chased his workers out and warned them against holding prayer meeting there. The manager also went on to occupy the rented hall with his friends to play games. Adeyemi had to beg him to allow him hold service there with a promise to pay him after the service.
“It was just about 10 minutes to the end of the service when the manager sent an usher to me. I had to pause the service to take out money from the offering to pay the manager but today it is history,” he added. Adeyemi has authored so many motivational books including the best-selling ‘Success is who you are?’ and ‘Parables of Dollar’.
His mission with Daystar Church, he said, is to groom potential leaders for the country in the various sectors who can impact on the society. He not only wants to train members of the church to be able to affect their society positively, but to be able to stand up to correct things when they are going wrong in their environment.
Although he is successful today, Adeyemi has also had rough patches in life. Just about 26 years ago, he was a graduate looking for a job, wondering how he would make it in life. He tried to get a job to no avail. As a last resort, he thought of travelling overseas.
He got his letter of invitation, got a ticket, bought the Basic Travel Allowance (BTA), packed his bags, luggage and even had a sendoff party planned by his friends. But he could not realise his dream of travelling as the Consular officer at the embassy of the country he wanted to travel to, asked him to go and get a document, which he was unable to get.
The whole arrangement crumbled. So he was back to square one. Things were tight, hopes dashed.
But then he held on, believing that the future would bring good things. Today, his belief and perseverance has paid off, as he has made success of his life. He is married to Adenike, an architect who pastors with him, and they are blessed with lovely children.
This is the story of Lagos. It is still unravelling, not for them alone, but for millions of other Nigerians, who have made it in the mega city.