Success, it is said, does not come by chance. It can be achieved majorly through hardwork, resilience, discipline, dedication, and commitment. This is why successful people would always look inwards to find key solutions, while leveraging on opportunities anywhere.
This fully captures the life trajectory of Stella Okoli and Isyaku Rabiu, both successful entrepreneurs in Nigeria, who have weathered the storm of uncertainties in the business world and have come out successful.
Stella Okoli – Ward Attendant
Stella is one of the few Nigerians that have carved their names in gold in the nation’s pharmaceutical industry. Born in 1944 in Kano into the family of Chief Felix Ebelechukwu and Princess Margaret Modebelu of Nnewi in Anambra state, she started her education in 1954 at all Saint Primary School, Onitsha. She attended Ogidi Girls Secondary School where she obtained her senior secondary school certificate in 1964.
She obtained a degree in pharmacy from the University of Bradford in 1969, and a Master’s degree in Bio-pharmaceutical from the University of London, Chelsea College in 1971.
Stella Chinyelu Okoli started out as a Ward/Clinical attendant at Middlesex Hospital in London and later worked briefly as a Pharmacist at Boots UK, formerly known as Boots the Chemist Ltd. She returned to Nigeria and worked for a while at Massey Children Hospital, Lagos; before joining a pharmaceutical manufacturing company, Park Davies Nigeria Limited (now Pharma-Deko Plc). At Pharma-Deko Plc, she worked as a Medical Representative and later as a Sales Manager.
With adequate knowledge of the pharmaceutical industry, in 1977, Stella threw her hat into the ring of entrepreneurship by starting a small pharmacy retail shop, Emzor Chemist Ltd in Shomolu, Lagos. She named it, Emzor Chemists Limited which later metamorphosed to Emzor Pharmaceuticals in 1984. Today, Emzor Pharmaceuticals is a leading indigenous pharmaceutical company with well over 50 products to its name.
While running Emzor Chemist Ltd in 1981, Stella was into importation and wholesale marketing of pharmaceutical products. The drugs she imported were Ethical and Over-the-Counter (OTC) drugs.
The idea to manufacture drugs locally later came as a result of her passion to make healthcare affordable in Nigeria. Where others saw challenges, she saw opportunities and looked for ways to harness those opportunities for the public good.
Stella is a recipient of the ECOWAS International Gold Award and in 2012, was honored at the 17th This day annual award. She is also very passionate when it comes to philanthropy: a drive that made her start the Okoli Foundation, which was established in 2006 after the death of her son, to create awareness on cardiovascular diseases.
The retailer turned manufacturer has a net worth put at over 500 million dollars as at 2020. She is the fourth richest woman in Nigeria according to Forbes rating. She comes after Folorunsho Alakija, Bola Shagaya, and Princess Fifi Ekanem.
Alhaji Abdulsamad Isyaku Rabiu – Rice Seller
Abdulsamad Isyaku Rabiu is a household name in Nigeria’s entrepreneurship landscape. He is an industrialist, philanthropist, and successful entrepreneur. He was born on the 4th of August, 1960, in Kano State, Nigeria, into the family of late Khalifah Isyaku Rabiu.
He obtained his first school living certificate and secondary education in Kano State, Nigeria, before proceeding to the United States, where he obtained a degree in Economics from Capital University in Columbus, Ohio.
Abdulsamad Rabiu was saddled with the responsibility of running his father’s business of selling rice, flour, edible oil among others at the young age of 24, when he returned from the United States after his studies. At the time his father was detained by the administration of Maj-Gen Muhammed Buhari on allegations of duty evasion on rice imports. Even though young Adbulsamad did not have much business experience, he was able to stir the company in the absence of his father in 1984.
Equipped with experience gathered from handling his father’s business, he moved to Lagos to kick start his entrepreneurial journey. In 1988, he founded BUA International Limited to trade commodities, just as his father did. Abdul started with the importation of rice, flour, and edible oil. He then expanded by importing steel, billets, and iron ore. They were also supplying multiple rolling mills in the country.
In 1990, Delta steel company (owned by the government), contracted BUA International to supply raw materials. BUA was paid with finished products by the government. The government contract gave BUA the much-needed windfall.
In 2005, BUA acquired the largest edible oil processing company, Nigerian Oil Mills Limited, and then set up 2 flour milling plants in Lagos and Kano. Three years down the line, BUA commissioned the second largest sugar refinery in sub-Saharan Africa.
In 2020, Forbes estimated Abdulsamad’s wealth at $3.2 billion, putting him 716th in the global billionaire’s rating.
Stella and Abdulsamad have all contributed and are still contributing their own quota to Nigeria’s private sector, with job creation and revenue generation. Both of them were born in Kano and had their first degree abroad. Asides their educational background, the ability to proffer solutions to problems also makes them outstanding among their equals.