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Successful Entrepreneurs in Nigeria – Their First Jobs (Part 7)

Entrepreneurship in Nigeria has never been an easy task. For an individual to succeed in business in this clime, such an individual must prepare for uncertainties and put down a plan on how to navigate through such uncertainties.

In Tonye Patrick Cole and Femi Otedola, one can see two individuals in Nigeria that have shown great examples of what successful entrepreneurship should be.

Tonye Patrick Cole – An Architect

Tamunotonye Cole was born on 11th of January 1967 to the family of Mr. & Mrs. Patrick Dele Cole in Abonnema, Rivers State. His father happens to be the former managing director of Daily Times Newspaper and former Ambassador of Nigeria to Brazil, Patrick Dele-Cole.

Tonye Patrick Cole

He started his educational career at Corona School Victoria Island, before proceeding to King’s College, Lagos, and later Kings School, Ely Cambridgeshire, United Kingdom. Tonye returned to Nigeria to acquire a bachelor’s degree in Architecture and Engineering at the University of Lagos, Akoka. Later, he also obtained a Portuguese Certificate at Universidade de Brasilia, Brasil. He is also an alumnus of Harvard Business School, London.

Mr. Cole started his career as an Architect with a Brazilian Architectural Firm, Grupo Quartro SA in Goiania Brazil. He was there from 1990 – 1992. Tonye was part of the team that designed and implemented the Urban Planning and City Development of Palmas, Tocantins, far away in South America.

The award-winning architect is the brain behind the Ministry of Justice Building, Palmas, Tocantins, and many other buildings in Palmas, Brasilia, and Goiania.

Tonye came back to Nigeria in 1993 and got immediate employment with a Brazilian civil engineering company, the Nigerian Office of Empressa Sul Americana de Montagens S.A (EMZA). He worked there as the Director of Operations for three years.

He is the co-founder and former Group Executive Director of Sahara Group an energy conglomerate with operations spanning the entire energy chain in Nigeria and neighbouring West African countries to East Africa and beyond.

The Group operates in 38 countries around the world with over 4,000 employees and an annual turnover of $11 billion. He was directly responsible for building the Group’s global expansion and upholding her corporate governance principles, maintaining her status with global institutions like the World Economic Forum, where he was a key member of Partnering Against Corruption Initiative (PACI), the United Nations, where he was a pioneer member of the advisory board of the Private Sector Advisory Group for the UNDP Sustainable Development Group Fund (SDG-F), among others.

In addition to founding and running one of Nigeria’s largest energy conglomerates, Mr. Cole also created the Sahara Foundation. He continues working to inspire the youth of Africa through charities such as his NGO, Nehemiah Youth Empowerment initiative, which aims to influence change in Africa by bringing together young and emerging leaders to develop and implement practical strategies that will produce positive outcomes for millions. Recently, he set up the Behavioral Health Institute (BHI) for the study and management of behavioral health issues, especially among the youths in Nigeria.

It is worthy of note that despite Tonye’s achievements, he is a dedicated worker in God’s vineyard. He is an ordained minister at the Redeemed Christian Church of God. Tonye Cole is also the leader of Nehemiah Team, a team dedicated to making the Redemption Camp a modern city.

Femi Otedola – Marketer At a Printing Press

Femi Otedola was born on the 4th of November, 1962 to the family of Sir Michael Otedola, a former governor of Lagos. He had his first degree at Obafemi Awolowo University Ile-Ife.

Femi Otedola

Femi Otedola started his career right from his home in the 1980s. He worked as marketing personnel for his family’s printing business for a while before venturing into oil and gas. He felt that the oil and gas business was a more viable business opportunity which led him to establish Zenon Petroleum Oil and Gas Limited in 2003. Zenon Petroleum Oil and Gas has a 147,000MT storage capacity capable of distributing fuels to large manufacturing companies in Nigeria.

Zenon went further to obtain 28.7% share in African Petroleum Limited. Femi Otedola was later appointed the Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of African Petroleum Limited because of Zenon’s shares in African Petroleum. He later acquired an additional 29.3% share of African Petroleum Limited (56% shares in total), making him the largest shareholder of African Petroleum Limited.

African Petroleum Limited was later changed to Forte Oil Plc with lots of improvement in management and technology put in place, which was pioneered by Femi Otedola. Forte Oil gained access to the global market after selling 17% of its equity to Swiss Commodity Trader Mercuria Energy Group. He is also the president of SeaForce Shipping Company Limited.

Otedola advanced consistently in his business career and diversified into the Financial Industry. He is one of the major shareholders in Zenith and United Bank of Africa (UBA).

Read Also: Successful Entrepreneurs in Nigeria – Their First Jobs (Part 6)

Otedola is a big-time investor acquiring properties all over the world. In February 2007, he acquired a real estate worth N2.3billion from the Federal government through the Zenon of Stallion House. This acquisition was believed to be a step in the right direction towards the expansion of his numerous business empires.

One among the numerous philanthropic gestures of Femi Otedola is his donation towards the completion of the Numerical Ecumenical Centre in 2005. He also donates to Michael Otedola’s University scheme and the scheme has helped more than 1,000 students. It was reported that N200m of the University’s Scheme fund was donated by Zenon in 2005.

Both Tonye Cole and Femi Otedola operate in the energy space and remain great instruments of inspiration to many Nigerians.

Joy Adams

Categories: Features