Monday, 2 October 2017

I am happy the Europeans who enslaved my forefathers now serve me as pilots—Jimoh Ibrahim + How he got his Araba title


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The Nigerian Business Turn Around expert, Dr. Jimoh Ibrahim (OFR)
In this concluding episode of our excerpts from an exclusive interview by self acclaimed Nigerian billionaire and turn around expert, Barister Jimoh Ibrahim (OFR), we had the Igbotako—Ondo State—South West Nigerian born Harvard trained entrepreneur talk about his life as a father, as a CEO, his ambition to retire into teaching, his encounter with the Ooni of Ife, his love for Obafemi Awolowo University among many other issues that reveals his philosophy. Asabeafrika has gone to the library to bring you this exclusive interview given to OVATION International Magazine. Enjoy the excerpts.

Today is celebrated all over the world as Father’s Day, how has it been for you in terms of balancing your home and work
Mrs. Modupe Ibrahim, Jimoh's wife 

I do not know the meaning of Father’s Day. We do not do that in the village (laughs). They tell you about Father’s Day in the church in the village. When they preach about fathers, they will dance to the altar and you will go back to your farm. This morning, when I woke up, surprisingly, I started seeing messages about Father’s Day, I said, ‘Ah ah, what is it?’ Later, I got several messages about Father’s Day, I have about 450 of such messages about Father’s Day, I had to delete them as unread. If I use my time to read 450 messages on Father’s Day when would I have time for my work.
Last week you donated a building at OAU, why
Jimoh Ibrahim donates Post Graduate complex to OAU
 
Any intervention for education in my opinion is important. Like I told you before, I so much cherish education. So the intervention at OAU is very critical because OAU has not had a post Graduate Hall in the last 50 years which is not good. Post graduate study is key, it is a pivotal foundation upon which educational structure should be based on. It is fundamental.
Jimoh Ibrahim with fans at OAU
So, when they asked me to intervene, I decided to build that for them. I built the post graduate college and don’t forget that OAU has played a significant role in my life. I moved from the village to Ife and you know in those days when you see undergraduates from Ife, they were like kings. You would keep quiet when I was talking. I cannot be coming from OAU  and you are coming from one OSU or LASU, In fact, I had to run always from LASU and move to Ife because some people did not allow me to rest in the village, Though, LASU was very fantastic and sound , but you know people were talking about UNILAG. The first holiday I went to the village, they asked me where LASU was. How can UNILAG students say they did not know where LASU was (laughs). Anyway, I said, ‘it is in Okokomaiko”. They said, “Where is Okokomaiko?” All I did was to return in the second semester. I upgraded my game and asked for a transfer to the University of Ife and Ife was generous enough to give me admission. I guess we still have to do more for our Secondary Schools and our Primary Schools by the grace of God.
I was to ask about the prayers you have in your offices every Monday, why is that significant
Jimoh Ibrahim

You cannot do anything without prayers. For the past ten years that we started this company, every Monday, anywhere that we are in the world, we have one hour of prayer. The Muslims will gather somewhere, the Christians will gather somewhere and we pray for ourselves, the company  and the week. After prayers, the CEO will take the floor for another one hour to set agenda, discuss vision and about management, we would be there till about one o’clock and after that, we start the week.
Without prayers you cannot do anything, there are what we call spiritual warfare and we can only counter them by prayers and not only prayer alone. We also go into fasting, maybe once in a quarter. If you do not do all these things, there is no way you can move forward. The enemy will just come and take everything that you have worked for from you. My faith in God is unshakable and I believe in the efficacy of prayers.
You started your company of the age of 36, and I am sure it is going to be ten years this August, how has the Journey been
Jimoh Ibrahim at home
 
It has been a very nice journey, very interesting, very challenging and very encouraging. We had cause to fight wars; we are ready to fight more wars because they are not enough and whoever brings it, we will dismantle. I have left my seat as a CEO for a convocation six times at different Universities, some I do not even know who is behind it, whether Doctorate or whatever, including my Great University of Ife when I was not expecting it. I was surprised the Senates of those Universities agreed to honour me. There was a particular University that I was informed just for four days to the convocation because that University had to pass the list through their State Governments. The university is run by two state Government  and both have to agree before one is  honoured. After the senate had done their assessment with the Board of Government then it was sent to the Exco of each of the states, I did not know all this was going on. But I am happy that at the end of the day no one raised any question about Jimoh Ibrahim. It has been humbling.
Jimoh Ibrahim adjusting his 'turn around' cap

Within this period, I was conferred by the Federal Government with the Officer of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (OFR) by late president Yar’Adua and I am very grateful because I see this as a very rare honour. I see all these as the handwork of God. For one to be able to employ 16,000 people and pay their salaries, then it is God at work. When I sat down to analyze our staff, our employee cut across nine countries including the United States and Britain. I think it is a rare privilege. You know we used to be slaves to the British and our forefather were serving them, now they serve me. When I sit down in the plane and an American man is flying me,
Jimoh Ibrahim's jet driven by white pilots
I take it with all humility, and I see it as the handwork of God. I have also served people. So we thank God for what he has done so far. I must add that some of my colleagues are also doing well. One is secretary to the Government, some are in the judicial service commission while some are permanent secretaries, one has just been appointed DG, NCAA, these were staff under me before, so I am happy that they are making progress, so all I can say is to thank God.
In ten years, what should we expected from you
Jimoh Ibrahim with his former Editor now Lagos State Commissioner for Information & Strategy, Dr. Steve Ayorinde with Publisher of News of The People Prince Loye Amzat

I would have retired. I will be in the University lecturing. I would have returned to the university to impact my knowledge on the young ones. My experiences of the last decades must be impacted on the youths. I am curious about the success of the youths. I believe that a lot of youth can still be successful in Nigeria and Ghana so I am just passionate about the youths. I want to see them through, I do not want to see any youth that will go to school in hunger in this country. I want to see the development and the success of the youths. I am happy and I thank God for the breakthrough that the youth are having in this country, either in music, arts and sports.
Jimoh Ibrahim & his mother
You see Aki and Paw Paw, talented people. Our youth are doing well in football. Kanu Nwanko for example came to play with me in my office. The meaning of Kanu is just Football, nothing more than that, because when he touches football, it is like he was created with it. So, he has become an icon, a role model to inspire these youths. Youths are excelling everywhere, it would be my responsibility to help them reach their full potential through impacting knowledge and guiding them appropriately. I want  them to be more successful than I am. My own story will be nothing when we see the story of these youths, in ten years time. The country belongs to these youth. Of course I would have been Governor  Of Ondo (He failed to become Governor last February 2017)
What of this lovely name they call you, Araba.
The Faces of Dr. Jimoh Ibrahim in Ovation Magazine

Chief Adefarati was to be given a chieftaincy in a place called Odere by his Royal highness. So, I don’t known what happened. It was a People’s Democratic Party ( PDP )- Controlled local government and they wanted to give the chieftaincy title of Aaraba Nla to the Governor then (Chief Adebayo) Adefarati who was of the AD (Alliance for Democracy). He thought that by taking that title, It would  improve his political fortunes in the area. But one week to the ceremony, some people advised him that going to the PDP territory can be dangerous, so he wrote them a letter that he would not be available. They felt very bad because they had made big preparation. So they started looking for sons and daughters that can match Adefarati’s status. They sent a message to me in Lagos. Some chiefs came and explained their dilemma. They were not too sure I will accept it but they wanted me to salvage the situation. They said Adefarati had disgraced them and that it was a call for humanity and community service. They told me I would not have to spend any money all I needed to do was to attend. About 20 of my friends drove to the place very uniquely and I was conferred with the Arabanla of Odere title. And that was it.
Is it because you are close to the traditional institution that you visited the Ooni recently as well
Jimoh Ibrahim with late Ooni Oba Okunade Sijuade (Olubuse II)
The Ooni visit is very significant in the sense that at my level in Yoruba land, It is expected that I must have seen Ooni by now. At least, the Ooni is supposed to know me personally, not that he would be hearing my name. I felt it was not right. Traditionally, You ought to go to the Ooni once in a month to pay homage. God has blessed us , so we should be able to respect our traditional institution. Because of my busy schedule, I have not gone to pay my homage and I felt that since we wanted to hand over the Post Graduate College to them in Ife. And the Ooni would know I was in his domain, it was an opportunity to visit him at his palace.
And how was the experience
Does it make sense to think like Jimoh Ibrahim?
Somebody just gave him a call. I did not even know how to do it because I felt that it was too short a notice. They just told him and he said he would be waiting for me 10 o’clock, so we went there. My visit to the Ooni was a great experience for me. I could not believe what we met  at the palace. The Ooni is a wonderful, a great father. He was so warm and hospitable, fantastic human being, I was really impressed with the great king. Champagne was flowing like water, ( Laughs) So I asked Baba Ooni, ‘Do you manufacture Champagne?’ They were very expensive Champagne, Cristal, Dom Perignon etc. He was sharing experiences with us and full of life. He prayed for everyone of us. He saw everybody because I took my staff to him one by one, he is an old man but he still found time to attend to all of them. We  went around the palace too.
The Dr. Jimoh Ibrahim @ home

Ooni does not take anything from people, You know he is a rich man. So, you do not know what you want to give to him. So he presented traditional clothes to me. We were flowing with him for two hours .When we entered his Palace, it was elegant, there was one place that we were asked to sit in before we went to see him. It was pure white chairs. You can imagine upholstery made of pure white, everything in the room was white. From there we moved to the blue parlor, it is about ten minutes walk from one siting room to the other. There were swimming pools everywhere. If you want to give Ooni anything, I think you will be embarrassing yourself, if you say you won’t give such man money, because I do not know what you can give him.
The Palace is like a town, the people that serve him are 52 in number (laughs heartily) not to talk of domestic staff. They have a secretariat, bank, local government, press office, police station, everything is in the palace. You go to the car pack, what cars are you looking for? You see the vintage Rolls Royce and the latest model ones too, and even the ones he has not driven at all.
In all, would you say the visit was worth it
The Dr. Jimoh Ibrahim in a relax mood
Oh, it was more than worth it. I came back with two experiences. For one, I saw real wealth in practice, not people who are managing and would be pretending. Everywhere you turned, you can feel the wealth. The second is the richness of the traditional institution.  It is incredible, the Ooni operates like a country. In fact, that palace is a country inside a country because everything is there. He is a simple man, he kept discussing with us, taking us down memory lane and kept assuring us that by God’s grace and power, our business will be okay. Indeed, he is a father and a father of all. It was a very wonderful experience.
Early this year, you had the GMD’S conference in Dubai, Why was it necessary to fly your mangers there and what was the purpose
The Dr. Jimoh Ibrahim with member of staff at a seminar in Dubai
It is a company policy. We realized that people move from being Officer to become Managers without ever traveling to any country. So, you have never been to Dubai, London or America and they are made Branch Managers. How do you make someone a Branch Manager, controlling about N2 Billion and has never been to London. Yet, he made 2’1 (Second Class upper) in the University. The emphasis here is on the certificate and how sharp and productive the person is, but this person has to be exposed. So, 95 per cent of the people that went with me to Dubai have never traveled before.
Seriously
The Dr. Jimoh Ibrahim alighting from his private jet
Yes, In fact, when we had our conference in London, one of the Managing Directors of our two Banks has never been to London. And he moved to us from another bank. He was just sending money to London to get things done, he had never been there before. We have about four Executive Directors that had never been to London. We now decided at the Group level that we would look at Officers that are already Managers and try to make sure that we take them out of the country. 350 people are going to China on January 15th . If you see some people discussing and analyzing China with different chats and data, they will be telling you about China’s GDP, China’s population etc, you will think they were born in China. I think they will be more enlightened when they see China physically. In fact, some of them write projections about China in the next ten years, first class papers but they have not been to China (laughs) So, let us take them to China so they can feel the place first hand. Nigerians, Ghanaians, Sao Tomeans, let us go to China.

Gbenga Dan Asabe

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