Can you describe how easy it is running O’dua Investment Company?
I will say fundamentally that it is based on three things, and the most fundamental is our Creator, that gives one the opportunity to be in this position, and with His backing and signing, He gives you what you will use to be able to cope with it. In addition, there are other complimentary things that are needed to run a business organization and it include very competent board and management, shareholders, and the management. If you have a shared vision, it will simplify your journey though it remains tough and it will remain tough that is why it is called business.
Yes, you are doing quite amazingly well, but, who really is Mr Adewale Raji?
Adewale Raji is a very simple, modest citizen of Nigeria. I had the privilege of attending public institutions in Nigeria up to the University level where I bagged my first degree in History and subsequently higher education at the level of Masters of Business Administration (MBA) in Marketing. In the course of my exposure in life, particularly at the private sector, I was opportune to access business education from outside the shores of Nigeria at Cranfield University and at Manchester Business School. I worked for multinational companies in Nigeria before I was recruited into running O’dua Investment Company Limited.
We have been following your records of accomplishment as the GMD of Oodua investment. Is there any special secret…?
The foundation for O’dua Investment Company is what is formerly known as Western Nigerian Development Corporation (WNDC), which was the mainstream of economic development for the Old Western Region. The Western Nigerian Development Corporation created the first industrial estate in Nigeria known as Ikeja Industrial Estate. Courtesy of our ownership, there is a huge expectation from both shareholders, stakeholders about Oodua Investment Limited, people see it within the context of what WNDC did in those days, and this made the expectation to be high.
There are many tasks to do and there are basically three important legs cohabiting together, collaborating and blending to making sure that the direction and focus of the company is translated to reality.
We have the shareholders, which include the Governors of the six southwestern states of Nigeria (Lagos, Oyo, Ogun, Ondo, Ekiti and Osun), a board, the management and staff. They expect the company to be the engine room of the economic development of the southwestern states and that is the task that we have been assigned to do - and doing this task requires enormous work, collaboration, reaching out to stakeholders within and outside Nigeria.
This means you are indeed a serious and focused businessman, no time to gallivant around…?
There is so much to be done and in attempting to meet these expectations, it is important that you have the manpower which are the people, and talents, people who can compete with any other capable hands elsewhere and in every other sectors. This means that we continually invest in people in terms of talent incubation, attracting and retaining talents and also to encourage them.
Odu'a Investment’s last AGM marked the 8th consecutive year the company has been declaring and paying dividends to shareholder states. What is the magic behind this as it was not so before you took over the mantle of leadership…
I was hired from the private sector and that is the only one reason I was considered for the job. They expected me to do exactly as it is being done in the private sector where the essence of a business is delivering value and returns to its shareholders and stakeholders alike. I was appointed to make sure stakeholders and shareholders are happy with our performance and one way of demonstrating that you are running a thriving business and that you are living up to expectations is to continuously be on a path of sustainable profitability where growth must be sustained too.
In doing this, shareholders and stakeholders all expect to have a share from your success, payment of dividend is a standard routine and it is a norm in the private sector and failure to do so means you are inviting trouble and that is how it should be in Oodua Investment Company too.
In addition, when you meet the expectations of shareholders, you will automatically get their support for whatever program or support you require from them, because you earned their trust and they will continually give you their support. We started with the payment of 167 million naira dividends, in June we paid 180million naira respectively.
Do you wish to speak about the much-talked-about O’dua Foundation and when it is kicking off?
Previously, I discussed about the shareholders and stakeholders, the fundamental thing is that there are many segments in the life of a business, especially when it is doing well – and including the employees who expect better packages and conditions of service while the government is also expecting the payment of tax and when you perform well, they expecte higher amount of tax.
In essence, we have to look for ways through which we can give support to good causes in the society, the O’dua Foundation was conceived by the board and the shareholders and there is an agreement on how it will be funded.
The board was very magnanimous in ensuring that we have sustainable fund for the foundation and this is tied to our profits after the payment of tax. We are proposing using a percentage of our profit to fund it and that is the reason the company must continually thrive. Our focus is on health, education and youth empowerment.
Are you not considering supporting government on the issue of insecurity?
The core responsibility of security is for everybody but fundamentally, it is the responsibility of the government, and every other segment of the society contributes to it because of the social impact they have. If O’dua as a group continues to multiply in business footprints, it shows that we are creating job opportunities and engaging hands that help in ensuring security. The money the government realizes from taxes are used to fund security.
Will you say that the company's achievements so far justify its existence?
Like I said earlier, we are into investment and the six state governments own them. However, the most important thing to know is that the Yorubas are the owners of this investment while the government is our representative. The progress of this investment organization is our priority as owners and that is why our present political leaders ought to be commended for appointing people who are qualified for the tasks they do.
In conjunction with the board members and management, we are working hard for the progress of the organization. We have some of our company's branches that are performing well and others that are striving but not to our satisfaction and we are working to revamp them.
We are also working to ensure that our hotels are world class and to compete with other five-star hotels in Nigeria and elsewhere in the world. The management and the board members are collaborating with investors to revamp the hotels owned by the O’dua investment in order to facilitate development and create more employment opportunities for our people. This act will even lead to the extension of the hotels, and if the development is completed, it will be of benefit to everyone and further restore our pride.
Specifically, I will say here that both Premier Hotel Ibadan and Lagos Airport Hotel will be completely revived. The board has approved this. More investors are coming in. There will be more rooms and event hosting in terms of conferencing and banqueting to promote tourism will be enhanced. To do this, we need tons of billions of naira.
Are you planning on establishing new business outfits and revamping the old ones?
From the Board’s point of view, there are strategies we are working on. This strategy was started in 2021 and it is tagged SRC 2025. It is a five-year strategy - the S stands for sweat, the R stands for revive, and C stands for create.
Talking about the ‘Sweat’, it is about our investments that are under performing. For instance, a lot of our property estates are under performing and we are planning to redevelop them to make them bigger and better for them to have more value and rate. We are collaborating to go into joint venture in order to revive our assets that are under performing. We already have two sure examples at Alakia (Westlink Iconic Estate) and the 16 terrace estate we have not too far from Oyo Press Center, Iyaganku also in Ibadan.
As for ‘Revive’, the hotel is a typical example and we are aware of our limitations as far as the society is concerned. For the hotels to be regarded as being of world class standard, we need billions of naira to re-develop them. We are proposing two strategic partnerships in ensuring that our hotels are of international class.
Is O’dua Investment Company Limited justifying its reason for being in existence?
Yes, but we need to do more. These are the reasons we came up with those strategies. Talking about creations, there are new sectors, which are now trending and are attractive to young men, which have continuous demand. Creating new businesses means that we have to look critically into the future sector because we are looking forward to generating more money from it.
Our investment in oil and gas sector comes from there and this is our intentions in order to handle foreign currencies and to invest internationally in dollars.
How ready is O’dua Investment for the oil and gas business?
The license was issued in year 2020, we paid the signature bonus fully and we are joined with other partners. The plans on the ground now are how to hit the first oil and it does not come easy, it requires some technical processes, which do not consume naira but dollars.
The technicality and financial side of it is what we are now sorting out with our partners and the whole idea is that in 18months from January 2023 we should be producing our first oil.
What is level of relationship of O’dua Investment Limited with DAWN Commission?
The Development Agenda for Western Nigeria (DAWN) and Oodua investment are like siamese twins and we have significant collaboration. The DAWN was set up as a think-tank and policy formulation part of the government and to help the shareholders – the six southwest states. The DAWN is an institution that is set up to design and manage development agenda for western Nigeria.
What admonition do you have for Yoruba Youths?
The Omoluabi ethos is extremely important because the value is not monetary and they should not miss it. I will urge them to get proper education in order to live a meaningful life.