Why most Nigerian companies are controlled by foreigners —Ex-Odu’a Investment chair Akintade
Chief Isaac Akintade is the immediate past Chairman of Odu’a Investment Company. The owner of a chain of businesses before he was appointed the chair of Odu’a Group spoke with GBENGA ADERANTI about his tenure as the chairman of Odu’a Investment Company, the challenges he faced managing the conglomerate, the business climate in Nigeria and why the nation’s economy will continue to be dominated by foreigners.
What was the state of Odu’a Investment Company when you came in as the chairman?
Well, Odu’a Group was vibrant. Workers were very enthusiastic. Odu’a was making good profit when I became the chairman.
So what did you do to improve what you met on ground?
As the chairman, I was supervising the general board meeting. Whatever happened during my tenure was not directly my own making; it was the making of the board in general. There were so many innovations. But first, let me tell you I was a director there for four years before I became the chairman.
When I was the director, Dr. Adebayo Jimoh was the GMD (group managing director). We had very collaborative moments. All the directors and the chairman worked together, and there were so many projects we initiated and completed. Part of the projects was the Shoprite Mall and other malls that were initiated and completed.
You know Cocoa House got burnt. The place was renovated through Adebayo Jimoh with our direct collaborations.
If you look at most of the companies in Nigeria, you will see that they are being controlled by foreigners. Why is this so?
Number one is that you cannot run a company without capital. Most of these foreigners will come to Nigeria with small foreign exchange and convert this to the Nigerian currency and establish themselves. With capital, you can go places. Although there are so many so-called experts in the country, but are they really professionals in their fields? Nigerians don’t have capital and banks are not willing to give loans. Even if they give loans, most Nigerians will not use the loans efficiently. That is why most companies are being controlled by foreigners.
It is generally believed that the business climate in Nigeria is very hostile. From your experience as a chairman of a conglomerate, would you agree to this?
Well, it depends on what you are doing and how professional you are. Why they say the business climate is hostile is because you have to provide your electricity, you have to provide your water, you have to provide everything on your own before you can run a company. All these things cost money and they are part of your cost of production. It will be difficult for you to make profit.
Of course, the Nigerian factor is still there. The Nigerian factor is that most Nigerians are not sincere. Abroad, when a European is working for you, he is working for you conscientiously. But most Nigerians, when they work for you, they won’t work for you conscientiously. That is the Nigerian factor.
How did you feel managing an organisation like Odu’a?
It was easy. Very very easy. I was a businessman before I joined Odu’a. I own Famak Nigeria Limited, and oil company. We have a construction firm and a chemical company. We represent Lafarge in Ondo area. So I have been managing businesses, it was very easy. And my job was to supervise directors, pass information to the GMD for him to carry out.
Do you have any regret serving the organisation?
I have no regret serving the conglomerate. I feel so proud to have served there. I have no regret. The current chairman is a friend and younger brother, so where would my regret come from? No regret at all. If I’m called to serve 100 times, I wouldn’t mind.
On my exit, I would say, when our party lost election in Ondo State, I definitely knew immediately that the new government would appoint another person to replace me. I had even packed most of my things from the office. I was there to serve. No regret at all.
But let me say this also that there was no proper procedure in my leaving Odu’a. My appointment was tenure-based and I was supposed to leave on the 3rd of December 2017. But the GMD just called me and said I should not come to the board meeting. As an elderly person, I obliged, waiting for what would happen next.
My leaving Odu’a was not proper. Even if the governor had sent another person to replace me, he would have written me a letter, because I served the Odua states. My letter of appointment says only the stakeholders, not only my governor, can relieve me of that position.
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