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OPINION: Femi Otedola’s Impactful Life and His Art of Generosity @58

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By Oladapo Sofowora

Life, in its totality, is still a mystery and indeed yet to be unravelled. The more we find all possible means to unravel the mystery behind it, the more it proves abortive.

For those who have an appreciable understanding of what life is, they are quick to highlight the important role destiny plays in the early sojourn of man. Like the popular axiom, “there’s a thin line between life and death”, so being alive, there are so much more reasons to give thanks to the giver of life.

For Femi Otedola, Chairman of Geregu Power Holding, bubbling with life in good health and wealth and witnessing another birthday on mother earth on the 4th of November as he marks his 58th birthday, is worth celebrating to the high heavens.

A Life of Destiny 

If you have followed his life with keen interest since he was born over five decades ago, Otedola is a man who has never struggled with destiny. He believes anyting that happens to man is the will of the creator. 

When he was born into the family of Sir Michel and Lady Doja Otedola on the 4th of November, 1962, his soothing cry went loud as the stars shone so bright, urshered in with a fresh gust of wind that blew with ease. 

Those were signs that, indeed, a child born under the proverbial lucky star has arrived. A child specially created by God to change the fortune of his generation. The news spread around town like wild fire, more reason he was named, ‘Oluwafemi’ meaning ‘God Loves me’. 

It has always been clear since that fateful day that God truly love him, as he has enjoyed uncommon grace, knowledge and wisdom like the biblical King Solomon.

Femi’s sojourn in life was like a two a sharp two edge sword. It has been a mixture of the sweet and sour taste, as he has tasted both sides of life as a young man. Despite all these, he never stopped working and praying.

He was business oriented from his formative years, growing up in Surulere, Lagos. He is also a resilient goal getter, positive minded and a calculated risk taker. 

Cruising Back from a Monumental Setback

In 2008 was a year Femi will never forget in a hurry, as it marked the dark times in his life. 

That year, with the many things that played and how he was able to return to winning ways despite all the odds deserve a special mention whenever he writes his memoirs, and off course, it should qualify for a special study by students of business, or better still, a PhD thesis research should be conducted into it.

Though many have attributed his more usual turnaround story to sheer luck, some attributed it to his wizardry and ability to take calculate risk but; for Femi, his decision of not minding to start all over again and facing life on a clean slate placed him back on track. 

His Oil and Gas business that was booming at an all time high suddenly nose-dived due to the fall in global oil price. 

Though it was not his fault; it was a global issue that many people never recovered from till date, Femi went from being a billionaire in dollars to incurring debts running into billions of Dollars in such a short space of time.

Granting some interviews after he bounced back, the billionaire business man confessed that he only had two options; first was committing suicide, second was weathering the storm, proving naysayers wrong by starting all over again.

Committing suicide would have obviously proved to be a cowardice act, which is never in his lexicon. Remaining dogged by navigating through hard times and coming out strong was the only option, so he proceeded backed with self confidence and silent prayers in his heart. 

Femi gave up practically everything he worked hard for. From his blocks of flats to his investments in banking, hospitality, telecommunication among others, just to offset his debt. 

With his tenacity, trudging through the tough times, navigting the rough waters on the high sea, weathering the Typhoons and Tsunami directed at him, fortune smiled at him again as wealth in double folds visited him. By 2014, Femi was featured and celebrated on Forbes Magazine as a billionaire in dollars who bounced back. 

Though he was not new to the billionaire club, but the fact that he bounced back at a time when many thought he was going to be swept away by the turbulence he faced, made him stronger, wiser and better in making business and boardroom decisions.

A Life of Philanthropy 

Ever since that moment, Femi increased his act of giving. There was no better way he could have thanked his creator for giving him a second chance other than to intensify his charity works, knowing fully well that it was God who made everything possible. 

In continuing his acts of philanthropy, the benevolent billionaire took up the medical expenses of late famous reggae icon, Majek Fashek, who was at a time terribly sick and stranded in London.

The busines mogul has become an angel of hope to many and a God-sent to his compatriots, who have been visited by the vicissitude and lassitude of life. 

To say he is generous with his God-given wealth is to put it mildly. Among his other acts of uncommon generosity and fellow-feeling, he rescued ailing popular thespian, Victor Olaitan, when he needed over  $100,000 for treatment of an injury he sustained in a ghastly auto accident in 2016. The veteran actor received the much-needed but expensive neuro-rehabilitation treatment that saved his legs from being amputated, courtesy of the Lagos State- born business magnate’s kindness. 

Otedola again, came through for soccer star and Former captain of Green Eagles, Christian Chukwu, when he needed $50,000 to complete treatment for prostate cancer which had affected his leg. Otedola was said to have called him and promised to foot the bill at the Wellington Hospital, London. He was moved to tears as the man, who had made the country proud in the past as the captain of the first Nigerian team to win the African Nations Cup continue to suffer in pains due to inability to get treatment. 

In same light, Otedola also assisted Peter Fregene, a former Green Eagles goalkeeper, who had been bedridden since 2001. Femi also extended his generousity to ace Nollywood actor and broadcaster, Sadiq Daba, who, since 2017, has been battling leukaemia and prostate cancer. 

The man rated as the richest man in South-West Nigeria, at the St Augustine University’s Fundraising and Founders’ Day event held at the Muson Centre, Onikan,  Lagos in 2018, pledged to donate a well-equipped Faculty of Engineering building to the institution, which would be worth over N500M. 

Few months later, he fulfilled his promise, when he laid the foundation of the building in the presence of the Catholic Archbishop of Lagos, His Grace, Most Reverend Dr. Alfred Adewale Martins and his mother, Lady Doja Otedola, among other notable personalities. 

In November 2019, Femi Otedola also donated N5 billion to Save the Children Foundation in Abuja.

Also in 2019, the son of Former Lagos State Governor, was named the biggest individual donor to the Lagos State Security Trust Fund (LSSTF). Subsequently, he and some other donors were celebrated at an event tagged “Transformational Security” and the Lagos State Governor, Babajide Sanwo-Olu commended him for consistently intervening to improve the society.

As if that was not enough, during the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic, he also donated N1 billion to support government in fighting the virus at the early stage, while also rallying other businessmen by encouraging them to donate funds to cushion the effect global pandemic on the people. 

A Dotting Father

Despite loathing unnecessary media attention, he was in the news lately for buying 3 Ferrari cars for 3 of his children on same day in the United Kingdom. The buzz went loud as many wished for a father like him.

As much as he extends his generous hands to people, he is a man who brings his family first in anything he does. For him, the daughters deserves more than the Ferrari cars. 

To him, the daughters, who have kept the Otedola name high flying; maintaining high reputation and staying atop in their crafts, deserve more than that. He is ready to move mountain for his children. 

Apart from the quality education he has given them, he also taught them to be financially independent and look beyond his wealth. Despite being a liberal minded father, he has guarded his kids with love as they have constantly displayed the Omoluwabi character severally.

As Femi Otedola is gifted another birthday on earth by God and felicitation will litter the media space from all around the world, he would have personally wanted to call praise singers and roll the drums out in celebration mood but in his usual self, he will just use the day to reflect on life generally, pointing at things he would need to correct from the previous years and how he will keep contributing his own quota to the upliftment of humanity. 

With sliver and gold at his disposal, Femi is hoping to surpass every year with landslide achievement, using his God-given wealth for the downtrodden. 

For Otedola at 58, being alive is not calculated by the amount of wealth or riches you amass for yourself but calculated by the amount of giants you have raised to an enviable height.

Opinion

The Yoruba Nation Global Directorate rebuttal to the Yoruba Appraisal Forum

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The Yoruba Nation Global Directorate, the Yoruba government in exile, has lambasted the group otherwise known as YAF being the Yoruba Appraisal Forum for visiting some prominent Yoruba Royal fathers to mislead them with their anti-people position in Yoruba struggle.

In a statement issued by the Directorate Director, Princess Adeola Atayero Olamijulo, YAF said like the proverbial ‘agbalagba to nsare l’orere, bi o le nkan, nkankan ni lati maa lee.’

She said Yoruba people needed to observe closely who are their sponsors?

They need to honestly tell the world who are the drummers of these Uromis dancing on Yoruba socio-political waterway?

It will be recalled that few days ago, the YAF paid some Yoruba Obas a courtesy call. The Royal fathers in their response advised against self-determination and asked the agitators to tow the path of peace with the federal government.

Prince Olamijulo said YAF, are like, the name they bear. They appeared to have appraised the Yoruba nation, it perceives as a commodity to be sold to the highest bidder.

She said: Let us examine the major points of their advocacy:

1. that the Yoruba should continue to endure the current Fulani-induced meta-crisis in Nigeria.

2. That advocacy for Yoruba self-determination may lead to war with the rest of Nigeria.

3 That the prevailing clamor for Yoruba self-determination efforts is fueled by selfish interests of some politicians.

4. That Nigeria was the architect of economic success of the South West.

5. They urge the Youths to seek the available gainful employment rather than agitate for autonomy.

6. That YAF needs to answer the question, whose actions are provocative and war laden?

7. Who is misappropriating the power entrusted to them: the government impostors implementing the Fulani national interests instead of the true Nigerian national interests?

8. Who is the aggressor who is the victim? Who is killing, maiming, raping, and scorched-earthing who?

Princess Atayero Olamijulo claimed that the Yoruba are on the receiving end of the atrocities. Yet, YAF is asking us to stay-put, till it is too late to be viable.

She positioned that normally, if faced with danger, humans have the options to fight, flee or succumb.

What is YAF asking the Yoruba nation to do?

Will the Yoruba remain and submit to Fulani supremacist control? or will they take flight and disperse to the sea or the desert, Or turn global waka-abouts and live in virtual nation state, located only in their collective epic memory; while the Fulani occupy and enjoy the land and the valuables therein that Yoruba and their ancestors built up for ages?

Is YAF asking the Yoruba to take the submission option to appease the Fulani and become their slaves or manure to fertilize their usurped land?

YAF apparently is exhibiting the pathological state indicative of the protracted abuse they suffered in Nigeria over time. They now identify with their chronic abuser, a function of Stockholm syndrome. YAF, seems apparently bribed by the preserver of the status quo, who obviously derive immense benefits from the present chaotic state in Nigeria.

Let us appeal to YAF sponsors to stay away from confusing our traditional rulers. They should desist from smearing our royal fathers with their pathological state of mindset.

We should let sanity prevail. Let us draw a lesson from history. The stalwarts in quest for Yoruba freedom should take a cue form history.

We cannot continue to appease the Fulani nationalism aimed at destroying other ‘Nigerians’. Rather, we should resist it. It will boomerang on the Yoruba Survival Thrust if we pursue an appeasement strategy.

Appeasement of the aggressor never succeeds in human history: The Chamberlain 1938 appeasement policy to Adolf Hitler, led to World War II, gory warfare.

Princess Olamijulo recalled that the Native Americans successive appeasement to the invading Europeans led to the demise of the Native American (NA) nations. NA yielded their treasured land to the European settlers, adopted their religion, spoke their language, and way of life to appease the Europeans, yet, to no avail. What did they get in return: annihilation! The Yoruba have no choice, but to fight for self-determination. Any other suggestion will doom our group survival.

We can also draw further lessons from recent history of the other struggles for self-determination in Zimbabwe and South Africa. In Rhodesia, Iain Smith, illegally enacted white minority regime via the ill-fated Unilateral Declaration of Independence- UDI, from Britain, 1965.

The Africans opposed and a series of negotiations with the intransigent racist regime failed.

The Africans, led by Joshua Nkomo and Robert Mugabe, opposed Smith regime via the Patriotic Front insurgency.

When the opposition were gaining diplomatic and military success, to buy time, the illegal regime sought alliance with the traditional ruler, Chief Sikireta Chirau, the cleric pacifist, Bishop Abel Muzorewa and politician, Ndabaningi Sitole Smith renamed the country Zimbabwe Rhodesia, to reflect the alliance. The PF team were smart to refuse and the rest is history. The independent nation of Zimbabwe was born.
Identical situation happened in South Africa.

When the efforts of the African Congress alliance were about to yield fruitful result, the apartheid regime forged unholy alliance with the Zulu and other tribal chiefs, to slow down the apparent progress ANC was making diplomatically and to a lesser extent, militarily via insurgency. Chief Gatsha Buthelezi, lured by conservative Boers, introduced what he called, Ndaba initiative to dialogue between the Africans and the racist regime of South Africa. The ill-conceived ploy failed. The ANC triumphed and Apartheid disbanded.

Princess Olamijulo advised that the Yoruba freedom fighters should not relent their efforts. Victory is near and certain, because, Otito nii leke iro, Truth shall prevail. Lori otito la gbe ijangbara Yoruba le. Awa laa l eke, bi ojuoro ṣe n leke omi. Ase o

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Tech

Redefining Education in The Developing World by Nelson Tosin Ajulo PhD

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Education has been identified as the ultimate route to escape poverty. It is widely held that if you attend school, graduate, and get a lucrative job, your economic status will automatically be boosted or improved. This is still the case in today’s competitive world. However, it is hugely dependent on the nature or type of education you are receiving.

Sadly, the type of education delivered to African students and many other developing nations can not get them out of poverty. This is why we have millions of young graduates out there that are not employable.

The World Bank reports that youths account for more than 60% of all of Africa’s jobless population, and a large chunk of them are taking to crime, internet fraud and other anti-social activities to make ends meet.

According to the Accra-based African Center for Economic Transformation, a policy think tank, almost 50% of current university graduates in Africa do not get jobs.

For the African Development Bank (AfDB), it reports that of Africa’s nearly 420 million youth aged 15-35, one-third are unemployed and discouraged, another third are vulnerably employed, and only one in six is in wage employment.

The crucial challenge here is a disconnection between the education these graduates are getting and what the labour market needs. So what they need to get them out of extreme poverty and get them the much-needed job is quality education.

What is quality education? Quality education is the education you receive that would enable you to compete in the global marketplace. Any education outside of this is irrelevant.

Quality education is not necessarily about attending university for four years and afterward graduating. Even if you leave with a distinction, and your skills are not in demand, you will find it very difficult to get a job.

No apologies. Countless people are used to this type of education that is primarily theoretical. Unfortunately, governments and educational institutions across these developing countries are yet to understand or realise it. They keep pumping funds into this weak education system and expecting a different outcome. This is impossible. As long as there is a mismatch between the education received by students and what is in demand in the global marketplace, this problem will continue to linger. And if not addressed, youth crimes would persist in the fragile society.

Hence, governments and educational institutions must understand this and give youths quality education. Education that would empower them with skills that would get them well-paying jobs. These are digital skills, and they are currently in high demand. Skills like software development, cybersecurity, product design/development and UXUI designer, among others. Today, you do not need to attend a university where you would spend four years plus intermittent industrial actions to become a junior software engineer and earn money.

A platform like Zwart Academy, the edtech arm of the Zwart Talent Foundation, offers quality education to young people between the ages of 15 and 22 by equipping them with IT skills that will quickly get them out of poverty earn them their desired lifestyle.

Zwarttalent does this by training young people within the earlier age bracket in digital skills for six months. Upon completing the intensive and efficient training, they join Zwarttech for a one-year internship to work on projects and gather practical experience. After completion of the internship, they are connected with international IT jobs and start earning. The training comes at no cost. The students only need to commit their time and energy throughout the training and internship.

Importantly, you must have observed that the Zwarttalent approach is quicker, faster and well-planned. For example, it takes less than two years to become a software engineer, and there is no cost implication until the engineer starts working. This means that they can quickly get out of poverty, and the crime rate would significantly and drastically decline.

The developing world is faced with such myriads of challenges. It is also critical that sustainable solutions are deployed to tackle them. Therefore, it is only reasonable to learn the right kind of education to allow young people into poverty. With this, we can create a just, equitable and fair world. The governments and educational institutions must adjust to these realities and support or partner with an edtech like Zwart Academy to offer safety nets for young people.

Ajulo is the Chairman of the Zwart Talent Foundation

 

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Opinion

FIRSTBANK’S SPONSORED INITIATIVE ‘’FIRST CLASS MATERIAL’’ CONTINUES TO EMPOWER AND CELEBRATE NIGERIAN YOUTH

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First Bank of Nigeria Limited, Nigeria’s premier and leading financial services provider has again reinforced its commitment to Youth Empowerment and Entrepreneurship through its sponsorship of the docuseries ‘’First-Class Material’’ from the stables of Linda Ikeji TV 

 

Arguably Nigeria’s most valuable bank brand, FirstBank continues to pride itself as indeed the Bank of many firsts. First Class Material is a docuseries designed to celebrate Nigerians who are excelling in various fields of endeavour whether academic or non-academic. It is a program that aims to chronicle the success stories of Nigerians who are distinct and exemplary in their achievements and importantly, a testament to the greatness of the West African country. This docuseries aims to make education, vocational training and skill acquisition trendy, attractive and fashionable to the nation’s human capital by celebrating and rewarding innovators and trailblazers in various sectors. First-Class Material is a celebration of notable First’s by Nigerians which underscores what FirstBank stands for. The essence of the programme is to have many more people informed and encouraged by the successes, thereby having these feats emulated in their chosen endeavors.

 

First-Class Material aims to change the narrative about Nigeria and Nigerians by highlighting the great work Nigerians are doing in different fields, including Academics, Technology, Arts, Music, entrepreneurship, and many more. It also aims to inspire others to aspire to excellence and to see hard work, legitimate work, and diligence as something rewarding and deserving of emulation. FirstBank was the official sponsor of the maiden edition of First Class Material by Linda Ikeji TV and based on its success, the Bank is now also sponsoring Season 2 which will commence 3rd week in August. 

 

This innovative partnership would have viewers exposed to Nigerians across the globe that have carved a niche for themselves by being exemplary and influential in their chosen endeavours and career path. Success stories of notable firsts and trailblazers would be highlighted, with viewers encouraged to go beyond limits and leave no stone unturned at making their dreams a reality. Like the first season, which showcased exceptional individuals, the forthcoming season promises to share truly inspiring stories of great feats and accomplishments by some of the most unassuming Nigerians, in the country and dotted around the world. FirstBank’s goal is to inspire the youth and encourage them to make informed choices, critical to securing their future whilst impacting mankind and society at large.

 

FirstBank, historically, has had diverse interventions in promoting thought leadership and promoting initiatives that will stimulate the advancement of skill acquisition and capacity building for the Nigerian Youth to equip them for a bright future. The Bank’s sponsorship of the Programme is in tandem with the noble objectives of the bank which includes building and instilling values into its customers. FirstBank’s core values of people, passion and partnership very much align with the vision of the First Material towards building the youth to become tomorrow’s leaders. With over 127 years of continuous banking operations, First Bank of Nigeria Limited (FirstBank) is giving a good account of itself in this regard not only as a true financial powerhouse but also as a life enabler, helping Nigerians live better and achieve their dreams.

 

Apart from the First Class Material initiative and in the furtherance of the Bank’s long term commitment to promote youth development, professional excellence and education, FirstBank has also in the past and currently actively supporting various activities and initiatives in the youth segment. The bank partners with Eventful Nigeria Ltd for Fashion Souk, a platform that creates an opportunity for players in the fashion industry to exhibit and sell their wares to the thousands of event participants. The bank, also in a bid to ensure the sustainability of the industry, recently introduced fashion design loans specifically designed to offer financial support to the participants in the textile industry.

 

Through its [email protected] initiative, FirstBank consolidates all its efforts in the arts, supporting the entire value chain of the creative arts, providing much-needed financing and advisory support, showcasing and facilitating the successes of the industry, and enabling customers to explore and access the wealth of opportunities the creative industry has to offer.

 

Achieving these and a host of many others have been implemented through strategic partnerships with organizations like the British Council, Duke of Shomolu Productions, Live Theatre Lagos, Freedom Park, Terra Kulture, and the Cross Rivers State Government (Calabar Festival), among others.

 

With the sponsorship of similar socio-cultural initiatives in the creative arts industry like Moremi, Makaliki, Oba Esugbayi stage drama, October 1st (a movie), the Calabar Festival and the recently concluded, The Voice Nigeria (Season 3) the Bank remains exemplary to expose the youth to a wide range of opportunities that are integral to the realization of their dreams, as they contribute to the continued socio-economic development of their immediate environment and the country at large.  

 

Indeed, FirstBank remains a noble brand close to the heart of the youths and the deliberate efforts made by the bank has indeed been a catalyst of socio-economic growth of Nigerian youths and the nation as a whole.

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