By Femi Soneye
“Do you see a man who excels in his work? He will stand before kings; he will not stand before unknown men.” This is what the Bible says in Proverbs 22:29 (New king James Version) concerning men or women who are excellent planners, who produce excellent work, who push through obstacles, who are self-motivated and who show persistent and hardworking effort in doing something. The King James Version uses the word diligence in that chapter. Read it: “Seest thou a man diligent in his business? He shall stand before kings; he shall not stand before mean men.”
The word diligence, aptly regarded as a combination of both hard work and patience, equally, perfectly approximates the major character trait of Otunba Bimbo Ashiru, the pacesetting Group Chairman of Odu’a Investment Company Limited (OICL).
Before Ashiru stepped in the chairmanship saddle at OICL, he had characteristically defined his eon with the magnitude of his accomplishments, crafting and recrafting positive narratives of how preparedness was always meeting with leadership and personal commitment or devotion to deliver on mandates.
For Ashiru, the irreducible minimum in both public and private sectors engagements is hard work, together with more hard work in appreciation of rewards for his numerous exertions and achievements. This, perhaps, explains the dizzying pace at which he set out, garnered successes for posterity between June 2022 and May 2023, about a year of his ascendancy to the plum position. He is indeed restlessly embracing the future with a great optimism and reasonable expectations of what the Almighty God has in store for him.
But the command room guru is on top of his game, plotting an enviable trajectory in visioning for growth and development of the enterprise over which he presides. He is as passionate about the present state of OICL as he is about what the future holds. He has therefore, as an afficionado of worthy legacies, toed the path of stamping his imprimaturs on iconic projects that ramify all sectors in which the OICL has its presence. Whereas, he had represented Ogun State on the Board of the OICL, the seriousness with which he applied himself to the assignment would commend him for a higher calling as the intrepid Investment and Strategic Management expert was, on June 22, 2022, named as the OICL Group chairman.
For Ashiru, it was business unusual ad he hit the ground running, positing an impressive record, on June 28, 2022, just six days after stepping in the saddle, of leading the top management of the company to the signing and handing over of the license of BITA Marginal Field covered by PPL 249 to Bita Exploration & Production Company Limited, BEPL, an event that took place in Abuja. BEPL is the Special Purpose Vehicle (SPV) jointly owned by OICL and Pioneer Global & Resources Limited that will be the operator of the issued license from the Nigeria Upstream Petroleum Regulatory Commission (NUPRC).
Basking in the euphoria of the successful Abuja outing, Ashiru had on July 5, 2022 held an interactive session with OICL staff members at the company’s head office. He had taken the opportunity of the session to charge the management and staff members to work assiduously to achieve the corporate goal of turning the company into a world-class conglomerate. His charge was quite understandable and aligned with his commitment to honcho a productive team in his drive to reinvigorate the company and set it on the path of maximum productivity.
According Ashiru, “achieving the dream of making OICL a global brand will require the total support of staff members as well as loyalty, team spirit and creative engagement, so that the vision, mission and the core values of the company can be upheld.” In line with the set goals, he had on August 11, 2022 lead the management team to Lagos to present to the State Governor, Mr Babajide Sanwoolu, the State Government’s Odu’a Investment Share Certificate at the Lagos House, Ikeja, Lagos. He had taken the opportunity provided by the occasion to request for more support from the Lagos State Government. He had told the governor that “Odu’a is ready to partner and work with the state government for more business opportunities in hospitality, real estate, tourism and agriculture, especially the Imota Rice Mill.”
Ashiru’s development-seeking voyage transcends the domestic front. On September 6, 2022, he led OICL team on a visit to Canada to woo Canadian investors at the Nigerian House, Ottawa. On September 20, 2022, he had continued his positive Diasporic gambit by registering his significant presence at the African Union Development Agency-NEPAD in trade collaboration with the African Export-Import Bank Afreximbank at the UN General Assembly in New York. These strategic shuttles were emblematic of his progressive leadership.
He would later, on January 10, 2023, during the OICL Board business visit to vice-president Yemi Osinbanjo (now former) at the Presidential Villa in Abuja, explained that Odu’a Investment was being transformed into a lean non-operating investment holding company to enhance transparency, focus on investment management and sustainability, traverse a path of maximum impact, and leverage the models seen succeeded in similar institutions across the globe. It was big platform to convey the critical message that OICL was not a slush fund to promote and service personal aggrandizement and greed. Apparently, matching his words with action, Ashiru on February 9, 2023 got Osinbajo to inaugurate Phase 1 of the 67 residential units of Westlink Iconic Villa in Ibadan. Westlink Iconic Estate is a joint venture project OICL and Chapter 4 Estates Ltd. The Estate is located opposite Nigerian Breweries, Alakia, Ibadan, Oyo State.
Ashiru was surefooted in his presentation. He had assured Osinbajo and others present on the occasion that OICL was bullish about the immediate future of Nigeria’s real estate industry. Read him: “As one of the largest holders of real estate assets in the country, we see first-hand the immense opportunities across the residential, commercial and industrial segments of the sector. We plan to develop new and build on existing partnerships to help meet the growing demand for modern and first-class property and living environments and over the last four years, the Odu’a Investment Group has leveraged partnerships with developers such as Chapter 4 Estates.”
Ashiru’s forward-looking nature has fed perfectly into the potential for greatness hat abounds in the circumference of the ecology of the OICL. He is driving management and staff members to pursue the completion og ongoing projects and reinforce the possibilities that abound in future plans, programmes, and projects.
One significant is agriculture and agribusiness. As part of efforts to promote agriculture which is one key priority, South West Agricultural Company (SWAgCO Ltd) was established to unlock unrealized agriculture and sub-optimized agribusiness value by transforming underinvested agribusiness opportunities within Nigeria into institutional-grade investment operations. On Ashiru’s watch, the Board and Management of the Holding Company has begun to ensure the actualization of SWAgCo’s corporate objective.
In the area of Hospitality & Tourism Destination, OICL, propelled by the Ashiru effects, has commenced discussions with international brand managers in developing OICL’s three hotels; Lagos Airport Hotel Ikeja, Premier and Lafia Hotels both in Ibadan into globally-acceptable standards. According to Ashiru, “The Redevelopment and Revamping of Premier Hotel by remodeling, renovating and upgrading the existing Premier Hotel structure from an 87-room hotel to a 150-room modern world class 5-star hotel commenced on January 16, 2023. The redevelopment is being done through a strategic partnership with a hotel developer and management expert having both technical expertise and financial capacity. The new 5-star Hotel which shall retain in its name the word “Premier” will have the following amenities: 150 rooms keys for deluxe rooms, executive rooms and suites, 4 nos. 2-bedroom apartments. Conferencing/meeting rooms of different capacities, 6 outlets for Food & Beverages Services, Leisure & recreation arena for games, gym & spa, and parking for 400 cars-multi-storey car park and surface parking.”
Another key area of productive engagement is the real estate. Apart from the Westlink Iconic Project, the company, on Ashiru’s watch, is undertaking different real estate development including the Westlink Supremacy Court at 81b Oduduwa Crescent, Ikeja GRA in Lagos, which is a Joint Venture Partnership development of OICL and Venison International Limited, an indigenous real estate firm that had completed a series of property developments in Nigeria. For transparency and accountability, the property, with the land size of 3446.5sqm is for construction of eight (8) numbers of 3-bedroom flats; eight (8) numbers of 2-bedroom flats and newly constructed four (4) numbers of terrace houses of 4-bedrooms with 1-maids room. The 20-household on the estate would share facilities/amenities which include Swimming Pool, Gym House, 24-hour CCTV, Water Treatment Plant, 24-hour power supply, green area for kids and gated premises.
There is also the West Heritage Court at No 8/10 Ogunlesi, Palmgrove in Lagos, which is a joint venture development of OICL with Glenwood Development Company Ltd. The 1900sqm land is for the construction of two (2) new blocks of six (6) numbers of three (3) bedroom flats totaling 12 housing units. The facilities/amenities to be provided on the modern mini-estate would include Swimming Pool, Road, Parking and Landscape, Water Treatment Plant, Borehole and Water Reticulation, CCTV and fire alarm, Fence and 24-hour power supply.
Another property situated at 87, Oduduwa Crescent, Ikeja, Lagos, owned by OICL had been earmarked for redevelopment to unlock the potential of the property, located in a high-net-worth community with urban facilities and infrastructures. The property dilapidated block would be up-scaled and redeveloped to eight (8) numbers of 3-bedroom flats; eight (8) numbers of 2-bedroom flats and four (4) numbers of terrace houses of 4-bedrooms with 1-maids room with a detached 5-bedroom block. The households on the estate would share facilities/amenities which include swimming pool, gym house, 24-hour CCTV, water treatment plant, 24-hour power supply, green area for kids and gated premises.
There is also the Westlink Clinton’s Court, at Iyaganku in Ibadan, which is a joint venture development by OICL and Clinton’s Properties Limited. The 6,673.44 sqm land is being developed to four (4) blocks of four (4) numbers of terraces houses. Each terrace house would have four bedrooms (all en-suite) with an attached boys’ quarter. The shared facilities/amenities to be provided in the estate includes Swimming Pool, Gym House, 24-hour CCTV, water treatment plant, 24-hour power supply, green area for kids and gated premises. In all, a total number of 16-housing units would be constructed.
Other investment projects which are benefitting from Ashiru’s inspirational leadership are: Energy/Power Project, Oil and Gas, Pharmaceuticals/Healthcare, Logistics and Transportation, and ICT and Financial Services. As an active key player in the competitive trade and business world, opportunities abound in the Odu’a Group to local and foreign investors/technical partners seeking reliable partners in new business opportunities.
According to OICL: “We seek to enter new businesses in these chosen sectors with high potential for growth, profitability and sustainability. The basis of these new entities is strategic partnership with technically proven and financially capable partners.” The OICL is a going concern, which is lucky to enjoy the superintendence of an astute businessman, a shrewd investor, an accomplished banker and a pacesetting marketer.
Otunba Bimbola Ashiru, the man in the saddle, was born in Ijebu-Ode to the illustrious Ashiru family. His father, the late Pa Simeon Adeyemi Ashiru, was a distinguished Ijebu statesman while his mother ‘Omo’ba (Princess) Moradeun Ashiru, is from the Fidipote royal family of Ijebu Ode and the ruling house of Owu-Ijebu.
He has academic degree in Marketing, Purchasing & Supply, and a Masters’ degree, to boot, in Strategic Management. With this background, he entered the services of the then Chartered Bank in the year 1989. In a successful career that has spanned two decades and taken him to various institutions, he had served in various management capacities, including Head, Private Banking Unit; Branch Manager; Head, Institution and Professional Banking; Regional Coordinator; Country Director, Personal and Business Banking; Director, Corporate Affairs and Corporate Social Investments; until his last position of Group Head, Public Sector with Stanbic IBTC Bank. He was the pioneer head of the department.
Otunba Ashiru, a man with a Midas touch, is also a man of seemingly limitless eleemosynary acts and charitable works, with an almost tangible desire for developing people around him, and this virtue had translated into his appointment as the representative of the Awujale of Ijebuland on the Ijebu Development Initiative on Poverty Reduction (IDIPR). He has distinguished himself in this field and has, so far, effectively represented his people to the best of his ability.
He is a member of The Metropolitan Club, Ikoyi Club 1938 and a member of the Ijebu Heritage Group and Ijebu Renaissance Group. A Fellow of the Chartered Institute of Bankers [FCIB]; Institute of Strategic Management of Nigeria; National Institute of Marketing of Nigeria [FNIMN] and Chartered Institute of Commerce of Nigeria, Ashiru has made his marks in all his endeavours.
In recognition of his selfless service to society and having distinguished himself as a true son of Ijebu land, he was presented with the royal title of Otunba Adeona Fusigboye of Ijebuland in December, 2006 by His Royal Majesty, The Awujale and Paramount Ruler of Ijebu Land, Oba (Dr.) Sikiru Kayode Adetona, CFR, among other numerous accolades and feathers in his cap. His current exertions at OICL remains his most significant effort yet as he chairs the business interests of six southwest states. Without a doubt, he is a perfect fit for the job.
(Soneye, a public policy expert and publisher of Per Second News, writes from Abuja.)