This idea that most of Nigeria’s wealthy didn’t have to work for their wealth bothers me.
That most of them simply got lucky. Who are these people? I don’t know them or maybe I don’t see them because they are not my immediate reality so when people say that there are no examples for young Nigerians to learn from because you can’t teach luck, I don’t get it. Let me give you a few examples from an industry that I am very familiar with: The entertainment Industry.
Kene Mkparu: CEO Filmhouse Cinemas. Kene worked at a cinema house in the UK, rising through the ranks to become a manager before returning to Nigeria to work with Genesis Deluxe cinemas. Mparu eventually set up Filmhouse Cinemas in 2012, one of the fastest growing cinema chains in Nigeria. If there was Daddy’s money somewhere in the picture, there is no record of it. What I see is hard work, tenacity and a lot of guts.
Jason/Mary Njoku. I think that everyone knows Jason’s story. He started from practically nothing, now Iroko is one of the biggest African brands. Mary: CEO of ROK, their sister company is one of the most hardworking women I know, combining motherhood, producing and still successfully running what may soon be the biggest production/exhibition company in Africa.
Emem Isong: I don’t have to read up about this one. I can tell you categorically that Emem started from scratch. Made her first film, Breaking Point, with a loan of less than a 100k from her parents( Did you ever pay back that money sis?) and support from Tunde Kelani. That’s it. That is what has grown to be Royal Arts Academy, your number one production company and film academy in Nigeria. I accompanied her many times to Idumota, waded through floods to sit for hours unending waiting for marketers, now look.
Linda Ikeji. This is another one that is a bit personal. I have followed her blog from almost the beginning. I even featured her blog in my thesis. She tried modelling, ‘magazinning’ none hit but she was going somewhere. Even though blogging didn’t pay up immediately, the lady continued. I find it very laughable when people dismiss her hardwork; is it not just blogging, I’ve heard many say. You too blog nah. Like there aren’t a million blogs out there. She’s done it through sheer hard work and persistence.
Funke Akindele popularly known as Jenifa. Jenifa started as a film, became one of the most successful TV series of our times and I’m sure it won’t end there. Funke also runs SceneoneTV, an entertainment platform showcasing movies, series and lots more. Akindele started as an actress and worked herself to the top. I’m sure she can tell you the many hitches she faced but I’m also sure you’re not really interested. All you really want is for her to star you in her films.
These are the first names that came to me. There are so many others. Everywhere you look, there are several successful business owners, people who worked their way from the ground up but in true Nigerian style we choose instead to focus on the ones whose wealth is ill-gotten. How does that help the budding entrepreneur? You may also dismiss these ones as not matching the wealth you’re referring to but can we start with these ones first, then we can progress to the Elumelu type ones?
I think it's unfair to dismiss most of the nation’s wealth as ill or easy gotten; a way of excusing our own failures. Nigeria is extremely hard to do business in, I’ve had three of my generators pack up in one day. If I didn’t believe in witchcraft before, that day I was converted. Three! But try, we must continue to and draw inspiration from the many who have achieved successes in spite of these challenges.
Perhaps it’s the article from Paddy that has got many triggered but Paddy is minority you know. Think instead about Ebeano, Tasty Fried Chicken, Lekki Homes, So fresh, the many Alaba Merchants, the Lagos Island traders many of whom you’d be shocked at the meagre amounts they started with. There are several self made billionaires in Nigeria, they just may not be writing articles.