By Olumide Lawal
This Cocoa Products Industry, Ede has a big story surrounding it. I therefore owe great gratitude to many people in government and outside it. The then military government was very ardent to break a monopoly of bad fortunes for Ede, by actively supporting the quest to site the industry here. It is my earnest prayer, that everyone connected with the operation of it in whatever category, would find joy and happiness in all their undertakings”.
That was the late Oba Tijani Oladokun Oyewusi, Agbonran II, Timi of Ede’s message of hope, delivered at the commissioning of the multi-million naira Cocoa Product Industry, Ede on October 17, 1982, with late Chief Bola Ige as old Oyo State governor in attendance.
From the onset, one squabble or the other reared its ugly head. The first expatriate Managing Director of the company, Mr. K.W. Sheldon, tried his best to put it on sound footings, but he lost out in a dirty board-room politics in a dramatic manner. The government-owner of the company, thereafter felt concerned about happenings in the company, and decided in 1990 to lease it out. This brought about a ‘marriage of strange bed partners’. And the resultant effect saw rounds of muscle flexing. The two principal leases of the factory at the time – Worldwide Industrial Ventures Limited and Dalami (Nig.) Limited – got involved in allegations and counter-allegations, which resulted in a fierce legal battle, that saw two legal luminaries – Late Chief Fredrick Rotimi Alade Williams (Timi the Law, SAN) and Aare Afe Babalola (SAN) slugging it out at an Osogbo High Court.
This went on for a period, before sanity prevailed, as the administration of Senator Isiaka Adeleke, the first Governor of Osun State, took the bull by the horns, by giving the final nod to Worldwide Industrial Ventures Limited, to effectively run the affairs of the company. Dalami (Nig.) Limited again went to court to contest its termination and this went on for years, before it was resolved by Olagunsoye Oyinlola’s government.
At the time Worldwide Ventures Limited took over, production capacity level was at 5 per cent. But within a short period, it raised the production capacity to 60 per cent, by injecting substantial funds into importation of spare-parts as well as locally sourced ones from the Nigeria Machine Tools Limited, Osogbo and Nigeria Sugar Company Foundries, Bacita. The FFA contents of cocoa, cake and butter, under Worldwide Ventures Limited hovered between 1.40 and 1.55 as against 2.24 before it took over. Globally acceptable FFA content for cocoa butter is 1.50.
Most unfortunately, the unexpected again happened in 1995, when the leasehold agreement of Worldwide Ventures Limited with Osun State Government, was crudely, illegally and arrogantly terminated by some over-zealous officials of the Ministry of Commerce and Industry, acting on the instruction of a Commissioner, who has his own ulterior motive of bringing in his friend to take over the leasehold of the company. Worldwide Ventures Limited was “thrown” out of Cocoa Product Industry premises in a jungle manner. It was like scaring away foreign investors. What followed could be better imagined than described.
There and then, began the unending and protracted problem of the industry for a long time. Osun State Government’s only industry, which In fact, is a goldmine if properly managed, is the Cocoa Product Industry, Ede. It is a veritable source of foreign exchange earnings for the state. It is capable of generating the much needed internal revenue for the state at this crucial moment of its socio-economic development. Moreso, with the need to tap into all natural resources that abound in the state.
Much as I am not holding brief for anybody, it is only fair to let the Chinese investors now in control, to operate without let or hindrance. Neither should any encumbrances placed on their way. There should be no bad blood, as regards who brought them into the scene. What we need in Osun State is accelerated industrial development. The present leasee is determined to put the company on the right footing. The factory is now a beautiful sight to behold.
The Cocoa Product Industry erstwhile managers and workers, who have been on forced holiday for more than 11 years, are men of proven integrity, who should be given the right of a recall if they so wish and take the company to greater heights. Cocoa Product industry, Ede, is a company of yesterday, today and tomorrow for the people of Osun State. It is posterity-bound and prosperity-inclined. The administration of Rauf Aregbesola, has now taken the bull by the horns in giving a new lease of life to the hitherto moribund industry. Aregbesola in his wisdom was able to put in place, a dynamic board of Directors, under the able leadership of a leading light in the entrepreneurial world, in person of Sir Adewale Adeeyo (OON).
This wonderful leader of men and material, on serious scrutiny of what was on the ground, shifting and weighing, hit upon a world-class investor from China, by name Golden Monkey, who are specialists in Cocoa Industry Management back in their country.
The Adeeyo-led board, in cooperation with officials of the Osun State Ministry of Commerce and Industry, were able to identify the core problems of Osun Cocoa Products industry, major among which, was that over the years of its abandonment, some unscrupulous people have vandalised very important cables, electrical materials among others. This in effect, had affected the industry badly. Governor Aregbesola was ready to give executive approval to the urgent needs of the company, whenever they were made. The Governor trusted absolutely in Sir Adewale Adeeyo role to re-invigorate the industry.
The new investor also came up with master plans for the resuscitation of the factory. They threw themselves seriously into revamping its operation. Brand new and state-of-the art equipment were brought in to replace the obsolete ones put in place since 1982, which in anyway are not in tandem with modern day operation of such a gigantic factory, adjudged the biggest in Sub-Saharan West African. Adeeyo did not leave anything to chance. He visited China one or two times to confirm the efficiency of the new investor as far as their activities in China were concerned.
He was able to ascertain and ensure that the new investors would not jettison the continuous and permanent operation of Osun Cocoa Products Industry.
It is to the glory of God, that the confidence reposed in Golden Monkey – the Chinese new investor was not misplaced. The dynamic company has made us proud in Osun with its multi-million naira turn-around rejuvenation and total-over hauling of the industry. What we now have in place is a factory that will stand the test of the time and ensure that the sweet aroma from the Osun Cocoa Products Industry, Ede endures forever.
A sparkling environment and committed workers are already in place, roaring to go into action. This new development will certainly improve the socio-economic life of Osun in general and Ede, its catchment area in particular. We hope that additional production lines for beverages, chocolate etc. will be put in place by Golden Monkey. All hands should be on deck, to make Osun Cocoa Products Industry, a lasting legacy and a pride of us all, so that generations coming behind, will say of us living, that we mastered our moment.
To Cocoa farmers all over Nigeria, there is a ready market waiting for your produce at Osun Cocoa Products Industry, Ede. Governor Aregbesola should trudge on and bring more industries to Osun, as we have industrial sites for Kaoline, bauxite, gold and other mineral resources across the state, waiting for exploitation and production for local consumption and importation, to boost the state internally generated revenue. The assistance of the World Bank in this regard should be sought. Such new investors should also be given tax holiday.
–– Lawal writes from Ede, Osun State