Mayokun Ilo: A Man of Books and Letters

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With a story typical of an Angel Investor, Mayokun Ilo’s looks belie his age and achievements. From a humble and deprived background, with sober convictions, realistic valuations, he’s remained resilient pursuing his dream of a good life. Years down the line, he’s risen above those challenges that almost held his dreams down.  As a serial entrepreneur, management expert, oil and gas expert, brand strategist, technocrat, economist and lecturer, his track record of hunting down and financing talented brains, the impressive resume fits the bill of one wearing many hats on one head. Grateful about his achievements, but not resting on his oars, he tells Adedayo Adejobi about his new path in a new terrain

A hand in many pies and master of all
He is not a jack of all trades, but he functions as the master at being an engineer, a lecturer, a brand strategist and management expert. He tells the reporter what he owes to a life of grace and multi-tasking in these spheres of influence: ‘‘I would say it’s grace. Normally they would tell you don’t multi task. I’m not a Jack of all trade, but there’s a thread that runs through everything I do and it’s becoming clear. It’s good to know a little about everything and everything about something. I was preparing for this time even when I was working. I was doing a full time programme in two institutions of higher learning and it didn’t stop me from graduating with good grades. It’s a mission, and when you have a mission, you don’t sit down you run with it. I had to combine a lot of things at once and it has paid off.’’
A part of Mayokun that leaves one who encounters him enthralled is his entrepreneurial drive and passion to genuine young business people emerge.

One word, and my heart leaps for Joy
Just one word that entices Mayokun after spending over a decade in Nigeria’s oil and gas industry: Startup. His heart leaps for joy when a new start-up is birthed. At a time the country was at the peak of an entrepreneurial boom, investors of all kinds were in a frenzied scramble to fund ventures, and it seemed the world was waiting with bated breath to welcome one more unicorn; he didn’t want to miss the bus, so he came in.
When fortunes smiled on him
As a young man, life has never been fair to him, as he’s had to struggle for all he’s ever achieved in life. At the time, his mum was a petty trader, whilst his mum was caught in the hands of stroke. So when he got a job with Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation in 2002, it meant a breather of fresh air and change of life for him. With focus, love for family and enterprise, it took him only three years to change the fortunes of his family for good. Like the proverbial captivity of Zion being restored, life in its full splendour was restored. He settled everyone in his family in his modest way and then decided to get married to his wife of inestimable value in November 2006. Having spent in excess of five hundred thousand naira to rent canopies and chairs, it opened his eyes to the vast business opportunities that lie in the entertainment sectors, amongst other business interests he has now invested over the years.  With extra funds from subsequent earnings and resources, he invested and handed it over to his sister to run. Over time, he’s spread his business investments across real estate, publishing, media, oil and gas, engineering and consultancy services.
With sober convictions and realistic valuations, he’s hunted down several motivated and talented entrepreneurs, providing financial, social and intellectual capital.
As an angel investor, having   financed a lot of companies, he says with great pride and satisfaction, ‘‘It’s a positive experience building businesses and consulting across spheres of influence.’’

Why corporate governance is the key to business survival
As a thought leader, when quizzed on why he thinks most businesses are not able to transition into multi-million dollar size businesses, his reply was succinct: ‘‘One reason is corporate governance and the other is systemic. If you don’t have a structure, you’ll have a problem. The level of thinking for a 10-man business is different from a thousand man business.’’
Asides providing capital, this is what he does with the companies he backs: “I am on the Board of Directors of a few companies. But the important thing is seeing the companies I back as a team.’’
If his aspiration comes to fruition and Mayokun became a governor today, for him, it would be team work. ‘‘I may be a technocrat and have experience in petroleum engineering, economics, journalism, business, administration and statistics. I don’t mean I know it all. My kind of leadership is to look for indigenes and best hands in the field for most of the positions.’’
Just as love is music to a woman’s heart, this excites him: ‘‘Start- up is like a new born baby with limitless potential. The fact that you can conceptualise is a God-given talent and not everybody can do it. Having an idea is like a dime for dozen. Anyone can have an idea, but taking it to the next level requires resources and faith. So I get excited when I see people who take risks. I give advice and when they take the advice, things become easier. Sometimes people do business and it fails, it doesn’t make you a failure.’’
As he evaluates potential investment, he looks forward to passion of the founder in a start-up: ‘‘I look forward to the passion, personality and ideas of the founder when you invest in a start –up. I invest in the person not necessarily the business. Once I find all of these, I don’t let him or her go.’’
Has any of his investment gone badly? oh yes. Adopting a saying from the petroleum institute that eight out nine wells dug  for crude oil end up not being productive or economically viable.  So, what he does is to invest in ten businesses. He’s sure one will and make up for the losses suffered.
Drawing inference from his recent opportunity to talk at a forum of highly influential people in Ogun State, one he’s passionate about and more crucially, looking into the future, he thinks high net worth entrepreneurs at the top have not done enough to encourage the younger ones. And so, adding his share of voice to the on-going conversation on mentorship, he’s writing a book on leadership within the Nigerian space. ‘‘Politicians and leaders of industries are too silent, and there’s no vacuum in nature. The coming generation will pick the wrong signals from their life style. We should speak out more and talk about all these things. At the forum of influential people in Ogun state few days ago, I told them mentorship is the key. You don’t fight evil with evil. We should serve as examples to people in the society.’’
Like the old adage says, opportunity meets preparation. This word aptly describes Mayokun. He has spent year’s reading books, attending several international business, start-up and investment conferences.  He kept hunting relentlessly for his maiden opportunity and it came in the nick of time.

My motivation to run as Governor of Ogun is service
Away from life as an engineer, consultant, brand management lecturer, as a Governorship aspirant, he is presently eyeing Senator Ibikunle Amosun’s seat, he speaks about the impulse behind his decision to join the race, and ‘‘I watched the political space for some time and I’ve prepared myself for this. This is time to make a difference and be an inspiration to the coming generation. I am an attestation to the fact that youths are ready to take on the mantle of leadership, thus changing the African narrative. My motivation is service.  I started grassroots politics a few years ago with a view to addressing some of the issues that plague our people from a policy direction. I’m not coming to probe anyone. I believe in the good of everyone. I’m coming in with a sense of mission and direction. I’m going to look at what Senator Ibikunle Amosun has done, pick all the goods I can find and work on it. In line with Senator Ibikunle Amosun’s vision 2030 for our state, my mission is to build on it.  I would also want to entrench the values of integrity, respect, trustworthiness, honesty, discipline, obedience and hard work. When my father died, nobody talked about how many houses or car he had. People only remembered him for the good he did and the impact he made in people’s lives. That’s the kind of leader I want to be.’’

A man of books and letters
The man of letters and an ardent lover of books is inspired by words: “I have over 500 books in my physical and digital library. I’m a man of books and letters. You can call me a bookworm. When people take their time watching television programmes, I think in terms of how many chapters of a book I’ve consumed. It has shaped my life in course of doing that I’ve read about Nigeria, Africa, and development in other climes. I’ve travelled there and I’ve done all I could but I refuse to give up on Nigeria. I believe that with my leadership in Ogun state, there’ll be a paradigm shift in how things are done. I believe that the power to shape our lives presents us with our greatest opportunities to change the world around us. ‘‘I am an African, and I refuse to give up on Africa. The tides will turn, our ships will come in, and we will berth at the port of true development, and take our seats at the table of global relevance.’’