Money, respect and power – he has it all. From Europe to America; from Asia to Africa and back home in Nigeria, he has achieved great heights. He has seen and conquered the world. For more than six decades, Sir Bode Akindele has been one of Africa’s richest individuals. Intrepid and shrewd, his business interests cut across the maritime, properties, agriculture and manufacturing sectors. With an estimated wealth of $1.2 billion, the Parakoyi of Ibadan land is an enduring billionaire. But there is more to his being wealthy and successful, writes Funke Olaode
Magnificent, gorgeous and expansive, his estate in Alomaja on the outskirts of Ibadan, in Oyo State, shimmers and towers above other buildings. Walking around his Ibiyemi Villa, an imposing edifice, one is easily overwhelmed by signatures of affluence: exotic chairs, artworks, chandeliers, and a beautifully decorated banquet hall – an emperor lives here. Being a festive period, sound of music from a saxophonist provided the ambience of relaxation and festivity. The house was built in 1962 when the owner was barely 29 years old. And 56 years after, the house still maintains its allure as one of the finest buildings in the largest city in West Africa – Ibadan.
With wealth that has spanned over six decades, Akindele no doubt is one of Africa’s entrepreneurial icons and enduring billionaires. He is a man of all seasons. Born into the famous Akindele of Mapo in Ibadan 85 years ago, the businessman started his education at Olubi Memorial School, Ibadan and later moved to Lisabi Grammar School, Abeokuta. Akindele already had his fixed on the future to become a global citizen, right after completing secondary education. His road to success was opened up by his late mother, Alhaja Rabiatu Adedigba, a well-known wealthy trader.
A shrewd individual, it did not take him long to establish Modondola Group of Companies with interest in manufacturing, real estate, maritime and agriculture. Thereafter, with his feet firmly rooted in Nigeria, Akindele decided to spread his tentacles globally.
A man of vision, Akindele moved on to the United Kingdom where he registered his name as a corporate player in properties. He established Fairgate Group. The seven-storey imposing building on Bond Street in London, deals mainly in property. Among his tenants are Sainsbury and ASDA Wall Mart.
As his businesses grew in leaps and bounds in Nigeria and the UK, Akindele was not ready to rest on his laurels. He took an interest in Swedish market where it is on record that his bold move in venturing into match market has paid off. Today, he controls more than one-third of the world’s match market. It is also the same story in America where he controls substantial investment in property market as well as blue-chip American companies.
From banking to properties – and other businesses – the Ibadan high chief has continued to swim in fortune. Not only that, he has become a living library for tycoons and upcoming entrepreneurs who desire to step up their game.
Sitting like a king on a sofa in sky-blue guinea brocade, his eyes and body revealed agility and mental intensity as he welcomed visitors, clergymen and well-wishers who have come to felicitate with him during the live broadcast of his annual service of ‘Nine Lessons and Carols’ in collaboration with the Federal Radio Corporation of Nigeria (FRCN), at his residence.
As a man of means, Akindele loves God and worships him wholeheartedly. According to him, the Christmas Carol started in 1980 among his family members. But in 1992, it became big and in the last 26 years, it has become a national broadcast during Christmas.
For those who have followed his business trajectory, his name is synonymous with success in Nigeria, Africa, Europe, Asia and America. How has he been able to keep the name without a taint?
“Well, it is the family upbringing, background and discipline that I had imbibed – these have helped me thus far. For instance, as a child, apart from being rooted in Christ, my father was one of the pillars of the Methodist Church and carrying Bible on my head to church every Sunday, we had a lot of lessons to learn,” he explained.
“Again, my father was very influential in the Old Western region and that gingered us to want to be successful and we knew we had to be devoted to our education and imbibe discipline. I believe in doing things in moderation because too much of everything is dangerous.”
Did he know he would be this famous while pursuing his dreams?
Akindele pointed out: “Well, it depends on one’s background and the family one comes from. With the kind of the opportunity that I had I could never dream less. If you come from a family that is well established, – that is well known – you would want to achieve something more than what you met on the ground.”
Then, how has he been able to sustain his wealth in the last six decades? “My answer is simple,” Akindele simply said.
He added: “It’s God’s grace. Again, there is a saying that whatever you came you have to protect it. It revolves around your background. If you know how you come about your wealth you will protect it. It’s not difficult to maintain discipline in one’s endeavours if one was raised by a disciplined family. For instance, many people believe the secret to running a successful business lies in going to a business school.
“Business schools broaden one’s horizon. It is good and there is no harm in acquiring knowledge. Mind you, the world is changing and if you want to use my own business model that I adopted 40 or 50 years back it may be outdated and may not work. But one thing that never fails is discipline and hard work.”
Akindele’s response is like that of a man shying away from blowing his trumpet.
Yet, he said, “Well, there is nothing wrong in blowing one’s trumpet. But if you have an artificial that is when you wouldn’t want to blow your own trumpet. If you have a genuine one wherever you may hide it will blow itself without necessarily blowing it.”
Just as his name continues to resonate across his business empire, the business magnate has an area that does not spark his interest: politics. Is this deliberate or why has he refused to embrace politics?
“Politics is not meant for everybody and as a matter of fact, you don’t have to be in politics before you contribute your quota. Look at our fingers they are not equal as the fingers were created for different purposes. Some people have to be businessmen, some have to be clergymen while some have to be in charge of governance,” he philosophised.
A successful man, Akindele also parades successful children. One of them is a lawyer – Folake Coker of the famous Tiffany Amber – and a foremost fashion designer.
“She decided to follow her passion and I thank God that she has continued to do well for herself. Another of my children, who is senior to Folake, is also a lawyer but today owns a factory. And she is not doing badly. My children are doing well in their endeavours and I am proud of them,” Akindele disclosed with esteem.
Aside from his business acumen, service to humanity has been part of the billionaire’s life. His knack for philanthropy knows no bound as he has continued to identify with the less privileged – a way of life she learnt from his parents.
Every year, more than 1,000 individuals benefit from his philanthropic gestures. In his bid to empower youths and raise a crop of entrepreneurs who will shape Nigeria’s future, his foundation – Sir Bode Akindele Foundation – in collaboration with the Good Worker Ministries International, the University of Ibadan and the Federal University of Technology, Akure put together a programme known as the Bode Akindele Yield Initiative (BAYI), to turn millions of youths into innovators, entrepreneurs and leaders.
In addition, BAYI intends to get other youths off drug abuse and other social vices. BAYI’s vision is to see a world of focused and well-oriented youths, promoting in them patriotism, godly values, leadership and entrepreneurial development.
Akindele said the initiative is a service to Nigerian youths.
“The primary objective is to develop millions of focused and well-oriented Nigerian youths as innovators, entrepreneurs and leaders. My inspiration through God’s help is to be of benefit to mankind. This inspiration led to the establishment of the Bode Akindele Foundation (BAF) in 1985 which has been involved in several special projects. Some of which are dedicated to the development of our youths,” he explained.
Speaking further, he said: “The foundation has sponsored and financed a good number of Nigerians, including clergies, to perform holy pilgrimages, provided succour for the poor, disabled, etc. It has also assisted in education and research. It is, therefore, easy for us to collaborate with others to do what is required for the development of our youths.”
At 85, the business mogul is not slowing down. You may wonder why.
“God’s place is permanently embedded in my heart. What else can I ask for? I will continue to worship him until my last day,” he answered.