In Abraham Lincoln’s letter to his son’s teacher, one of the greatest men who ever lived on planet earth did write — “Teach him if you can that 10 cents earned is of far more value than a dollar found.”
This excerpt, unequivocally, flashes a sense of striking similitude, when chronicling the life of a self-made entrepreneur cum philanthropist, Dr Ayo Ogunsan, who clocks 44, today, October 6, 2020.
Of course it is not a landmark birthday celebration, but of essence is the effervescence of a man who may, somewhat, have seen it all when it comes to scaling heights from zero to hero, especially having been born without a silver spoon.
In an old interview, he was quoted to have spoken about his humble background. Little wonder why he is more passionate about impacting lives, having been there, not leaving out the vulnerable in the society.
“Oh! I had a very humble beginning. I come from an extremely poor background. I grew up in the jungle. My parents helped us by simply teaching us values even when we had nothing. They managed and struggled to train us. My parents were the best gift God gave me. From SS1, I already started organising tutorials for my colleagues and made some money to finance myself in school. Those days, my siblings would go to the abattoir to haul beef for others. Those are days I don’t like to remember. Oh my God! Thank God my story has changed completely now. Before my parents passed on, I was able to prove to them that it is good they trained us with the fear of God.”
Such stories, if told, comes with so much lessons that the younger generation can tap from, especially in this time and age of get-rich-quick syndrome occasioned by the spate of cybercrime and other reprehensible vices.
I write this piece at the risk of being disagreed with by people who perhaps know him more than I do. Bootlickers, sycophants and praise-singers can do better but because, I am not in that league, it is only pertinent to rhapsodise a successful entrepreneur whose success story is that of grass to grace.
Since I am not an omniscient narrator, it is okay to be economical with words.
Truth is that certain things about some personalities of goodwill should, of necessity, be brought to the fore, willy-nilly; else, we wreck a havoc on the society. It was Martin Luther Jnr who said, “our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter”.
Growing up, my mother, who is that typical African mum with a “doctorate degree” in moral instruction and home training, had a lot to infuse and instill into us his children. You would practically get bored of the morning devotion which was the platform for such orthodox teachings drawn from both scriptural and societal inclinations. Then the cane was readily made available to serve as the correctional and punitive mechanism for any recalcitrant person who erred. Till date, my siblings and I still have a couple of scars on our bodies, here and there.
Such was the way to learn to become a better person in the society, but suffice to say that merely learning from Dr Ayo Ogunsan’s story can change the worst of belligerent fellows into a success, in multifaceted endeavours, if you like.
His is a story of staying focused on the goal of achieving greatness. Perhaps he does believe that when there is a vision, there is provision. That is in exact words of a regional evangelist with the Redeemed Christian Church of God, Pastor J.T. Kalejaiye.
One enviable thing that is not unconnected to Ogunsan’s success story is his love for the things of God which has largely culminated into making him an epitome of humility. But then, When you know that his spiritual father is Pastor W.F. Kumuyi, then you can stop to wonder why he is humble to a fault too, despite his unparalleled feats in business and administration. Men like these are rare to come by you say!
The amiable husband of a virtuous and valuable woman, Mrs Ajoke Ogunsan, may have since subscribed to an excerpt from the late Chinua Achebe’s Things Fall Apart — “Those who have their palm kernels cracked for them by a benevolent spirit must not forgot to be humble”.
There goes a man who has succinctly defined success in his own terms. For him, it is not enough to just dream. Amidst a conversation, his words drop with noticeable pulsation. He is not too given to many words. He may not make that gist partner you would like, but Ajoke married a good man, and she knows this too well.
In June this year, the Lagos State governor, Babajide Sanwo-Olu meritoriously appointed the ace entrepreneur cum philanthropist into the board of the Lagos State Security Trust Fund (LSSTF), having been strategically fingered out based on his track record of excellence in the private sector, which has largely been etched on human and capital development.
This didn’t come by any surprise though. Hear ye the Holy Book — “Seeth thou a man diligent in his business, he shall stand before kings; he shall not stand before mean men.” — Proverbs 22:29
Dr Ayodele Ogunsan, who is a graduate of Business Administration from the prestigious Yaba College of Technology, also holds membership of Institute of Directors of Nigeria (IoD). He is also a Member, Nigerian-Britain Association; Member, Nigerian-British Chamber of Commerce; Member, Nigerian-American Chamber of Commerce; Member, Nigerian-Spanish Association.
Ogunsan has bagged numerous degrees and certifications from citadels of learning, locally and internationally, including Lagos Business School, Oxford Brookes University and Harvard University, UK.
Perhaps one of the gains of having a man like Ayo Ogunsan in a lifetime is so it is easy to pointedly admonish thinkers to do, and for doers to think too. Dreamers may now also know that with resilience and diligence, no dream is impossible to become a reality.
Meet him and you can’t but admire his far-reaching thoughtfulness for entrepreneurship and youth empowerment. His milestones are characteristic of creating one’s own opportunities. Whatever that means to you!
For a man who wants to build a business empire that we serve as a legacy for the next generation, there will be days when you question your sanity for taking certain steps. Then, you soon find yourself between the devil and the deep blue sea — a crossroad with a very complicated labyrinth for that matter.
I have had to engage a couple of entrepreneurs whose businesses were badly hit by the aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic. My interest was predicated on assessing the emotional and psychological implications of such economic blow when it hits entrepreneurs below the belt. The one who keeps going, despite the muddy waters, is to be emulated and asked to show the rest the way. What more is left unsaid?
The road to success was not rosy for Ayodele Ogunsan. An astute entrepreneur from a humble background, he gradually rose to success in his entrepreneurial pursuit, attributing the feat to God, hard work, an inner passion and the determination to succeed. He became successful in the automobile business, higher education training, travel and tourism. Call him a serial entrepreneur and you aren’t far from the blatant truth.
As the Chairman of Executive Group, his chain of businesses include Executive Motors Limited, Executive Voyage and Logistics, Executive Trainers and Executive Education Consulting Limited. The group is primarily into automobiles sales and services with focus on the Peugeot brand.
He is a renowned higher education consultant, organising training for executives in higher institutions. He collaborates as many business schools across the globe. From 2008 till date, he has been engaged in the training and retraining of higher education practitioners.
In one of his interviews, Ogunsan recounted a snippet of his way up the ladder, thus:
“I was privileged to be on the entourage of the late president Umaru Yar’Adua during his first state visit to England.
“I don’t know how they got my address, because I was even abroad when the call came in telling me I had been appointed by the president to be on his entourage. I was shocked and asked myself who was I where all the big names were. That encouraged me when I got there and I was able to network. In 2008, I thought of broadening my horizon so as to have streams of income and that was how I started Executive Trainers.
“I was at the University of Coventry in England for a training when I wondered whether we ever had a school like this in terms of structures, curricular, students diversity, administration and the like. I came back to Nigeria and investigated who was doing a similar thing, training academics and administrators of higher institutions and connecting schools here with those abroad. I discovered nobody was and all people were doing was just general training. I decided to tap into that. I told a printer to design my first flier and that grabbed the attention of most vice chancellors, rectors and provosts in Nigeria.
“Go to any higher institution today in Nigeria and ask for Executive Trainers, we are not two. For me, I want to advance the course of higher education in Nigeria and I am not losing focus.”
Ayo Alonge writes from Lagos.