Nigeria at 60: The Great Business Moguls

Nigeria at 60: The Great Business Moguls

Tuesday, September 29, 2020 2:42 am

Louis Ojukwu

By Chris Adetayo

Looking for the Top 10 Business magnates in Nigeria’s 60 year journey is not an easy task. The land is filled with them – men and women who braved the system and challenges to come out tops in their business pursuits. These are the people who, outside of government, set up industries that have fed millions of other citizens and made life a wee bit better. They deserve our eternal gratitude.

Criteria? Success. Impact. Philanthropy. Pioneering. Innovation. Pace-setting. Longevity. 

1. SIR LOUIS ODUMEGWU OJUKWU. Founding President of the Nigeria Stock Exchange, he was reputedly Nigeria’s richest man in the 1950s and 60s. He pioneered the sector that the Igbos have come to dominate over the years – Long Haul Local Transportation. His Ojukwu Transport Limited was behind the mass transit across the River Niger from the 1940s and enabled him to amass wealth that he further invested in an array of industries. In the process, he became Director of many other companies, including Shell, African Continental Bank (ACB) etc. Fun Fact: His house in Ikoyi (Lagos) later became the JAMB HQ. 


Henry Fajemirokun

Founder and Chairman of Henry Stevens Group of Companies, with interests in just about every sector of the economy – Agriculture, Oil, Maritime Transport, Cement etc. He was, at various times, President, NACCIMA; President, Lagos Chamber of Commerce; President, Federation of  West Africa Chambers of Commerce etc etc. He died young (just 51), but what a life of impact he lived. 


Chief Mrs Bisoye Tejuosho

The woman to whom a large swathe of Yaba, Lagos is named after. Madam Tejuosho started off trading from her base in Zaria, then became a distributor for UAC and other companies. From there, she moved on eventually to setting up Teju Industries which produced foams, carpets and invested in real estate across the country. When next you go to Tejuosho Market in Lagos, you are literally paying homage to this pioneering woman.  


Alhaji Aminu Dantata

In Nigeria, many greats depart literally with their wealth, as their successors struggle mightily to keep things going. The Dantata Family of Kano buck this trend. And a lot of that is down to Aminu Dantata. The Patriach, Alhassan Dantata, died in the mid 1950s and Aminu took control, growing the trading business to a national conglomerate with investments in Commodities export, Construction, Oil, Motor dealership etc. He and the business are still going strong.


Michael Ibru

This brilliantly driven man built a conglomerate from selling Frozen Fish (Panla). From there, he diversified into brewery, hospitality, agriculture, banking, air transport etc. Even better, he set up his brothers in other successful ventures. One became the first civilian Governor of Delta State. Another started The Guardian, one of Nigeria’s top newspapers. 


Aliko Dangote

The richest man in Africa presently. Another who started out as a commodity trader and gradually built up a conglomerate that now includes industries in Cement, Sugar, Salt, Oil, and Construction. More importantly, a dedicated philanthropist whose significant contributions have helped to rid Nigeria of wild Polio. 


MKO Abiola

An Accountant who made his money from Telecommunications back in the Analogue days. And from there to owning a stake in just about every sector. Airlines (Concord), Publishing (Concord Press), Books (Abiola Bookshop), Agriculture (Abiola Farms), Bakery (Wonder Bakery), Shipping (African Ocean Lines), Sports (Abiola Babes, later Concord FC), Banking (Habib Bank) etc. He later became the face of pro-democracy movement. But many will always remember him as the greatest philanthropist Nigeria has ever produced. MKO – Money, Kudi, Owo!!


Tony Elumelu

Another zero to hero. Multiple mergers and acquisitions led to him owning Standard Trust Bank which later swallowed up one of the Big 3, UBA, to catapult him into national prominence. He has not looked back since leaving executive management of UBA, as his Heirs Holdings now has major investments in Hospitality, Financial Services, Agriculture, Power, and Healthcare. With his Tony Elumelu Foundation, he has invested huge sums in building future African entrepreneurs. It’s not for nothing he’s recognized as one of Time’s 100 Most Influential Persons in the world.  


Mike Adenuga

When you play in Telecoms, Banking, and Oil, you are no longer a Big Man. Chairman Adenuga is the proverbial “Okunrin Meta” (3 men in one). He’s more known now as the owner of Globacom (the second national carrier). But his interests is varied and his presence large. And he commands a level of loyalty and obeisance (some will say fear) amongst his staff (past and present) that is hard to rival. 


Isyaku Rabiu

His Late Dad, Isyaku Rabiu, should make this list. He was, in his own right, a great industrialist. But it is to the credit of Abdulsamad that few even realize that he’s the son of IRS. Abdulsamad’s BUA GROUP is the closest to DANGOTE that we have around. And their interests are in mostly the same sectors – cement, sugar, flour mills, oil and fertilizer etc. A worthy member of this Top 10, and the 3rd person from Kano to make it!!

There you have it. My Top 10 in Business. What do you think?

-Chris Adetayo, a public affairs analyst, writes from Lagos

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