Hawking Bread And Kolanut For My Mum Prepared Me For Life As Top Nigerian Businessman

His father was a poor carpenter and the mum a kolanut trader in the hinterland of Ekiti. His height and wealth are at par with his enviable giant strides in the business of oil and gas, shipping and education. His taste for exquisite, eye-popping, expensive fast cars is a reporter’s delight. He is a public persona that’s not a misfit on the private side. 

An inspired man whose story speaks for him. He revels on his marriage and love for his partner who he claims has been a gift from God and he has been demonstrating his love for her since they met and got married. 

The business, enviable strides, life and story of Babalola, the Chairman of Limited and JS Shipping and Limited as well as Schools, is one success story that makes you want to go out and try harder no matter the impediments. 

In this interview with Adejobi, he shares in profound words, the often astonishing and humourous tales behind his business empire, posh lifestyle, attaining the golden age of 50, sizzling and nothing short of incredibly amazing marital life with a companion who has given him three adorable children …..

The Journey Through the Lonely Village Road…

As a child, Babalola sold bread every morning before going to school and it did not often end there. He had to do kolanuts at the market in the evenings. That was how challenging life was in those formative years. But with grim determination to succeed, coupled with an undying belief in himself, he faced life with gusto and determination and today, he has his hands on so many business pies that cut across oil and gas, shipping, education and what have you.

Born September 14, 1964 into the family of Chief and Mrs. Williams Babalola in Ilupeju-Ekiti, Ekiti State, his parents are devoted Anglican family. After his secondary education at Obalatan Commercial Grammar Secondary School in his hometown, in 1981, he went to the then College of Arts and Science, Ikare-Akoko where he obtained his Level certificate (HSC) in Education. He then proceeded to the University of Lagos in 1984 where he graduated with a degree in business administration and then the University of Nigeria, Nsukka where he obtained a Master’s degree in Marketing.

“Ekiti used to be a village; it has now become a city especially with impressively breathtaking edifices and developmental initiatives that have overtaken my hometown. When I look back at growing up in Ekiti, I am filled with nostalgic fond memories because we lived a communal life where six people or more could eat together from the same plate or pot and drink from the same cup. People of other parts of the country are in no small measure blessed but Ekiti indigenes are more blessed. It was and is still a taboo to see an average Ekiti man go to school and fail. They will tell you not to return home. My father was a poor carpenter and my mother a kolanut trader. How they toiled to send me through school and higher institution can be best imagined. With the knowledge of that, I put in all my best to bring home good grades and made my parents proud.”

Journey Through Business  and Education Terrain…

After national service in 1988 with Limited in Gbokoji, Bida, Babalola joined the Department of the Nigerian National Shipping Line (NNSL) in 1989 and stayed with the company until 1993 when it got liquidated. From there, he joined federal government withholding tax monitoring team with Ibrahim where he worked for a few years before floating his own firm, Limited, in 2000, specialising in petroleum shipping and trading. 

He takes up the story
“After that I formed a few other companies including JS shipping and trading company where I am presently a director. By virtue and my interminable love for education and my roots of which education is our core industry, I decided to invest in quality and timeless education. I believe that the quality of the education we get is far below standards.  With a view to adding value to that sector, I founded Schools in GRA area of Ikeja, Lagos comprising of pre-school, primary and secondary schools. We have produced and graduated three sets of students who are doing well in other parts of the world. My first daughter who finished from that school is at the University of Toronto, Canada. And even today, I am proud that one of our students, a 19 year-old who apparently is the youngest pilot in Nigeria with Arik Air. Because of the quality of our education, we had a constant 60:40 percent ratio of our Nigerian to foreign students amongst other nationalities.”

Celebrating life at 50…

Babalola clocked the golden age early last month. His has been a journey. From the rusty and hilly town of Ilupeju-Ekiti to the cozy confines provided by life on the island, it has been an eventful journey. But if you expected him to close the street and throw a big party to celebrate the milestone, you are wrong, very wrong. He just called one of his church ministers and they held a two-hour praise and worship service to thank the God who made it possible for him to witness the milestone.

“The staff of Schools also held another session in the school. By 2 o’clock, we visited two motherless baby homes and had a dinner at my house beside the swimming pool. Some of my very close friends and business associates graced the occasion. It was an unforgettable experience. Like I have told you, I have the grace of God that is sufficient for me. I live a healthy life. I do at least three hours of exercise every day three times in a week. I jog in the morning around GRA here and above all I take a lot of rest on Saturdays. Sometimes I don’t go out. During the holiday, I travel and stay outside Nigeria for one month and rest.”

The Business Journey Takes Shape Via a Sailor’s Travels…

“I was a trained cadet at the Line. That time, it was easy getting a job if one was duly qualified.  What I studied in the University was entirely different from my job. It was like starting all over again. From there, I gathered and garnered the experience I have today and that tailored me to shipping. I was trained as a marine cadet and that took me to other parts of the world. My first job with Line was a very interesting one as it took me outside the shores of Nigeria to other parts of the world like Japan, Korea, France, Cuba, Yokohama, Ki long in Taiwan, South Korea and other countries. I have been to almost other parts of the world. My first trip outside Nigeria was to Brazil where I travelled to nine cities like Paranagoa, Imbitoba, Santos, Fortaleza, and Rio de Janeiro amongst others.”

Having worked over the years and gainered these experiences, Babalola decided to float his own firm. Shy of being immodest, he has been very enterprising because my mother is a Kolanut seller.
“As a child, I sold bread every morning before going to school and went to meet her at the market in the evenings to hawk kolanuts round town. From there, I got some stipends. When I sold bread in the morning, I would say in Yoruba: ‘E bami ra buredi, a’je b’okore, a’je dibolukogi’. Roughly translated, it means: buy bread from me. One you’ll eat and be friends with your spouse. One you’ll eat and sleep deep.”

And the Defining Business Moment…

Babalola says when he floated Limited, he was just hawking, at the Line now called Conoil. He says he had a friend, Sunday, who was in the installation department. In 1998, after the demise of Abacha, there was scarcity of petroleum products at that time and so he started the business with N54,000 he had on him.

“In addition to the little money I had on me, I borrowed money from friends which I repaid from profits after the end of the month.  A truck of diesel measuring 30,000 litres was worth N300,000 selling for N10 per litres. The first company I supplied diesel to then was Construction and they paid me after thirty days.  I made N2 per litre which was about N66,000 profit compared to my former salary pegged at N3,000 per month. It was a big breakthrough and that was the defining moment for me in business.”

The Staying Power has been Integrity…

Today, Babalola has over 300 on his payroll. And these include expatriates. That how much has changed in the business fortunes of this guy. But again, it has not been a smooth ride. He knew when he left Line that he would not want to work for anyone again. And being a graduate of Administration, the time NSL went under coincided with the boom in merchant banks. Even his sojourn in one of them didn’t last.
“I knew I would not work for anybody after I left the Line. That was the time most finance companies were enjoying their honeymoon. I joined and before I knew it, the finance company went underground after the exit of Babangida. I joined Nigerian Withholding Tax Monitoring team with Ibrahim. When Abacha died, the project was cancelled. So I made up my mind not to work for anybody but instead start something. That was when I started trading, and hawking within the premises of the Oil then. So I started gradually, but today we have built that business into a brand and we have our office complex in Apapa built by myself and other things we have been able to do afterwards. 

Today, I am an employer of labour having employed over 300 people with fleet of vessels and even white men are not excluded.”
He says what has kept the business going is nothing but integrity. He adds that some companies trust them to the extent of paying in advance because of the company’s our uncompromising stance on integrity.

“This has kept us going and we built on that. When others were doing it for 5 naira, we did it for 6 naira and they still paid in advance. Because our industry is a small industry, we know ourselves. Most lack integrity. We never sold adulterated products; we delivered the right quality and quantity. So those attributes have sustained us. With that, we were able to put up structures that enabled us access loan from banks. 

Today, we are toasts of many banks that are chasing us with their offer for loans that I haven’t even signed. They come because we are good and also have integrity. They sometimes say that my personal guarantee is enough. So you have to have integrity.”

Yeah…I was a Cassanova but my Wife Changed It

Babalola will not hide his escapades with the opposite sex. He is very frank in admitting it.
“I was a Casanova. I was supposed to marry from another part of the country. I don’t want to mention because if I do so, the lady will read it and will know. But I told God that I want a woman that I would be with for the rest of my life that will make me happy. That was my prayer. With that in mind, I had to go back to my village to get a wife. 

My wife was in Ondo State College of Education, Ikere-Ekiti. I had to travel all the way from Lagos despite the fact that I had lived my productive life in Lagos since 1984 till then, I still went back to my village to go and pick my wife. My wife is a devout Christian; she has the fear of God. She is very diligent, very respectful, well mannered, very cultured, highly trained in the Christian way and my marriage has been a heaven on earth. After God, she is the next person.”

He says upon seeing her, he just told her he wanted to marry her. He does admit, though, that they have known themselves having been classmate of his younger sister. Even when she was coming home for the holidays, he knew he was going to marry her.

“But when I looked round and thought of who I could marry even if I wanted to go back to my town, her thoughts just came into my mind. I had a flashback and said yes that is my wife and then I went there. That was the beginning of everything. After our association, whatever I touched was successful. If others could not do it, when I touched it I would succeed.”

My Mother, my Hero…

While he heaps praises on his wife, Babalola is not tempted to forget the role played by his mum. Despite being a stark illiterate, he says she is workaholic who is now about a 100 years old.
“As I speak, even at old age, she currently leads the Association of Kolanut Sellers in my home town because of her integrity and hardwork. She’s down to earth. When she sees the truth, she’ll pursue it to a logical conclusion. That’s my mother for you. She has really influenced my life. Although I came from a polygamous background riddled with challenges, she did all it took to ensure I acquired education as she didn’t mind selling anything just to ensure I gained relevance academically. She paid my entire school fees even till I graduated from the University of Lagos. She never allowed me to lack throughout my stay in school and would send money to me when I didn’t request.”

Babalola’s life is an open book to be read. A typical rags to riches story. But his is different in many ways. It is a reflection of what could be achieved if the will is there with a little bit of luck. Even if he started hawking bread and kolanut along the rusty streets of a village in Ekiti, Providence has smiled on Moses Babajide Babalola. And what else could he have asked God for at 50? Probably long life. Reason being that prosperity has already been ensured.

Source: This Day
Nigeria 1289857319910087095

Post a Comment Default Comments Disqus Comments


Home item

Popular Posts

Get Updates in your Inbox

Enter your email address:

Delivered by FeedBurner