•We salute the boardroom titan and industrialist of note as he joins the nonagenarian club
His 90th birthday on June 13 was not only a celebration of his longevity but also his long-standing success in the business world. Known as a boardroom titan, investor and industrialist, Otunba Adekunle Ojora enjoys the respect of many across the country.
Remarkably, he had pursued a career in journalism, but eventually yielded to the pull of business. After studying journalism at Regent Street Polytechnic, London, he had a stint at the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) where he rose to the position of assistant editor.
He joined the Nigerian Broadcasting Corporation (NBC) as a reporter in 1955, and was transferred to Ibadan as an information officer in the office of the regional premier.
His move to United African Company (UAC), where he became public relations manager in 1961, possibly opened his eyes to possibilities in the business world, and he developed interest in commercial enterprises. He became an executive director of UAC in 1962.
He gained some experience in grassroots governance, following his nomination as a member of Lagos City Council in 1966. His appointments in two government agencies in 1967 reflected his capacity. In the same year, he became managing director of Wemabod Estates Limited, a regional property and investment company, and also became chairman of Nigerian National Shipping Line (NNSL).
He later became an investor in various firms, including AGIP petroleum marketing and technology company NCR Nigeria. He was notably chairman of the board of AGIP Nigeria Limited from 1971 until it was acquired by Unipetrol in 2002. He also founded the private firms Nigerlink Industries, Unital Builders and a holding company, Lagos Investments.
The introduction of the Nigerian Enterprise Promotion Act led to his expansion as an investor. He acquired equity interest in some foreign companies operating in Nigeria, including Bowring Group, Inchape, Schlumberger, Phoenix Assurance, UTC Nigeria, Evans Brothers and Seven-Up.
The range of his investments includes oil and gas, food, insurance, office equipment, pharmaceuticals, real estate, ICT and financial sectors in Nigeria and abroad.
As a giant boardroom player, his activities extended to his advanced years. For instance, at an event to mark the 50th anniversary of Evans Brothers (Nigeria Publishers) Limited in Ibadan, Oyo State, in 2016, Ojora, chairman, board of directors, who was then 84, noted that despite Nigeria’s large population, the publishing industry was still struggling to remain profitable in the face of overwhelming challenges, including piracy.
Also, in 2017, when Insurance Brokers of Nigeria (IBN), the country’s leading insurance broking and risk advisory firm, unveiled a new brand identity in its 62nd year, the chairman, Ojora, observed that “one thing that has never changed is our commitment.”
A member of the Ojora and Adele royal families of Lagos, he is a prince who nearly became king. He lost the succession battle for traditional rulership that followed the death of Oba of Lagos Adeyinka Oyekan in 2003.
He is a fellow, Nigerian Institute of Management (FNIM); fellow, British Institute of Directors; fellow, Nigerian Institute of Public Relations (FNIPR); and fellow, Royal Society of Arts (FRSA). These decorations illustrate his professional achievements. He received an honorary doctorate from Central State University in Wilberforce, Ohio, USA, in 1992.
Also, he is a recipient of the Nigerian national honour Commander of the Order of the Niger (CON), which signifies recognition of his laudable service to the benefit of the country, and underlines the respect he enjoys as a citizen of the country.
It is interesting that he kept his distance from party politics. “I will never go into politics,” he declared in a 1990 interview. He prefers to concentrate on another kind of politics, boardroom politics, and corporate governance.
As he enters his nonagenarian years, perhaps he needs to better appreciate the importance of giving back, and that it is not too late to give back to society in more enduring ways.