How do you feel today?
Well, I feel very happy that the hard work is noted.
What do you have to say to the youths that look up to you?
They must work very hard, be focused, grow gradually and step by step. We have been nurturing business for over 50 years, day by day. We had no capital when we started. It’s been gradual, gradual before we became bigger. You don’t look for overnight riches. It will come when God says it will come. But it will grow gradually.
In your business growing, what were the challenges you faced?
Well, at the moment, we have 32 hectares of factory in Lekki. Have you been there? (Laughs). It is very encouraging. We are producing so many items there. It’s going on and it’s about three years before it will be ready. That’s why we are not making big noise of it yet These are the challenges. We have the brains in Nigeria. Nigeria should be self-sufficient. We have the man power, we have the brain, we have everything and we have the market. What else do we want God to do for us? We can’t depend on the government to do everything for us? For example, I don’t get anything from the government and I pay my tax. I don’t even get their patronage, because I sell to the local market. The mass market is there to make your money and you are happy, when you produce any good quality product. Any Eleganza product you find, you can never believe it’s made in Nigeria. It’s of high quality and that’s how it should be. Always set your mind, set your target and your determination.
THE MAN, ALHAJI CHIEF (DR.) RASAK AKANNI OKOYA
Chief Rasak Akanni Okoya, a billionaire industrialist and Aare of Lagos, Babalaje of Ajiranland, Ogbeni Oja of Epe Kingdom and Bobajiro of Oke-Ona (Abeokuta) was born in Lagos Island, Lagos State, on January 12, 1940, to Tiamiyu Ayinke Okoya and Alhaja Idiatu Okoya. He had his only formal education at AnsaruDeen Primary School, Okeleye Popo, Lagos Island. An astute businessman, he is the owner and founder of The Eleganza Group of Companies.
The young Rasak worked in his father’s tailoring business, mastering sales of tailoring accessories. With a high degree of discipline, the experience he garnered from his father gave him the guts to commence mini tailoring activities on his own. Consequent upon this, he saved every penny he made until he had 20 Pounds. Impressed, his mother added 50 Pounds to raise his business capital to 70 Pounds. On the right footing and with his father’s blessings, he started importing tailoring goods from Japan.
Through doggedness and hard work, Chief Rasak Okoya’s business swiftly expanded as he travelled far and wide to learn how things were manufactured. His strong belief was that Nigeria could match the quality of anything produced elsewhere.
So, he began the importation of shoes in large quantities. On one occasion, his consignment never arrived despite his payment. Consequently, he travelled to Italy to see things for himself only to discover that the manufacturer had used his money to settle other bills. So furious, he decided at that point to start manufacturing his own brand of shoes. Thus, Okoya imported all the necessary machines and brought in some experts to train his workers.
Happily today, the Eleganza Industries, which he chairs, produces a wide range of household goods and utensils which include cutlery, collieries, plastic chairs, tables, hospital beds, cooling boxes, luggage, baby diapers and sanitary for ladies, shoes, hair threads, cosmetics, soaps, disposable food packages, electric fans, ball-point pens and so on. Some of his factory locations are Oregun-Ikeja, Isolo, Alaba-Suru, Ibeju-Lekki and Iganmu. The Group now directly employs over five thousand Nigerians and non-Nigerians. These include employees in his RAO Investment Property Company, a pathfinder in property investment, providing top range residential/office accommodation all over Lagos for top executives. In fact, Okoya’s Eleganza Group is one of the biggest home-grown conglomerates in Nigeria today. Its products, without doubt, are household names in Nigeria and neighbouring African markets.
ThisDay Newspapers bestowed on him the Lifetime Achievement Award of BUSINESS ENTREPRENEUR. The award was presented to Okoya by Mr. Bill Clinton, former President of United States of America. He also received an award from The Nigerian Institute of Estate Surveyors and Valuers for his immense contribution to the Building Environment and the profession in 2010. In 1985, he was conferred with a Fellow of the Institute of Corporate Administration in recognition of his proficiency in Business Administration.
His company has also won the following awards:
Golden Award for Quality, by the Nigerian Institute of Standards, between 1998 and 2000; Award of Honour in recognition of the company’s tremendous contribution to the development of the real estate sub-sector of the economy, by The Nigerian Institute of Estate Valuers; Certificate of Recognition for exemplary achievement and contribution to the Nigerian real estate industry 2006, by The Nigerian Real Estate (NREA).
ACADEMIC (HONORARY) AND NATIONAL AWARDS
In 1993, Okoya was honoured with a DSc (Honoris Causa) by Ekiti State University, Ado Ekiti. Same award also came his way again from the Ladoke Akintola University of Technology. On the national stage, in 2000, the Federal Government of Nigeria bestowed on him the prestigious award of the Commander of the Order of Niger (CON) in recognition of his immense contributions to resource management and entrepreneurial excellence.
An affable socialite, he is a staunch member of a number of social clubs in Lagos, including the high-profile Metropolitan Club, Yoruba Tennis Club and The Island Club. As a matter of fact, he has made tremendous contributions to the development and uplift of these clubs, all of which have erected appropriate plaques of recognition within their premises for him. The Island Club in particular has bestowed on him the honour of Grand Commander of the Order of Peacock (GCOP).
A household name in the business arena in Nigeria and beyond, Chief Rasak Akanni Okoya just got another award of DSc (Honoris Causa) in Business Administration from the Crescent University, Abeokuta.