Dr. Ikechukwu Okogbue is the Chief Executive Officer of Kenon Oil and Gas Limited, a major player in the downstream petroleum sector. He is also the founder of Ikechukwu Okogbue Foundation. Recently, he was awarded an honoury doctorate degree for his service to humanity by Pacific Western University of Denver State of Colorado Univerisity in the USA. He has passionately pursued his entrepreneurial dream which has given birth to so many companies. His service to humanity through his foundation has also impacted his personality and businesses. He reveals those things that aided his journey to greatness.
How Did It All Start?
At the time I left the university, I always dreamt of being on my own. First, I felt it would be more beneficial being an entrepreneur than looking for elusive white collar job in the country. I felt that working in a company, regardless of what I will be paid, would not make me fulfill my dreams of living the quality of life I desire and enable me impact on the lives of other people around me. I started with a Computer firm called Cadillac Computers. Due to my industrious nature, I the owner made me a manager at a point and eventually gave me an apartment to continue working with him. All these were in an effort to retain me but unfortunately, I made him understand that I had the intention of being on my own. When I came back to Lagos after my Youth Service, it was not really easy for me. I stayed without a job for a couple of months. After some time, I was called for an interview by a firm. Having gone through series of written tests, the final interview was conducted by the Chief Executive Officer of the company. I remember that he asked how long I wished to work with his firm. Intuitively, I did not realise when I mentioned five months. Looking at me from the beam of his eyeglasses, he said, ‘young man, just go and be on your own instead of wasting our time’ I lost the job. The point here is that I did not want to work with them for long because my system was already thinking of self-reliance. Later, I got a job with Bonaventure Nigeria Limited where I worked as a Branch Manager for a couple of months before I resigned. Already, my intentions were to gain experience and be on my own.
What Are Those Valuable Stories You Never Told Anyone In Life About Yourself?
There are so many of them. I have plenty of them. When I left where I was working to start my own business, it wasn’t easy. God has been on my side all through. It may interest you to know that I have not paid for an accommodation from my childhood till now and I call it God’s grace. At that time, I nursed this big dream of living in an apartment even when the money was not there. My friends questioned my desire for such and I told them that money was coming. Within me lies the big heart to make money genuinely. They did not believe me. Fortunately, faith beckoned on me as I moved in to stay at 1004 Flats, Victoria Island when one of my uncles, who lived there was transferred to Abuja. He left his apartment for me to occupy. The essence of being in that particular environment then was basically to have friends that will help my business, and it paid off as I started getting big offers within the Island and environs for supply of petroleum products. With N100, 000, I started making fast supplies and turning the money over about four or five times a day. At a point, some good people at the depot saw how serious I was, and showed interest by helping me to make it bigger. That was how I started, renting trucks with a few staff working for me until the business grew with many staff and acquiring trucks of my own. My business then revolved around oil and it was when mobile phone communication was not in the country. The only way to reach out to businessmen was by moving to their offices physically and that did not help business then, but I was able to maneuver because of my determination to succeed.
On Touching Stories
Besides the business angle, there were other touching events that occurred in my life. Back home there seemed to be some domestic challenges such as diabolic belief. In one instance, a dead bird was discovered in my living room in the village without wings, and that perhaps, was an indication of evil that could have happened to me. My flight back to Lagos was canceled and so many other issues happened at that time in the village which indicated a plot to run down my destiny. In all these, God’s wish prevailed and none of them affected my progress.
Where There People, Whose Influence Helped Propel You To Greatness?
My father is my number one role model. I would rather not call him a mentor because he did not directly teach me in the line of business. But his disciplinary life helped to shape my growing up and gave me the wisdom to manage issues. Apart from being a disciplinarian, he is a generous man, who gives freely to the needy especially in my village. During his working period, he will come home with food stuff, keep some for family upkeep and distribute the rest to widows and indigent people in the village. That informed my reason to start my foundation . Today, we have over 40 graduates, who we have trained in different universities in the country. Apart from my father, Sylvester Ndubuisi is another person. He introduced me to the oil industry which I am involved in today. Another person is a political icon, Gen Ibrahim Babangida ,IBB, retd. I love him for his liberal and generous heart. I see him as a role model with inspiring ideology with which I operate. My mother is another model who cared much about family unity and resilience. Her relationship with my father sharpened my understanding of what a family should look like. And this helped us overcome the challenges we had when my wife was having child birth crises.
On Touching Lives
I am alive today by the grace of God and my faith in God. I have been able to touch lives in many ways through my foundation. Ikechukwu Okogbue Foundation has used various schemes to change lives. We had schemes like the potable water schemes for communities in my state and Lagos. We have transport, scholarship and also higher purchase schemes. On health, we have the ‘Role back Malaria’ and Eye Treatment Schemes that we carry out periodically here in Lagos, my state and other parts of Nigeria.
Kenon Oil and Gas Is A Successful Brand, How Did You Acheive Breakthrough?
I started this business with only 100, 000 naira supplying diesel to homes, companies and corporate bodies. When I was working, as a Branch Manager of that computer firm, there was a man, who casually told me in the course of my diesel sales that if I can get an order for the supply of diesel, he will facilitate it and give me a commission. On hearing that, I quickly jumped at it with faith. We did the first and several other ones and made progress but along the line, greed set in. He made away with the money but I continued on my own since my mind was made up. Through that process and the lessons I learnt, I built a brand for myself called Kenon Oil and Gas. This was as a result of the trust people have in me. In any business, passion, trust, and hard work are the keys. Without it, you will only be labouring without objectives. I have always told people who seek my advice in business that patience, persistence, and trust will yield good results. Some of the challenges I encountered in the course growing my business were as because I did some businesses with some people, who were not trustworthy. It wasn’t easy though, but I was able to overcome through hard work, resilience, and my belief in success.
Picking Up From My Mistakes
After I picked up from my mistakes and with the experiences from untruthful partners, I started getting offers from companies like Sterling Group, Chevron, Shell and even banks. With regular demands from trusted companies, Kenon as a brand grew into what it is today. Kenon oil and gas is into buying and selling of oil. We have along the line diversified into many things. Apart from oil supplies, we have built fuel stations. We have also concluded plans to produce branded engine oil in collaboration with a foreign firm alongside establishing a supply chain in Ghana. Besides, the company runs a primary and secondary school here in Lekki. We are also into property development with a large estate currently under construction in Imo State.
I have always believed in the principle of looking up to God first for life and direction. With him, your focus, dreams, and aspirations in life will be met. Besides, youths should also discover on time what they have flair for and work for it. It is not everybody that has to go for a paid job. Some youths are creative and should consider creating employments for others. We must not wait for big companies to give us jobs before we make it. In my own case, I discovered early that I want to be independent and it worked. Although, I faced many challenges which are normal for genuine success. But being focused will always give anyone good results. Youths should not be in a hurry. When you see a man drive past you in his expensive limousine car, you may not know how he got to where he is today. There is nobody that cannot make it in life. The only bedeviling factor is the lack of focus and greed.