Vanguard (Lagos)

17 November 2012

Nigeria: My Passion for Business Rubbed Me of Education - CEO

interview

Chief Offor Matta Onyekaba is a born entrepreneur with passion for business. He demonstrated that when he started at 15 to settle with palm kernel business when he couldn't complete secondary school. His quest for bigger businesses forced him out of the palm kernel trade.But soon after, he ventured into supplying of granite chippings. Today, he is the CEO, Greenlight Motors Nigeria Limited, a haulage firm and an engineering construction company. In this interview with Saturday Vanguard Business, he reveals that diligence, hard work, determination are the secret of his success story. Excerpts:

Your growing up as a business man...

Yes, I'm an indegene of Ndi Anichie Ulo, Arondizuogu. At a very tender age I developed passion for business and that was why I did not complete secondary school. Before then, I had told my elder brother that I was not interested in education. So I appealed to him to get a place where I can learn a trade preferably building materials. That was my zeal then and hence I didn't want to complete my education even though I was able to get to Class I in the secondary school those days. I was not interested then, even though I have realised the importance of education now.

However, my elder brother wanted me to become an electrician but I opted out because I didn't want to be an electrician, my passion is business. But in all these, my father who was well to do then, insisted I must go to school but I refused and resisted his effort. When my father discovered truly that I was not interested in education, he took me to his palm mill and introduced me to the buying and scalling of palm kernel which was his major occupation.

I joined him and did it for a while and later lost interest again because palm kernel business is a seasonal one and I didn't want that kind of business. I needed something that would keep me busy always. When my father discovered that I had lost interest in the business, he advised me to keep on with it and that the business made him rich.

But my mind was made up. However, since my father wanted me to be useful in life, he took me to his borrow pit site where a construction company constructing the Enugu, Umuahia roads, was taking laterite for work and asked me to be marking the number of trips of laterite the company was buying.

It was there I met a white man, Mr. David, working with that company, who later made me his friend and helped me to start supplying chippings. Then I was 17 years old. He would send me on errand. Many times he had taken me to their camp to have a good time with him. That was how I built intimacy with him.

One day, I asked him to assist me in the supplying business in his company. He asked if I had money to do that, I said I don't have the money. He said I should give him some time to think about it. Later he called me and said he can grant me credit facility on granite soil because his company is producing it and I should pay back the company after supply. That I agreed. And that was how I started supplying chippings.

I did that supply business for about one year or more when Mr David asked me to follow him to Ajaokuta on transfer but I refused because I didn't want to live outside the East. When he left, I continued the business, supplying companies around the east with chippings.

One time, I supplied chippings to Ibeto Motors, Umuahia. After the supply he asked me if I was the owner of the truck used in supplying his company chippings and I said no, that I hired it. He said if you have this kind of money, you can afford to buy one or two trucks and use it for your business. I told him I didn't have enough money to buy new truck.

He said he would sell one scrap to me so that I can go and put it on the road for business. I bought that scrap from him irrespect of its poor state. I bought it because my mechanic, Chamberline advised me to buy it after he saw it at Umuahia, we brought it to Okigwe, the centre of my business.

And when he finished coupling it, it became an advantage to my supplying business, making money from both ends. When I discovered there was profit in it, I went to Ibeto and bought three tippers and three trailers, and I started buying more from others like Chidiebere until I got many vehicles. That was how I started haulage business as well. At that time, things were b

etter, not now everywhere is rough. From there, we grew till it became companies. I'm grateful to God.

My propelling factor...

Some propelling factors in life is hard work, commitment, diligence. Again, I said if my father who didn't attend school could become rich through palm kernel business and cater for all his many children, I must make it in a genuine way.

What you need to become an achiever in business...

You can become an achiever through education. Education is good, you need to study hard in order to make it through that way. But if you can't make it in education, you have to join genuine business or learn trades that could make you successful in life, not becoming dubious because you want to make money. Dubious business would hunt your mind.

So, if you don't have the privilege of education, try business line. There are other things you can do in life to put food on your table and become comfortable in life. I didn't know today that I would become Managing Director of companies. Be determined and dedicate yourself to what you want to achieve in life and you will get it. If you want to be a millionaire, work towards it, not by crime and you would become one.

Being a managing director of companies, do you think you are missing anything for not completing your education?

You never can tell if this is the way God planned it for my destiny and if I had gone to school, may be I would not have been where I am today. Only God can tell. There are a lot of graduates then and today who have got to my level, that doesn't mean that I'm condemning education. Some also are in better positions. Today I'm happy. I am not all that educated but I can provide my three square meals and that of my family. So, I'm not regretting.

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