I would not say it is a career; I would just say it is business. I have been an employee in different sectors and industries over the years. In 2004, I had risen to the level of General Manager in the banking industry, and the important thing was for me to utilise investments when it was hard, not only in training but in the network built over time, in coming out to do things as an entrepreneur; and that is what happened.

In 2004, I set up Courteville Investment Limited. I worked with large local corporations in business consultancy. It later evolved into Courteville Business Solutions in 2008.

In the course of my career, I have worked with companies such as KPMG, Peat Marwick, Ani Ogunde and Co, Central Bank of Nigeria, Oceanic Bank International Limited, and Fountain Trust Bank, to mention a few.

Having spent almost 20 years as an entrepreneur running institutions that employ hundreds of staff, both locally and internationally, there is a lot to share.

There is a whole world of difference between being an employee and being an employer. When I was an employee, my orientation was always about what was in it for me and the other employees. People gravitated towards me, because they believed it was possible to get the best out of themselves as employees at that time. So, being an employer showed me some of the reasons employers, at that time, were taking the kind of stances they took.

I have come to believe that one cannot be a good employer if one is not a good employee; and that is what I teach all the young ones around me. To transition from being an employee to being an employer, one must have done very well as an employee. That would position one to know how to deal with one’s employees. One will also know how to manage one’s expectations, as diverse as they might be, to align with the goals of the company, which in most cases are usually divergent from that of the employee, because they are different stakeholders.

Experiences that come from mentoring and training a team of young people, and leading them into areas where they have also become employers or leaders of industry are very valuable for an entrepreneur.

I thank God that we do not look like what we have been through. On average, most businesses worldwide do not last up to 20 years before they collapse. Whatever industry one finds oneself in, one should have very serious entry and exit regulations. It is like an open field for everyone. One might find oneself competing with interests that do not align with what one’s objectives are in serving a particular industry.

Meanwhile, regulations and trying to keep abreast of the best practices could become a double-edged sword. They can be used against one not only from outside but from within as well. There are stakeholders with different interests inside and outside the company. As a result of that, one is not just battling competition and issues from outside, but also trying to maintain peace within. That has happened to me several times before, but I thank God that we were able to survive them. We managed it, and everything eventually fell into place. Usually, companies die because of such challenges, but we are still here; and hopefully, we will be here for a long time.

I do not try to do everything myself. There is a parable that says, ‘When the puppy answered too many calls, it broke its jaws’. In my opinion, no matter how good one is, one should not spread oneself across too many projects. I believe in being able to identify talents to get things done. I just invest, and put capable young men and women in charge. I then oversee or supervise what they do. To be able to achieve such, one must be willing to relinquish some form of control (to one’s subordinates).

If you own a car in any state in Nigeria, you are probably one of our customers, through one of our services called AutoReg. It is available in over 21 states in Nigeria. We use it to help state governments collect their road taxes. The application is free and it belongs to us. It was invented and trademarked it in 2006, and that is our most popular technological product so far.

We also have another product used by the National Drug Law Enforcement Agency, and it won a Commonwealth award in 2015. We have won several awards in insurance as well. These are some of the things we have brought to bear in the spaces where we operate. They are also used by private-sector players as well.

It was inspired by the need to make vehicle registration easier and more efficient. I saw how challenging and time-consuming it was for motorists to navigate through the traditional registration system. In the past, it could take three to six months, so I aimed to streamline the process, reduce long queues and make it more user-friendly. Also, introducing the service online has helped improve accuracy, speed and convenience for vehicle owners. It is all about making life simpler for drivers.

Also, it has been able to control crime in the case of stolen vehicles, doubled the revenue of the states in which the business solution has been deployed, and provides quick and easy access to renewing genuine vehicle licenses.

Collaboration with the government, especially for services such as AutoReg, is all about partnership. It involves working together to ensure the service aligns with legal requirements and public policy, while also meeting the needs of the people. It is a two-way street, where both the service provider and the government entities communicate, share feedback and make adjustments to serve the community effectively. It is pretty much about creating a win-win situation for the government, the service, and most importantly, the users.

Though the organisation is not very active anymore, I was chosen because I was identified right from the United Kingdom by the promoter and his council members, who are also members of the UK parliament. They believed that they needed someone from Africa who could help in determining and pushing narratives and programmes for parliament and enterprise. The private and public sectors should be able to work together to create the best government policies and practices for the citizens. The position was not just for Africa, but across the world, though I was working with them with particular focus on Africa, starting in Nigeria before the COVID-19 pandemic came along. We looked at the areas where we had done things as a private sector player that the government could either support or benefit from. That was basically what it was all about, and the UK government partially funded it.

I think it is Artificial Intelligence. In 2012, during the Olympics games in the UK, I said that before we get to that point (of maximising AI), services in the area have to be stable. No economy ever grows without people having easy accessibility to such a service.

The second thing is power (electricity). For every time that there has been an industrial revolution across the world, improvements in transportation, communication and power (electricity) are usually the major demands of the people. These three things are very key for development to take place, especially in Nigeria.

In Lagos, transportation is getting a bit stable, but one cannot say the same about other states in Nigeria, and even in Africa. The blue railway line built in Lagos is the first of its kind in the whole of West Africa and, one can count on one hand, the number of African countries that have such. Things are supposed to feed off each other to be able to work. Things are still very unstable and power is epileptic. Once there is a release of control for states to generate power themselves, the cost of doing business would go down. So, even if we say AI is going to have a huge impact, there are things we need to put in place early to make things work.

The economic situation right now is quite harsh on everyone, but the truth is that what comes as a big pain at the beginning can end up being beneficial for everyone. We can confirm from everywhere else that the policies being put out, as harsh as they might seem now, are to make the economy much stronger and for all of us to eventually get the right benefits.

Things are getting better, but politics is also destroying lots of things. Even as the largest economy in Africa, the last time we tried to determine our total GDP was in 2010. That was over 10 years ago, and we did not have that many top companies at the time. If we do a check now, I am sure our GDP will be about one trillion or even more. My dream is to see Nigeria at that level, where we not only have the resources, but people can come to work with us from all over the world, because of those resources.

The most important are integrity and honesty. I only promise what I know I can deliver.

I have a risk management group, headed by a very strong risk management practitioner. But, beyond that, it is straightforward. One just has to analyse and dimension risks, then determine how best to manage them, because there is an element of risk in practically everything in life. Once we understand risks and do not fear them, we will be able to work around them easily.

It was a humbling experience being recognised for making a real difference in Lagos. It was a moment of pride, encouraging continued work and community service. It is all about the impact one has, and the legacy one is building.

You cannot follow the crowd and expect to be exceptional. Bring out something different and create some value that would be useful to people. If you follow the crowd, you cannot stand out. Every day you wake up, you should be determined to get something extra added to yourself, in terms of the value you can create for the system.

Also, you should try to cultivate a golden relationship with stakeholders as much as you can, and don’t try to hold everything to your chest.

In a business, the more hands are involved in stirring the pot of soup, the more people have an interest in making sure the soup is sweet. That is how the economy, and businesses should be run. You should involve people that can add value to whatever you are doing, and you will be okay.

Dealing with inflation can be tough. My advice would be to keep a close eye on your cash flow, and  look for ways to cut unnecessary costs. It is also smart to focus on customer retention by providing topnotch services and products. Also, do not forget to check out your pricing strategy. Sometimes, a slight increase is necessary but be transparent with your customers about why. Lastly, networking with other business owners can give you some fresh ideas on how to navigate these tricky times.

It all boils down to leadership. My definition of leadership is the ability to get people to work towards the same goal without any coercion. I have been leading teams since I was 25 years old, whereby I was the youngest in age. I have even led teams with overqualified people. At a point in one’s life, one would be a leader, either at home, work, or any other area of one’s life. Also, at every point in time, one has to combine them all. It is about being able to ensure that the team’s goal is identified by all.

I am also of the opinion that a leader should be able identify talents, even before the person with the talent knows they have it.

I watch television and rest a lot. I also enjoy mentoring young men and women. There are some football competitions I sponsor every year for boys and girls who are below the age of 16.

There are also Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics competitions established by my company on my behalf. I have a lot of other things I do for the community, and even in government. All these things keep me occupied outside of family, and there is hardly time to do much more.

I spend time with my family as much as I can, because they are still relatively young, and they are all outside Nigeria now. Between their mum and I, we try to share (responsibilities), even though she is based overseas too. But, we talk almost every day.

My prayer is for them (children) to come back to Nigeria and apply whatever they are studying to as their contributions towards developing their country. I will not let them forget the fact that they are first Nigerians before anything else.

I grew up with parents that were quite comfortable. My father was a retired deputy director of the Central Bank of Nigeria. My mum was a big-time trader and distributor for top brands such as PZ and UAC.

I am the third child of eight children on my mum’s side. My dad had other wives. I grew up being too young to form an association with my older siblings. I was also too old to be part of a group with my younger siblings, so I had to be alone for the most part, and that gave me a lot of time to do certain things and reflect.

My parents were also dedicated people. My mum took care of the house, while my dad took care of our education, and instilled discipline in us. Everyone in my family is educated.

I graduated from the University of Ife (now Obafemi Awolowo University) with a degree in Animal Science, during the eras of (Major General Muhammadu, retd.) Buhari, and (General Ibrahim, retd.) Babangida as military heads of state. Those were years when it was difficult for anyone to get jobs. Out of every 10 university graduates, only a few could get good jobs.

However, I was working on some contracts with my dad until the opportunity came to undergo training in audit and accounting with KPMG. I eventually became a chartered accountant in May 1990. My experience and competence as an accountant were instrumental to me becoming a banker.

I later went on to bag a doctorate in Business Administration, even though it was not going to add anything to me at that time. I just did it for self-actualisation. But, what I studied in school has been useful to me over time, though it did not determine where I eventually got to.

Comfort is definitely my top priority. I am all about cozy outfits. Soft fabrics, relaxed fits, and anything that lets me move freely is my go–to wear.