Otunba Bimbo #Ashiru: Indelible Imprints of Visionary Leadership at #Odu’a Group
By Bolaji Israel
Otunba Bimbo Ashiru, a prominent figure in the Nigerian business landscape, has garnered impressive recognition as a well-respected business icon, investment expert, and strategic leader with significant contributions across various spheres.
As the Group Chairman of Odu’a Investment Company Limited (OICL), he showcases exceptional leadership skills, financial expertise, and management acumen. With a strong background in banking, marketing, and finance, coupled with robust experience as a high-flyer former two-term Honourable Commissioner for Commerce and Industry, between 2011 and 2018, in his native Ogun State, under the then Gov. Ibikunle Amosun, Ashiru parades a unique blend of competencies, flair and personae that dwarf his peers. Like a tiger, with a calm mien, he takes on everything on his path with grit, verve and gusto.
This has translated into an impressive growth trajectory and strategic expansions for the legacy group of companies, set up by the government of late Chief Obafemi Awolowo in the days of the Western Region and owned by six southwest states of Nigeria, since Ashiru took over the reins from Dr. Segun Aina, OFR, just over a year ago in June 2022.
The chairman had indeed hit the ground running swiftly engineering a turnaround for the group, and ensuring it runs like a truly independent global conglomerate with interests in hospitality, energy, real estate, tourism, IT and agriculture.
He minces no words when reiterating his commitments to making the group pay due dividends to the owners and attract foreign investors. And true to his pledge, despite social-economic headwinds, the group paid N428m dividends for 2022, higher than N418m paid in 2021.
Enthusing focus areas and wins, the visionary chairman recently explained that the Odu’a Group was going deep into agriculture, such that will lead to industrialisation, with plans to produce and export starch and other agro products through SWACO, the Southwest Agric Company.
For tech, its technological hub in Ogun State is running, and it hopes to replicate the model around. “We are focusing on FinTech and in the next few years, we’ll start hearing about the success story, in terms of IT, by Odu’a Investment Limited,” he noted.
Under Ashiru, the company has been able to attract billions of Naira in investments in various sectors, especially in its flagship hospitality areas. Its abandoned Premier Hotel is on its way back to its erstwhile 5-star status. Same for the 80-year-old Airport Hotel, and Lafia Hotel. The newfound Westlink property investments will also consolidate the pack.
The Chairman had led the signing and handing over of the licence of BITA Marginal Field covered by PPL 249 to Bita Exploration & Production Company Limited, BEPL, at a milestone event in Abuja, just when he came fresh onboard. BEPL is the Special Purpose Vehicle (SPV) jointly owned by OICL and Pioneer Global & Resources Limited that will be the operator of the issued licence from the Nigeria Upstream Petroleum Regulatory Commission (NUPRC).
In August 2022, he cleared all doubts and rumours with the presentation to Lagos State Governor, Mr Babajide Sanwo-Olu, the state’s Odu’a Investment Share Certificate at the Lagos House, Ikeja, Lagos. He took the opportunity to solicit more support from the State Government.
Days after in September, he led his team to Canada to woo investors at the Nigerian House, Ottawa, before he extended his pursuit, calling at the African Union Development Agency-NEPAD in trade collaboration with the African Export-Import Bank Afreximbank at the UN General Assembly in New York. These strategic shuttles were emblematic of his progressive leadership.
Vice-President Yemi Osinbanjo (now former) at the Presidential Villa in Abuja, very early in 2023 played host to the Chairman’s train during which he explained Odu’a Investment’s transformation into a lean non-operating investment holding company for transparency, focus on investment management and sustainability.
Just months ago, the Odua Group birthed the Odu’a Investment Foundation (OIF), its non-profit-making arm with a mission to improve the quality of lives across the region through proactive youth engagement via technology and practical digital education. This was swiftly followed by the foundation’s unveiling of its first project, tagged Digital Education for Innovation and Economic Development (DEFINED), to loud applause from stakeholders.
Ashiru’s Midas touch on Odu’a Group wasn’t unexpected, as his arrival at the company had elicited enthusiasm and great expectations from stakeholders, and cheeringly, he’s living up to the towering reputation.
His colourful journey started with a solid foundation in banking. Equipped with degrees in Marketing, Purchasing & Supply, and Strategic Management, in 1989, he embarked on a career in the banking sector which turned out successful, and in the process he acquired invaluable knowledge and expertise. He served in numerous capacities including as Country Director, Personal and Business Banking; Director, Corporate Affairs and Corporate Social Investments; and as Group Head, Public Sector with Stanbic IBTC Bank.
This invaluable experience provided him with a deep understanding of investment management, risk control, and strategic planning.
Ashiru’s tenure as Commissioner also honed and showcased his exceptional management skills and strategic decision-making abilities. He significantly developed trade and industries and optimized resource allocation, leading to significant economic growth and development. His drive for improved trade and industries, financial prudence and ability to navigate complex fiscal challenges was remarkable and was acknowledged by stakeholders and professionals including the Manufacturers Association of Nigeria MAN.
Under his stewardship, the business environment of the state developed beyond imagination with over 1, 279.84% increase in internally generated Revenue of the State. Over 300 factories/ companies established their presence in Ogun State with a cumulative investment profile of about N691.77 billion in 2014, compared to N377 Billion in 2013. This placed Ogun State in first position in Nigeria, according to the Manufacturers Association of Nigeria. During his time, approximately 75% of Manufacturing Foreign Direct Investment into the country between 2011 – 2016 came into Ogun State.
Also, during his tenure, the World Bank Group, in its Doing Business in Nigeria 2014 Report, ranked Ogun State as one of the best five States in terms of ease of doing business against the 36th position in its 2010 report. He also facilitated the creation of a One-Stop-Shop Investment Centre (OSSIC) which sits within the Ministry of Commerce & Industry to assist potential investors with procedures for investment and documentation processing.
Moreover, Ashiru’s experience in private enterprises and the public sector has allowed him to bridge the gap between both sectors. This combination of leadership experience in both spheres equips him with a holistic understanding of Nigeria’s economic landscape. His ability to navigate the intricacies of both sectors makes him a valuable asset in implementing public-private partnerships that drive sustainable growth.
Additionally, his extensive boardroom experience has amplified his leadership skills. As the Chairman of Odu’a Investment Company, he has successfully overseen the company’s operations, ensuring effective governance and strong performance. His ability to assemble and lead high-performing teams has fostered a culture of excellence within the organisation.
His commitment to building strong relationships and partnerships has been a key factor in his success. He understands the importance of collaboration in achieving sustainable growth. By fostering strategic alliances with stakeholders in various sectors, he has been able to leverage their expertise, resources, and networks to propel Odu’a Investment Company forward.
With this winning formula, the Odu’a Group sure looks set for continued prosperity as a thriving independent and global conglomerate and enterprise under the guidance of Otunba Bimbo Ashiru with its impact to be felt not just across the southwest region but the nation.