Fola Adeola:The Gifted Businessman
It was a retired Brazilian professional footballer; Edson Arantes do Nascimento, also known as Pelé, who ones said that “Success is no accident. It is hard work, perseverance, learning, studying, sacrifice and most of all, love of what you are doing or learning to do.”
This is true of Tajudeen Afolabi Adeola, a Nigerian businessman and politician, who is a member of the Commission for Africa.
In 2000, he established the FATE Foundation, a non-governmental organization which encourages entrepreneurship, using a mix of training, mentoring, loan support and consulting to support young Nigerians.
The FATE Foundation has so far served more than 30,000 young Nigeria entrepreneurs. In all these places, Adeola has displayed his unequal expertise and virtuosity.
FATE opened an innovation centre in Abeokuta, the Institute for Venture Design, in collaboration with the Centre for Design Research at Stanford University, which runs an entrepreneurship programme focused on engineering, technology, and innovation, and which aims to promote development of industry in Nigeria.
Born in January 1954 to a bank clerk father and petty trading mother, Adeola was clearly not born with the proverbial Silver spoon. As the fifth in a large household of 17 children, it was obvious that the earnings of Adeola’s parents could not in any way provide the basic necessities of life for the large family.
So, right from infancy, he was exposed to the world of survival of the fittest. He had had to learn how to do some little businesses to help the family. In fact, Adeola along with his brothers, had to hawk wares on the streets of Lagos, the proceeds of which was pulled together to take care of their educational needs.
However, despite the initial shortcomings, Adeola’s father never lost sight of the need to inculcate the values of hard work and integrity in the children, the attributes which later came in handy as he and some of his siblings later in life, began to climb to the top of the ladder of success in the corporate world.
Through hard work and determination, he established Guaranty Trust Bank, which he managed as MD/CEO from its inception in 1990 to July 2002.
The unparallel service delivery platform of the bank whose foundation was laid by Adeola, has paid off for the bank in a way that cannot be quantified as every customer’s testimonial about GTBank has continued to draw a great deal of business to the bank. The bank has also evolved over the past 20 years to become one of Africa’s leading banks with a unique reputation for service quality, innovation and excellent customer service; with significant footprints in all countries in Anglophone West Africa (Nigeria, Ghana, Gambia, Sierra Leone, Liberia) and the United Kingdom, and its sights firmly set on Francophone West Africa, it is poised to become the dominant player in the African continent. The bank became listed on the Nigerian Stock Exchange in 1996.
Interestingly, Adeola, who once served as chairman of the National Pension Commission, also chaired the Lagos State Disaster Relief Committee, following the 2002 Lagos Armoury explosion. He was the Vice-Presidential candidate of the Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN) serving as running mate to former Economic and Financial Crimes Commission chairman (EFCC), Nuhu Ribadu, in the 2011 presidential elections.
He was also a member of the National Honours and Awards Committee and was appointed a member of the Governing Council of Lagos State University in November 2004. He served as a member of the Solid Minerals Committee (constituted by the Federal Government) and was the Chairman of Ogun State Development Trust Fund Committee. Until January 17, 2011, Adeola served as a council member, Olabisi Onabanjo University.
Adeola completed his secondary school education at Methodist Boys High School, Lagos. He obtained a Diploma in Accounting from Yaba College of Technology in 1975 and became a Chartered Accountant in 1980 following his training with Deloitte, Haskins and Sells and D.O. Dafinone & Company (both Chartered Accountants). Over the years he has received professional development training at notable institutions worldwide including Harvard Business School, INSEAD, and the International Institute for Management Development in Switzerland.
In 1999, he completed a one-year sabbatical at the National Institute for Policy and Strategic Studies in Kuru, Jos, Nigeria, where he carried out research on economic development and job creation policies.
Following his voluntary retirement in 2002 from Guaranty Trust Bank after twelve years, he has since then served as the chairman UTC, ARM, Lotus Capital, Eterna Oil, CardinalStone Partners Limited, Tafsan Breweries (board member), and Credit Registry Services.
He is also the chairman of Main One Cable Company Limited which completed the construction of an open access submarine cable system that spanned 14,000 kilometres and provides international and internet connectivity to countries on the Atlantic Coast from Portugal to Lagos in 2010.
The banking guru served as a member of the Global Advisory Committee on Philanthropy of the World Economic Forum for four years. In 2001, he was invited to join twenty-four other business leaders for the Aspen Institute ISIB Annual Business Leaders Dialogue in Aspen, Colorado. In May 2004, he was appointed Commissioner on the Commission for Africa by the British Prime Minister Tony Blair.
He was a Council member, and is Fellow of the Institute of Chartered Accountants of Nigeria; Fellow of the Institute of Directors of Nigeria
The hardworking and erudite Adeola has bagged numerous honours and awards both locally and internationally. He was nationally decorated as Officer of the Order of the Federal Republic (OFR) in December 2002 by President Olusegun Obasanjo. He has an honorary doctorate from Nkumba University, Ntebbe, Uganda and Distinguished Famous Alumni award by Yaba Tech. Zik Leadership in 2003.
There is no doubt that Adeola left a rich culture tied to eight guiding principles called the Orange Rules; Simplicity, Professionalism, Service, Friendliness, Excellence, Trustworthiness, Social Responsibility and Innovation.Leadership.ng