It was my friend and brother Femi Omotosho prominent Banker and serial investor who mentioned at the height of the pandemic that I should make a beeline towards this gentleman and see what he was putting on the ground.
Now you will ask why he was so intent on my meeting up and spending time with Mr. Iwuajoku. Simple. I am passionate about this economy and by extension this Country. I have left the space where we are still talking of ‘potentials’ at the positive side and of separation and all the calamitous rendering we hear at the extreme negative side.
You see, I want to tell very positive stories about this country. So, stories of people doing things on the economic side, which portends major confidence in the system especially taking investment risks on long gestation projects sit very perfectly on my good side.
Mr. Iwuajoku’s business model seats on a dual portal striding Aviation and Hospitality on the very broadside. In-between those two are a varied business exposure that continues to create jobs and redistribute wealth in such a powerful way that the keen observer cannot help but marvel.
So, I walk onto the massive site that houses the prestigious Legend Hotel and the Aviation hangar that is all under his Quits Group platform. The whole site is spacious and extremely neat, you can hardly believe that a major construction job is going on.
He is inspecting the west wing extension of his Legend hotel. He is building extra rooms in a hurried bid to expand to 231 rooms from the present 60 Room positioning. This new wing will come with an ultra-modern Convention Centre that will seat 2,000 people.
As we tour the giant facility, I take a closer look at this gentleman. He looks kind but comes across like an Ojukwu lookalike with his beards, but behind the seeming hard stares, you could see his kindness and softer disposition from his penetrating eyes. I know he will soon break the tension and in fact, he cannot wait for us to exchange as friends but first, he must first understand this young man with uncombed hair and his mission.
Let’s go to the other side he says. Get a reflector jacket he orders me. we move towards a huge dugout on the way, I count almost 10 private jets. He provides the service – parking and maintenance. He maintains aircraft for four major international concerns thereby saving Nigeria huge outflows in urgently needed forex.
He wants to build an underground warehouse at the dugout and put planes on the flattened surface. The huge earth-moving machines are working strenuously. Rain is his enemy but work he must.
How did you begin, I ask? He says it was the market meltdown that threw him this way. The depression of 2008 made him start asking himself what else can he do. He had cash but the outlets were thinning out. So this sector gave him a unique opening. He would edge his revenues by having his receivables in hard currency.
He leased the huge expanse of Land surrounding the Murtala Muhammed International Airport and coursed very arrogantly towards the Local Airport from the FAAN on a 40year renewable lease arrangement.
As we walk in-between Private Jets, proudly perched on his plot, I see a different kind of man. I ask him, who owns these beautiful birds, he smiles like a kind grandfather and says ‘bro leave am’.
Then we move towards his very beautiful office. From his desk, he watches over his birds with glee. He can see the beauties as they stand majestically on the tarmac. You can feel the bond between them as he talks to me and at the same time keeps an eye on them the way a Nanny will keep an eye on an errant ward.
So, what are your succession plans I ask? This project is huge, expansion alone is $35m you must surely be thinking of succession.
What drives the question is the handsome boy I saw when I first walked in. I had called and he had said, ‘ask for Ifeanyi, he will bring you to me’. Nobody seemed to know Ifeanyi as I wandered around the huge premises till I ran to this very handsome and tall young man with a name tag that said,’ Iwuajoku’. I said, ‘are you Ifeanyi? He said no. But what do you want, I can be of assistance.
He took me to Chairman and on the way, I asked who he was. He said, ‘Son’. I said are you working here and are you on a salary? He says yes and I said you are young and he said I am married.
His confidence, sure-footed manner, and exchange with ‘Chairman” made me push later with Uncle Sam on the succession plan.
He gently deflects but positions that ‘our kids are not as strong as we are’ he says generally. I agree with him. This leads us to his journey. From the age of 16, he had started learning and working. He was the surveyor in on the Dolphin reclamation amongst other jobs he had embarked on from teen. This had hardened him, making him as Tough as Nails. He was involved in the Ports, Snake Island, and all of that. Working with expatriates, learning and positioning, getting himself ready for this pivotal role he is currently playing.
As we speak, his phones are ringing none stop. The biggest players in the economy are calling. He is custodian to their precious birds and as such they must be on speed dial to him at all times.
Today there is an issue with the customs. He must resolve it. He is calming the caller, I recognize the name, I listen to the conversation. His reassuring gait, his calming disposition, and his confidence give the billionaire on the other side enough respite to say, ‘ok, Sam I hear you.
Me too, I hear you, Sam. This Country must continue to nurture people like Sam. People who will not wait for the challenges of life both man-made and otherwise to build fences and use them as a weak justification for a loss of faith in the system.
Where are you from? I fire. He says I am Nigerian. But if you ask me where are my parents from, I will say Imo but I was born in Badagry and as such my argument is clear, I am a Nigerian.
I smile. I just love this man. Over 250 Nigerians and expatriates under his payroll, a forex saving business, a forex generating business an ambitious expansion with a long gestation and turnaround time, and a business that plays very strategically in the economy and does not fly by night, how will you not just like Uncle Sam.