Though his looks may reflect an unassuming personality, his relentless appetite for risk, his zeal to impact lives by creating jobs and transforming the business landscape with legacy projects and his philanthropy have made the Africa CEO Forum, to name Nigeria’s Ayoola Oba Otudeko, the Africa CEO of the Year (2016).
Indeed, Otudeko has been a pacesetter for quite some time. Born Obafunke (but better known as Oba) Otudeko, the chairman of Honeywell Group has a larger-than-life image as a shrewd businessman and a risk-taker of no mean stature.
Otudeko, the chairman of Honeywell Group, beat seven other finalists, including Africa’s richest, Alhaji Aliko Dangote, to clinch the coveted prize.
Otudeko and Dangote were the only Nigerians listed among the eight top contenders for the coveted Africa CEO of The Year Award.
His conglomerate’s operations stretch across oil and gas, flour milling, real estate and marine transportation. Another piece of his fortune is in the oceanfront Radisson Blu in Lagos, Nigeria.
A trained chartered banker, chartered corporate secretary and chartered accountant, the highly successful Nigerian investor and entrepreneur, whose domestic and foreign interests cut across diverse sectors of the economy, was, at various times, chairman, First Bank of Nigeria, FBN Bank (UK) Limited, Airtel Nigeria and Fan Milk of Nigeria Plc.
He has also served on the boards of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), Guinness Nigeria Plc, British American Tobacco Limited and Ecobank Transnational Incorporated headquartered in Lome, Togo.
Four Nigerian firms — Seplat Petroleum, Dangote Group, Guaranty Trust Bank and Zenith Bank — were also on the list of finalists for prizes in the six-category award session of the yearly conference. Other categories were African Company of the Year (where Nigeria’s Dangote Group and Seplat are listed), African Bank of the Year (with Zenith Bank among the eight finalists), Private Equity Investor of the Year, International Corporation of the Year and the Young CEO of the Year.
The six prizes were announced in the presence of Nigeria’s Akinwumi Adesina, the president of the AfDB.
The Forum rewards Africa’s best Chief Executive Officers, Companies, and investors whose strategies have contributed significantly to the economic growth of the continent. Set up in partnership with the African Development Bank, the Africa CEO Forum is an event organised jointly by Groupe Jeune Afrique, publisher of Jeune Afrique and The Africa Report, and Rainbow Unlimited, a Swiss company specialising in organising economic promotion events.
Otudeko knew quite early what he wanted out of life and pursued the dream with tenacity of purpose. While he was growing up, the only thing that caught his fancy was business; he refused to be swayed by any other interest.
The grace of God in his life has also united with his training and perception, endowing him with the Midas touch – success has always trailed all that he has ventured into. Having joined the business world at a very tender age, he is, today, considered as the one of the richest men in Africa, according to Forbes.
Oba Otudeko has impacted on the immediate community of Honeywell Group through wealth and value creation, in addition to a pool of highly motivated workforce. It is a fact today that many have tapped and benefited enormously from his huge financial and business experience.
In recognition of his many contributions to the economic and social development of Nigeria, and his consistent commitment to good causes and the Nigerian nation, his National Honour was again upgraded to Commander of the Order of the Federal Republic (CFR) in November 2011, having previously been awarded Officer of the Order of the Federal Republic (OFR) in November 2002 and Member of the Order of the Federal Republic (MFR) in December 2000.
He was the president and chairman of council of the Nigerian Stock Exchange. The ever-blunt philanthropist promotes his ideals of philanthropy and giving back to the society through the Footprints Occupational Training Centres initiative of the Oba Otudeko Foundation.
Founder and President of the Africa CEO Forum, Amir Ben Yahmed, while presenting the award to Otudeko, noted that the CEO of the Year award was conferred on him based on his achievements in the fields of development, governance, strategy, leadership, and financial performance across the operations of his conglomerate.
According to the organisers, Otudeko in response expressed happiness at the recognition for his contributions to achieving a better Africa.
“I see the award as recognition of commitment and indeed confidence, that the future of Africa resides strongly in the patriotic African person.
“Our future is bright. We should not allow our challenges to diminish our confidence. Africa would prosper in cooperation with all our friends, who are within Africa and outside Africa,’ the Honeywell Group chair said, just as he encouraged African CEOs to continue working together to support the continent’s growth dynamics.
Recently, Otudeko, was also conferred with a special recognition award by the Ogun State government in appreciation of his outstanding contributions to the development of the state and the country as part of activities marking the 40th anniversary celebrations of Ogun State, the ‘Gateway State’.
An indigene of Ogun State from Odogbolu, Dr. Oba Otudeko, who has contributed immensely to the growth and development of the state, was honoured amongst five other distinguished icons of the state.
Otudeko expressed gratitude to the governor, Ibikunle Amosun and the people of Ogun State for the honour. “I congratulate other worthy awardees. We are all proud of what Ogun has achieved in its 40 years of existence and what the present administration of Governor Ibikunle Amosun is doing, especially in the area of urban renewal. I promise to continue to use my God-given endowments to further the cause of development in Ogun State.”
Otudeko’s Honeywell Group — which originally started operations as trading concern, importing and marketing baking yeast, stock fish, glass and steel rods, among others — was founded in 1972. The group of companies has now evolved into a diversified enterprise with businesses across major sectors of the Nigeria economy (foods and agro-allied, real estate, infrastructure, energy and services). Through additional portfolio investments, the Group is also a significant provider of capital to other sectors of Nigeria’s economy including financial services, telecommunications, and security management.