•With Olotu-Olowa Chieftaincy Title In IJEBU-ODE
•His Success Story Revealed
Have you ever taken note of Otunba Lekan Osifeso at parties before? Have you noticed that certain things are consistent about him? If you have, you must have noticed that he is always well dressed in nice outfits.
Whether in native, Kaftans or Agbada this young and stylish Ijebu Chief always dazzles. He is always attired in the best fabrics, and his well-tailored outfits sit well on his athletic frame. He is always clean-shaven, and smooth. And his accessories from his slim silver necklace to wristwatches to designer shoes are always on point. He carries himself with a lot of Grace and Panache.
That is Otunba Lekan Osifeso for you.
He is the President of the Association of Indigenous Construction Contractors of Nigeria (AICCON) which was set up to promote economic development through indigenous participation in Construction activities. He is also the Chairman of two construction companies namely. LEKAI Nigeria Limited (a firm of Building & Civil Engineering) contractors in Abuja and EBLA Construction Ltd.
How did Lekan become big in construction? How did he become a great dresser that attracts attention at parties?
All these were the questions City People Publisher, SEYE KEHINDE asked Lekan Osifeso not too long ago when they met for a chat.
How did your style evolve?
It was influenced by my parents. Anybody who knows my parents, my late father and mother would know they were very fashionable. When my father was alive up till when he died 6 years ago, he was very stylish. When he died, I was in early 40s and I know that for a period of 40 years that I had grown to know my father I have never seen him wear any other shoes other then Bally. He got me involved in fashion from the age of 12, 13. He would call on one to come and help me bring out the clothes he was going to wear. Could you match the cap with the dress, with the shoes. That’s how I started.
Can you tell us a bit more about him? Is it true he was an Ijebu Chief?
Oh yes. He was the Olotuolowa of Ijebu. He was a disciplinarian. He was a very straight and upright man. He taught us Loyalty and Honesty.
What was his line of business?
He was into Construction. And that’s where I got my passion for construction. He was into building houses and civil engineering construction. He was a very honourable man. I remember when he died. Otunba Subomi Balogun, Dr. Sunny Kuku and Chief Funlola Okunnowo paid us a visit and I remember what they said. They kept looking at his body and they said he was a very loyal man.
I remember when we went to tell the Awujale about his demise. We met Kabiyesi in one of his living rooms and pointed at a chain. He said that’s where your father used to sit. He was a very loyal and honest man. And we are very proud of him.
How did you get into construction?
I worked with my father and I picked up love for construction from him I started my line of business with trading when I started going to Abuja to do business back in 1998 I went into supplies. I was doing supplies for Nigeria Shippers Council, for NYSC and a couple of government parastatals. I was not really satisfied. I then moved into construction in 1998 by doing FERMA projects. The rest is history.
Since then, I have not stopped. All my time of business has been construction. All the business I am doing. All the companies I have interest in are all construction businesses. We just started doing buildings but basically roads.
I am also told you are the National President of the Association of Indigenous Contractors of Nigeria.
Yes. We have over 300 indigenous companies as members. Basically, what we do is to help ourselves. The government is helping us. In fairness, government is helping indigenous companies and state governments too. They all believe so much in indigenous companies.
Because the truth is that there is nothing that the foreign companies could do that we also, the indigenous companies could not do. We have proved that. They have seen it.
How do you think the government can help indigenous construction companies better?
One, the issue of payment. That is always the problem. Banks in Nigeria don’t help construction companies. That is why many people think foreign companies are better than us. The advantage they have is foreign companies go back to their countries. Get a loan at one digit interest rate, get a loan for 10 years, for 15 years.
In Nigeria, if you are going to get a loan, you are going to get at 24% or 25% if not 30%, interest rate. And they will give you a short term loan.
When you are talking of construction it takes a lot of time. So the only thing, we pray for and we hope for is for payments to be made on time. Our new Minister is doing that. Truth must be told Fashola is doing very well in terms of payment, unlike before, during the last administration.
All the former Minister did was to pay foreign companies. I had issues with him on that. What Fashola does is that the money is released to everybody, it may be little, but everybody’s happy. We really appreciate him.
How best can we take care of all the bad roads across the country?
The truth is this government must look for money, outside, to fund roads. That is the only way. Like the I billion eurobond, I learnt part of it would be used for roads.
They can toll some of these roads. They can get a PPP arrangement in place. Even local companies can do it now. This is because you are sure that if you are being promised you are given an LPO or guarantee that you are going to be paid at a certain time. Or you are going to be paid within this period of time, it’s going to work.
We have a state in Nigeria that is doing it and we are a beneficiary of it. That is Akwa Ibom State. They are doing PPP because they are responsible, because the governor is a responsible man, and the Commissioner handling the Supervising Ministry is a responsible man too. Its working for them.
We are an indigenous company and we are getting funds from abroad. That is the only way out because there is a lot of deficit when it comes to infrastructure, especially, roads.
Tell us about your growing up years where were you born?
I was born in Lagos. I have always lived my life in Lagos. But I am a proper Ijebu-Ode person. My mother was from Ijebu Ode. My father was from Ijebu Ode. My secondary school was in Ijebu Ode, Adeola Odutola College.
I started business early in life. I believe so much in the opportunities here in Nigeria.
Even when I went abroad to study I was the first among my peers to come back to Nigeria. I kept telling them then that look, the money, I am looking for is not here.
I can see you are an Otunba…
Yes I am Otunba Adesemowo of Ijebuland. I have a couple of construction companies. All the companies that I am involved in whether as a partner or owner are about construction. I don’t do anything outside construction I don’t know anything outside construction. EBLA is a big construction company. We have a Syrian and Chinese partner. I happen to be Chairman. The other company is owned by me.