Born on January 12, 1940, Chief Rasaki Okoya is a billionaire industrialist with a Midas touch. The Aare of Lagos is the owner and founder of Eleganza group of companies and RAO Investment Properties whose tentacles have spread across Nigeria and the West African countries. With his experience as an industrial magnate spanning over 6 decades, he knows it all and he has seen it all. Chief Okoya’s journey from humble beginnings to becoming a billionaire is a testament to his unwavering vision, strategic insight, relentless and perseverance. As he turns 84, Okoya talks about the secret of his success, and how government can make the youth productive using industrialization.
Life Lesson at 84 and secret of his success:
Consistency, perseverance, hard work commitment, passion and integrity are the only vehicles that can drive you to success and not by cutting corners. Also, it is by being true to oneself in what one is doing. I am passionate about my business. I am committed to it and I have been consistent over the years by getting involved all the way by not playing the boss. At Eleganza, we try to work within our means particularly by working with the local market. It has helped the business to grow this far.
His advice, proposal and recommendation for job creation for the youth:
I have decided to use this opportunity to propose a recurring vision that has plagued me. My warmest regards and Congratulations! to our President His Excellency Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu and the Vice President His Excellency Kashim Shettima for their steady management of the economy. We pray for peaceful and successful terms ahead. From working and monitoring the manufacturing industry for over 60 years. My hope is that the current administration makes the industrialisation of Nigeria a cardinal goal: utilising our youths and empowering increased incorporation of manufacturing through the establishment of many cottage industries and factories during their term. Did you know, a significant percentage of the country’s GDP is derived from MSMEs and it can be approximated that majority of these enterprises are youth-owned?
Making the Youth Productive Via Industrialisation:
Our youth have potential and can be stronger with greater empowerment. If you open the eyes of a blind man, he will never want to go back to the darkness. I think to myself regularly on how do we utilise our dominant working population. The picture in my mind places all 36 states and the federal capital territory as industrial hubs, varying in speciality where the average Nigerian citizen should be able to live, work, shop, have access to healthcare and other conveniences (e.g., recreational, worship facilities etc.); all without leaving their state of origin, within their industrial hubs. Bringing this into realisation could be initiated through investment in incubation centres, in each state (dispersed based on the requirements and geographical advantages of the state). Preparing one-unit warehouses of approximately 5,000 sq m per cluster, having 10,000 of each unit/micro industry in each state including the federal capital territory, Abuja. Similarly, provision can be made to private estate developers to create infrastructural extensions in areas with existing low- income housing to include warehouses. This will enhance the appeal of opportunities in our rural states, transforming them into vibrant economic zones and serving as significant Industrial infrastructure for each state.
Leveraging on international connections:
In addition to the above, Nigerian Government can invite specialists and international machine manufacturers (e.g. China/India etc.)to train our graduates in vocational skills and provide crucial technology transfer through the sale of machinery, and equipment for daily need products in exchange for local minerals via the use of a barter trading system. By opting to further facilitate local manufacturing of products, the government can consider onward sales of the above mentioned machines to the youth on a long-term basis.The government should protect our industries by imposing strict prohibitions of imports and policing the markets to enforce the ban on importation. With these, I believe we can conserve our precious foreign exchange, increase GDP, and strengthen our local markets/producers.
Making electricity available will turn the economy around, the youths and existing industries:
Power supply should be made available to our youths and other existing industries. If small-scale factories could work without generators, it would solve majority of the country’s crippling problems. Requiring each unit to adhere to contemporary demands of sustainability, preservation of natural capital and utilisation of renewable energy will ensure longevity and create backups to the national grid power supply. Incorporating training to pre-empt and prevent environmental degradation, learning from the case of China. This will provide practical experience that would give our youth a strong sense of belonging, and a promise of hope. It is our duty as Nigerian seniors, to help our youth the truth to know.
His thoughts on wealth creation and urban migration:
Ultimately, promoting urbanisation in the rural areas of the country, and stemming rural-to- urban migration by wealth creation in our rural communities will prevent overcrowding in urban areas; keeping our youths off the streets, by encouraging them to get a house and job opportunities. We need to instil a sense of pride and dignity through respectable labour in our youth. The creation of varied and sustainable industrial cities will be pivotal in the national stimulation of progress. All this could be financed in the government budget with the aid of private sector investment schemes and the youth could be required to pay back within 10 to 25 years, and/or enjoy grants to support them. This will unleash and enable patient capital required to catalyse economic growth, jobs and entrepreneurship for our youths. Better to light the candle than curse the darkness. Give light and the darkness will disappear of itself.