‘How I built Coleman Wire and Cables’ – Asiwaju S. K. Onafowokan
Asiwaju Solomon Kayode Onafowokan is the chairman of Coleman Wire and Cable. He is also the Asiwaju of Remo Kingdom in Ogun State. In this encounter with ENCOMIUM Weekly, the former president of Lagos State Chamber of Commerce and Industries told us what he would love to be remembered for…
As the former president of the Lagos State Chamber of Commerce and Industries, how will you access the sector after your reign?
Definitely you know I had a succession plan in the Lagos State Commerce and Industries, and as a result, most of the things that have happened must have been planned. You must have been inducted for a while and you don’t need to be trained again when you are there. My successors are doing well. And I thank God I was at one of its events last week and I was impressed. So, its happening and we are progressing.
What were some of the legacies you left behind that are still in place or operational?
One of the legacies I left behind was time. They’ve been able to keep to time, because I am a man of time. Before I got in there, that wasn’t the case. So, that, I see as a legacy and they still keep to it. Even those coming after will still follow.
Will you say the LCCI is doing well, looking at the so many challenges facing it?
Yes, I want to thank God, because while I was there, Governor Fashola was very co-operative. We were able to actualize the multiple taxation, which we are all taking about within the local government level. And that has been streamlined. We are happy and we know how to pay, who to pay to and how much to pay. So, that gladdens my heart.
As the chairman of Coleman Wire and Cables, what are the things you’ve done to keep the company afloat?
We all know that running a business in Nigeria is a different ball game, but I am quite happy I am a Nigerian and I believe that this country will go places and I believe that this is a country, if well planned, will achieve success.
For me, I have passion for the industries and for that, I believe that if the government appreciates that passion and is able to back it up, we will go places. That’s the only sector that creates large jobs. It is an avenue for development.
So, there is even a revolution now. I mean, it’s happened in Malaysia, Singapore, India and China. So, if we can do the same thing, we will go places. Few days ago, the CBN approved like N200 billion for small and medium scale enterprises and we are happy. Those are the kind of things we look forward to. Rather than giving the money to the bank, we should give some money to industries to help them at a single digit interest rate.
Can you remember how the dream of Coleman Wire and Cable started?
Yes. We started this project in 1998 and I am quite happy my children are now in charge. But I am only monitoring the company and lecturing them. We have a sub-station plant where we have employed over 2,000 staffers and we are keeping people at work and also training them.
Would you say the coming of George Onafowokan, the current MD was at the tight time?
Yes, it was a success. That was deliberately planned. And why we did that was for him to be able to hand it over to the next generation as at when due. So, that’s the way to do it. You have to build a company in a way that your children can benefit. I am quite happy and impressed that he is doing well.
What are the major challenges in the Nigerian manufacturing sector today?
The challenges are quite enormous. Power is still the problem, but we are quite happy that Dr. Goodluck Jonathan, who is no more the Acting President, has taken that as a very serious challenge, and the way he is handling it. I am quite happy and very positive that we are going to achieve the desired result come the end of this year.
What are you guiding business principle?
99 percent is transparency, because at the end of the day, it is always better for a volume driven business with little profit, but you operate more on volume. You try and create more opportunities for your distributors to also have something before the retailers. So, that is my philosophy and I think it works well.
When you started, did you ever think will come this far?
I never knew that it grow this far, to be the largest indigenous wire manufacturing-company in West Africa, because we started like a small business. But in the long run, we discovered that there are a lot of opportunities in the power sector and we can key into them.
How do you unwind?
I create time for myself. I rest and attend social gatherings. Those are the kind of things you have to do. You need to keep yourself busy. When you are busy, your heart remains good, and I advice the young ones that you must keep your body and soul at work all the time.
What is your important thing to you right now?
The most important thing now is to see Nigeria become a great country and see out graduates out of the streets working. I am happy that’s the crux of my letter to the president. And if he can address power, job creation, it will metamorphose into industrial revolution.
Meanwhile, power is the major component and once that is stabilized, we can get there and we can then be proud of our country.