First impression does count; especially when it’s one-on-one.
His wife calls him ‘Mr. Nigeria’. But that’s not the catch. It’s the infectious, committed passion of the man. It’s the painstakingly carved artistic replica of the Nigerian Map, which doubles as a mirror in his lounge. Fela Durotoye is proudly Nigerian. “I’m incredibly passionate about this nation. I believe that without doubt, this is the greatest nation that God has ever created. No other nation has greater potentials.”
Fela Durotoye, a graduate of OAU, Ife, is a computer scientist and an economist by training, with financial and management consulting experience with Ventures and Trusts Limited. He has a Masters degree in Business Administration and also M. Phil in Strategic Management. With a working knowledge in the Management of Change in Complex Organizations, he brought this experience to bear in the area of Business Process Re-engineering for some major projects in Philips Consulting, where he excelled to head the Customer Service Group. In September 1999, on the prompting of a ‘divine instruction’, he was steered him away from Philips Consulting into an all encompassing dream; a mandate to become a nation builder. Eventually, he resigned from his plum job in 2000 to begin his own outfit; at a time when he had just received another salary increase. He deliberately walked out of his comfort zone into uncharted territory, unsure of what awaited him, except the power of dreams.
But he struggled to move with that direction. “The most difficult aspect was leaving, having to detach myself from Philips Consulting because I loved it with all my heart and had a personal drive to get to the top echelon. My vision was aligned to the growth of the company.” First, he began a Christian lifestyle and entertainment centre called EDEN. “For a period of time, I went from having a salary to having none.” When he was at Philips Consulting, Durotoye had a minimum of 7 suits, but on setting up the centre, it took everything he owned. “Including my TV, radio, fridge, deep freezer, Air-Conditioners, even light fittings. It was an incredibly challenging period.” After that, he moved into consulting. The most remarkable thing, he told me, happened to him during a personal prayer in 2004 when he had another incredible Moses-like encounter. He even remembered the exact time and date. “It was precisely past 2pm, November 23. God instructed me to raise a Generation that is Empowered, Motivated, Stirred and driven To Operate with Natural Excellence, and that generation is to build Nigeria into the world’s most desired nation.’” Durotoye described that as strange because at that time, the US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) had just published a damning report that Nigeria had about 15 years to stay together as a nation. “But, since then,” He affirmed with a smile, “so many things have made me understand that it is not just a possibility, but a reality.”
Yet, in a country bedeviled by so many problems, Durotoye is like the proverbial Moses, an unflinching optimist in the power of dreams and vision. “We are loaded with problems means that we are loaded with opportunities. Let me put it this way,” He told me, “Nigeria is wind for you to fly if you’ve got wings; it is breeze for you to sleep if you don’t want to do anything.” For him, the greatest problem Nigeria is faced with is that of perception and attitude. Many people, he lamented, still view the nation from a consumer perspective rather than from a producer perspective. “Consumers see scarcity, challenges and problems. But producers see scarcity as a use for greater profit, and challenges as opportunities.”
“When Richard Branson of Virgin Atlantic, major shareholder of Virgin Nigeria, was asked what he sees in Nigeria, he replied that his problem is the exact opposite of the question, ‘What is it that people do not see in Nigeria?’’’ He also used Aliko Dangote and others who’ve made it in Nigeria as examples of the country’s viable environment for wealth creation. Today, Durotoye is the managing partner of VIP Consulting Limited, a major player in the industry. The company assist clients create visible improvement in their service delivery culture through training and consultancy. Major Banks are among his high profile clientele. “I am in my place of obedience,” Durotoye said about his foray into consultancy. “I’m committed to being the best in what I’ve been called to do.” His advice to young Nigerian professionals is ‘to build a reputation of expertise’.
“We have a flexible system that allows you to do anything in the world. Nigeria is the easiest place to start a business. You don’t have to steal in this nation to be a billionaire.” For a man who has travelled to other places, it’s an arresting statement. In 2004, he was one of the guest speakers at the Nigerian Professionals (NIPRO) forum in the US, and was also a recipient of the 2004 Excellence in Consulting Award given by NIPRO. “Don’t just be a general practitioner; identify something that you can do better at. Grow from being just being a pursuer of business to being sought after.” Durotoye is a specialist in workforce activation and a hot commodity in an industry where he is known as ‘Mr. Passion’. His other half is his other consuming passion. “She’s the greatest gift God has given me.” Durotoye chipped in proudly about his wife who is the Proprietress of renowned TARA Make-Up Studio in Lagos. “There’s no other human being in this world closer to me than my wife. I love her. I admire her as a person.” His marriage, he stated, is a covenant which has made his life much better.
At the 2003 ECOWAS Regional Youth conference, he was the celebrated speaker and thus received a mandate from the ECOWAS secretariat to prepare a 5-year plan for youth empowerment and employment in the 15 member states. But this amazing Nigerian, like Rev. Martin Luther King Jnr., has a dream. “By December 31, 2025, Nigeria would undoubtedly be the world’s most desirable nation to live in.” Though its 17 years away before full maturity, Durotoye drives on passionately about it, in his everyday business. And he works hard for it. Improving productivity in organizations and people are his motivation. Developing the country, he admonished, should be every citizen’s responsibility. “There are some people that are suffering and dying because you are not doing what you are supposed to do. Find solutions to problems. If Nigerians can change their perspective from that of (just being) consumers to producers, then they would begin to see opportunities in every problem and growth in every stratum. Then, we’ll be made.” Durotoye’s believes strongly in his vision for Nigeria. After all, if one Nigerian (Philip Emeagwali) could make 3.1 billion calculations per second, then anything is possible.
Nigeria can become the country of our dreams. But it requires the commitment, passion and responsibility of every of her citizen to make it come true; like the original national anthem says: to build a nation where peace and justice (and all that makes a truly great nation) shall reign. Long Live Nigeria.