Until 2017, two of the biggest names in Nigeria’s automobile business—Chief Michael Ade-Ojo and Sir Willie Anumudu—are used to be chummy, albeit business-wise. For over 25 years, the auto mogul, Ade-Ojo through his company, Toyota Nigeria Limited, has had a dealership agreement with Anumudu’s Globe Motors. And business was so good as Globe Motors alongside seven other accredited dealers sold thousands of units of Toyota vehicles to make the Japanese-made whips among the leading brands in the country, accounting for almost half of vehicles imported, and very popular on Nigerian roads. But in the last two years, that relationship has been strained leading to a cold war between the two moguls. It has been a dog-eat-dog world for the market share, climaxing, few weeks ago, with a decision to sever ties due to the alleged violation of the dealership agreement between both parties.
The story of how the two wealthy men’s longstanding business relationship ended in such acrimony is laid out in a series of colourful advertorial in some national newspapers that provides a sneak peek into the high-stake maneuvering that plays out behind the scenes of the massive distributorship deal.
Toyota Nigeria, in a recent advertorial published in some major national dailies, had issued a notice that it had revoked its dealership with Anumudu’s Globe Motors and thus the latter “is no longer a Toyota accredited dealer and hence is no longer authorized to transact any business on behalf of Toyota (Nigeria) Limited. As such, Toyota (Nigeria) Limited will not be liable for any business transaction with Globe Motors Holdings Nigeria Limited.” It was this disclaimer that exacerbated the silent war that has lingered since 2017.
Spotlight learnt that several attempts were made to resolve the crisis between the two parties but all failed leading to claims and counterclaims over the dealership crisis. A source said Ade-Ojo was forced to take the steps to revoke the dealership arrangement over allegations that Anumudu’s Globe Motors was infringing on the dealership agreement with Toyota Nigeria—being the sole representative of Toyota Motors Corporation of Japan—by importing vehicles unilaterally without recourse to its agreement with Toyota Nigeria.
More so, those imported vehicles, it was alleged were not approved for the Nigerian market.
But, all these allegations have been dismissed as false and misleading by Anumudu via his associates. According to Anumudu, in a counter publication, Globe Motors remained bonafide and accredited importers and distributors of Toyota Vehicles in Nigeria. He claimed that Ade-Ojo and his companies are afraid of his strides and competition thus the resort to misinforming the public. The auto mogul noted that while not denying Toyota Nigeria as the major accredited distributor of the Japanese brand in Nigeria, that does not preclude other companies from importing and selling the brand.
While Anumudu could probably be all out to battle the perceived oligopoly in the Toyota market in Nigeria, from all indications, however, the Toyota headquarters in Japan seems to be backing Ade-Ojo’s decision to revoke the dealership agreement with his company.
Ade-Ojo, is fondly referred to as ‘Nigeria’s Mr. Toyota’. The businessman is not called ‘Mr. Toyota’ simply because he loves cruising around in the Japanese-made whips but for almost 50 years, he has handled successfully business with Toyota. And after nearly five decades of mingling with the automakers, Ade-Ojo has earned the exclusive rights to Toyota Motor Corporation business in Nigeria. His lifetime’s commitment has made Toyota one of the most ubiquitous car brands in Africa’s largest and most populous economy.
The billionaire businessman used to hold sway as Toyota Nigeria Chairman before he retired two years ago and handed over to one of his sons, Kunle Ade-Ojo, who obviously inherited the ongoing ‘beef’ between the two auto moguls. In fact, the businessman is on a familiar terrain of the market war as not a few would remember how the founder of Elizade Motors, some years ago, led other dealers of imported vehicles and operators of allied businesses to take on the powerful Indian billionaire brothers, the Vaswani Brothers who own Stallion Group. Ade-Ojo battled the Indian powerful brothers to submission and he seems determined again this time around not to have his Toyota distributorship rights tampered with.