Dr. Poly Emenike, founder/CEO, Neros Pharmaceuticals Limited, Lagos, is a study in courage, focus, and perseverance.
Chairman of one of the nation’s top drug manufacturing companies, Emenike is a self-made billionaire whose astonishing life trajectory and inspiring success story would leave many with mouths wide agape in utter incredulity. After completing his elementary education, his indigent parents could not muster the financial wherewithal to get him into secondary school. He thereafter started fending for himself at that early age.
But Emenike’s life began to witness a total turnaround the day he bought and began reading Success Through a Positive Mental Attitude, a book by Napoleon Hill and W. Clement Stone. Even though at the time he had only studied up till primary six, he started imbibing the lessons in the book. He also told himself that, no matter what circumstances threw at him, he was going to make a success of his life. He was determined that he would work hard, become rich, be well educated, get a PhD and become a prolific author.
At 32, already blessed with a family and a thriving enterprise, Emenike got enrolled in the Ansar-ud-Deen Grammar School, Surulere, Lagos. He has since obtained a first degree, a master’s degree and a PhD, which he earned from the International School of Management, Paris, France, in 2012.
The industrialist, author and philanthropist is one man with tremendous disdain for the word “impossibility.” To him, there is nothing that is impossible. He believes anyone, no matter the circumstances of birth and background, can be and should be successful in life.
Emenike is also a prolific writer, with a number of books to his name. His latest work, Think and Grow Rich: The African Perspective, will be presented to the public on Thursday, June 30, at the Nigeria Institute of International Affairs, Victoria Island, Lagos.
In this interview with TOPE ADEBOBOYE, Dr. Emenike speaks on himself and how determination and focus tuned him into a success story, the American author, Napoleon Hill, whose principles he applied to become successful, his latest book, Think and Grow Rich: The African Perspective, and how anyone could achieve financial success in life.
You already wrote and published four books before writing Think and Grow Rich: The African Perspective. All five books are on how to achieve success and personal dreams. What was the inspiration behind the books?
If you read my first book, and if you look at my background, you would realise that the Nigerian Civil War affected me badly. I finished my primary school in 1971, and I got admission to two secondary schools. But because of money, which was less than one pound at the time, I could not make it. So, through Providence, so to speak, about 1978 or thereabouts, I came across this book, Success Through A Positive Mental Attitude. So I read the book, as someone with primary six education, from 1978 to 1980. When I read the book, in the bibliography, I continued to see Think and Grow Rich. So, what I did was to go to the same place I bought that first book. The book, Think and Grow Rich, was written by Dr. Napoleon Hill and W. Stone, the insurance guru. So, I bought the book and read it. I still have the copy.
Along the line, because of poverty and other things, and I needed success badly, there is a place he mentioned six steps that turn desire into goals, where you can transform intangible impulse of thought into tangible reality. He gave so many examples. How the millionaires in America started their lives and how they transformed intangible impulse of thoughts into tangible reality. It was from there that I started putting those steps into practice. And that is why I discovered the road to success.
And you should remember in the book, Think and Grow Rich, The African Perspective, there is where I wrote that 98 per cent of the secret of the book would be found in those six steps that turn desire into goals. And again, the majority of those that read the book do not have the discipline to practise that segment. And that is where you have everything about the book.
I’ve actually read the book more than 50 times. When I read a book, I use a pencil to underline passages and words that I don’t understand, so that I can check them up in the dictionary. So, when I wanted to practise what I read, I created impossible goals.
Along the line, and up till about 2010 or 2011, I tried to get in touch with Dr. Napoleon Hill Foundation, to thank them about how they transformed me. One day, I got in touch with the CEO of Napoleon Hill Foundation. They started to interview me. I reminded them of so many books that Napoleon Hill wrote before he died in 1970. I also told them of the awards they had given to some people. It was from there that they created a file for me, and I didn’t know. They continued to interview me. Along the line, about 2010 or 2011, they called me and told me that I was the only person they knew that had mastered the principles of Napoleon Hill.
You know how the book Think and Grow Rich originated through an assignment given to Dr. Hill by Andrew Carnegie? In 1908, Napoleon Hill used to write for Bob Taylor’s magazine. Bob Taylor was the governor of Tennessee. He had a magazine like Forbes or Fortune Magazine. He recruited Napoleon Hill as a freelancer to interview successful people around America. Now, he was supposed to interview Andrew Carnegie for three hours. But he ended up spending three days with Andrew Carnegie. Carnegie gave the young lad, Napoleon Hill, an assignment to do a 20-year research to codify success principles. He told Napoleon Hills that he would not give him any money. What he did was to give Hill a letter to 500 American millionaires, Rockefeller, JP Morgan and so on. It was after that 20-year research that Hill published his first book from that research – The Law of Success.
After that, in 1937, when America was about to come out of that great recession, that was when he wrote that classic, Think and Grow Rich. That is the father of most of the motivational books. And that is why people call the book the kingmaker of millionaires.
So, it was there that these people, the CEO of Napoleon Hill Foundation asked me to partner with them and write a book. They noticed – and that is true, even till today – that most of the people, 75 per cent of the people that read Napoleon Hill’s books did not understand them. His principles sound abstract to them.
I remember that Shane Morand, one of the founders of Organo Gold Coffee, and I went to Mexico sometime ago, and in exhibitions people would purchase Napoleon Hill’s books, and then they would give my own first book, Entrepreneurial Spirits: Through the Seventeen Success Principles of Napoleon Hill, as complimentary copies. But after some time, around 2014 or so, people refused to get my books as complimentary. They continued to buy. The Napoleon Hill people were surprised. And that was when they translated the book to Spanish. In 2016, it was translated to French.
Along the line, I wrote my second book, The Benefits of Adventures. After I wrote my first book, people asked me some questions, which I tried to address. My explanations formed the content of my third book. How to Alter Your Destiny to the Direction You want. The book is saying you do not need to rely on luck or whatever. You know, I usually have goals. Whatever I want to do, I usually write them down. That 2015, I had a resolution that I was going to distribute 37,000 copies of my book before my 60th birthday on November 25. Each state and Abuja would get 1,000 copies. And we shared copies of the book. Till now, some states still share it to their youths through the Ministry of Youths or Ministry of Culture. It was only one state, Kano, that refused to collect the copies. When we sent the ones for Kano, my nephew called me that somebody in Kano was challenging the book, that ‘how can I alter my destiny that had been written by God?’ He was lashing at my nephew. The boy was even annoyed. But I told him that it could be the culture. It’s like somebody who believes that he has been destined to be poor, and that he would continue to be poor, without knowing that you can alter it.
The fourth book is The Daily Positive Vitamins – For Entrepreneurs. In my understanding, through my way of life, or what I’ve been reading, I’ve noticed that success – and you will find it in the chapter on Desire – will manifest when you think about it always. You manifest what you think about always. That is the law of attraction. The more you tilt towards negativism, the more negative things will come to you. It you tilt towards positivism, positive things will come to you. All those things you want will be attracted to you through the law of attraction. Like they say, like attracts like. And that’s the principle of prayers. What is prayer? You see some Pentecostal churches, because if you check it, 98 per cent of the people in this world don’t know what they want in life. And that is why they have problems. Now, most of those people have a vague knowledge of what they want, so they would go and see the pastor. After listening to them, the pastor would ask them to list their prayer points, maybe just three. Then they would be asked to kneel down and he would pray for them. He would ask them to have faith, absolute faith. He would ask them to pray in the morning and night.
Now, that person that went to see the pastor has faith. He already has a purpose – those three prayer points. He didn’t have that before. Now, miracles will begin to come. I told someone that there is no way you would achieve something you have not seen in your mental imagery. You must have pictured it. When you see somebody having a lot of problems and so on, he continues to see defeat. You see the portion where I wrote in the book that you have to repeat your goals aloud? The Pentecostal people do something without even knowing its essence. When you say something aloud, and you have absolute faith, you will achieve it. The spirit of invention is through the power of intuition. So, if you keep saying something aloud, there would be something like a guardian angel directing you on what to do. If there is someone whose face you do not like, and you remember that he can help you achieve your purpose, you can tell him you’re sorry. Because he’s the one that can help you.
You bought that book in March 1978 when you had completed only primary six. An abstract motivational book on success isn’t what should interest such a lad when most of his mates are interested in storybooks. Where did you find the interest?
It is through the Holy Spirit. Why I say this is because I was in my shop, then something suddenly touched me, that I should go to a particular bookshop about two miles away. Then I started my motorcycle, with my raincoat, because the place was quite muddy. I went to the place. If you read Chapter 14 of Think and Grow Rich: The African Perspective, you will see the Sixth Sense. I cited about four examples there. What is the meaning of the sixth sense? Human beings receive concrete information from the five senses – sight, sound, smell, taste and touch. The moment you receive any message from something out of the five senses, that is from the sixth sense. And human beings can receive messages from outside the six senses. I mentioned the power of intuition. You can receive messages through saying such things aloud. You can prophesy into your life. Most of the things you read in the book are similar to things you read in the Bible.
Another things is, you are capable of hearing a small voice. At times, some people would be hearing voices, that is the small voice. And dreaming is another important one. You receive information from dreams. So, that thing that touched me, that made me to act, is the sixth sense.
When I entered the bookshop, I moved round till I found that book, Success Through A Positive Mental Attitude. I bought it. And when I bought the book, there was a place I saw something like ‘talisman,’ and I said, ah, this is an Indian book. I didn’t know the meaning of talisman. So, I read it for two years. You would see where I underlined words I didn’t understand. Then I would look in the dictionary.
When I bought the second book was when I decided to start practising what the man recommended. It was in June 1981 that I put down those things I set out to achieve. And I achieved virtually all of them. The last one was achieved in 2014. That was when I got my Ph.D.
So, that June 1981, I wrote everything I wanted to achieve. The only thing I couldn’t achieve was having an MBA. Going to Harvard Business School, and so on, I wrote them down. And I achieved all.
Its been said that, as a little boy growing up in the village, you vowed to be as successful as a particular rich man in your neighbourhood. Tell me about that.
Someone told me last week that he read somewhere that when I was young, that if my mum wanted to go sell in the market, she would ask me to touch her wares or help her lift it to her head. She said my good fortune helped her sell her goods. Even in some places in Lagos, they always wanted me to be the first person to buy something from them.
That very man in the village, his wife died, and I would be at the burial. She was over 100 years. At that time, he was the richest man in my village. We wanted to emulate him. In those days, anytime I went home, I would be writing the name of his company on the ground. A.N. Obijeaofor and Sons. That desire to excel has always been there.
You started secondary school at 32. What led to that?
It was desire. And I tell you, there is nothing you want to achieve in this world that you cannot achieve. Because of the fact that I followed what is written in this book, I resorted to specialised education. What I used to do in those days was that, in my house, every year, I had no radio, no television set. I only read. And because of my interest in specialised knowledge, every year, I must get one certificate or the other.
I got to know about the importance of the O’ Level certificate. I wanted to belong to the Nigeria Institute of Management. Their office then was somewhere at Adelabu, in Surulere, Lagos.
Remember I was in Onitsha. I went to the place and took the form. While filling the form, I got to a place where I was supposed to fill in my secondary school. I had many diplomas, but no secondary school certificate. So, without wasting time, I had to look for an alternative. That was how I quickly registered at Ansar-ud-Deen Secondary School. I would go to the market at Iga Iduganran, then in the evening I would go to school and finish by 9pm. And by 1988, I took my O’ Level exam. That year, I also registered for the GCE as an external candidate.
What am I trying to say? Desire, intense desire, will consume any opposition. It’s something like setting yourself ablaze. And before you know it, there is a way.
You continued your quest for education until you got a Ph.D. You are the founder/CEO of one of Nigeria’s major pharmaceutical companies. Yet you didn’t study pharmacy. How did that happen?
In the first place, what brought me to Lagos was education. And the opportunities we had in Lagos, I don’t think you could get such in any other place. So, in 1988, I moved here with my family. Then I decided to establish something. Although I was doing some other businesses in Onitsha, a man’s life is full of ups and downs. Like I tell people, I have failed more than 15 times. But I don’t lose hope.
When I came here, in June 1989, I entered the pharmaceutical business. I started going to Brazil to bring medicines here. I had a shop at Idumota. Though we were many, with my knowledge of Napoleon Hill’s book, I was always thinking ahead. That is why in the pharmaceutical profession, I started from a shop, to import, to manufacturing. All through the keen sense of imagination.
When I started my factory, some of my staff were saying, why all this? Because I started that factory in 2004 when the economy was booming. But I told them that it wouldn’t last. And, eventually, in 2015, when I finished the factory, things were no longer booming. So, in the long run, if you are able to think ahead, you cannot regret it.
A lot of things are not working well right now in the country, especially in the economy. Can these principles enumerated in your book be applied by the government at the national and state levels?
Of course. You can apply them anywhere. I will give you one example. Let’s assume our president wants to apply these principles, what is he going to do? First and foremost, you have to know what you want to do. Let’s say there are four key areas – economy, security, health and education. Number one thing he’s going to do is, as a person, you must have already visualised what you want to achieve. So what do you do? You call experts. What you do is identify the eggheads. Poach them, tell them what you want.
That is why you see in that book, you can see Andrew Carnegie. What he did was to call experts in different fields, put them in key positions and ask them to go and implement. Like I tell my people. There are places I would go and when they ask, who are you, I would say I’m so and so person, chief political officer of Neros. They would say, what do you mean? And I would tell them, you know in organisations, we have politics. There are people that will be politicking. Different people will bring different ideas. Now, after handing over to somebody, the president must give him a target, a goal. And he has to tell you how he would achieve that goal. It is not enough to have a goal. You must also know how they plan to achieve that goal. And you must put everything in writing. If you go to organisations, you see people coming together on Mondays. They have a meeting. What are they going to do for the week? You crosscheck what you planned to achieve last week. If it didn’t work, you would ask, why didn’t it work?
I told somebody that there is psychology in every profession. Even in football, you will hear of football psychologists. During the half-time break, they would talk to the players. They would tell them, ‘Messi is a human being.’ Because without that pep talk, he may be afraid of Messi. So that is the thing.
So it depends on the vision that the president has for Nigeria. If he sees a very good vision for Nigeria and he knows where he wants Nigeria to be, then he should bring in experts. We have a lot of experts within and outside the country. You can poach them from everywhere.
Poverty is more prevalent in Africa and among the Black people in different parts of the world. Why is this so? Is there a problem with the black man?
The problem is with our mindset. I remember one of the occasions that I went to the New York Expo with the CEO of Napoleon Hill Foundation. That was what the CEO told me, that I had to do something about mental emancipation. Some people would tell me that I am not a good church person. Reason is, there are things you would tell me, even if you are a pastor, that I would never agree with you. Some of the things here look abstract. Majority of our people will be looking for good luck. When I tell some people that there is nothing like luck, they won’t agree. You see my book, How To Alter Your Destiny. Most people, as many as 75 per cent of our people will say, it’s not possible. Have you seen it? So, this thing is based on our mental attitude.
So what should the black man do to conquer poverty, all kinds of poverty?
Simple. Mental emancipation. That’s the thing. There is something a gentleman told me some time ago. He said some of us Igbo, especially many of us from Anambra State, practise many of these principles here. And it’s true. Most of us from Anambra achieve more through organised competition. I know one or two persons that used Ifeanyi Ubah to achieve success. They studied Ifeanyi Ubah. Ifeanyi Ubah achieved billions. And many of our people would say, Ifeanyi Ubah that I used to play football with in those days is now a multi-millionaire. If he could do it, I can do it. Even if I fail, I will keep trying. As a person, I have failed more than 17 times.
Is it possible for the principles to be applied in negative ways? For instance, can a criminal, kidnapper, fraudster, ritual killer, etc, follow the principles?
Remember what I said about the law of attraction? There is a clear path leading to the right. But you ignored that path and followed the left. Instead of following the positive path, you decide to follow the negative path. In my second book, I cited an example about the law of habit. This thing happened in real life. It’s a true-life story. The father was a good Catholic. In their home, the standing order was that, before anything, you must go to church. Even before eating, you must go to church. While in secondary school, this boy joined a cult. He eventually became an armed robber. But during operations, he would insist on going to church before anything. Even on Sundays, he would go to church first before his robbery operation. When he was caught, he was asked, why were you always going to church even before your operations? And he told them that the parents made it a must for the children to always go to church before anything. So, everything boils down to your roots and the company you keep. For instance, if you are a girl, and all your friends are prostitutes and call girls, you would eventually end up a prostitute, it’s a question of time.
When are you presenting the book?
We will be doing the presentation on June 20 at the Nigerian Institute of International Affairs (NIIA), Victoria Island, Lagos. I have written my next book, which is the product of a 37-year research. I wrote the book in the United States last year. It was started in June 1981 and the research was completed in June last year. I codified the principle and in fact, I used myself as the guinea pig. And I chronicled the findings. If you remember, before now, everybody termed entrepreneurs as school dropouts. But with the findings in that book, anybody, no matter the condition, can achieve whatever he wants in life. Like I said, I used myself as a guinea pig. And that was why I entered as an entrepreneur. So it is in academics, in writing, in philanthropy. The book is being proofread in the United States now.
You are a busy man, as an entrepreneur and a man that is into many things. How do you squeeze out the time to write?
In fact, most people do not believe that I am the person writing. You see, everything boils down to discipline. Seventy-five per cent of the time I spend in this house is spent in my library here. For instance, today, I woke up about 12.30am. Normally, when I get to the house in the evening, I would sleep at about 5.30pm, wake up about 7.30pm, take my dinner, and I would be here in the study till 12.30am or 12.45. Then I would go back to bed and wake up 4.30am. My normal daily schedule starts by 4.30am. So, I do all my writing in the night. I read and write in the night.
But people will wonder, here is a billionaire, the founder of one of the biggest pharmaceutical companies in the land. You should be fulfilled. Why are you still working so hard? At what time should a man sit down and relax?
You know, that is the problem with habit. My friends have told me, let’s go to Ikoyi Club. But I say, no. You see, I don’t want to be remembered because of my money. But I want to be remembered for my writings. Like Napoleon Hill said, I need to offload what I have in my mind. And again, another thing you should know is that, writing is very hard. You are a writer, so you should know. And, as people say about writing, if you leave it, it will leave you. And for you to acclimatise again will be another problem. And that is the issue in academics.
Like I told somebody, there is a book that should be my sixth book. I’ve not published it. It is about typing. I call it The innumerable benefits of typing skills. You know that if you’re the person writing all this, and you don’t know how to type, it will be a big problem. If you give it to a secretary, you will have problems. I have noticed that most of the things you write are not things you put down. It comes like some inspiration, like an air controller dictating something to you. And that is the key to my success, both in academics and writing. I do the typing myself, without looking at the keyboard. If I look at the keyboard, I will make mistakes.
Have you considered going into teaching?
Before now, I used to go to Paris, where we call the Napoleon Institute. And in Nigeria, I remember in those days, I was also told to apply as a lecturer. But as you know, I’m still an entrepreneur. I’m still a businessman. In the afternoon, I face my business, in the night, I face my writing. This is because I want to impart knowledge through my books. Occasionally, I go to UNIZIK to talk during their alumni meetings.
In spite of your busy schedule, you must have some form of recreation. How do you relax?
There is a saying that a policeman or a soldier acts like a policeman or a soldier when he is in uniform. I told you that I would be travelling soon for a burial in my hometown. The moment I reach home, I will be able to play with my friends, eat and drink with them and so on. But the moment I’m here, I’m busy. I plan it that every June, I must write a book or something.
So how do create some time for your family?
My last child will be 25 soon. So, my children are not young. I lost my wife in 2007. And I have refused to remarry.
And no need to fill the vacuum, maybe to address some emotional demands?
No, no, no. There is a chapter in the book called Sex Transmutation. Like I told some people, it is better to mass-produce books than to mass-produce children.
Are you considering going into politics?
Not at all.
Because I cannot promise you something that I will not do. And for you to be a good politician here, you must promise what you cannot do.
But if the good people all run away from politics, asserting that politics is for the fraudulent, the liar, and so on, where would that leave our country and its future?
Well, that’s the thing. In 1984, following the military coup, KO Mbadiwe was locked up. When he was released, he vowed never to go into politics again. Then TOS Benson called him and told him that if you don’t do politics, all the bad people would be ruling you. But that is the truth. One of my secondary school mates, an Ekiti man, General Oni, wanted to go into politics. And I asked him, if you see someone trying to snatch a ballot box when you’re winning, would you tell your military guards to fire? He said, no. I told him, then you cannot do politics. A typical politician here would ask his boys to pour acid on that fellow right there.
Do you see hope for the country?
What some of us do is that when we see good people coming out to contest elections, we know how to support. Anyway, even if I’m to get into politics, it won’t be now, because I’m still fully involved in my business. There is nothing like concentration of efforts. It happens in business. You will be doing this business, that business and others at the same time. A jack of all trades. But that doesn’t help in most cases. Be focused. Follow one direction. Even if you want to go into other businesses, maybe two or three. But you hear of construction today, you are there. Tomorrow, manufacturing, you go. Pharmaceutical, you go. Electronics, you go. No. It’s better you succeed in one direction first.
As a businessman, how is the economy affecting business these days?
There’s a saying in my place, that the masquerade doesn’t cry. But if God permits, we pray that the president will bring in experts that will manage the system. But there are problems now. Those of us in the manufacturing sector, we have a lot of challenges, especially with power. Basic raw materials are not in place. Most companies cannot pay salaries now. But we pray that the politicians will think of the nation first. Some of them are not even bothered yet; they are busy thinking of who will be Senate President. We will continue to pray to God.
What is the Poly Emenike Foundation all about?
We have the foundation through which I introduced these books. I wanted our young ones to read. I wanted to show them how I succeeded. But most of them are not interested. There is what I call Indomie Noodles kind of success. Instant success. They want it immediately, right now. Even in business, there is a gestation period. In fact, that is what I got from the Onitsha business school. Onitsha business school is where you pass through apprenticeship. We learnt a lot there. But most of the young ones now are not patient. There is a difference between somebody that went through apprenticeship and somebody that has a PhD in business. If you give somebody that went through apprenticeship N1 million, and you give the person with a PhD same amount, the PhD holder might waste the money, but the one that did apprenticeship will stay. Check them out.
Look at Coscharis, Chicasson, A-Z Oil. In my town, many people will be thinking, ah, if only I can be like him. But can they pass through what I passed through? It’s only some of them that read a bit of what I passed through in my books before they believed.
What are the things you enjoy doing when you are not managing your business, and when you’re not writing or reading?
You don’t do vacations?
Well, the first time I was on vacation was last year. But I was writing. I was indoors all through. Even if I’m abroad, I’m writing.
What about the food you enjoy?
I love fisherman’s okra. I love oha. I also eat amala and fish. But I don’t eat much. I eat minimally. I will be 64 in November, yet you can see how I look.
Suicide and depression have become rampant in our clime. Any advice for our younger ones?
I was discussing with someone earlier today. One day, I was at a wedding, and I saw the type of affluence and ostentation that they displayed. I know they spent well over N1 million provided by the parents of the couple. That is where the problem is.
When I got married, a cow was N600 then. You know in Igbo tradition, you first do introduction, then carry wine, then do bride price. Then you will now do the proper church wedding and reception. And who would bring the money? The groom, of course! After you must have done that, as you are talking, your wife is talking. Then you get angry. But instead of saying, I will kill somebody here, just open the door and walk away. In fact, if you pass the night in your friend’s place, she will be looking for you. But these current people, they have little value for one another. They kill each other. This is because they didn’t contribute anything to the marriage.
We the parents cause a lot of problems. I moved in here in September 2008. When I came here, my children also came. You know I was living at Okota. One day, my daughter, who is in the US now, wanted to go to Festac. She said, dad, the driver will take me to Festac. I said no; it’s not possible. I told her, you will take a bus from here to Falomo, then to Obalende, to Oshodi Oke or Mile 2, and from Mile 2, you will get to Festac. She said, daddy it’s not fair, I said it’s fair. Then I got N5,000 and gave it to her. I did that so that if there was a problem, she could take a taxi. But I wanted her to know that if tomorrow there is a problem, she would know how to escape. What am I trying to say? We should stop telling our children that everything is okay. It’s good for a human being to experience different aspects of life. Whatever situations that arise, you adopt. I have lived so many types of lives.