By AYO ALONGE
ACE businesswoman, Princess Toyin Kolade, is the Managing Director and Chief Executive Officer of a string of companies including Arikay Oil and Gas, Fisolak Royal Furniture Limited and Rashkol International Logistics Limited. She’s virtually in all major sectors of the economy like oil and gas, agriculture, manufacturing and maritime.
In this interview, the Osun State born magnate fields questions pertinent to her chain of companies and with emphasis on oil and gas. According to her, the challenges in the oil sector wouldn’t last long.
Could you elaborate on your businesses?
As a group of companies like Fisolak Pharmacy Nigeria Limited, Arikay Oil and Gas, Fisolak Royal Furniture, Rashkol International Logistics Limited, we are into pharmaceuticals, oil and gas, importation of furniture and contract leasing.I think it’s worthy of note to mention that as a major company in Nigeria, we do business with multinationals because we are a multinational too in our own right.I must add that we have contributed immensely to virtually all the major sectors of Nigeria’s economy, especially oil and gas and maritime.
Isn’t your gender a minus for you in terms of coping with daunting challenges of running such a large group of companies?
Every business comes with its own challenges. In fact, the Nigerian situation is very challenging in itself. Anyway, God is always my strength.The most daunting of the numerous challenges we face is epileptic power supply. No business can thrive without steady power supply. We’re also talking about recession today and on top of that, the exchange rate is skyrocketing daily. How can you run your business profitably if the exchange rate isn’t stable? Power supply, at least, should be stable. We have skilled manpower, so we have the potential to be more self-reliant and spend less on importation. Anyway, this is not to cast any blame on the government of the day and I hope things get better very soon.
How do you cope with the free fall of the naira as a major importer?
That is very worrisome.We cannot continue to exchange N500 for one dollar because people are losing purchasing power already.
Concerning your furniture business, do you plan to produce locally instead importing all the time?
Already we’re working in that direction but such efforts can easily be frustrated if the operating environment is not conducive for business. Producing furniture locally like other ventures requires regular power supply.
Are you not looking in the direction of gas as an alternative source of power like many other companies today?
Where is the gas again?Are you not in this country to see that gas plants and pipelines have virtually all been blown up by militants in the Niger Delta? That is one major challenge we also face as stakeholders in the oil and gas sector.
What’s your assessment of your stake in the sector?
The oil and gas sector has not had it so tough. It’s going through a lot, which may not even have been reported yet. We only hope that things stabilize very soon.The exchange rate and price per barrel are also issues that may have to be addressed if all stakeholders would agree with me and we can face the problem headlong.
What’s your coping strategy in the oil and gas sector given these challenges?
We hope to have our own refinery like Aliko Dangote does. If our local refineries are working perfectly, as a country, we can easily stabilize and industrialize the economy. All will be done. We should also ensure we diversify by going into farming. It is not enough to talk about diversification. As a country, let us be proactive about diversifying.
Are you likely to go into farming too?
We are already doing that anyway. We have partnership with major stakeholders in Kebbi and Osun states to produce rice and watermelon.We’ve also secured a large expanse of arable land in Ogun State. Have you ever been to Cotonou, just near us here? Go and see their farmlands and the way they take agriculture seriously and you’ll marvel.
What’s your opinion about most Nigerian businessmen and women focusing on the oil and gas sector alone, believing it’s the most profitable?
It’s their ignorance at work. The oil and gas sector is dwindling now because oil price has drastically crashed in the international market.
Are you likely to quit the sector any time soon?
Quitting the sector is not the solution to the challenges we face in the sector today. Oil price has crashed and the sector has ceased to be juicy like it used to be. It is happening to even Russia, Ukraine and the rest of the world.
What do you have to say about our economy given the prevailing recession?
You cannot compare Nigeria to developed countries. Most people even go about lying about the true situation of Nigeria. Turkey gained independence far long ago. We should only continue to pray for Nigeria. We need prayer to survive.
What should government do to curb the incessant destruction of oil and gas pipelines, which has drastically affected the oil and gas sector as well as power generation and supply?
We all need to engage Niger Delta militants in dialogue, not just the government alone and tell them to desist from blowing up our pipelines. We need to cooperate with the government for business to thrive and for the country to regain its stability.That’s the solution.
In what way are your businesses affected by the recession?
Our desires are insatiable. The recession is biting very hard but I am the type that believes in the prosperity of this country.
If the recession persists, are you likely to leave the country too like some multinationals have done?
Our group of companies are indigenous.No matter what, we remain here. We can’t relocate to another country. We are indigenous. Any company that would relocate from Nigeria is probably not Nigerian enough. Most Nigerians are not patient. They suddenly want to be like Princess Kolade overnight or like Alakija, Jim Ovia, Mike Adenuga, Otudeko and other business moguls who own conglomerates in the country. Most people live above their means. When we opened our pharmaceutical company, we soon discovered that the company was not doing well and we needed to close it down for a while.
As an importer, what’s your experience with Nigerian Customs?
The Nigerian Customs is really trying its best. There is no way you will have a problem with the Nigerian Customs if you declare the content of your container. I have never had any face-off with the Customs. Contraband goods are not tolerated and we know that.If you default, then you will find yourself in their net .
Do you have any idea why most wealthy Nigerians don’t invest in the country and we only depend on foreigners, mostly Asians, to run our industrial sector for us?
Yes, the rich in Nigeria are not helping matters. They make the money here and go abroad to invest. Anyway, they shouldn’t be blamed,because they are not well groomed in the area of running a company successfully.
But how about some Asians who are mostly here? Doesn’t it bother you that they succeed where we fail in business here?
You cannot compare us to Asians. Asians have the technology to start a company and make it grow but see what Dangote is doing, building a refinery for us. We equally have some Nigerians that can do so too.
As a businessman and socialite, how do you manage business and pleasure?
Yes, I socialize a lot but I don’t mix pleasure with business. I try as much as possible to strike a balance between work and socials.
Is there a likelihood you might be in active politics someday?
That can never happen. I can’t be a politician, even if I have the backing of godfathers.