AUTO dealer and higher education consultant, Dr. Ayodele Ogunsan, is living his dreams. Since his humble beginning as a member of a family of six who barely managed to eke out a living, young Ayodele has made up his mind to be successful.
“I am from the family of the late Engr. Akinola Ogunsan,“ he said. “I encouraged myself in the midst of the challenges that I grew up in at the time when we were struggling to survive and we had to do some funny things to get money. For instance, my younger ones and I had to sell things on the streets of Lagos because my father was working as a civil servant at a time their efforts were not well rewarded, and my mum had to sell hair attachment and second hand clothes for us to survive. I made up my mind that I would turn the story of our family around.”
Ayodele counts himself lucky for having a father who believed in education.
He said: “My father believed that the first thing in life is education, from which I could get another thing. So my parents encouraged and pushed me to become what I am today. So, that humble beginning provoked me and still provokes me even today. I decided to be the Moses of my family and today, our story has changed. I made up my mind that no one I know, from family to my workers, will toe that line of poverty again.”
Today, Dr. Ayodele Ogunsan is a thoroughbred businessman with a string of achievements.
Said he: “I am the chairman of Executive Group Company which comprises Executive Motors Ltd, a notable agent of Peugeot Automobile in Nigeria, and Executive Trainers Limited, an international training and consulting firm based here in Nigeria, which handles the training and re-training of Nigerian higher institution practitioners in all higher levels of education. That is what I do both locally and abroad.”
Recalling the humble beginnings of his business life, he said: “Executive Motors came into existence in 2005, after almost a decade of working with Peugeot Automobile Nigeria (PAN) network. I had the privilege of being admitted to the postgraduate college of Peugeot Nigeria in Kaduna, precisely in the year 2000. Twenty-one of us were brought into the training school mainly to re-position PAN’s sales, to try and change the mindset of people from the sympathy purchase of Peugeot products to actually seeing the reason and benefit of buying the products in Nigeria.
“About 6,428 of us were screened and only 21 of us were successful after the nine months of training. We were then deployed to various dealers of Peugeot to be able to propagate the good news of the new products that have been brought into the market, to change the primitive version of the Peugeot we used to have.
“Fortunately, I was posted to a company called Road Truckers in Yaba, Lagos, and within the little period I stayed there, I was able to make a lasting impact to help them re-position their sales. From there, I was posted to Madunka Motors in Kaduna. But I didn’t stay in Kaduna. I personally requested that the management of that company allow me to stay in the South West, so that I could assist them to turn around their sales here.
“I started as a sales officer in Lagos, then I was promoted to sales manager and later rose to the position of Regional Manager for South West before I left Madunka Motors to start my own company, Executive Motors, in 2005.”
Restless and bustling with energy and ideas, Dr. Ayodele Ogunsan said he reflected on the Nigerian economy, trying to find where he could further contribute to alleviating people’s sufferings. His thoughts led him to the educational sector.
He said: “In 2008, I started a training business. I was burdened because in the course of travelling abroad, through some of the tertiary institutions abroad in places like USA, UK, Singapore, South Africa, United Arab Emirates, Canada, and so on, I saw a wide gap between what was obtainable in the western world and what obtained in Nigeria. So I felt I could bridge the gap, connect them together so that what was good for the people over there could possibly be transferred to our own programmes in our universities, polytechnics and so on.
“To the glory of God, eight years down the line now, I have been able to make significant impact in Nigerian tertiary institutions. I have been able to organise conferences for Nigerian vice chancellors, provosts, rectors and other principal officers of higher institutions of learning. I have also gone further to identify various problems they have in the sectors.
“We have also helped in student-student transfer, in technology transfer, in lecturer transfer and during the course of the years, we have been able to assist both academic and non-academic staff to leave the shores of this country to develop themselves and come back to use the technology here; an opportunity that has not been easy to come by in recent times. We are still on it and we will continue to make it even better.”
Considering his youthful looks, Ogunsan must have had a fast ride to the top. To him, he said, dreams come first. But as a young man, did he ever dream about where he is at the moment?
His response: “Yes, I used to dream that one day I would have my own automobile organisation. Though it also went beyond me. I remember that to support that dream, I had a man, Mr Madubuko of blessed memory. He was the training and manpower development general manager at Peugeot in those days. One day, he was making an illustration in the classroom, and he particularly used me as an example.
“He said, ‘Let’s assume that Ayo, sitting here, becomes a dealer in Peugeot. He therefore uses all that we are teaching him here to make sure that the products and brand gets better and more admirable for the people.’ When he said that, it dawned on me that it was my dream, and here was a general manager who I immediately saw as a prophet, confirming it. So while the other students in the classroom were laughing, I immediately told God silently to confirm what the General Manager had just said and make it a reality.
“So, exactly five years ago, I approached my employer to tell them that I was leaving to start my own business. I remember what they told me. They said, ‘Look, you cannot leave us. We need you. You have made a strong impact in this company, and we still need you.’ I told them I had to go. I remember what my boss said then: ‘You can drop the ID card and any other thing, but for me, I didn’t sack you or terminate your appointment, and I refuse to accept your resignation letter. You can go and start that your business, but represent my interest everywhere you go.’ And down the line, from then till now, I am still very much within the industry.
“Recently, the new Management of Peugeot invited me to come over and add some value to the system in the area of sales. Despite the fact that they know I run my business, they said I should come over because they feel that I can make an impact because, according to them, my track record in the industry for Peugeot is commendable. They invited me to be a National Sales Consultant for Peugeot. And from the time I took that appointment till now, Peugeot has been transformed significantly in terms of sales. We have re-positioned the brand in terms of sales and everybody is crazy about Peugeot now. My work has earned me few names like Mr. Peugeot and Mr. Higher Education. I love both and I’m passionate about both.”
An auto lover and dealer, which Peugeot series would he say is most popular in Nigeria today?
“In the car series we are doing well,” he said. “If I can take you back memory lane, you will recall that Peugeot 504 used to be in vogue. Then there were Peugeot 505, Evolution and the rest of them. I happened to have sold some of these when I got into the system. At the moment, I can tell you that we have the best set of vehicles. Peugeot 508 is the highest that we have in the range right now, but it is cheaper than other brands in the same range. The engine is far more fantastic, and maintenance is excellent.
“Some of the complaints that people had about Peugeot in the yesteryears, like the doors which were very hard to open and close, are gone. We have improved on all that, and I can tell you that when you are in a Peugeot car, it is like you are in the cockpit of an aeroplane. The gadgets, the censor, the aesthetics, the beauty and dynamics are excellent. I am telling you, we have dream cars that everybody will love to drive. So as far as Peugeot is concerned today, we are doing well in the car series and also doing well with the bus series.”
Time was when Peugeot was about the most popular brand of cars in Nigeria. Does he see that coming back to play at some point?
“Very well. It is coming back to that now. Because I must confess to you, both the private and public sectors are doing a rethink. They are seeing what we are seeing, and then they have been able to test these products, and the feedback we are getting from them now is that they agree that Peugeot offers the new cars of dreams: cheap and fuel-efficient.
“With the forex challenge and the devaluation of our currency, the automobile business is now becoming a difficult terrain for people to go into. It is extremely expensive. The cheapest we have today is Peugeot. And when you buy a Peugeot car, you are putting food on the tables of Nigerians. We have an existing and functional assembly plant in Nigeria. Others that are copying us now and are trying to get into it, but a father remains a father. Our plant is functioning.
“The beauty of it is that our plant employs over a thousand Nigerians. If you buy a Peugeot, you have succeeded in putting food on the table of a Nigerian. We have technical people in Kaduna and fantastic international support from Peugeot Paris. We get these parts in completely knocked down units and they are assembled here in Nigeria.
“There are some parts also that are sourced locally. You buying Peugeot is also you bringing up some other dead businesses alive, like the leather and brake pads manufacturers. So I want to tell you that recently when the Managing Director of the company, Mr Boyo Ibrahim, a man of vision, a fantastic leader of people and a man passionate about Peugeot, recently visited the President and got the endorsement of the Commander-in-Chief who saw it as a great brand of vehicles, he looked at it as a Nigerian thing and endorsed it.
“I can tell you today that for the executive, legislature and judiciary and other the agencies of government, Peugeot now remains their main vehicles of choice. I want to assure you that in the next one year, if you have been a Peugeot lover, you will find out that if you count 10 cars, seven of them will be Peugeot.”
Having to co-ordinate too many things at a time, one cannot help but wonder where Dr Ogunsan gets his energy from. But he was quick to say that his energy comes from God who has been the source of his strength. “I am a product of God’s mercy. I gave my life to Christ early. He is the reason for my strength. When I look at some of my outputs, I know that only God must have done this.”
A self-confessed restless individual, Ogunsan admits that strive for excellence also urges him on. Was that also why he travelled abroad?
“That was when I was in Peugeot. My performance was encouraging and thrilling to the management of Peugeot then, and they decided to send me and my wife to Paris. I had to defer the journey to 2006 because I needed to get married, since the opportunity was for two persons. When I got married, they were all there. They cheered me up and encouraged me. So we had our honeymoon in Paris. Since then, I travel almost every month. The next home I have apart from my home is in the sky. It is either I travel for the automobile business or for the international education consultancy business that I run.”
Busy as he seems, the auto dealer and education mentor has an emotional side. The happy family man proudly declares: “I run a family business with my wife. We arrange it in such a way that there are some programmes that we attend together. Some she goes alone while I stay or the other way round. And over the years, the organisations have grown to the point where I have able staff that I can commit or delegate some of these journeys to. My managers are involved in my business. I have been able to create a system whereby if I am not there, the system runs. All my staff have valid international passports. So I call on them any time to lead the delegation when I am not around.
“For me, I am a complete family man. I keep tabs with my wife and children. Anytime I am not at work, I am with them. When I am not in church, I am with them. And even when I am not with them, I am with them, because I talk to them regularly. I have children who are attached to my wife and I. They call us regularly. Any moment I spend with them is usually qualitative. It’s a family business with a godly setting.”
With his bespoke jacket and urbane office environment, Dr. Ogunsan is a stylish man; a compliment he greets with a smile.
“Yes I am a strong believer in decency, I am a very neat and clean individual. I love being with godly people who are decent and neat. I like the air of success which such people exude around them. I am a simple person. Although I like to be different, I don’t have a special attachment to designers. I buy what is good for me or what I need.
“For me, style means being decent and being able to match it with what is obtainable at all times. So I am adaptive. I flow.”
Did his style play any role in his first meeting with his wife? Perhaps yes. But more importantly, he said, they met at a godly setting.
“It is a funny story. That day, we were in a church programme. It was a leadership training programme where student leaders were built to develop and lead others. I was a product of that process; a programme where youths are taught to love God, be sound academically and be socially responsible.
That day, I was seated for the variety programme and it was a monologue play whereby a single person made a performance. After the choir rendition, a young man was leading a blind lady. That was the role she played in that monologue, a blind woman. She was being led to the podium from where she sat. Immediately I saw her, there was a trigger in my system and I heard a voice which I know must have been God’s. It said to me, ‘The pretty angel could be your wife.’
“I couldn’t resist the voice because I love someone who loves God and at the same time beautiful. She is a very pleasant and beautiful lady to behold, and I know she loves God too. But she was much younger than me in terms of school level. She was in JSS 3. I wondered how I would be able to wait for her, since I was already on the way to a higher educational institution.
“But the voice spoke to my soul again that the lady is my wife. I did my due diligence to know her family. Through the church, we kept on interfacing on natural grounds because I didn’t want to distract her with such stories. But for me, I decided then to close up on other ladies because I was always praying for her and thinking about her.
“Later, just when I was rounding up in school and started thinking of a partner, she was trying to sit for examination. It was at the time that I was at home and running a tutorial. Someone told her that he had a teacher who was running a tutorial, one who was good in Mathematics, Further Maths and Physics, and that she should come for tutorials. That was how they sent a prey to the predator (laughs).
“So I gave her the best attention and, to the glory of God, she had a fantastic result in Mathematics. I was doing that for personal reasons. I graduated and she started her degree programme. I was waiting. People were worried because my colleagues were getting married. At the appropriate time, I proposed, she agreed, and on June 10, 2006, we went to the altar. Today, we are blessed with three children. This year, we celebrated our tenth wedding anniversary.”
Ogunsan has an advice for the youth. “There is a price to pay. You have to be dedicated, passionate and consistent. You have to be focused even in the midst of noise and distractions. And that, to me, is the definition of success.”
Once a dreamer, they say, is always a dreamer. So what is Ogunsan’s dream about the future?
“The future is bright with God. I trust and look forward to institutionalising the conferences and programmes I run on the educational platform. I look forward to having a renowned business school in Nigeria, which I am sure will be better than the one already in Lagos. With that, I won’t need to fly people out of Nigeria for same.
“I want to see a Ministry of Higher Education separated from the Ministry of Education. The primary and the secondary schools can still remain under the Ministry of Education as they presently are. I also want to see Peugeot being the only car used in this country.”
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