Dr. Chidi Okpaluba: A leader with a difference
Dr. Chidi Okpaluba is not the only technocrat, successful entrepreneur and motivational speaker in Nigeria, but he is incontrovertibly one of the most outstanding.
Okpaluba does not belong to the flamboyant school and he is not to be counted among Nigerian businessmen hungry for publicity. However, the man is in a distinct position in Nigeria. Business associates and admirers know this fact and testify to it openly.
To them, Okpaluba is truthful, honest, loyal, hardworking, dependable and competent.
As a student, the trained veterinary doctor left a record at the University of Nigeria, Nsukka that has remained a reference point. His lecturers and colleagues knew him for his honesty and made spirited effort to identify with him. He was then one of the shining stars.
Very passionate about the development of the youth, Okpaluba ran a free weekly life transformation television programme on Nigeria Television Authority for two and half years. He also convened the annual youth and dreams leadership academy to show the youth the path to genuine greatness.
However, agreed the leadership academy programme was one of the best projects embarked upon by Okpaluba, he was still harbouring a bigger dream. And that was how he started his business in 1993 with the sum of sixty thousand naira.
He started hawking ties which metamorphosed into a full-fledged garment business- making of shirts, neck ties, and suits for people. After the collapse of some banks and loss of money through debts owed by former employees of these collapsed banks in 1996, Okpaluba decided to register Quartermasters Limited to do among other things uniforms, badges, labels, and promotional items for organizations.
To Okpaluba and others, client projects form the largest part of the company’s sustainability footprint.
The company, which started operation in 2000, became a magnet for clients such as Cadbury, MTN, Guinness, PZ, Etisalat, Airtel, Total and GSK. In 2007, the organization ventured into electronics distribution and became in the same year Haier Thermocool number one distributor in Lagos.
With good appearance, commanding personality, sound education, technical skills, honesty, hard work, cool mindedness, steadfastness, power of endurance, discipline, passion of co-operation for his colleagues and employees, fairness in dealing with others, ability to plan, managerial skills, readiness to develop and apply new rules for the advancement of the business, eye on past performance and about his future, financial soundness, effective communication power and leadership qualities, Okpaluba not only expanded the business but used these qualities to power the organization to a height that even his non admirers would not hesitate to give him accolades and praises..
However when the need to create a successful brand arose, Okpaluba and others accepted the views of consultants on private placement. The consultants also developed a private placement memorandum.
The company offered 20m shares at 1.8k each to Chief Kalu Otisi ( Abott) and his friend Dr. Alex Oti, then an executive director in First Bank. On the 21st day of January, 2009 after the expiration of the offer, Otisi, according to media report brought a cheque of ten million naira (N10.m) as part payment for the 20m shares he had requested for. In May 2009, a board was inaugurated and he was made the chairman.
Interestingly, the potentials of the business encouraged Chief Kalu to acquire more shares beyond what he filled in the prospectus. He invested a total of #110.7M for about 19% of the company over a period of 24months.
In January 2011, the board decided to proceed with the formalization of the share allocation and registration of a group of companies to become a holding company called quartermasters group limited. The lawyer collected the forms and all the directors including Chief. Kalu Otisi and Mr.Festus Ugwuoke signed.
Meanwhile, Chief Otisi gave the company a loan of seven million naira for the incorporation and the same was handed over to the company secretary Barrister Okechukwu Muomalu as decided by the board. This was eventually refunded to him.
Sadly, while the company secretary was on this process, crisis broke out within the board; a crisis some observers said was instigated by Chief Otisi and implemented by Mr. Festus Ugwuoke whom the chairman had promised the position of a managing director if he assisted him in getting 51% of the company.
There were also reports that the chairman offered to buy 51% of the company so as to pump in money into the company. An offer, some sources said Okpaluba and others rejected.
The crisis resulted in an emergency board meeting on Monday the 23rd day of May, 2011 and at the end of the meeting; the board reached a resolution which included among other things the indefinite suspension of the executive director Mr. Festus Ugwuoke for misleading the board, and the dismissal of the sales director Mr. Okechukwu Okereke.
After this, the Chairman Chief Kalu Otisi made several failed attempts to get Mr.Ugwuoke back to the company as an executive director. The failure to get him back, according to some staff, angered him so much, resulting to war against the company.
First, he fired a petition against the chairman to EFCC alleging that they deceived him to invest into an imaginary company. Secondly, he gave a quit notice to one of the branches, alleging that the company did not pay him his rent. Thirdly, he withdrew the collateral used to obtain a loan from his village branch of a bank. Fourthly, he insisted on the cancellation of the indefinite suspension of Mr.Ugwuoke.
Not successful, Chief Otisi took the matter to the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission. He also asked for refund, which the company agreed to.
One thing that goes for Okpaluba is that he is focused. Perhaps, his greatest strength lies with his humility. He rejected the option of fighting the chairman and stuck to peace.
By October 31st, 2012, the company refunded eighty million naira (80m) out of his (N110m) one hundred and ten million naira investment to him.
Dr. Okpaluba, a man who is less than 50, obviously still have more years to contribute his quota to the growth of the nation’s economy. The prayer is that he remains as focused and committed as he is right now.