Ayo Aroso, the Chief Executive of Denix-Tom Associate has concluded arrangement to host an agro-allied investment forum that provide an interactive platform for government officials and the people of Ekiti State with officials representing offshore financing bodies.

In this chat with GOKE OLUWOLE, Aroso speaks on his career growth pattern, the peculiarities of Ekiti State and the investment potentials waiting to be tapped in the state

Ayo Aroso, C.E. Denix-Tom Associate

Ayo Aroso, C.E. Denix-Tom Associate

Can you avail us a brief of your person?

I am Ayo Aroso. I am an Investment Advisor and a Human Resource Consultant.  I had worked in both public and private sectors of the economy, but I started as a trained teacher. I attended Doherty Memorial Grammar School, Ijero-Ekiti; CAC Teachers’ College, Efon Alaye; Adeyemi College of Education, Ondo; University of Ife, Ile-Ife and the Lagos State University (LASU) for Masters in Legal Studies.

In a career spanning about three decades, I worked in the broadcast industry after an initial stint in teaching. I worked at MAMSER (The Directorate of Social Mobilization).  I also worked at the Cocoa Industry Limited, Ikeja and finally, at International Energy Services Limited where I retired very recently.

With the full support and cooperation of Dr. Oladiran Fawibe, a Petroleum Economist and Chairman of International Energy Services, we pioneered the Energy Forum in Nigeria – The International Energy Forum, which ran for a decade annually attracting foreign participants and participants from all sectors of the Nigerian economy. It brought together the technocrats, industry operators, policy makers and politicians alike to examine topical issues germane to the industry.

It is also to the glory of God that I was the coordinator of the Shell Petroleum Development Company (SPDC) International Investors & Contractors’ Conferences. Along the line, I had some exposure also at the international arena. For now, I am in active retirement doing what I love best to do as much as God empowers me.  I now midwife my own investments and contribute my little quota to developmental programmes.

What prompted your early retirement, it’s obvious you are still young and vibrant? People in your age group are still in employment in preference to transmuting entrepreneurship

My retirement was divinely guided and ordered.  It came when I least planned for it.  One early morning, God told me it was over.  He ushered me into a new phase.  I shared my experience with my boss then, Dr. Oladiran Fawibe, who gave me his blessings.  My Bishop, Dr. David Oyedepo also prayed and told me that “when God leads, He leads forward.” So here we are by the Grace of God.

I saw wealth in the light of God’s word and craved for it.  I thought I had some rapid career progression and saw the need to grow younger ones and give them opportunity.  We only need to be reminded that it is the blessing of God that makes rich not the efforts and strength of man.  I also heard Dr. Erastus Akingbola of Intercontinental Bank Plc. say “no employer ever pays an employee to be rich.”  So, I wanted to live my own understanding and definition of God’s own kind of riches.  That’s why.  What could be more? It is the best thing to serve yourself when you would not have any regret or a fall back sorrow. When you can meet your own needs with most minimum prayers and fasting. When you will not be a burden to your environment. It is best to retire when you can share beneficial experiences with your children and the environment without becoming a liability and boring.

Establishing Denix-Tom Associates must have opened a new vista in your life. Tell us the scope of the company and your achievement so far?

Denix-Tom Associates was registered in 1990 but did not go into full operations until my retirement.  Though it has been working to organize its own base and sustain its operations and prepare the ground for my anticipated early retirement.

For now, Denix-Tom is fully involved in Manpower Development and Training Programmes for both the Public and private sector.  We also have an arm that represents JANTEK INC. USA in the West Africa Market. Jantek manufactures Time & Attendance, Access Control, Security Devices and Biometric Software. We also have interest in Aviation and Cargo Services where we partner with JWDKS Cargo Services of the United Kingdom .

Denix-Tom Associates also have the Technical Installations Division that handles civil and technical works in the financial sector. We compete favourably in the business of installation of ATMs for some financial institutions in the country. Denix-Tom has other investment interests.  We have stake in Citi Storage Business Limited, a company solely registered for marketing and sales of consumer-end agricultural products. Another interest is DP & B Investment Ltd which is a total Civil and Construction Company. All of these are through divine inspirations and leading.  So has the Lord helped us.

You were seriously involved at the vanguard of those that championed and crusaded for the elevation of Ekiti State through empowerment and full blown industrialization.  How are you going about it?

I consider the earlier part of this question as flattery. There are mentors like Uncle Ayo Ajayi, former Group MD of UAC Plc; Chief Femi Adewumi, Former GMD of Odu’a Investments Ltd, Chief Afe Babalola, SAN and others.  These are the crusaders.  We are only aspiring to be their foot-soldiers as disciples. Ekiti as we say today is “Fountain of Knowledge.” Where knowledge is not properly domesticated and adequately deployed, it becomes a burden. The Bible says: “The labour of the foolish wearies them, not knowing the way to the city”. That is the futility of knowledge not adequately applied. That is what we are changing in Ekiti State. That is the only new thing.

We are now waking up to the reality of the inadequacies of white-collar employment to meet our needs for development.  Many more Ekiti sons and daughters are now making waves outside teaching and government employment.  I am aware you know Femi Ojudu.  You know Seye Adetunmbi and a host of others.  Engr. Segun Oni went into politics with the same instinct.  Our education must now be geared towards empowerment, industrialization and self employment. That is what is new. And thank God for where Ekiti is today and what this present administration is doing. Our children can now hope to inherit the Ekiti State that is too far from what we inherited.  I am sure they also will inherit an internal economy propelled with good income from industrial taxes and revenue in the state.

How would you describe investment opportunities and potentials of the State?

Let me say that investment potentials of Ekiti State are enormous.  You may not believe that Yam from Ekiti State finds its way to Ghana and ultimately United Kingdom. So also Gari and other staple food items.  Think of what it means to the State if they are well harnessed. Think of the enormity of fruit seed production – oranges, mangoes, Pineapple, pears etc.  To the best of available researches, Ekiti-State’s raw materials base can comfortably support industrialization without much stress. Farmers will earn more for their labour. More employment will be generated at the instance of the private sector to complement what the government is doing.  But we need the infrastructure.  This is one area where I think the Segun Oni Administration is actively on course. It is not that within four years, industry would have filled the whole place.  No. But a journey would have begun with steps taken in the right direction. This is the credit we are giving to Segun Oni and his administration.

You proposed hosting an agro-allied investment summit in Ekiti State, yet, we’ve witnessed legion of workshops on how-to-do things without any form of implementation thereafter. How are you going to make the dream of this agro-allied investment forum a reality in the state beyond the seminar?

Your observation about legion of workshop is correct.  But I will remind you that after the Energy Forum on Energy Policy Agenda for Nigeria, held in 1993, the country armed with the presentations and the documents of the conference started the works on the policy we have today in the energy sector.  Same thing with other seminars in 1997 which kick started the reforms in the Energy Sector; 1999 became the reference point for the privatization of the Energy Sector and in 2001, the effect of globalization was brought in focus.

Today, the documents of those fora remain collectors’ item with the proceedings published. That is what we have been trained to bequeath to the economy and we shall do no less. The peculiarity of Ekiti people is high level honesty and integrity.  Here, we are talking of investors who can reach to the moon partnering with whoever offers a hand.  They are not investors that will take loans and abscond.  In fact, they will guard loans and aided investment more than their wives and dinner.  That is the basis of our confidence.

You are talking of people who have the ability to excel giving the right assistance.  The little they have been doing is what we intend to complement and advance.  Some years ago, Odu’a Investment Company came up with the concept of cottage industry which suffered a set back as a result of funding.  In this day of dwindling government resources, the government can do very little.  That is why we intend to bring the search light of the global fund market on Ekiti State where mutual symbiotic benefits could be achieved.

Apart from showing the people the road to the financial market, we also intend to bring the market as it were into the State.  We intend to give the people a first hand one-on-one interaction with the operators in the international finance market where we have genuine commitment to financing development and poverty eradication through investment financing.

People will learn how to access these funds; Its demands, challenges and their obligations.  If the likes of USDA, US Ex-Im Bank; USAID, EIB and others are interested in financing Agricultural Investments, then we intend to bring them to the (farm) Agricultural Base rather than Interacting with papers and presentations that may not show clear understanding of the exact situation.

So it is a two-way knowledge traffic. We learn from them, they learn from us all on first hand.

Also, we intend to make as much documents as possible available to the participants.  We also intend to post relevant information on the web for global consumption. This is not propaganda, but using the private sector initiative to mobilize, encourage and assist the peculiar situation of Ekiti State and potential investors.

Is it because you are from Ekiti State that you are only focusing on the state? Which other areas or economic sector are you looking at in the nearest future?

I am from Ekiti State and I have enjoyed what an average mother state ought to give to a growing child. But that is not why. This is just the beginning of our programmes. Think of the global economic meltdown.  Think of the situation in the Nigerian finance industry.  The only way out is to look inwards. Money is failing but God is still blessing our land.  Most of the things we import can be produced here. We can also develop our own economy by giving to the industrialized world what their own industries need in the form of exportation thus earning more from our dormant productive sector.

Think of the potentials the Cassava Processing Industry which the Governor will launch on February 10, 2009 carries. In the midst of global meltdown in the Biblical days, Egypt was earning money, land and labour from across the world on agricultural proceeds.  So is this case. Let us begin with agriculture.  And if I will talk of farmers, I will mention my father first. That is the first farmer I knew.  That is why we are starting from Ekiti State. We intend to look at the common-wealth base of other states and periscope same for as long as it falls within what the scope our partners can finance, availability of investors that are credible and the government of the state that is sincere in its programmes. This is why Ekiti is coming first. Charity begins from home.

With the global meltdown, how would your partnership with the US Ex-Im Bank be profitable to Ekiti – investors?

Global meltdown is not the same with individual meltdown.  A thirsty man needs an ice water seller. That’s the relationship.  Apart from US EX-IM Bank bringing funds into the state, they also have capacity to introduce potential partners.  Such partners may bring in machines and technology to the level of their equity funding.  So we should not zero our mind on money, money and money.  Market could be sought and developed for export products.  There are products in the state today that a sound knowledge of packaging will be a boost for at the export market.  US EX-IM Bank market scanning could also be beneficial to prospective investors.  You could go on and on thinking about farming and other food processing ventures. That could be financed from such partnership.  These are what we are talking about.

A historical review of the socio-political profile of Ekiti State shows that the State’s political temperament is the bane of its industrialization. How are you going to change this perception in attracting investors to a politically volatile State like Ekiti?

I am sorry, I don’t agree with that position. Ekiti State is one of the most peaceful States in the Federation. Political activism is not the same as political volatility.  Yes, some cases of assassination and political protests have been recorded, we should not, however, paint Ekiti State in a colour that does not suit it.  Ekiti is largely very peaceful and conducive for the conduct of businesses.  Cost of land and labour remains one of the cheapest.  Access to the export centres is not remote. The bane of industrialization in Ekiti was the use to which the education of the earlier elites was put.  Many of them were teachers, civil servants and quiet social people. They ran away from loans in the bank and wanted regular income which employment provided.

But that is changing now.  Industrialists are growing.  The rank and file of Ekiti prosperous sons and daughters returning home to grow the state is swelling. The central focus of business is profit and sustenance.  I am of the opinion that Ekiti State guarantees these. You don’t need to be an indigene of Ekiti for you to invest in Ekiti.  That is why we are targeting industrialists across the world.  We have a guarantee that the little the Segun Oni Administration has done so far is enough assurance that the future is very bright and hopeful. We therefore need all hands on deck in this effort. It is not an assignment for an individual, or group of individuals.  Not even the Governor can do it alone.  It is a task for all starting with you, the media people.

In working to promote the vision of the present governor Engr. Segun Oni will you not be seen as an appendage of his cabinet; and how would you describe the passion of both of you to transform Ekiti economically?

It is coincidental that we share the same passion.  But let me tell you that we equally belong in the same generation. It is our generation that starts thinking outside teaching and civil service career. It is our generation that starts taking the risk that we pray will transform Ekiti State. Any well meaning indigene of the state must therefore share this passion.

An appendage of his cabinet? I am not a political appointee and neither is the Governor or the Government of Ekiti State commissioning me in this assignment. We pray that the Government of Ekiti State and the Governor will see through our efforts and support this venture fully for the benefit of the state and her people. We are contributing at the level of our individual grace. We only pray to leave a legacy in the state that will endure.  The truth is that Segun Oni is doing enough that should be supported and encouraged.  For once, Ekiti is having sincerity and integrity in governance.  We can only pray for him and support his dreams. As for us, we are doing what God enables us to do.  We have done it at national and international levels. Bringing the knowledge and reach back home is therefore a privilege.

Side Note: Ekiti State is one of the states in the South-western Nigeria.