By Daniels Ekugo
Indeed it has become a night, annually, that the de crème-la crème of the automobile world in Nigeria – dealers, customers and journalists always crave for – The Toyota Nigeria Limited Award Night where support and loyalty are rewarded.
And this year wasn’t different from other years. Dealers, Customers, Motoring journalists and photographers went home with prizes and gifts including Laptops, Tablets and handsets at the ceremony tagged “an evening of recognitions to reward loyalty and patronage of the Toyota brand in Nigeria.
Managing Director of Toyota (Nigeria) Limited, Kunle Ade-Ojo said the annual awards ceremony was a mark of the great recognition and massive importance the company accords its customers and all other partners in the business, noting that it was also recognition of the enormous roles they play in the company’s success stories over the years.
“This is just a modest way of showing our appreciation to them for the tremendous support we have enjoyed and still enjoying from them. The loyalty of our customers through thick and thin is an eloquent testimony of their love for the Toyota brand and of course for us as a company”.
He added that Toyota Nigeria owed all that it has achieved so far to the cooperation and support of the customers, distributors and partners, saying “This is the reason why we are able to retain our number one position in the market.”
The spacious hall at the Civic Centre building came to a standstill when the Director, Toyota (Nigeria) Limited, Chief Michael Ade-Ojo, amidst his emotional speech, said it had become a tradition for Toyota Nigeria as a trend setter in the industry and as a company that is committed to the ideals and virtues of appreciation, to say ‘thank you’ to those who have contributed to the company’s success story in one way or the other on an annual basis through this particular medium.
“We appreciate the cooperation and understanding of our esteemed customers, dealers and other stakeholders in this regard. Your unflinching support has remained the pillars upon which our leadership edifice is built; this has enabled us to maintain the number one spot in the market both globally and locally,” he said.
Ade-Ojo however in a satirical voice disclosed that he is set to bow out of active participation in the day-today-running of the auto company when he turns 80 on June 14 this year, allaying the fear that his exit could create a vacuum, saying his son, Kunle, currently the managing director of the company, would be a good replacement.
Ade-Ojo stated, “By the grace of God, I’ll be 80 years old on the 14th of June. I know you will want to celebrate me; I’ll also want to celebrate you because you’ve been wonderful. I do not have any fear that our customers will suffer. You’re not going to suffer. Kunle is there for you when daddy retires. It’s not that I’m saying bye for now. But I’m warning you that things are changing. I might not be able to continue to do this (functioning as the company’s chairman) for long.”
Chief Michael was born in Nigeria on June 14, 1938, to two modest parents in Ilara-Mokin, Ondo State. At a very young age, he became a street vendor and started selling charcoal, food, & firewood to help make ends meet.
He was born in a time when there was little to no financial aid for the less privileged, and parents believed a lot lesser in education, yet he still successfully made it through high school, and later got a degree in Business Administration from the university.
After his graduation, he joined the workforce at CFAO motors; a French distribution company. This same company had paid the tuition for his last two years in the university.
In 1966, while still working as a salesman for CFAO motors, he successfully sold 20 trucks to the Electricity Corporation of Nigeria, but to his dismay, his manager took credit for the sale, which led to a protest by Michael, followed with him losing his job by the end of the year.
After his ousting at CFAO motors, he moved on and got a job at British Petroleum (BP). Within three months of his employment, he increased the sales of his local division by 25%. But just as he was unfortunate with his previous employment, his new boss took credit for the outstanding growth, and this left him aggrieved and lost in thoughts.
As the popular adage says, when life gives you a lime, make a lemonade out of it. Chief Ade-Ojo has every course to stay put in his BP job and be contented, but he decided to take a risky but eventful decision. While in Lagos, Nigeria, during his annual British Petroleum (BP) holiday, he decided to take a daring step to approach the RT Brisco Group; an importer and distributor of trucking and automobile equipment. He made them an offer to sell their equipment for a commission on every successful sale.
After careful consideration, the RT Brisco Group decided to give him a trial. In just four months after he sealed the deal with Brisco, he sold about 40 cars. The commissions earned from the total sales were overwhelmingly higher than his yearly salary at BP. This motivated him to quit his job, and pursue his dreams.
In 1971, he started the company, Elizade Independent Agencies (EIA), with his wife, Elizabeth Wuraola Ojo. The name Elizade, was derived from both his wife’s name, Elizabeth, and his name, Ade. His company focused on the distribution of automobiles in Nigeria, especially Japanese cars.
He acquired the license to import Toyota Cars, with the name, Toyota Nigeria Limited, and single-handedly, made the car brand, the most sought-after automobile brand in Nigeria. He later went on to acquire 100% of RT Briscoe in Nigeria, and subsequently acquired more shares, to make his total holdings in Toyota Nigeria Limited, sum up to 74%.
At the event, First Bank of Nigeria Limited, China Civil Engineering Construction Corporation and Access Bank Plc were rewarded for their high purchase of Toyota vehicles last year from the TNL.