DR SUNNY OBAZU-OJEGBASE: CATAPAULT FROM DEEP DEBTOR TO MILLIONAIRE MAKER
Dr Sunny Obazu-Ojegbase is the chairman/CEO of the multimillion company, Complete Communication Ltd, but the path to his success was riddled with challenges and Hardnocks. He started his romance with hardship very early in life when his mother died shortly after he finished primary school and his father could not send him to school; so he never went to secondary school or university. He was deep in debt having been married at the age of 20. He surmounted diverse kinds of challenges while starting his publishing business with N6, 500 in 1984. Today, he has not only become a millionaire but is raising millionaires. Joseph Dinwoke of Brojid.com chronicles his story, how he weathered the storms of life, his entrepreneurial strides and how he became a maker of millionaires.
SUNNY, OVERDIDES HIS DISADVANTAGES
Dr. Sunny Obazu-Ojegbase started life on a path that is hardly easy. Apart from primary school education which he had between 1957-1962 at St James Primary School, Owoope, Osogbo he could not go to secondary school or university because, “my mother was sick and my father could not afford to send me to secondary school even though I passed the entrance examination.”
Since he could not go to school he attached himself to a mechanic workshop at the instruction of his parents but could not cope staying there because “the whole place was greasy, dirty and smelling; it was so irritating to me.” From there, he moved on to learn typing and short hand that lasted for six months. After this he started apprenticeship in printing which is supposed to last for five years but was aborted by the Nigerian Biafra war.
As a teenager, he joined the army as a means of sustenance of his four siblings and his father; since his father, who was advancing in age and could not provide the financial requirement for starting a printing press where he has trained in as an apprentice.
Sunny was aware of the risk of being hit by a bullet in the army; however, he forged ahead in his military career believing that since it’s money that drove him into the army if he had died his need for money would have come to an end. “If I get killed, I wouldn’t need money more” He quips.
While in the army, he got married at the age of 20 because of the reasoning that as an officer, death can come at anytime and they need to replicate themselves before they get struck by death. But the experience of being married at that early age was to him “the kind of experience that any boy will have if he gets into what men should be doing.” He was deep in debt and went into pool betting hoping that it will deliver him from debts but it never did. He quitted pool betting when he received Jesus Christ and became born again in 1974.
360 TURN AROUND
His life took a totally different course in 1974 (at the age of 24) when he encountered a book by Albert W. Armstrong. “At the age of 24, I read a book called Seven Laws of Success; it was the book that completely changed the course of my history. When I read this book I discovered that I had to set a goal for myself and I had to acquire specialized knowledge along with five other keys, which included having faith in God, taking care of one’s health, persevering, and much more. So from that point in my life, I had a turn-around. I took the message in the book to heart and I began to implement those tips. I moved from being in debt to being able to manage my resources up until the time I went into business in 1984.”
From what he learnt in the book, he set goal of being a sports reporter since he loves playing basketball. But realized that he needs a specialized knowledge in that area to be able to make a success of it. He recounts, “I discovered in my search that there were people who actually covered those games and they were paid to do it. So I said what a wonderful life it would be for me to have the opportunity to go and do what I enjoyed doing and still be paid for it. I chose that as a goal: to go and be a sports reporter. Now since I didn‘t know anything about sports writing, I decided to acquire it as a specialised knowledge. That was how I got into sports writing. And from sports writing, I went on to publishing sports.”
ON THE PATH OF JOURNALISM CAREER
The quest for specilised knowledge made him take GCE, where he got an ‘A’ in English Language and correspondence course in journalism. While he was taking correspondence course in journalism, he was writing and sending materials for publications. He started freelancing for papers in 1976 and in two years, he took a bow from the Nigerian army and got a job in the Daily Times as a stringer. He was so good that he wrote for all Daily Times titles.
He got hired as a staff of the Daily Times when his earning as a stringer, by far supersedes, what employed staff earn and the General Manger (publications) Peter Osubor withheld his claims insisting that if he’s so good a stringer to get paid N600 when the staff is paid N150 per month, he should be hired. Consequently, he was hired on April 1, 1979.
He moved to the Sunday Concord after 14 months stint with the Daily Times and eventually left for the Guardian where he became the sports editor.
A RISKY LEAP THAT CHANGED HIS LIFE
Despite his rising profile in spots journalism beat and promising future in sports reporting at the Guardian, Dr Ojegbase took a leap into the risky path of entrepreneurship after being motivated by stories and winning germs from Napoleon Hill’s motivational book. “I made the decision after I read the book, Think and Grow Rich by Napoleon Hill. I read the book in December 1983 and I was so inspired that by January 1984, I thought I could just get into business.”
Although he was motivated to start his business, he took heed to the words of Jesus Christ not to start building a tower without counting cost. So after counting the cost of starting his business he realized that he can’t start then; consequently, he put the idea on shelf waiting for its time. Meanwhile, he remained with Guardian. It was due to crises between the management of the Guardian and the staff where staff salary was about to be slashed that a voice spoke to him saying, “Even with full salary you are barely making ends meet. Now if they cut the salary that will make things even more difficult. Now what is the difference between going on surviving on the salary and jumping out to start this idea that you have always had with whatever you have?” That was how he took the step of faith, out of his promising job as a sports editor, into starting a new publication, Complete Football.
Dr Obazu-Ojegbase at that point had a bright idea, relevant skills to implement the idea, and wealth of experience under his belt in the realm of sports journalism but was handicapped by capital. But before he quitted his job to start, he secured support from his wife and partner for life. “I went home and told my wife that I wanted us to go and start a business. She agreed.” At this point, he quitted as the sports editor of the Guardian in 1984 to start publishing Complete Football.
SUNNY, FAVOURED BY GOD
In his quest to raise capital to start his business, he started with what he had. He had his sister sell his four professional cameras at Oshodi Market and got N4000.
But N4000 was not enough to start the first sports publication in Nigeria, Complete Football; so Sunny and his wife and partner set out in search of capital. They went to Chief Olufemi Olukanmi to give them a loan of N2500. He was lucky and favoured. “He did not even ask me any question. He just opened his drawer and wrote a cheque for N2500 and gave it to me and said, ‘Good luck.’ I said, ‘Thanks you sir, I need all the luck.”
That was how they started their publishing business with just N6,500. Before you think it was a big money then he enlightens further, “No matter what the value of N6,500 was at the time, it’s not the kind of money you want to start a publishing business with. So it wasn’t really the money, it was the spirit behind it. It was the daring spirit.”
Entrepreneurship is about risk taking in a quest to solve the problems of humanity and Sunny knows it well. He took off with a contagious assurance of success that made him tell his wife, “Just let us get out there and slung it out.” His mind has been programmed for success by people like Tai Solarin who said, “If you don’t know how to swim and you come by the bank of a river and you want to cross, if you ever think of your inability to swim, you will never jump into the river. But if you dare to jump into the river, you have the option of either finding your way or sinking.” Thus despite the uncertainties associated with businesses, he jumped into it.
As he took the step of faith and jumped into the risky water of publishing, God came to his help proving to be with him in his steps. The copy preparation for debut edition of their publication called Sports Souvenir was completed very late so much that he didn’t believe that it could be printed the following day. But to his greatest amazement, his publication was delivered to him in the morning of the following day. The printer was familiar with his name as a columnist in charge of S.O Verdict in the Guardian at the Guardian. Dr Ojegbase testifies: “God has a hand in guiding even when I didn’t fully realize it. Not only that; for the next three years, he was printing on credit. When we had money, we paid him. When we didn’t have money, we didn’t pay. God used him to make the dream come true.”
MATRICULATION INTO UNIVERSITY OF HARDNOCKS
It was not rosy going through the starting phase of his business as he passed through what he calls the University of Hardnocks. He told tales of disappointment, lack and frustration in the University of Harknocks. As an example, once he got a good staff member and while he was still thanking God for bringing the person in, “he either shows up or tells you that ‘I am leaving’ or refuses to show up at all.”
A major department in this University Of Harknocks is Department of Financial Crisis. Recounting his ordeal in this department, he says, “I was at a juncture in my life where I woke up in the morning and saw huge bills to pay. I saw the month end approaching; I had staff to pay and I had no idea where the money to pay would come from. I didn’t know where the money to settle those pilling bills would come from and every avenue seemed to have been exhausted.”
Further, he relayed an anecdote: “I also remember the days when I was looking for a loan of less than N50,000 and I would go to UBA headquarters in Lagos and it would be raining and I wore shoes which sole has been worn and rain water would enter.”
Dr Ojegbase has myriad of unpleasant tales of his beginning especially the first seven years of his business but he waxed emotional when he relate his story of disappointment and frustration. “I remember a period”, Dr Ojegbase started, “when magazines had been produced, advertisement had been paid for in the paper and we say, ‘Watch out for this…tomorrow’ We has gotten the readers excited, only to go to the press and they tell you sorry, we can’t release these magazines because we had not paid them all the money and the magazine stayed there and people went to the new stands and they could not find it.”
OBTAINED FAVOUR IN HIS WOMAN
The challenges he meet within the first seven years of starting their business kept increasing all trying to make him give up. He almost gave up when the challenges became overwhelming save for the angel of God in the person of his wife. Once they wanted to publish a particular edition of their magazine and decided to go and get money from their agents but could not. “All they were bringing were unsold copies. Nobody gave us a penny. They moved to bank “and asked for overdraft of N1, 000 and the manager looked at me and said, ‘I can’t do it.’” He was depressed and frustrated up to his neck. Back at home, he just flopped on the bed very sad and dejected. At this point, he was a step out of business but his wife reinvigorated him. He recalls: “My wife took a look at me and said, ‘Sunny, you know we didn’t have money when you said we should go into this business. It is too late for you to start regretting.’ At that point I felt a surge of energy and a renewal of my spirit. I said to myself, ‘If a woman is saying this, who am I to remain despondent?” Further he added, “If she had done what many a woman would do at that point, by crying or complaining, I would have just said, ‘Look, don’t cry, I am going to get a job.”
Apart from getting motivation from his wife when challenges start getting overwhelming, he stays indoor for days with motivational books until he regains his strength and feels a surge of energy.
A PRODUCT OF MENTORING
Sunny does not claim to be a self-made. He acknowledges the impact of other people in his life starting from his days as a sports journalist. He has received both distant mentoring (through books) and close mentoring by those who are ahead of his in the field. Conspicuous in the list of his mentors is Mr. SB Osuntolu. Having benefited from mentors, he preaches, “Everyone needs a mentor. When you have a genuine mentor, you hardly go astray. A mentor has seen it all; so he is in a better position to guide you. When you have a good mentor and you take advantage of his knowledge, he would help you cross so many bridges that could have left you stranded.”
Dr Ojegbase’s philosophy on entrepreneurship is that entrepreneurship is the use of creativity to provide goods and services which eventually yields money. “As an entrepreneur, you are supposed to be satisfying needs by providing goods and services or both. If you are very good, you will be exchanging whatever you are doing for money from customers that are patronizing you.” he explains.
He believes that hard work is vital for success; however, when it is not driven by knowledge, it ends up as an exercise in futility. “If you struggle without knowledge, that’s an exercise in futility.” He states. Further, he admonishes, “So you need knowledge, understanding and wisdom in your effort (hard work) to hit success; short of that you have wasted your efforts.”
He is a strong believer in the power of books to transform the life of man and set him on the path to success. Little wonder, he and his wife shared 1000 copies of the book Think and Grow Rich on the occasion of his 60th birthday.
Despite that his life has been shaped by books and he believes in the power of knowledge for fruitful efforts. He insists that one must not stop at just reading. He preaches that one should go beyond reading so as to reap the fruit of acquisition of knowledge. “In reading, you acquire knowledge but your effort should not stop at that level; you must attain the level of application to be able to succeed. That is when knowledge acquired become useful, otherwise you have simply wasted your effort.”
He has passed through the University Of Hardnocks and excelled in it, he therefore offers tips for those who may be or will eventually pass through it: “Adversity might come your way; it is a challenge but you must always be willing to weather through it. Don’t run away from it because in it there is an opportunity that will take you to the pinnacle of success. If you run away, you have failed. You must know that adversity goes hand in hand with opportunity.”
MADE MILLIONS; MAKING MILLIONAIRES
Having overcome poverty, built successful businesses, made mistakes, seen adversity and surmounted them, he with his wife, Easter Obazu-Ojegbase, founded an NGO, Success Attitude Development Centre (SADC) where he serves as the Executive Chairman. Sunny explains: “To mark 10 years of our discovering Think And Grow Rich and going into business for ourselves, we launched SADC, an institution that has been raising and nurturing successful entrepreneurs.”
At his NGO he has been involved in raising entrepreneurs through his publication Success Digest and many books where he, in collaboration with his wife, are committed to raising entrepreneurs that run their business with the fear of God. SADC has been operational for over 17 years and Dr Ojegbase is proud of their strides. “Our focus these past 17 years has been to teach people business and income opportunities. And we have made a huge success of it, going by the testimonies available to us.” He says
Today, his publishing business which was started with just N6,500 has grown and expanded to a multimillion company and Dr Ojegbase’s business interest has even diversified beyond publishing.
Quote credit: The Sun Publishing Ltd, Gboza.com, Success Digets.com