•You can’t learn to somersault at 25
Dr. Cosmas Maduka was honoured with the Auto Personality of the Year award by the Nigeria Auto Journalists Association in 2016. The award is the most prestigious by the Motoring Journalists on any private individual in the automotive industry in Nigeria. As the first winner of the award, Dr. Maduka spoke to the Motoring Journalists on how he built the company to become one of the leading firms in Africa. Though he lost his father when he was only four years old, Dr. Maduka was able to weather the storms of life and eventually achieve his dreams with the guidance of his mother. He says his mother told him, not to take no for an answer.
HOW was your growing up?Growing up was a little rough but interesting because what you see today is the benefit of growing up. When you see children at the age when their parents trained them but they never had the opportunity to be exposed to risk and danger, they always stand at the border line and cannot take risk.
Anything you need to do, do it at your early stage of life, you cannot try to somersault at 25 years old. You must learn to do that before you turn 15 years of age, otherwise you will have spinal cord injury if you try it at an old age. So, growing up was challenging.
The death of my father provided the opportunity that imbibed courage in me to take risk for survival. So, I grew up having confidence.
Fear is the greatest enemy of mankind and if you conquer fear in your life, there is no limit to what you can achieve in your lifetime.
At what age did you lost your father?
I lost my father at four.
If you are to look back, what will you say really inspired you to get to where you are today.
Apart from God Almighty, I will give credit to my mother. She has been my angel and when you have a godly mother that really trusts in God, she will inspire you to greatness. My mother told me to believe in God and in myself; she also told me that I would go places in life.
Innocently, she told me that people would not say no to me. So, when I need things from people and asked them, they said no, with that mind of an innocent child, I would say to them that but mummy said you would not say no, why are you saying no and I ask you in confidence and tell you that you cannot say no to me. Some people look at me and said: is this boy insane.” I can tell you that with the confidence of what my mother told me, I get favour from people very easily. I encourage parents to bless their children.
Did you ever imagine that you would get to this level in life.
Frankly, there is nothing I did not imagine because the truth is that when people looked at me growing up, some of them laughed at me because of the disadvantage of not having the opportunity of going to school. I always tell people to wait for another five years and see how things will play out. Just don’t run away, but be patient with yourself and you will overcome every obstacles.
So, I have always grown up in confidence and I have said things to people that amazed them. When I was an apprentice, I was travelling with a night bus to Nnewi, I was going to board a bus, not the luxury, but the one that was called ‘Awarawara’ in my native language. If that type of bus enters a pothole, passengers would be tossed up and down. When we got to Iddo motor park, in Lagos, I saw the Levenits building and pointed at it and said to my co-passengers that one day I will have a building like that. The young man by my side gave me a knock on my head because he could not imagine a boy travelling by a night bus dreaming to have such a building. But if you look at the Coscharis building at Adeola Odeku juncture in Victoria Island, Lagos and compare it with the Levenits building, tell me is there any compassion? So, a dream is something you never stop dreaming, if you are a good dreamer. Believe in your dream and the future belongs to those who believe in the beauty of dreams.
What drives Dr. Maduka to achieve his goals.
The things that drive Dr. Maduka is within Dr. Maduka. I believe that I am unstoppable and there is no mountain that is insurmountable. Any mountain I face, I believe I can climb it.
I’ve met challenges in life. 2011 was a critical part of it, when I lost close to N20 billion. People thought that will be my end. People had celebrated my end but I re-bounced. When it gets harder that is when the toughest in me comes out.
So I grew up meeting challenges, it is not that I like challenges but I feel excited when they come, coming from the background of the scriptures – Romans 5:3 that says: ‘…We glory in tribulations, knowing that it worketh patience; and patience, experience and experience, hope.’
When you meet things in life, they are building blocks and those things really help to form characters in you. I went through that experience of 2011 becoming a much stronger person both in character and otherwise. People thought I was going to disappoint them because of the challenges. Today, they trust me more that I surmounted that situation and never betrayed confidence. So that is who I am.
What lesson did you learn from that experience of 2011.
That experience is a lesson that as I live will forever remain in my memory. For the first time my instinct failed. I must admit that I was not rational. When you allow your emotion to lead you, you’re bound to make a mistake. I was not rational. I allowed my emotion to lead me, when your emotion takes control of you, you’re not objective any more. So, I fell in sympathy with the person I worked with and that closed my reasoning. Doctors have empathy on patients but when they become sympathetic, they can no longer help the person because it goes into their emotion and when it is time for them to take a position to help him to live, they will sympathise with the patient and he will die. The greatest lesson I have learnt in life is never to allow my emotion to lead me when it comes to taking business decision. I must be very objective.
How did you lose this money; what business was it.
Let’s leave details about it. I’m a forward looking person, I put that behind me. I like to look at positive things.
What kind of support do you get from your family.
My family is all that I have. My wife is my pillar. All my children stand behind me and understand me.
I’m not a good father when it comes to giving the level of attention children and a wife desire at home. But, these are people with great understanding because my business takes a great percentage of my time. I travel almost four and half months in a year and at this time I leave my family unattended to. I call them on phone but it is not the same thing as being with them.
How can Nigeria grow its auto industry.
The Nigerian auto industry is on its way to growth but it cannot grow in isolation. It is going to be a product of the society or the system that is it under. We know that Nigeria is under recession – 2.3 per cent decline in the second quarter of the economy. But let nobody make mistake, this is the right place to be, it can never be worse than what it is. For us at Coscharis we think we’re living at the best time of our life because today we have corrected all the errors, the mistakes we made, we’re preparing for growth, we rationalise, and we tidy up all the loose ends of this company.
Once this economy is coming back again you will see us in tremendous growth. The acceleration of our growth will be unimaginable because we have cleaned our house now that the economy is bad.
What are your first considerations when you go for a brand.
It is not that we never make mistakes, the only thing is that we see opportunity where people do not. A man was asked to go to a country and sell shoe where nobody wore shoe and he screamed and said oh, this people want to sack me but another man with a different mindset went and said oh what a great opportunity. He called his bosses to empty the warehouse for him, that people do not wear shoe and he had a brand new market to sell shoes for them. So, it all about your mindset, how you think. Most people like already made brands but at Coscharis we swim against the current.
Brands in this market
We go for brands that people never went for and we make them shining brands that other people will want to embrace. Many people will always go for the Japanese auto brands. But, give me another 10 years, you will see where Ford will stand between the Japanese brands in this market.
Are you looking forward to adding more brands in future.
Of course, we have decided to put our foot strong on automobile. We are really strong in automobile in the sense that our background in automobile is not just selling a moving object but we help to keep them on the road. This is where we cross our ‘Ts’ and where we have our core competence and I can assure you when the opportunities continue to present themselves, we will evaluate them properly to know what value they add to our family. If we find good opportunities we will grab them and we will go ahead with it.
Coscharis is now is the exclusive representative of Ford in Nigeria, how do you react to this? Do you think you’re capable of holding it.
Well, I can assure you today that customers will be better serviced and they will know we’re in there for them. When we set out for this brand, we are always challenged that we will set a standard by which others will be judged. It was in Ford’s wisdom to appoint two dealers, and the competitor then made a statement that this will be Manchester United and Chelsea playing.