…Sijibomi Ogundele: From Agege to the world
By Charles Kumolu
IN a society with limited opportunities, especially for youths, he was terrified by the fear of poverty early in life. In Agege, a Lagos suburb, where he grew up, he turned his apprehension into motivation which eventually became his saving grace.
Education and creativity were vital in making Mr. Sijibomi Ogundele the Managing Director/Chief Executive Officer of a multi-billion naira real estate firm, Sujimoto Construction. The firm built the tallest residential building, Lorenzo, in Lagos. His wealth and fame at a relatively young age have been adjudged an inspiration. Ogundele, who is regarded as one of Nigeria’s youngest billionaires, is rated a brave young entrepreneur by Forbes Africa.
While growing up on the streets of Agege, the fear of poverty was his greatest motivation. Of the 47 houses on his street, only two people owned a power generating set. This taught the young Ogundele a great lesson that for wealth to be generated, his environment and the people he surrounded himself with, needed to change.
At the tender age of nine, he was said to have started visiting Ikoyi with the mindset that someday, he would also live there. Today, the dream has become reality as he became a billionaire at a young age. How did it happen? Apart from the inspiration, he found reading books, Sujimoto as he is also known, ventured into the luxury real estate sector at a time Nigerians were beginning to demand value for their money.
He explained his journey to significance thus. “My vision was simple: to redefine luxury living by exceeding all expectations. My simple philosophy was to create sugar, after which ants will come. I have been in real estate since 1998 when I lived in the South of France as a common agent with no license. Back then, I brokered a lot of deals in project management and financing, but my first major break was in 2011 when I bought an apartment in Paris and decided to remodel it. My friends thought I was crazy and ostentatious but after I was done renovating, I sold it in less than two months to a friend from Qatar for double the price. This investment flip in such a short time reignited my interest in real estate and changed my career path forever.”
Today, Sujimoto Construction Limited, a subsidiary of Sujimoto Group of companies, is a leading name in luxury real estate. The luxury construction giant focuses on building extraordinary edifices in upscale neighbourhoods of Ikoyi and Banana Island. In a short time, the brand has succeeded in carving a niche for itself with Medici, the company’s pioneer project in Nigeria, and Lorenzo among other bespoke projects. Sujimoto’s Giuliano project which is 100 percent covered in travertine stone, is fully automated, with each unit having its private elevator and an award-winning Zaha Hadid Bathroom for Porscelanosa, set the standard for a luxury terrace in Banana Island. The edifice has attracted clients like managing directors of multinational companies, billionaires and music entrepreneur, Davido. With reported annual revenue of about $30 million and many ongoing luxury projects in Lagos and Abuja, Ogundele believes the Sujimoto is worth over $400 million.
The 39-year-old lawyer is redefining the sector with his landmark signatures. For Sujimoto, success shouldn’t just be for a few Nigerian youths. He strongly believes what the young generation needs to strike gold is the right mentoring. Hence, the internship and mentoring programme he instituted to equip the youths with the right knowledge to unlock their potentials.
According to him, “the desire to create a platform that inspires the next generation made us to organise a mentorship platform. It was to inspire young talents and send a message to the nation that our major asset is our human capital. The Sujimoto internship and mentoring programme is a lifetime project and its objective is to empower young aspiring entrepreneurs with business skills, advisory, mentorship, and financial support. Young Nigerian students between the ages of 12 and 22 were selected from different institutions from all over Nigeria to participate.
Hard work and strong conviction
“This event is about inspiration. Without the right mentorship, people might miss the road to their destinies. That is why we have different people from different industries, who share their stories with young people and encourage them to pursue their dreams. Youths need to know that their location has nothing to do with their destination. Nigeria tends to discourage people from achieving their potentials with their talents. We want our brand to empower youths and help them achieve their potentials. A short message can transform a mindset, just the way a piece of advice can change a life.”
Another reflection of Ogundele’s philanthropy was the partnership with some young successful Nigerians under the platform of New Leaders Group, NLG, to raise funds in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. If you are marvelled at his success at 39, Ogundele, who is fluent in French, Spanish, Yoruba, and Hausa, would respond thus: “I became a billionaire at a young age because I prepared myself for it. Hard work and strong conviction are required. This is the basis of my confidence and it motivates me to dream bigger than my environment.”