Nigerian doctor, Dr. Richard Okoye rejected an offer of 20 million US dollars from a corporate group in Dubai in 2012 who wanted to take over his “Save A Life” mission in 2012 and yet went on to build a multi-million dollar empire.
His amazing story is not only a motivation to African youths but also a resurrection to even dead dreams. Dr. Richard Okoye is the chairman of “Save A Life Group” consisting of Save a Life Medisoft Limited (a software developing company based in the USA), Save A life Group of Hospitals and ISO Certified Groups of Hospitals with zero hospital acquired infection status, equipped with the first digital Cardiocare lab for heart, neuro and cardiovascular diseases, kidney dialysis and transplant facility, spine, orthopedic and painless minimal neuro-plasma surgeries, IVF and so on.
Dr. Richard Okoye is the author of 25 best-selling books and presenter of the popular radio TV show “You and Your Health” running in Nigeria and Ghana.
Dr Richard Okoye is set to launch the first fully digitalized hospital in the world, the first digital medical university and research institute which includes amongst other specialties medical hardware and software technologies. He is the founder of the first medical app “Dr save a life” app that comes in different languages including Nigeria’s major languages.
Dr Richard Okoye is also set to launch the first 5G compatible robotic surgery equipment in Africa. In his effort to build a robust healthcare system in Nigeria, Dr. Richard Okoye has sponsored the training of doctors in areas centered abroad. He has also supported various hospitals in healthcare improvement and equipment
In an interview with Dr. Asif Khan, the international Director for Doctors SaveAlife Foundation, Dr. Richard Okoye speaks on his life’s mission (Excerpts)
I’m completely intrigued by your story. If there’s anything I want to know, it is how you overcame the temptation of rejecting the offer of $20 million?
I actually didn’t see that as a temptation because money was not the driving force. There was no personal ambition trying to fuel the acceptance of such. What I would rather say is that passion revolutionizes the healthcare system in Africa and overrode the ambition of the acquisition of that money at that particular point in time.
Going by your background, I realized that you haven’t come from a rich family. How then were you able to grow your success story from that point till now?
I solely agree with you because that has been the problem of many young entrepreneurs. When people have a vision, talent or a potential, they usually see capital or when it has to do with the bank, you’re talking about the issue of I don’t have collateral on the basis of background. Although there is one fundamental thing I want to let you know about.
There is what is called universal currency. Universal currency for the pursuit of any global vision is not money but a track record of trust. Financial integrity is the most important dimension of it. If I look at how we started in 2010, I borrowed 500, 000 naira from a microfinance bank, Premium Micro-finance Bank precisely. Then we paid back. Not just only paying back, we maintained a relationship with the bank.
They saw our track record. When they saw the way we were going, they gave me 6 million naira. From that 6 million, we grew and our track record was there. One interesting thing I want to say is, not everybody may believe your vision, not everybody may believe your potential because when they moved us to First Bank hoping that the bank would have a bigger capacity to be able to fuel the vision but unfortunately, First Bank turned it down possibly because they didn’t believe in the vision.
That brings us to the fact that it does not matter even when people don’t believe you continue what you are doing because the most fundamental thing in vision is abundance by the time or in the beginning. The great thing about vision is even when other people don’t believe you, still believe in yourself. Incidentally, a man with a dog eye, the MD and CEO of Access Bank, Dr. Herbert Nwigwe, when he came in and saw the carcass, he believed in it and he was able to support us with funding to finish. So the track record enabled us to have billions of naira projects with Access Bank. I didn’t need to be the brother or know the CBN governor or know all the people in Aso Rock for me to have access to CBN.
It had the same track record, the universal currency. Also when we needed to have a 900 million naira project the CBN naturally came in because the track record was there. The currency of trust is what most young entrepreneurs tend to lack.
Are you saying your relationship with the banks had nothing to do with collateral?
The truth of the matter is that no bank is interested in selling your property or the collateral you have and all that. That is why most times they want you to have your financial projection. Can we see this thing you believe in?
Let’s see how you came up across a couple of months or a period of time. They are not saying that immediately you start, you have to become a billionaire or you have to show billions. They want to see the consistency. They want to see your financial integrity. They want to see your track record. Let’s have a look at our big brother Dangote.
Aliko Dangote as of the 1980s, nobody knew him this much. However, he was busy building a track record of this universal currency which is trust. So, when he came into the public financial domain, it was as though he entered his natural habitat. That is why despite the political and economic bewilderment of the Nigerian system, he has not been affected because the universal currency which is trust has been in place and in his favour. So, that is it.
It is not about the issue of collateral but the issue of “can we see your financial projection and most importantly, your integrity and the trust built overtime”? That is the currency. Let me just add to this, on a number of occasions, people fail to understand that there is what we call seed time in every great vision and also harvest time. The seed time is a relative term. If I have a global vision, my seed time will not be in the size of a man who has a local government, state or country kind of vision. On that very accord, people wonder how we arrived here.
Number one is that you must understand your seed time. I lived in a rented 3 bedroom apartment and built the edifices you’re seeing today as our hospital. Why was that so? I already knew that this money I got from the bank is not for me to start buying cars or buying houses and all that, it is for me to be able to build the business first from the return on investment and whatever be the proceed. While the bank accords the other responsibilities that will sustain it from the proceeds.
That is why I was able to move from there and build my house almost 9 years later. So the problem is that most times you see young men, when money comes to their hand they think of pleasure first rather than what will sustain the business that they ought to grow and sustain and then from the fruit, every other thing can be in place. I think that is also an additional problem that most youths tend to have when it has to do with the issue of actualizing their dreams.
You had lots of opportunities for you to remain in the United States of America and to become a citizen but you are still here in Nigeria. What convinced you to stay here?
I would say that I have a personal belief of predestination of purpose. Jesus made a statement. He said for this purpose and cause was I born and I looked at it as if God brought me and made me to be born in Nigeria, then there is a purpose for which I am here. Having the opportunity to travel to the USA and several other countries, it’s not about ideas. That will only give me the opportunity to pick up some ingredients that will enable me to fulfill my primary assignment. So, having whatever we are doing in the United States and all that does not negate the fact that there is a reason to be here and most importantly, let me tell you something. Nigeria is the richest country in the world. I don’t stand to be corrected because I know what I’m talking about. The fact is that Nigeria is very rich. Rich in problems and however, it is looking for those that will solve these problems and you can be one of them. So seeing the situation in the respect of young people running out of the country, is because I will say they have not seen well.
Dr. Asif Khan: When I was trying to make an entry into the African market, my Indian friends, several Indian friends, discouraged and warned me about the dubious nature of Nigerians when it comes to doing business with them. Later, during the same year, when I met Dr Richard, he totally changed this narrative about Nigerians for good. Today, as I complete my 10 years of continuous medical principle to Dr. Okoye, I can confidently say Dr. Okoye’s cheques at most may delay but will never default. Another important thing to observe about Dr. Okoye is that he travels every year abroad in search of talent and innovation and every time he comes back to Nigeria, he brings in something new and I really admire Dr. Richard Okoye for that.
Barry Rosenblum: Immediately after speaking with Dr. Richard, I realized a few unbelievable things about him. First of all, he is not only brilliant in just the medical arena in which he studied for many years, surprisingly, he was very technologically sound in both the AI and IT spaces as well. To say the least, I think the man is absolutely the pride and joy of Africa to come over to America and bring something so advanced with such relative ease and to already have things prepared is a testament to who he is as a man.
Dr. Olaolu: Meeting with my MD, Dr. Richard Okoye, is an encounter with destiny. The most interesting thing about him is that he tends to see in you what you don’t see in yourself. Several doctors like myself that were sent abroad for training tend to express some conditions for payback. Even one of the doctors from Rivers state, he is sending to the UK next week, there was no indemnity clause or form signed. All he will say is “go. Be the best you can, come back and serve humanity in Africa. Another interesting thing about him is that he tends to go for the best equipment in the world such that when you train abroad and come back, you tend to meet upgraded versions of those equipment you trained with. That is why it’s easy for the foreign trained doctors as well as the local trained ones to practice with ease and save a life. One more thing, because he is always miles ahead and sees 10 ways of doing things that we would rather be considered impossible, people around him have no reason to be proud. That is why you see uncommon relations amongst the staff.
Dr. Richard Okoye and his team are now on this mission for Africa