The main building at Elizade University is shaped like a star with six rays. The design might tell us something about the institution’s mission, or about its architect’s aesthetic tastes. But it probably also points to the life of its founder, Michael Ade-Ojo, who emerged from a lowly background to build one of Nigeria’s most successful business empires.
Besides the university in Ilara-Mokin, Ondo State, Michael Ade-Ojo has also started and presided over companies in the automobile and real estate sectors. Together, they form the Elizade brand, a conglomerate that has gathered wide acclaim over the five decades in which it has existed.
The most well-known among these businesses is Elizade Motors, an auto dealership with a presence in several towns and cities of Southern Nigeria.
Michael Ade-Ojo’s earliest involvement with the world of business was as a street vendor of wood and charcoal. His parents were far from well-off. But he did get an education, finishing from secondary school in 1958 with a West Africa School Certificate. After this, he moved hundreds of miles away from his hometown in Ilara-Mokin to study Business Administration at the University of Nigeria, Nsukka.
While he was there, he decided that he would like to set up a registered business within a decade of graduating. It was also at the University of Nigeria that he met his wife, Elizabeth Wuraola Ojo (now late). Both their first names (Elizabeth and Ade) would later form part of his future company’s name, Elizade.
Following his graduation from the University in 1965, he worked with CFAO Motors, British Petroleum, and RT Briscoe. He helped these companies achieve a measure of success, but he didn’t always get credit for the work he did.
Ade-Ojo eventually started his own business, Elizade Trading Stores, which sold textile products. In 1971, he shifted his sights to the automobile dealership space, with the launch of Elizade Independent Agencies. A year later, it was formally incorporated as Elizade Nigeria Limited, and later became a licensed distributor of Toyota cars and spare parts in Nigeria.
In 1996, Elizade Motors partnered with RT Briscoe, another local dealership, to found Toyota Nigeria Limited, which is now the sole distributor of Toyota vehicles in Nigeria.
The Growth of the Elizade Brand
Since the turn of the century, Ade-Ojo’s portfolio has expanded significantly. It now includes Mikeade Property Development Company, a real estate firm; Classic Motors, an automobile dealership; and Okin Travels.
One of his most recent projects is the Elizade University, a non-profit higher education institution situated in Ilara-Mokin, his home town. Established in 2013, it currently enrolls students for bachelor degree programs in a number of fields.
The Elizade brand has continued to grow. From its simple beginnings as a textile trading outfit, it has become a reference point for entrepreneurs aspiring for greater heights. It’s evidence that foresight, strategy, and drive can produce great success, even in Nigeria’s sometimes challenging business environment.
Featured image source: Ovation Magazine
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