Jimoh Ibrahim means different things to different people. To some, he is a lawyer; to others, he is a successful businessman and to yet some others, he is a politician.
Whatever side you see the Ondo state born business mogul from, one thing you will not deny is the controversy that seems to follow him around. But Ibrahim is unperturbed as he argues that controversies go along with success.
In this interview culled from PUNCH newspapers, Ibrahim, who clocks 46 today, sheds light on issues surrounding his businesses and his governorship ambition.
On the future of Air Nigeria, Ibrahim says, “the future of Air Nigeria is that it will fly. When we shut down, we said we shut down for one year. We are just in the fifth month; it’s not too long; we shut down on September 16, 2012. We still have about seven months into the one-year promise. Within the one year, Air Nigeria will fly again. It may fly as a merged company; if that happens, Jimoh Ibrahim will not be part of that arrangement. That means Jimoh must have disinvested. If that does not happen and it flies solo, that means Jimoh Ibrahim had been allowed to fly solo without being any part of any merger”.
On the controversy surrounding his businesses which he said is associated with success, Jimoh Ibrahim reels out a list of his achievements amid the stormy waters.
“In the midst of these controversies I got the Officer of the Federal Republic; I think it’s actually improving our image. In the midst of same controversies, I got an honorary degree from my own university — (OAU); and I was the youngest in history that was ever conferred. In the midst of the controversies, I was in America last year to give a lecture to the Harvard tax students on tax future and prospects in Africa; that’s a fantastic case of controversies bringing better results. Corporate adventure is not politics; it is not political or democratic. We have over 21,000 people on employment in this building. If you have such number on employment, how do you think controversies will affect us negatively” he asked rhetorically.
“Nigerians should learn how to appreciate people. The aim of the controversies was to bring us down but we are too big to fall. If the government of Nigeria, today, withdraws all my businesses, I will rebuild them in few days. We are in Dubai, United States, the UK, Ghana, Sao Tome, and in this great country — Nigeria — in 10 years; a fantastic corporate effort! If we have 16 companies and one dies, we are still on ‘A’ grade. Why should the corporate surgeon be crucified for the one that died? Why don’t we ask questions about the success of the 15 which have employed 21,000 people and pay over N4bn in salaries? You think it’s a joke? It’s not a joke. We don’t owe salaries; there is no member of staff that has not received January salary in the whole group.
“I love Nigeria; I have passion for this country; I believe in Nigeria. If not because of few threats here and there, I won’t locate businesses outside. But I must, because my entrepreneurial skill will be deemed to be local, if I don’t have businesses outside the country. Our investment in some countries is bigger than what we have in Nigeria.”
Jimoh Ibrahim also indicates he will give the Ondo state gubernatorial elections a shot in 2016. According to him, “When I finish with all I have to do in the corporate world, I must retire somewhere. If we have concluded that assignment (business), we should pick up the Ondo State issue you’re talking about. We should go there and run the state, and put it in a better shape. We don’t have to hide the fact that we have an ambition to be governor of Ondo State. The President knows that I have that ambition; God knows; everybody knows. By the grace of God, I will run in 2016.”