As a writer and a student of business literature, any time I come across a Nigerian entrepreneur sharing his thoughts and life experiences in the form of a book which others can read and be inspired by, I feel so fulfilled. The real heroes of Nigeria, to me, are not our politicians who make their easy money running into millions and billions bleeding our coffers. The real heroes of Nigeria are people like Aliko Dangote, Mike Adenuga, Cletus Ibeto and every entrepreneur, big or small-people who started from nothing to create a business which grows from small to mighty. People who waded though all kinds of obstacles but never gave up until they scored their goals. People who create businesses that employ many in this country of ours bedeviled by the big, ravaging monster, the time bomb called unemployment.
Poly I. Emenike, chairman and founder of Neros Pharmaceuticals, an entrepreneur par excellence whose book,ENTREPRENEURIAL SPIRITS: Through the Seventeen Success Principles of Napoleon Hill is to be presented at the Nigerian Institute of International Affairs (NIIA) on Wednesday is a Nigerian hero whose story is the type that movies are made of. He belongs to the generation of Igbo who came out of the Nigerian Civil War with nothing-no education, no money, no connections, no strong foundation upon which to build their future success. But still, they made it, guided by the hand of God who blesses those who use their brains to create wealth.
After the civil war, Emenike came to Lagos trading in bathroom slippers. He bought his goods from one Alhaji Kadiri who was Emenike's hero and role model on the grounds that he owned a Volvo car. When he suddenly bought two brand new ones, Emenike was filled with awe and admiration. He started praying, dreaming and hoping that one day, he too would work hard and own a Volvo like Alhaji Kadiri. But as he examined and frankly assessed his life and the way he was going, he knew that merely selling bathroom slippers would not take him anywhere in life, let alone buy a brand new Volvo. He knew he had to drastically change his line of business and move into something more lucrative, if he wanted to go far in life.
Wondering what to do, he had an epiphany. He heard an inner voice which sounded like the "the Holy Spirit" telling him to visit a particular bookshop that held the key to his destiny.
"Without hesitation, I mounted my motor bike and drove to the bookshop," Emenike recalls. "On entering the bookshop, I went through the various titles on the shelves and got particularly fascinated by one titled: Success through a Positive Mental Attitude by Dr. Napoleon Hill and W. Clement Stone. I bought this book and went on to read it. They advised that readers should go through the book at least thrice, so as to properly understand the teachings. I, however, read the book several times over in the year 1978. I must confess on reading the book initially, I was thoroughly confused, as I could hardly understand what the book talked about. This probably was due to my limited academic background then. I became worried the more I encountered the word Talisman, because I viewed such as being occultist, given my Christian background. But later in 1979, as I continued to read the book, I started to internalise the principles in it, as the book now began to make sense to me."
A year after, he came across another Napoleon Hill classic, Think and Grow Rich. This was the book that changed his life. This was the book that taught him the principles to follow and grow rich. He became an ardent student and apostle of Napoleon Hill just like Dr. Sunny Obazu-Ojeagbase, the publisher of Complete Sports, Nigeria's foremost sports newspaper who is another apostle of Napoleon Hill. He too read Napoleon Hill and religiously followed his principles. And he grew rich.
"I have derived immense benefits from the teachings of Dr. Napoleon Hill through reading books written or co-authored by him since 1978," Emenike writes in his new book, adding that "about 95% of the material wealth I have acquired in life was inspired by the Principles of Success teaching as espoused in Dr. Napoleon Hill's various writings. The business which I commenced with a capital of about N300 on July 14, 1975, being my 2-year earnings when I worked as an office boy in my uncle's law firm, has today blossomed into a multi-billion dollar business empire."
When Emenike talks about a "business empire" he is not joking. If you visit his factory complex in Sango Ota where he manufactures pharmaceutical products, you will bow-as our people say-for this emperor of the pharmaceutical business world, the man who first brought into Nigeria, the malaria-killing drug Artesunate which he came across during one of his business adventures to Vietnam.
Inspired by Napoleon Hill's writings, he got himself educated, knowing that a primary school education alone would be a drawback. "At the very ripe age of 32 with a wife and two kids, I entered secondary school," Emenike writes in his book. From there, he went to the University of Lagos to read business administration, then went for his masters, then went to Harvard and to Lagos Business School. Now, he is aiming at a doctorate. "These academic achievements were made in spite of numerous challenges I encountered while raising a family and managing my business," he writes. "Dr. Hill's books have had a catalytic effect on my desire to become an educated man."
Emenike's business memoir is a 358-page treasure trove filled with anecdotes and hands-on Napoleonic and Emenikian success tips from a man who has seen it all and lived it all in Nigeria, our great country where finding success is like looking for a needle in a haystack. Here are some:
- Don't be "God that is everywhere.": Mindful that you cannot do all the business in the world, choose one, or two or three vocations in which you should be involved and perform to your best ability. If you are not a disciplined person, you will receive all manner of proposals from people who would say to you that such and such people made money in this or that business. They will urge you to invest in those businesses. If you are not focused and disciplined, you will lose your hard-earned money by going into those business proposals
- Don't borrow money you don't need from the bank: If you do not have capacity to pay back loans when required by the banks, do not borrow the money. I am aware that some people borrow money from banks without the intention to pay on the grounds that some people borrowed from banks without repaying the loan. These are people who perceive public money as a kind of national cake. On the other hand, banks do make business proposal sometimes with the intention of lending millions. Many banks have been approaching my company for business partnership. My traditional response is that we are not interested. A chronic borrower doesn't have a private life of his or her own.
- Watch the company of the friends you keep: As the saying goes: birds of the same feathers flock together. I watch the company I keep. If you associate with irresponsible people, you must surely behave irresponsibly.
- Constancy of purpose: I concentrate often on reading what would help me achieve my purpose in life. This means that I don't have time to hobnob with unwanted elements, especially those who announced incorrectly that the Nigerian economy or the world economy would crash in no distant future, as a way to discourage me from planning how to take a large share of what was happening in my business.
- Always maintain a positive mental attitude: Since my first encounter with Napoleon Hill's books, I have been a positive-minded person. No matter what you do to me, I just laugh.
- Work your plan and plan your work: As like attracts like, if you don't keep your mind occupied by always working out whatever you want to achieve in life, it will attract bad weeds of thoughts. Therefore, I always memorise my goals, regardless of whether they are long term, short term or yearly goals.
- Don't promise what you can't fulfil: No matter the amount of pressure people mount on me, I do not promise what I cannot fulfil. The things I tell you in my email messages are the same things I will tell you in a telephone conversation or when we see face-to-face. This is why I answer all my telephone calls without discrimination.
- Don't bite more than you can chew: Over-trading is not good for any business person. No matter how wealthy one might be, even if the World Bank emptied its vault to you, you cannot do all the business in this world. Select an area you cover and leave the rest to other practitioners to bridge the gap.
- Man-woman relationship: When it comes to man-woman relationships, I am a very careful person, because it is what can destroy your image easily. Throughout my years at the University of Lagos at both undergraduate and master's level, I kept away from having any intimate relationship. There were temptations, but thank God I scaled through. A particular woman came to test me but I passed her test. I didn't realise she was testing my leadership qualities.
- Clear conscience: In everything you do, have a clear conscience and ensure that you mind does not tell you that you have offended someone through cheating that person or otherwise. I also do not engage in activities that would deprive me of sleep. Finally, I listen to my inner self. In listening to my inner self, I get ideas that assist me accomplish my purpose in life.
Pat Utomi, the professor of Entrepreneurship at the Lagos Business School wrote the foreword. "The big lesson from the reflections of Poly Emenike on Napoleon Hill is the value of a reading culture," he wrote. "Had he not developed a disposition to reading, with his limited exposure at the time, we would not have this treasure for understanding the principle of power, the benefits of a pleasant personality, self-discipline, controlled attention and the value of learning from adversity."