IINTERVIEW: The Story of My Life At 80- Foremost Industrialist, Prince Samuel Adedoyin

Foremost industrialist, Prince Samuel Adedoyin, the Chairman, Doyin Investments Ltd, recounts his success story as he clocks 80, with KEMI ASHEFON of The PUNCH.


Where and when were you born?

I was told by my mother that I was born in Lagos in 1935, but I was taken to Agbamu in Kwara State, where I was brought up. From there, we came back to live in Lagos.

Who were your parents?

My father was Prince Solomon Adedoyin. My mother was Princess Rachael Adedoyin. They were farmers but my mother was also an aso-oke weaver. My father was formerly a palm wine tapper but later became a businessman.

Did you school in Agbamu?

I began my education there and read up to Standard Four, but my father didn’t have enough money to train me further. I learnt how to tap palm wine and later became a farmer but I wanted to be well-read, so I decided to go to England. I tried to travel as a stowaway on a ship, which was the trend then. There were several of us on the ship but we were caught at Takoradi in Ghana. They wanted to send us back to Nigeria but I begged a man, who was a Customs officer, that I would do whatever he wanted me to do. He asked me to be his houseboy and I agreed, but after about 10 days, I begged him to let me go because I had never practised it and could not cope. Eventually, he did. I had about £2 and with it, I started a petty trade by the roadside, selling padlocks and door hinges. Most Nigerians did that in Accra, Ghana then and my business flourished. It was profitable, but I did not have a good place to sleep. I met a vendor who sold Ashanti Pioneer, a newspaper and he introduced me to the business. He also introduced me to the daughter of the publisher, a Ghanaian, who was an opposition leader. She liked me, made me a distributor and gave me a place to sleep. I did that for about three or four months but I was not successful with it. I went back to the padlocks business because it was more profitable. That was in 1949; I had spent 13 months in Ghana and saved up to £48. I decided to relocate my mother to Ghana but when I got to Agbamu; my family threw sand on me to confirm that I was not a ghost. My mother said she had spent all the money she borrowed, (about £50), in order to search for me and even had to consult a native doctor to find out my whereabouts. I had pity on her and couldn’t bear to see her suffer. I gave her the £50 to pay all she owed, but was left with nothing to return to Ghana.

Did that stop your pursuit of education?

By the time I went into farming and other businesses, there was no way I could go back to school because all my mates had passed out of college or were about to. There was no way I could catch up and I did not want to be below them. I chose business and stuck to it.

Which business did you venture into in Agbamu then?

I was forced to become a farmer and a palm wine tapper. One Sunday, I did not have any food to eat and while I searched for pawpaw and banana, I stumbled upon a burnt plantain farmland. I decided to utilise the farmland and I worked alone. I planted maize and after about four days, it began to germinate. That was an indication that the land was fertile, so, I planted more maize and after about two weeks, they germinated. I increased my yield. I invited my father to see the land because I did not want people to question how I made my money. He asked how I got the land and I explained to him. That year, my yield was bigger than the whole family’s yield put together. I sold my produce and made £54. I used £2 out of it to buy shirts, trousers, all that I needed and gave my mother £2. I had £50 left, and I took it to my father to bless the money. My father and I were never close; he used to spank me and I didn’t like him because of that. Even as I grew older, we were always at loggerheads. After blessing the money, I came to Lagos because I figured out there were more opportunities in Lagos.

What happened when you came to Lagos?

I rented a shed from a certain Chief Somorin. He was into ‘pools’ (betting) business. Later, some of my family members started fighting me over the shed. I was driven away from that shed despite the fact that my father came to Lagos and explained that it was mine. His younger brother drove me away from that shed in 1952. But I got a new and bigger shed, just three shops away from the former one, from another businessman called Chief Owokoniran. I became close to him and I resumed my business. The second year after I got that shed, I had made enough money and I bought a parcel of land worth £200. I was also able to rent a shop on Dosunmu Street. So, I left Idumagbo and started business on 49, Dosunmu Street. I imported holiday bags and ball-point pens from Italy. I was lucky and made £9,600. From the proceeds, I bought the space at 49, Dosunmu Street for £9,000. Other traders were shocked. They wondered how one could make so much money from the sale of pens worth one kobo each and concluded that I ran my business using charms. I took delivery of another set of goods, sold them and realised about 12,000 pounds. I bought another house and within three years, I had bought about nine properties at Idumota. Then, I built a house for myself on Rummens Road in Ikoyi. After buying the house at Ikoyi, I rented a two-bedroomed pent flat at 12, Oroyinyin Street, Lagos, for £25 per annum. The landlord’s children believed he should have lived in that flat instead of me but he said he preferred a four-bedroomed flat. From there, I started building houses. I built six flats at Surulere and other environs.

Most people from your village possess an unequalled entrepreneurial spirit…

My father had started business in Lagos and sold roofing sheets. He was duped and decided to return to Agbamu where he ventured into farming. His brothers traded at 37-39 Idumagbo Street, Lagos. There were four of them trading together. But after I got my shop, I started selling umbrellas. One day, the white man, who supplied the goods forgot £12 with me and didn’t remember for about a month. I could not sleep and returned it. He was surprised and pleased. He then gave me the distributorship of umbrellas. All my competitors bought from me. From there, I became successful as well.

You also delved into manufacturing?

Yes, we sold school bags made from trampoline. Then, we ordered them from Hong Kong. One day, I tore one of the bags to see how it was put together and I realised it was something I could produce locally. I started local production on my own. I went into manufacturing umbrellas and suitcases. I have ventured into other things that have profited us.

Now, with over 5,500 work force and over 14 subsidiaries, how did you arrive at this point?

It is God’s privilege because I don’t have anybody that brought me up. Before I returned to Lagos, I was already the local councillor of the village. I was 12 years old and I was paid some stipend. I have never worked for anybody and I have never gone for any special training. It is all about inspiration. If I venture into something, God gives me the vision of what next to do. Maybe I do it well, maybe sometimes, there are mistakes, but to a very large extent, He made me what I am. God has always answered my prayers and today, I am a father, grandfather and have a great-granddaughter.

Did you face any challenge as a businessman?

Everyone has challenges. Though there are some setbacks, my successes exceed the failures. I have faced many challenges but God has been kind to me.

Are there memorable moments of your life you want to share?

I want to thank God for my life, my children and their successes. Though nobody has perfect children, I teach them in the way of God and their joy gives me joy.

Do you have regrets?

None that I know of. God has been good to me—I came from a very humble background but God made me prosperous. I was the first person in Agbamu to buy and own a car. From where I was born, how I was born and where I am today, I remain grateful to God. I don’t have any regrets.

At 80, are you not tired?

Do I look 80? I am not stressed and I still resume work at 7.45 am or 8.00 am. I will attribute it to God who has given me good health. I started life on my own at the age of 12. I went through it with God’s guidance and backing. I am used to it and still practise it.

Do you plan to retire?

What will I retire to do? Sit at home? Now, I don’t work for money. I am working to satisfy myself and be fulfilled. Inactivity is not my style and it actually shortens one’s life span. I am easily bored and all my life, I have been used to working hard. Advising me to retire at 80 years old is not right and I even work twice as hard, now. I am not ready to slow down. My mother died at the age of 118 and I have been telling God that if I live up to that age, I want to work as long as He permits.

What does your typical day entail?

I resume at 7.45 am or 8.00 am and I close at 5.00 pm but I still work at home. My day starts when God wakes me up but mostly, I am up by 6.00 am. I have my bath, pray and get ready for work. My house is just a five-minute walk from my office. When I get to the office, my staff and I have a prayer session.

What habits did you develop that made a success of your life?

I pray and I am blessed to have a God who answers me. Also, I developed the habit of being hardworking, focused and forthright in all I do. You can’t desire success and be lazy. Nothing good comes on a silver platter. I did not achieve success by sleeping in my bed.

How do you feel at 80?

I am healthy, strong and I still work as I did in my 30s. I see this as God’s grace and I thank Him for it.

Do you have special diet?

No, I don’t. I like pounded yam and I have been taking it as my lunch since I was a child. If possible, I can take it three times daily. I pray nothing takes pounded yam away from me. My breakfast is cereal. Dinner used to be rice, but now I take vegetables and light food.

Do you drink alcohol?

I used to take a glass of beer (stout) but I have stopped many years back. I take a glass of champagne and I also take coconut water.

Do you think keeping tabs on the different arms of your business could be herculean?

We have managers and general managers in various fields, who control and they report to me. To me, education is no barrier to a successful business. Use your brain and improve on yourself.

You made money at a young age, did it have any adverse effect on you?

Not at all. I built my first house at the age of 19. The only thing making money early did for me was to make me marry at a young age. I think I was about 23. By the age of 24, I had built my fourth house. My first marriage is over 50 years. Whenever I want to go off God’s will, he guides me, talks to me and tells me to praise him. Not that I have not made mistakes, I have, but God forgives and I forge on. God has been kind to me and I had the best of what a young man could have then.

What do you think is the secret of longevity?

God is the secret and I have never been in the hospital for two days in my life. I exercise and I eat right. Maybe mine is hereditary because my mother lived long. One has to lean on God.

Maybe you had good wives and that has made you live this long…

I have always had good life partners but longevity belongs to God. How does one know a good woman? Only God knows and you seek that answer in prayers.

What do you miss about the era in which you were born?

Business was not as complicated as it is now and people were more straightforward. I think the values of yesteryear have been displaced by the get-rich-quick syndrome of today.

Currently, the manufacturing sector is not so encouraging…

Then, when I started business, people had always agitated and assumed that the country would break. People complained about the economy but I have always believed in the country. One has to believe in one’s country. Also, businessmen must learn to diversify.

Are you planning about your succession?

My children are doing well in their various fields. I am training some and some are already established in their professions. Being a good parent is not about giving children large sums of money. I don’t give children money but I guide and inculcate a sense of discipline into them. Good parenting is striving to leave a good name for one’s children when one is alive and when one is dead. When one has a good name, doors will open for one’s children effortlessly.

By way of philanthropic activities, how are you giving back to society?

These are things I don’t like to talk about. In my view, discussing it amounts to self promotion. I would rather let other people talk about it. In my own little way, I have built hospitals, constructed roads and helped with electricity supply and scholarships.

How do you relax and keep fit?

I do exercises. Occasionally, I listen to the news because it helps me to know what to do, how to do it and when to do it. I also read the newspapers. I like to travel but I am easily bored when I do not work. I enjoy my job because it boosts my morale and it forms part of my relaxation.

Do you always wear native attire?

I do wear suits occasionally but only when I travel. I wear what I think fits since my style is not complicated. I only wear formal attire when it is deemed necessary but I like my buba and sokoto because that relaxes me and it is simple.

What do you want to be remembered for?

I want to be remembered as Adedoyin from Agbamu, who contributed to the society through industrialisation and development.

4 thoughts on “IINTERVIEW: The Story of My Life At 80- Foremost Industrialist, Prince Samuel Adedoyin

  1. To a great successful man,God will continue to strengthen you and he will continue to use you for this nation Nigeria. #Awon ile ise yin o nii joo naa ooo.

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