By: Tunde Olusunle
If Adedapo Adelegan, President and Chairman of Council of the Nigerian-British Chamber of Commerce, had pursued a career in evangelism, he would most probably have made a resounding success of his ecclesiastical calling.
Yes, this is most plausible in this milieu of the exponential growth of pentecostalism in Nigeria and indeed the world at large, with some preachers listed in the bracket of the most affluent and the most influential personalities globally.
For the avoidance of doubt, Adelegan is endowed with the qualities to excel in this vocation if he elected to pursue it: He is as grounded in English, the most popular medium of ecclesiastical communication today, as he is in the word of God, being a consummate student of the Holy Bible which he prefers to study in the Yoruba version.
Beyond these, however, it is perhaps Adelegan’s gift for clairvoyance that would have stood him in good stead in the faith-based sector.
As a student of English in the University of Ilorin, Ilorin, in the early 1980s, Adelegan was regularly in the company of his course mates, classmates and friends with whom he shared academic experiences and discussed life after university education.
Given the zest of young people for self-expression and the desire to make a name in the mass media, most of Adelegan’s friends at the time, favoured pursuing careers in journalism.
The likes of Gbenga Ayeni, who had stints in Daily Times and West Africa Magazine, has gone on to become a professor of Communication Studies at the Eastern Connecticut State University, while Tivlumun Nyitse straddled Concord newspapers and The Voice, before becoming a lecturer in Bingham University.
Blessing Wikina, also Adelegan’s classmate and friend, rose to be Director of Information in the Rivers State Civil Service, while the present writer equally worked in Daily Times and served three Kogi State Chief Executives and former President Olusegun Obasanjo, in several media and communications capacities.
Speaking introspectively while sharing a drink with some of his friends including this writer, one of those days, however, Adelegan said: “The long and short of all these morphology, phonetics and sociolinguistics, as far as I am concerned, is that some of us will eventually make our living in business, doing buying and selling…. Mark my words”.
Not many would have been able to draw a link between the course we elected to study in school, our vision for our professional futures and Adelegan’s almost weird projection for the future. If anyone was going to be “doing buying and selling” like the predicted, why didn’t such a person simply pursue a course in Business Administration or Economics, which for us, were perhaps the closest to Adelegan’s “prophecy”?.
It didn’t take long after that, however, for the clairvoyant in Adelegan to begin to manifest.
He had visited the Lekki Maiyegun Beach, in Lagos, fortuitously, early 1988. Taking in the scenery, the seaside ambience of the beach, the enchanting romantic feel of the waterside, he was inspired to conceptualise a mega beach party, which will draw enthusiastic youths from across Lagos.
Adelegan had a reputation for being an organiser of parties and social events at the University of Ilorin, with an uncanny capacity to string together all the ingredients of show-stoppers, within a very short-time. All roads regularly led to those campus gigs put together by ‘Skindy,’ the popular nickname by which he was known in the university.
That innocuous visit to Lekki Maiyegun Beach, midwifed what was to become Africa’s largest musical and touristic event at the time in 1988, the Lekki Sunsplash.
An event that was supposed to be a one-off beach carnival, would not only metamorphose into a dominant, much anticipated annual festival, it would subsequently define the career path of the young Adelegan.
Adelegan would proceed to establish his first business concern, DP Lekki Limited, wholly devoted to the rediscovery and re-engineering of the nation’s musical scene. Lekki Sunsplash, which ran for nearly two decades, specifically between 1988 and 2006, would become a veritable launchpad for several highly regarded Nigerian artistic brands and showbiz impresarios.
Thus, while many of his contemporaries trudged the streets of Lagos and other major Nigerian cities in the sweaty quest for white-collar engagements, Adelegan, to borrow from the Biblical phrase, had placed his hands, firmly on the plough, and for him, there was no looking back.
Artistes like Lagbaja (the masked one); King Wasiu Ayinde Marshal, KWAM 1; Alex Zitto; Daniel Wilson, Mandators; Ras Kimono and Pasuma Wonder, are some of the artistes who owe their rise to fame and prominence, to the erstwhile annual Lekki Sunsplash.
Indeed, heir of the Afro Beat genre, Femi Kuti; comedian extraordinaire, Ali Baba and the renowned compere and broadcaster, Olisa Adibua, earned their early epaulettes on the performance rostrum of Adelegan’s Lekki Sunsplash.
An indomitable quester for new challenges, Adelegan conceived the “Made-in-Nigeria Exhibition” in 1999. It was an attempt to re-write the consumption narrative on Nigeria, against the backdrop of our global notoriety at a virtual dumping ground of all manner of junk from across the world.
Adelegan’s thesis was that Nigeria really did have comparative advantage in the production of certain goods, over other countries. This needed to be maximised to serve the twin purpose of burnishing our international profile and conserving scarce foreign exchange, respectively.
The “Made-in-Nigeria” vision subsequently berthed exhibitions in the United Kingdom in 1999 and 2000, and in South Africa in 2005 and 2006, in collaboration with the Nigeria Export Promotion Council, NEPC.
Determined to revolutionise outdoor advertising in Nigeria, Adelegan pioneered the introduction of electronic billboards in the country, deploying the corporate platform of his outfit, Benjamin Black and Co. Ltd, in 2002.
Billboard advertising has since become very popular across the country ever since, as the preferred advertising platform for products and indeed for political campaigns.
Adelegan has continued to expand the frontiers of his endeavours in entertainment, media and advertising, to include high profile events management, in the portfolio of his entrepreneurial interests.
In 2005, Adelegan’s organisation, PR Africa Ltd, was commissioned the professional conference organisers of the International Conference an Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome, AIDS and other Sexually Transmitted Diseases, STDS, jointly organised by the Federal Government, the United Nations, UN, and the National Agency for the Control of AIDS and STDs, NACA. Collaborating with the late Prof. Babatunde Osotimehin, who was the Director-General of NACA at the time Adelegan delivered world class conference.
The success of the International Conference on AIDS recommended Adelegan and his team for further patronage by other inter-governmental agencies. For the two years 2006 and 2007, for instance, PR Africa was once again called upon to organise the International Technical and Vocational Conference and Exhibition, by the Education Trust Fund, ETF. Similarly, the 2007 Conference of the New Partnership for Africa’s Development, NEPAD, had the imprimatur of Adelegan’s organisation.
With this robust resume garnered over three decades of selfless exertions in the testy waters of private enterprise in Nigeria, it was little, surprise when in 2015, Adelegan was appointed the 14th President and Chairman of Council of the Nigerian-British Chamber of Commerce. And he is broadening the frontiers of collaboration between Nigeria and the UK, beyond the traditional confines of oil and gas. His vision is to stretch the trade balance between both counties, beyond the present £7 billion, towards the £20 billion threshold.
Dapo Adelegan turned 55 recently, specifically on Thursday, April 20, 2017. That landmark coincided with the 30th Anniversary of his foray into the uncertain world of self-employment. There was no ceremony whatsoever, except of course a special family devotion attended by friends of the family.
And it became imperative to ask him the motivation for his early vocational preferences. Reminiscing, he says: “My Mother was my major mentor in entrepreneurship. She studied Catering in England, while my father qualified as a Chartered Accountant and Secretary. With the transition of Dad in 1974, when I was just 11 years old, I was co-opted to serve as “Husband” and business partner, in my mum’s flourishing catering business. This established in me the culture of hardwork and devotion to God and to prayers.”
Adelegan reminds you that living with his maternal grandmother when he was two years old, while his parents studied abroad, built him up to learn and master how to pray fervently. He would tell you: “I grew up reading the Yoruba Bible and praying in Yoruba under the influence of my grandmother. Despite my degree in English, I am more at home with Yoruba worship.”
Having carved a path for himself in business, he attended the Master of Business Administration, MBA programme of the University of Lagos between 1989 and 1990. He was equally on the “Owner-Manager Programme” of the Lagos Business School, LBS, in 2002 and the Chief Executive Programme, also of LBS in 2012. He has undergone executive management trainings in South Africa, Spain, United Kingdom and the United States of America, USA.
Adelegan had his elementary education at Ladi-Lak Institute in Yaba, Lagos and his secondary education at the famous CMS Grammar School, Lagos, where he concluded his ordinary level West African School Certificate Examination, WASC. For his A’ Levels, he studied at the School of Arts and Science, Ikare, Ondo State.
His family had wanted him to pursue a career in the legal profession: “My surrogate father, the late Justice Olakunle Orojo, encouraged me to study English as a foundation to a degree in law. I was poised to resume law studies in Unilag when fate inspired Lekki Sunsplash in 1988. That truncated my legal trajectory irretrievably.”
He, however, takes solace in the fact that his son is a practising attorney, while one of his daughters is equally studying law at the University of Birmingham, UK.
Adelegan, is a prince from his paternal and maternal backgrounds in Ijebu-Owo and Ojo-Akowa Akoko, respectively, in Ondo State. He equally holds the chieftaincy title of “Olotu Omooba” of Aiyepe-Ijebu, Ogun State.
He is a lawn tennis aficionado; a philanthropist in his own right and loves to talk and debate business and politics.
He is also Chairman of the Economic Advisory Council to the Ooni of Ife; Chairman of Ondo State Lawn Tennis Association; Fellow, Institute of Directors; Fellow of the Nigerian Institute of Direct Marketing, and President, Abuja Business Club, among others.
Adelegan is blessed with a beautiful wife and three lovely children.