In Pursuit - Journeys in African Entrepreneurship (‘In Pursuit’) is a funny, serious, witty and thought-provoking interrogation of the challenges and opportunities of the African entrepreneurial journey. The book - through real life examples - captures attributes of principled and ethical leadership, dexterity, optimism, resilience, cultural values, passion for excellence, and innovative thinking; the vital qualities necessary for sustainable success as an African entrepreneur. I recommend it as a must-read guide on African entrepreneurship for entrepreneurs and investors”.
Gbenga Oyebode (MFR)
Chairman, Aluko & Oyebode
(Lawyer, Investor and Philanthropist)
In Pursuit – Journeys in African Entrepreneurship is easy to read and filled with wisdom and insights based on the first-hand experiences of two dynamic entrepreneurs. I applaud Chukuka and Oswald’s courage and generosity in sharing their lives’ experiences and entrepreneurial journeys. This book will inspire the next generation of African entrepreneurs to dream big as global citizens should, but act decisively local, to create sustainable value and transform the continent”.
Ndidi O. Nwuneli (MFR)
Co-Founder/Director, AACE Food Processing & Distribution
(Social Entrepreneur, Investor and Author)
There are few highways on the path of entrepreneurship. Go slow, potholes, detours and the occasional mobile police checkpoints are inevitable. But so are growth, friendships and fun experiences. In this book, Chukuka and Oswald share their refreshing and relatable stories of some of the moments on their path back to Nigeria. You have no choice but to be transported into their rich and vividly told stories about the process, timing and challenges they experienced on the long road to success. ‘In Pursuit’ the book, is an honest account of some of the varied personalities one encounters on the way to ‘making it’. Not just making it. Making it in Nigeria”.
Chinedu Echeruo
Dreamer, Love & Magic Company
(Serial Entrepreneur: Founded Hopstop and sold to Apple)
There is a saying that, it is through joke one expresses bitter truth to a friend. The nuggets of life and business lessons told through this book will abide with you because they will not only make you laugh but be a guide for you as an entrepreneur or a returnee. ‘In Pursuit’ is not just a book to be read in one sitting, it is a bible of sorts to be referenced every now and then”.
Victor Ehikhamenor
Nigerian Visual Artist, Writer and Photographer
(Undeniably one of Africa’s most innovative contemporary artists)
In Pursuit brings to life the raw energy and the high-stake bets of two of Nigeria’s brightest, with the equally breathtaking story of their date with breakthrough success and a romance with failure in the background. Oswald and Chukuka take you to the frontline of race relationships and national identity, in the process, exposing the internal homing device that directs millions to sojourn to their roots at great personal cost. The career lessons for returnees & locals alike are priceless, as is the leadership lessons laced with humor and authenticity. In the end though, ‘In Pursuit’ is about becoming, about adapting to who they have always been, even when the initial experience is alien to them. It is the African in all of us calling them home to fight for this glorious continent, to risk everything to become the men they were meant to be but could never have without returning. ‘In Pursuit’ is not a book for just returnees, it is a manuscript for anyone in search of a deeper meaning”.
Abubakar Suleiman
Chief Executive Officer, Sterling Bank Plc.
(Senior Banking Executive and Fintech Enthusiast)
Don’t read this book if you don’t want the real truth on how to build a multimillion dollar business in Africa’s fastest growing economy, Nigeria. Longtime friends, Oswald and Chukuka both grew up in the United States and gave up their high paying jobs to move back to Nigeria to start their entrepreneurial journey. Their adventures and lessons are chronicled through a light-hearted conversational banter, where each conversation distills over a decade of experiences and survival tips, guiding any future Nigerian entrepreneur with a winning mindset. Oswald and Chukuka tell the story of the battles won and lost and the scars to show for it while building very successful Telecom and Financial Services businesses. Each chapter is a unique case study, making it required reading as the “unofficial” guide to anyone considering or in the process of building a business in Nigeria“.
Yen Choi
Group Executive Vice President, Chief Technology Officer, Netcom Africa
(Serial Entrepreneur and Technology Investor)
All Rights Reserved Under International Copyright Conventions
All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, distributed, or transmitted in any form or by any means, including photocopying, recording, or other electronic or mechanical methods, without the prior written permission of the publisher, except in the case of brief quotations embodied in critical reviews and certain other noncommercial uses permitted by copyright law. For permission requests, write to the publisher, addressed “Attention: Permissions Coordinator,” at the email address below.
Ordering Information:
Quantity sales. Special discounts are available on quantity purchases by corporations, associations, and others. For details, contact the publisher at the address above.
First Edition: May 2020
The Library of Congress has cataloged the edition:
ISBN 978-1-7347523-0-4 (pbck) / 978-1-7347523-1-1 (e-copy)
LCCN 2020904913
A catalogue record of this book is available from the National Library of Nigeria
Editors Timi Yeseibo & Olurotimi Osha
Book design by Dapo Sodeinde
Printed in the United States of America
This book is dedicated to our families and friends
for their love and support:
Our parents for your tough love and prayers;
Our wives for being wise enough to say ‘Yes’ to
diamonds in the making;
Our children who make this life all worth it;
Our role models and friends that continue to add
color to our lives.
All those hard-working entrepreneurs hunting and
planting seedlings of value.
Each chapter opens with a formal preamble that is informative and helps set the tone for the following chapter.
One author leads each chapter with interjections from the other author to correct, tease, or offer another perspective. The interjections are presented as dialogue and banter, and the authors’ initials are used to indicate who is speaking.
Chukuka Chukuma (CC)
Osaretin Oswald Guobadia (OOG)
A glossary of Nigerian and Pidgin words is provided at the end of the book for readers interested in the meaning of the Pidgin words sprinkled in the book. All words in Nigerian Pidgin English (NPE) are italicized.
How to read this book 
Chapter 01The Move Back
Chapter 02Two Bendel Boys
Chapter 03Corporate Affairs
Chapter 04Walking Away
Chapter 05The First Hurdle: It Takes Seven Years Chapter
Chapter 06The 300 Missing Pages
Chapter 07So You Think You Can Dance?
Chapter 08The North Star
Chapter 09I Don Blow
Chapter 10The Move Back Again
About the Authors 
I have always had a passion for the process of entrepreneurship. The ability to create value and substance from little, whether it is in a work of art or a new way to hail a taxi has always fascinated me. When I worked at Goldman Sachs & Co. (Goldman), a mentor of mine once looked at me and said, “Oswald, you are wasting your time.” This was in the middle of my engineering and execution learning curve as a hands-on network engineer. He was basically telling me that I ought to be doing something else. At the time, it felt like a disheartening slap to my face since I desired to be great at what I did at Goldman.
Fast forward seven years later, we are seated in the dining room of his London flat and after updating him on what I had been up to, he smiled and said, “See, I told you.” He then went on to explain to me that when we worked together, he could tell by how I packaged and sold my ideas and project tasks that I really needed to be off on my own creating value.
I often find myself seated across from entrepreneurs and as we talk through their ideas and where in the process they are, I always get the feeling that they believe they are alone. One of the primary reasons we are writing this book, is to let entrepreneurs at every stage of this journey know they are not alone and laugh at the things they have gone through and get a sense of what is to come. The truth is, you will always get what you need for survival in the process of creating value but may never create value just chasing monetary survival. So, hey entrepreneur, you are not alone.
You wake up with a thousand ideas forming a cloud above your head, so many needs around you and so many ideas floating to solve them. You remind yourself that your “focus needs focus.” You are just one person and you need to finish this task before it comes for you. You are on several project teams and your tasking solution of choice has several projects listed. You are in pursuit of the right idea to find the right problem and quite adept at turning hobbies to commercial value. You are a farmer in the morning, a software developer by midday and a budding artist by night. Serial entrepreneur, you are not alone.
Chukuka and I have been friends for over a decade. We thought our experiences combined in a book would speak more broadly to a variety of people, giving them both unique and possibly sometimes conflicting views on the same issue. Our journeys, albeit trodden differently are both founded on our belief system and passion for Nigeria. We both tell the story of the returnee’s journey to entrepreneurship. This can be a fish out of water story, but the water is always there as you adapt to what Nigeria throws your way. Hey returnee, you are not alone.
We each woke up one day realizing we were middle-aged folks. However, we realized the advantage of leveraging our experience as benchmarks to design practical targets to safeguard our future, which remains unknown. It is crucial to understand that while in pursuit of opportunities in that unknown future, what is critical has already been elevated and treated as important through the journey to date. It is crucial to understand that money is not the destination and your legacy is not merely a monument to feed your vanity. Hey, the ambitious middle-aged, you are not alone.
Africa is rising, the pundits say. Alas, it is time to put on those dancing shoes and make your mark on our great continent. However, amid the optimism, the continent seems to stagnate with every looming potential. The annals of entrepreneurial ventures appear littered with false starts and rather than engaging the rhythmic flow from an unbroken composition of music that folks can dance to, participants seem inundated by an awkward cacophony of ominous sporadic sounds. This book aims to give a true complete picture through humor on what it takes to thrive in business on the beautiful continent of Africa. It beckons all who are interested to laugh through these pages and be inspired to book a ticket …
CC: Still in pursuit of the dream and somewhere in the middle we grabbed a Nigerian election break to tell a few stories about the journey so far. It’s December 2018 and from experience, we knew that elections will slow and practically shutdown the country for at least 7 – 8 months. We really wanted to account for our time during this period. We present to you one of the many books we have thought about writing for years.
By the way Osaretin, we too are authors now!
How do you hustle on the bright continent of Africa and hammer in Nigeria, while scaling hurdles?
Before the 1930s, Nigerians were going overseas to further their education because tertiary institutions were few. This trend continued post-independence even after the establishment of more universities and technical colleges. This group returned, armed with knowledge and patriotic fervor to build their country, which had acquired independence from Britain in 1960.
A wave of emigration occurred from the late 1960s to 1980s, fueled by the Civil War, quota system inequalities, nepotism, and incompetence under military dictatorship. Nigerians who had studied and trained overseas began to emigrate from Nigeria to more advanced societies, especially in the West. This exodus saw skilled Nigerians migrate to India, Saudi Arabia, the West Indies, United States, United Kingdom, Canada, Russia, and any country that had a gap in skilled labor, especially in the medical, engineering, and academic fields. The brain drain inspired the patriotic national TV campaign, Andrew Don’t Check Out, mounted by the government of the day to stem the tide.
The 1990s witnessed a resurgence of emigration of Nigeria’s best and brightest due to the dire socio-political outlook and brutal military rule. What we have witnessed from the 2000s is a move-back loop that cannot be denied. Indeed, skilled Nigerians continue to desperately make their way out of the country, but for almost everyone who checks out, there is another Nigerian in the diaspora, who looks back nostalgically and sees the vast untapped potential that is Nigeria, and takes the leap of faith to venture back into the unknown entrepreneurial terrain of the land they once knew.
The Move Back
by Osaretin Oswald Guobadia [OOG]
This red earth, it’s in our skin … This is home. You’ll never leave Africa.
[Col. Coatzee to Archer in the movie, Blood Diamond]
I sat at my desk and prepared to log into my systems when a deafening noise crashed through our office. Deep in my bones, I knew something bad had happened. Our office at 10 Hanover Square, in downtown Manhattan, was open plan and had low cubicle walls. Someone pulled out a Sony WEGA 15-inch TV and set it on a cubicle. I could not believe what I saw. How was it even possible? The reverberative echo of another crash truncated my thoughts before they could make sense of the unfolding developments. We rushed back to the TV. What was happening? Were all the buildings on Wall Street going to be hit by planes?
The hysteria created by misinformation was compounded by watching the Twin Towers go up in flames. People wanted to run home, but we heard that it was unsafe to use the bridges back to Brooklyn because of an ongoing ground assault. Then the towers fell, narrowing options to leave.
I heard conversations … the market would reopen, the office needed to be prepared, those with families should leave first, which volunteers wanted to stay behind to work … And I saw my hand go up.
A war room was set up. One of our buildings was shut down, but none was damaged. Connectivity was affected. We worked through the night focusing on one mission: ensuring that Goldman Sachs was up and running. We buried ourselves in activities, but by morning, the initial adrenaline that stimulated me to frantic action was dissipating. I made my way through white-shrouded streets that resembled a war zone—expensive cars parked haphazardly with doors ajar and the military taking up strategic positions.
The Twin Towers were ten minutes away from my office, and I had walked past them frequently on my way to lunch. Now, they were no more. Thousands of people who worked there had died. The full weight of the moment hit me, and sadness embraced me. Wall Street, my home for many years, was no longer safe.
CC: I remember that day as if it was yesterday. September 11th changed life, as we know it.
OOG: Chukuka, people remember where they were on that day, but I was there, at Ground Zero … I had a very different experience.
Could this have happened in Nigeria? This was not the first time that I had compared my stay in America to what it would have been like if I were living in Nigeria. All the way home, I convinced myself that it could not have happened in Nigeria.
You see, one day, I was in Greater Tomorrow Secondary School in Benin City, Nigeria, and the next day, I was in America about to begin high school. My father, an occupational therapist, had worked for the University of Benin Teaching Hospital in Benin City, before immigrating to the United States.
My first impression of Brooklyn as my dad drove along Atlantic Avenue was that the roads were just as bad as the roads in Nigeria. When we turned into Crown Heights, where my dad lived, I watched people hawking food on the streets and heard reggae music blasting from the shops. It was the early ‘90s, and the explosion of colors and sound, heralded spring.
At school, I thought the American kids weren’t very welcoming of new people with foreign cultures because they didn’t want to create new categories of understanding. They thought I was weird because of my accent and dressing. My parents weren’t buying me Jordans, and I was wearing what they got me, which wasn’t stylish.
CC: I think this inability to be stylish stemmed from the fact that you went to school in Benin City. I grew up in Lagos and went to King’s College, so we all dressed well o. Eiya, so you were bullied?
OOG: Foolish boy! I didn’t come to America to do style; I came to read book. Of course, as a Nigerian coming to America, I was bullied. It’s all part of it. Can I continue, Chukuka?
The adjustment to American culture tends to be raw for a Nigerian kid. However, because of the premium placed on education in the typical Nigerian family, it is becoming proverbial that Nigerian students tend to excel at schoolwork. They excel despite facing challenges of the typical immigrant’s experience. Nigerian Americans who now have a high number of professionals in America, have been said to constitute the most educated ethnic group in the United States, and are now described as one of the most successful immigrant groups. But as a Black kid, I had to find a place to fit in. I identified with Jamaicans and other kids from the Caribbean. I hung out with them, dressed like them in Major Damages jeans and Buffalinos, and enjoyed their food. That’s how I survived high school.
CC: You mean you started speaking Patois and saying yea mon?
OOG: Yes na, I said a lot of yea mon after eating oxtail!
CC: Well, I didn’t have those issues.
OOG: You came in ripe, and you were actually a bully’s bully abi?
CC: That’s right. I arrived America at nineteen, mature and fully formed. My father had just passed and lecturers at University of Lagos, where I was studying economics, were on strike. My family thought my siblings and I were better off chilling in America since nothing was happening. Unlike you, I didn’t need to be Jamaican. I guess most people didn’t know or care which country I came from, they just knew I was African. I kept my Nigerian accent, and I insisted on being called Chu-ku-ka.
OOG: Gbam!
I attended Wesley College, a small college in Dover, Delaware, surrounded by historic period houses dotted with pristine flower beds on lush lawns, a couple of diners, and a theatre—a far cry from New York’s pulsating beat. I was younger than most kids there, coming from Nigeria where our parents pushed us to go through school quickly. My dad thought a small campus would be a good way for me to grow and adjust. Around this time, I began owning my Nigerianess as part of my maturing process. That’s how
I started using that whole Eddie Murphy Coming-To-America-thing about my grandfather having ten wives and over sixty-nine kids as a pick-up line.
CC: Oswald! You sef?
OOG: Sharap! Well in my case, it was true. My grandad was talented.
CC: This is evidence that you are just lazy.
I joined a black fraternity, Kappa Alpha Psi, international student bodies and almost every other organization, where I also gained leadership roles. Participating in different activities gave me free opportunities to develop skill sets. I remember being student class president and reading the school by-laws. I found that the school didn’t have an explicit rule about the timing of parties. So, my frat brothers and I organized parties that ended at 4 a.m., which was unheard of at the time. School parties typically ended much earlier. We made money because students from other schools would pay to attend our parties after theirs ended. I was so frequently involved in activities on other university campuses, that many people assumed I was an enrolled student at these other universities. However, I also had to manage my schoolwork.
CC: I can so relate. I was a college athlete and was active in leadership roles in the student community on campus, just like you. After six months of living with my sister in Flushing, Queens, it became obvious that the lecturers’ strike in Nigeria was indefinite, and I needed to start school in America. I went to Hampton University in Hampton, Virginia, which my older siblings had attended. It’s a historically black university, and the students were mainly bougie, that is bourgeois African Americans. The school was in a highbrow area by a river and was nicknamed home by the sea.
I was a finance major with a minor in economics. I had four hustles: working in the library, tutoring, teaching self-defense classes, and selling African crafts. Even though I was earning minimum wage, I was happy that I was not working for McDonalds or in a morgue.
OOG: Importer, exporter! You really should have just quit school and become a trader, like your Igbo people—kedu.
CC: One day, I saw some guys playing American football. I had never played and didn’t know much about the game, but I knew I was fit, fast, and didn’t mind getting hit. I convinced the coach to let me try out because I wanted a partial or full scholarship that walk-ons would get. I told him I was more desperate for school fees than most of the players and I was definitely hungrier. Anyway, I joined the team, and within a couple of months, I had a permanent spot on the first team. Everyone was blown away, and scouts were appraising my abilities. The NFL was becoming a credible alternative to a career in finance.
OOG: Mehn, the hustle was real!
CC: Yes o! I remember when I found a flyer advertising a full-contact mixed martial arts fighting tournament. Registration was $100, and the winner-takes-all prize was $5,000. I was short about $5,000 for my next year’s tuition, and I was desperately trying to make the money before school started. I thought it’d be the easiest thing in the world for me because I had been number one in karate and judo in Nigeria and was unbeaten for many years. In taekwondo, I had only ever lost a fight to a Nigerian Olympian. I borrowed $100 from a friend and promised to repay him $200. I started training for the fight. See ehn, the weight categories that I was used to in karate and judo were quite tight, and in a tournament, I would definitely fight someone in my weight class. For example, I would never fight someone like you, Os, because you are much bigger than I am. At that time, I weighed about 160 pounds.
OOG: 160 pounds? Are you sure, you ever weighed so little? Haha. What happened fat boy?
CC: Yes o. I used to be a lean-mean machine with an eight pack! I now weigh the same as Tyson did when he won the heavyweight championship of the world, but for the record, you’re still fatter than I am. Stop interrupting me young man! So, when I got to the fight, I realized that I could be paired with someone who was fifteen to thirty-five pounds heavier than I was. I wasn’t used to that. The fighters were grown-ass men like bikers, military and professional fighters, ex-prisoners, homeless, and crazy people. It didn’t look right, but I was excited. This was early ‘94, and only seven states held this kind of cage fight legally. I beat some people and knocked out a few others. And then, I got to the third-place match. I was advised not to fight because my opponent was considered crazy. I went in anyway, and before I knew what was happening, the guy had punched me so hard, I was flat on the floor. I couldn’t breathe, something was wrong with my nose. They were about to call the fight, but I asked my opponent and the referee for a full-minute timeout.
When I went back to my corner, my guys reminded me that they had advised me not to fight. They said my opponent was a Navy SEAL who taught close combat fighting in Virginia Beach. I went back in angry, and I dislocated his shoulder with an axe kick and moved his jaw with a spinning roundhouse kick. I won that fight via a knockout. I didn’t get the prize money because I came third, and I still owed my friend $200.
OOG: Okay your nose was now inside your brain! Clearly well worth it. I am not laughing with you o, I am laughing at you.
CC: I experienced nasal trauma leading to decreased ability to breathe normally. My nose was now mobile because my dorsum had been broken into many pieces. Back at school, I couldn’t study because I was having migraines. I can’t remember why I didn’t have health insurance. My mom was in Lagos, and she and my sisters were worried and upset. I couldn’t attend classes or take my finals due to the migraines, and I lost my American football scholarship. That was the end of Hampton University for me …
OOG: Unlike an aje butter like me, whose father was paying his fees.
CC: Well yeah, this was the life of a real immigrant.
OOG: You mean aje pako. Hard man! What happened to your nose sef?
CC: I ended up leaving Virginia and going back to my sister’s place in New York. I wrote a letter to a top plastic surgeon, explaining my predicament and asking for free surgery. He responded after my third letter with an invoice for $20,000. Haba! Where was I going to get $20,000? He later revised his fee to $8,000. To save money, I started working at Banana Republic on 16th Street and Fifth Avenue in Manhattan, which was their North American flagship store. My attention to detail made me popular with customers, whom I convinced to insist on me attending to them always. Although I hadn’t been at the store long, I became one of the top three sales staff and made good commissions. When I’d saved $6,200, my sister gave me the balance to have my nose fixed. I gave the plastic surgeon my old picture, and they gave me my old nose back.
OOG: It wasn’t your exact nose joor! You’re lying. You gave them a picture of Denzel Washington!
CC: Please! I like myself. You and I know Denzel has a messed-up nose.