BY Abu Mubarik, 11:45am July 01, 2024,

Meet Nigeria’s first billionaire who was reportedly worth $4 billion at the time of his death in 1966

Louis Odumegwu Ojukwu. Photo: Facebook/Igbo HIstory

Get to know Louis Odumegwu Ojukwu; he is reportedly the first Nigerian billionaire and the founding president of the Nigerian Stock Exchange. He established his wealth during the colonial era. When he died in 1966, his wealth was $4 billion in today’s economic value, Forbes Africa reported in 2018.

At the age of 20, he came to Lagos from Nnewi in 1929 after his education at Hope Waddell Training Institution, Calabar. Within 10 years of his arrival in Lagos, he became one of the richest men in the country.

Ojukwu made his money by importing dried fish for resale and diversifying into textiles, cement, and transportation. He established Ojukwu Transport, Ojukwu Stores, and Ojukwu Textiles.

Prior to entering the world of business, he worked in Nigeria’s agriculture department and later joined John Holt as a tire sales clerk before diversifying into the textile and transport sectors.

Later in his life, Queen Elizabeth II knighted him, earning him the title “Sir.” The honor came after he helped the British during World War II with his fleet of trucks. He also had the privilege of chauffeuring the Queen when she visited Nigeria, at the request of the colonial administration. At the time, he was the only person in Nigeria to own a Rolls-Royce.

According to the Punch Newspaper, he co-authored a report on the Economic Mission to Europe and North America, in which he recommended investing extra funds from the produce marketing board in a regional bank and public corporations to stimulate economic development.

Born Louis Philip Odumegwu Ojukwu in Nnewi in 1909, the entrepreneur was the only boy and second of four children. He went to the Government Primary School in Asaba and attended the Hope Waddell Training Institute, which he completed in 1928.

While working with John Holt in Lagos as a tire sales clerk, Ojukwu noticed that many Igbo traders who came to Lagos to buy tires also bought textiles as well. So, with his meagre savings, he traveled to Onitsha where he opened his first business venture, “Ojukwu stores”, selling textiles.

Following the success of his textile business, he ventured into the truck industry. The truck was used to move his goods, and “Ojukwu Transport Company” was born. In no time, his fleet of trucks numbered 200.

What’s more, he was president of the African Continental Bank and served on the boards of companies such as Shell Oil Nigeria Limited, Guinness Nig. Ltd., Nigerian National Shipping Lines, Nigerian Cement Factory, Nigerian Coal Corporation, Costain West Africa Ltd., John Holt, and the Nigerian Marketing Board, among others.

Ojukwu’s son, Chukwuemeka, led the Igbos into the Nigerian Civil War as head of the secessionist state of Biafra in 1967. Chukwuemeka, who earned a master’s degree in history from Oxford University, also became a billionaire.

Indeed, their town, Nnewi, has one of the highest numbers of naira billionaires in Nigeria today including Cletus Ibeto, an apprentice and eventually a spare parts dealer, and Igwe Orizu I, who was the 18th Igwe Nnewi and the first Igbo person to own and drive a car. It has also become a hub for automobile spare part dealers and manufacturing of household goods, as well as, the home of the biggest road transport companies in the country.

Known as the Japan of Africa, many products and their parts, including motor vehicles, tires, tiles, batteries, motorcycles, and many others, are being manufactured or assembled at Nnewi, including Innoson, Nigeria’s first indigenous car assembly plant.

Last Edited by:Mildred Europa Taylor Updated: July 1, 2024

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