GUEST OF THE WEEK
CHIEF S.O EKWE (a.k.a SAMANKWE)
IKA WEEKLY – The business guru, Chief S.O. Ekwe, who is known by many as Samankwe has challenged anybody who feels or believes that his success as a business man is directly or indirectly linked to some fetish or ritual involvement to come forward to prove it.
Samankwe who was fielding questions from Ika weekly as guest of the week on Tuesday in his office at Owanta Street, Boji-Boji, Owa, noted with disappointment how people, instead of engaging themselves in profitable ventures, go about peddling unfounded rumours and information they can never susbstantiate. He wondered how people came about what he refers to as “the funny ideas about his vehicles getting involved in accidents so as to service his charms with blood from those who died in such accidents”, describing such idea as a figment of the peddlersâ€™ imagination.
Chief Ekwe whose business interests encompass the brewing industry, pharmaceutical, food and beverages, disclosed that he works between 7am and 7pm everyday, excluding Sundays; stressing that every kobo he had, he worked very had to make. He stated that such rumours and insinuations never bothers him because in his words “whether you are rich or poor, or whether you are good or bad, people will always lay hold on something to say about you”. He emphasized that in most cases, people are want to weave stories that are contrary and destructive, just to put a blot on somebodyâ€™s image.
He disclosed that he started his business in the early 1970â€™s after the Nigerian civil war along Owanta Street, which was a refugee camp for Ibo elements during the civil war. He said that he started first, by doing manual labour, working as a labourer, carrying blocks, when the now retired Deputy Inspector-General of Police (D.I.G.) Donald Ugbaja was erecting his house at that time. He revealed that one day he just decided to stop the daily labour jobs and go into the production of cement bag for shopping purposes, because according to him there were no nylon bags then, he stated that he made so much money from the business, and later diversified into buying and selling bottles, which saw him moving around the whole of Boji-Boji metropolis looking for bottles to buy. He said that as his savings increased, he had to open an account with African Continental Bank (ACB) at Agbor.
Chief Ekwe disclosed that with the savings he made, he opened a provision store along Owanta Street by Convent junction in 1971. He said that a lot of Ibos who survived the war and were based in Agbor were coming everyday to buy beer at his shop; adding that as the business expanded he relocated to No. 34, Old Lagos/Asaba Road where he set up a bigger provision shop, and was buying goods from people like late Mr. Ojo who had enough money to go to Lagos to buy in larger bulk. He however stated that he sometimes went to Onitsha to purchase his stocks.
The business man further said that it was from there in 1973 that he got affiliated with PZ, and later with AJ Seward Companies, becoming one of their distributors. He later joined Unilever and Cadbury, equally as their major distributor, their products in the Mid-West and some parts of the Eastern region. He revealed that he was doing so well for himself and for the afore mentioned companies that in 1975, he built the complex at Owanta Street, which today houses his business headquarters.
Chief Ekwe stated that immediately after the completion of the building, he opened a supermarket, which he called Samankwe Supermarket; adding that the official opening ceremony was done by His Royal Majesty, Dr. Emmanuel Efeizomor, the Obi of Owa. He said that after the supermarket was opened, he joined the Nigerian Brewery, using the name of the Supermarket as his business relationship with the brewing company, and that was closely followed with his establishing business contact with Guinness Nigeria Plc, another brewing company as one of their distributors.
According to him, he later joined Glaxo Smittkleen (GSK), makers of Lucozade, Panadol. This was followed by Maltex, Vitamalt, Maltonic and Coca-cola, distributing their products, making very significant and profitable inward in the Western Sales areas, which led to his gaining high recognition and winning many awards from all the listed companies.
Infact his expansive office is decorated with all the plagues given to him by different companies for outstanding sales performance.
Chief Ekwe revealed that because of his honesty and industry, the companies were scrambling amongst themselves to have him do business with them. He informed Ika Weekly that just recently, he opened a very big warehouse at Onitsha; stressing that the bulk of his business investments and profits come from Onitsha. He stated that before he sells a truckload of goods here in Agbor he would have sold more than five at Onitsha. But he was quick to add that Agbor remains the base of his business empire because that was where he started his business life.
When asked on what he has been able to give back to society from his immensed wealth, Chief Ekwe disclosed that he had been involved in a lot of philanthropic gestures, which include the building of a Reverend Fatherâ€™. House for the Catholic Church in his hometown, Umuago Urualla in Ideato North Local Government Area of Imo State. He said he has also built houses for some of his workers, giving example with one of his drivers whom he said he built a five-room bungalow for, at Emuhu, Ika South Local Government Area. He equally said that whenever he is called upon in the church, for any assistance he never declines.
Chief Ekwe also said that he assists his local customers by selling on credit to some of them as a way of boosting their income. He added that he has been involved in the construction of drainage system around the Owanta/Convent Streets in Boji-Boji, Owa as his own little way of arresting the erosion menance in the metropolis.
Samankwe, as he is popularly known, was born in 1948 to the family of Nze Ekwe Anowai and Omasiridiya of Umuokwaranwa kindred, Umuago Village in Urualla in Ideato North Local Government Area, Imo State.
He attended St. Johnâ€™s School, Urualla and later St. Lukeâ€™s Anglican Primary School, Obodoukwu. After his primary school education, he was taken to Benin where he stayed with one of his uncles, learning how to sell provisions. It was during his fourth year in Benin that the Nigerian civil war broke out. And after the war he started his business at Agbor, which today has become an empire.
Today, the man Samankwe is a household name enjoying business success, as he gave the glory for what he is today to God; even as he urged people to learn to work hard and be committed to their dreams, not minding what people think or say about them.
He disclosed that his children are doing very well in their academic pursuits, adding that a few have graduated from the University, while some are in the University of Benin and Igbinedion University, Okada, Edo state.
THE QUINTESSENTIAL BUSINESS STRATEGIST
The name Samankwe is a household business name of Chief S.O. Ekwe, who had contributed in a significant manner to the Nigeria business and commercial world.
Chief Ekwe who started his business in a humble beginning in 1971 after the Nigerian Civil war, has his tentacles spread in virtually all areas of business concern, which include, transport/haulage, food and beverages, beer distribution, pharmaceuticals, bread and confectioneries; among many other areas of interest.
S.O. Ekwe and Co, Ltd have business links with almost all the major conglomerates in the country, such as Nigeria Breweries, Guinness (Nig) Plc, as a partner, Glaxo Smithline Consumer Plc; Bendel Breweries Ltd, Star Paper Mills Ltd, Evans Medical Plc, Cadbury Plc, Nestle Foods Plc, and many others as key distributors.
The company is also involved in transportation and haulage of goods for individuals and companies. They are equally into the production of (favour table water).
Chief S.O. Ekweâ€™s business acumen, commitment and perseverance has transformed his modest business of the early 70â€™s to a big business empire with outlets in other parts of the country.
According to the businessman “my hardwork and honesty has led to all the companies we have relationship with, to honour us with different awards”.
To corroborate that claim the wall of his office situated on the first floor of Ekwe House, No. 2, Owanka Street, Boji-Boji, Owa, which also houses his supermarket known as “Samankwe Supermarket” is decorated with award plaques given to him by various companies.
The awards include Guinness Nigeria Plc, Year 2000, Managing Directorâ€™s Award to S.O. Ekwe and Co Ltd in recognition of their commitment in Year 2000, Guinness Nigeria Plc, Managing Directorâ€™s Award to S.O. Ekwe and Co Ltd in recognition of their commitment in Year 2001/2002, Guinness Nigeria Plc Managing Directorâ€™s Certificate of Excellence to S.O. Ekwe and Co Ltd, the Certificate was awarded in recognition of his excellent Sales Growth during 1998, Bendel Brewery Limited Certificate of Merit, Year 2002 (category A) to S.O. Ekwe for being the 3rd Best Distributor in Delta East Territory, Nigeria Breweries, Plc Certificate of Merit to the company in recognition of their outstanding performance in the 1996 trading year, Nigeria Breweries Plc Bronze Award Certificate for outstanding performance in the 1997 trading year, Cadbury Nigeria Plc Benin Depot, to Samankwe Stores for outstanding sales performance, Evans Customer Award to Samankwe Supermarket at the 3rd Prize Winner (Foods)- West 1996/97, Evans Customers Award to Samarkwe Supenmarket as the Best Customer (Western Sales Area) 1999, Evans Customer Award presented by Evans Medical Plc to Samankwe Stores for Best Customer (Western Sales Area) 2002, Coca-Cola Customer Appreciation Certificate to Samankwe Stores in appreciation of the companyâ€™s consistent loyalty and patronage of their various products over the years and Nestleâ€™s Top Customer Club Certificate Award (Bronze Category) for distinguished performance in the distribution of NESTLE PRODUCTS for the years 1996/1997, which equally made S.O. Ekwe a member of the club.
Chief S.O. Ekwe built a very big warehouse in Onitsha, which was commissioned recently, by at a well attended ceremony with who is who in the business industry in attendance.
Notwithstanding his age, the business man par excellence is still putting 13 hours of work everyday just to make sure his business is kept afloat and increasing in investment and expansion.