Three years ago, one hectare of land at Oloyo village in Ibadan can be traded for three plates of chairman pizza but today the area has not only developed into a ‘mecca’ of hospitality, the construction of an artificial beach is also ongoing – all thanks to the vision of a man who turns fifty-two today, Engr. Dotun Sanusi.
In the beginning…
Born on the 17th of October, 1968 in Ibadan at Ilaji house of Idi-Arere, where Dotun Sanusi lived for the first five years of his life before relocating to live with his parent at Elekuro area, his dad and mum hailed from Olugbade and Ilaji houses in Ibadan respectively and he attended both Wesley primary school, Elekuro and Christ Apostolic Church Grammar School, Orita Aperin, during his formative years.
Highlighting his formative years, Sanusi was made in the most inner part of Ibadan at a time when the ‘agbole system’ still played a vital role in Nigeria’s societal framework.
Despite the fact that Sanusi founded his own oil company as far back as 2004, little was known about him until he started the construction of Ilaji Hotel and sports resort four years ago and founded the Ibadan College of Art, Science and Technology, ICAST, Elebu, Ibadan.
But still, only three things about the fairly grey-haired man is known to the the majority who have heard his name: Ilaji, ICAST and philanthropy.
But when OYOINSIGHT.COM’s publisher and managing editor, Sikiru Akinola and Adebayo Abdulrahman respectively with sat him for a discussion at the mini-golf course in Ilaji resorts, he laid bare how he climbed the ladder from Idi-Arere to owning significant stakes in anything that will make him answer “the call to humanity”
Hear him: “I attended Wesley primary school, C.A.C grammar school and then proceeded to the University of Ibadan, then to all my professional careers in Germany then Europe to be precise. I started my life in the Niger Delta, Rivers State. I worked at Rivers, Delta, Edo and all the areas that you have oil and gas. After working for multinational companies for several years in 2004, I decided to stand on my own.
“At UI, I studied petroleum engineering and I later trained as a precision surveyor, measurement wide-drilling and directional drilling. I specialize in drilling of oil and gas. After setting up my own company, I decided to diversify. Today, I am into education, farming, hospitality and all the things that will make me answer the call to humanity.”
Ilaji – the transformation of a jungle into an Eldorado
For a man who unlike many others, hardly publicize his philanthropic acts, Sanusi’s hospitality project – Ilaji hotel and sport resorts – is the bird that has spread across Ibadan and environs the tales of his humanitarian gestures.
But the “one-stop hospitality” resort was just four years ago home to a jungle with no light, road and some other basic amenities. This raises the question of why he decided to build an eldorado there when he could have located it in a more developed part of the city with lesser stress.
Explaining the rationale behind this unusual economic decision, he said, “After staying in the Niger Delta and I know that the blessings of God is sufficient, I decided that I want to give back to my society, where I come from. But I believe that to do this, I need to look for an area that has history and is also the most backward.
“I believe that if you want to multiply whatever monetary gains, then you will be thinking of your returns on your investment. But the return on investments that I want is the happiness of my people. So I decided that I have to go back to a local government with history but no development because I believe that when you want to contribute, you should contribute to where you know your effort is needed; where you know the people that are there will be able to see that you are taking them from low level to high level.
“It’s a call to humanity, to serve. These are areas where low level income earners need you more than areas that are economically okay.
“In terms of Ona-Ara local government, Agbekoya has history but due to some things, it seemed backward that time and I decided that okay, I should set up something here.”
However, the question about whether his aim to fill the economic gap in an area that used to be a jungle has been successful is visible in the presence of basic amenities like electricity, road, infrastructure among others in the area – just four years after the construction of Ilaji hotels and sports resorts commenced.
Ilaji — a project of ‘generational value’
“After all my years in oil and gas, I moved all around the world and discovered that a lot of people contribute to the economic development of their society and impact positively to the extent that even after their exit, that thing will have a generational value. So I just decided that okay, I should too,” Sanusi said while trying to justify his decision to invest heavily in the Ilaji project.
Even though over the last two decades, one sector of the Nigerian economy that has unarguably experienced a massive boost is the hospitality sector, in most cases, founders of various hospitality projects prefer to pick names that look cosmopolitan and classy, perhaps, to attract the modern-day Nigerian but with Ilaji, it’s a shift from the norm.
No one needs to think twice before knowing Ilaji is a word that can only be found in the Yoruba dictionary. So this makes it quite interesting to question why a project of ” generational value” by Sanusi was named Ilaji.
As unusual as this looks, the answer is quite simple, Sanusi named it after his source of inspiration — his mum. His adoration for his mum is an undying force which he believes is the oil that fuels every single thing he engages in today.
“My mum was hardworking and generous. She can’t cook in our house without bringing other people in the house to the table. So, I asked if mum who had no educational background can do this why can’t I?
“She was from Ilaji compound and that was her trade name. She pushed that name to wherever she was able to push it to. So I decided to push that name further.”
‘I Am Called To Serve’
The belief of the majority of the populace is that for someone like Sanusi, it’s not a question of whether he will go into active politics, it is a matter of when.
However,the Idi-arere born ‘oil driller’ told OYOINSIGHT.COM that this is not going to happen. According to him, even though he was called to serve, he does not have to hold any political position before contributing his quota to the upliftment of the masses or developing the state.
“Forget it. Forget it. See, many people will tell you they are into politics to serve their people but for me I am called to serve; it’s my own call. So, I want to sweat out what I earn. What I take from my own personal money is what I will give; that is being generous. I don’t want to be generous on another person’s resources. I don’t want to be generous on collective resources. Why should it be until I am able to get collective resources before I am able to serve? It’s not my call. My call is to serve humanity.
“And what I want to appreciate this present government for is that they give environment for partnership. I want to do this; they do everything they can to support. All the people that will be passing through the Akanran-Olorunsogo road, all the accidents that had been averted, all the hardship of passing through the road that has been removed, it gives me joy. I have served the people. So if I have been able to serve the people, what else?
“Some people will say if I am able to get collective wealth, I will be able to give light. Okay, I am not into politics but God has used me to restore light. I am not into politics; God have used me to do road. God has used me to contribute to the health sector and even security.
“So the issue of politics does not come in. People say they go there just to serve, then I am already serving. So there is nobody that will tell me that ‘see the way he used our money,’ because I am using my own money that I worked for to pay,” he said.
At 52, Dotun Sanusi Does Not Fear Death
As he clocks 52, it’s obvious that at the top of list of almost every greeting card he receives will be a prayer for long life. While no one,?except the Almighty, can predict the longevity of every individual’s voyage in life, it seems at 52, Sanusi does not fear death.
Hear him: “How can I be afraid of death? I came one day and I’ll go one day. God has made me to have this belief that surely I will go out of this place and that is the major reason why I am not the type that gathers resources to build a big mansion or cathedral where I will live. I will rather put it in a place where it can be able to generate and go on.”