By Funke Adetutu
Muhammed Ali and Henry Ford were two remarkable men. They were also great orators and made two statement that are relevant to Mr. Benedict Peters, the Executive Vice President of Aiteo, as he turns 51 on December 5.
Ali said, “a man who views the world the same at fifty as he did at twenty has wasted thirty years of his life.”
Even if we really do not know if Mr. Peters directly heard that quote, one thing is certain, in the last 28 years, Mr Peters has achieved a lot. And that is because as he left the University of Benin in 1989, at the age of 22 or so, he had his eyes on the ball for obvious reasons. He clearly wanted to look back at 51, and see the world differently.
It is possible he wanted to see the world differently, not just as an observer of times but as someone who had shaped it. He started out early after university charting a path in banking, commerce, agriculture and oil and gas.
Like Richard Branson, Trump, Rupert Murdock and other greats, he was a deals-man who smelt opportunity miles away and took advantage of it, within the ambit of the law.
“There are young Africans that I am yet to talk to, my destiny will not be fulfilled until I talk to them,” Mr Peters told a group of young African men recently, “I was created to positively impact millions of Africans and nations, and I am going to do more, by God’s grace,” he declared.
Born in the days of trouble in post-independence Nigeria, he is not from one of the most popular tribes in Nigeria. An Ibo, of Delta extraction, he is a self-made businessman who struggled through the hardship and challenging business environment that characterised Nigeria in the 1990s, early 2000, up till this day.
“There was a time, I had to struggle, trading commodities in Nigeria. Then I went international, trading between Nigeria and Cameroon.
“Its was challenging, but rewarding work, back in the day.
“But God rewards hard work,” he says, smiling, like a general that has seen it all.
In the 1990s, Mr Peters was one of the co-founder of Ocean and Oil Limited, known today as Oando, a petroleum exploration and trading company. In 1994 he moved to MRS, a major downstream petroleum firm, as managing director.
In 1999, after gaining extensive experience in the multi-layered global energy industry, he founded Sigmund Communecci, a company which would later become the Aiteo Group. While Sigmund Communecci’s main focus was tank farms and other aspects of the downstream sector, Aiteo Group is active in both upstream and downstream sectors of the petroleum industry.
It was Henry Ford who famously said that “you take all of the experience and judgment of men over 50 out of the world and there wouldn’t be enough left to run it.” Mr Peters has lessons for the generations of Africans who are currently living and those that are yet unborn. The most important is that, “nothing is impossible.” And an individual’s background and current predicament does not define the future!
He was not born with a silver spoon or with great privileges. He was totally made in Nigeria. And made the best of what he had, armed with faith and belief that all great effort and positive energy is rewarded.
According to information on his website, he “has played a significant role in enhancing Nigeria’s ability to take charge of its natural resources and independently develop its energy infrastructure.
“In honour of his pioneering contribution, Peters was named ‘CEO of the Year’ by Leadership News Nigeria a few years ago. He was also appointed as chairman of the board of the Otuoke University Council where he makes use of his business acumen to guide the council’s activity, decide on operational objectives and devise strategic policies.”
After the 2015 general elections in Nigeria, Mr. Peters faced a barrage of politically motivated attacks from strong forces within Nigeria who were uncomfortable with his success. To these interests, the success of a businessman who was not from the ruling elite was unbearable.
They trumped all sorts of allegations and unverified assertions to bring him down. These tests have largely failed to achieve their aim, and would make an interesting read in Mr Peters memoirs.
In closing, the words of Ralph Waldo Emerson are instructive for it is he who said, “Do not follow where the path may lead. Go instead where there is no path and leave a trail.” As the journey of Mr. Peters into the next 50 years begins, we hope for more great stories, that will inspire, and continue to inspire.
A social commentator and analyst, Funke lives and works in Lagos.