The name Wemi Jones is no stranger to the financial circle and the tourism sector of the Nigerian economy, especially those involved in events management and centres.
Wemi Jones is the Managing Director/Chief Executive Officer of Date and Events Limited, owners of Grandeur Events Centre, Billingsway, Oregun, Ikeja, Lagos, amongst others and also the Chief Farmer at Ibietan Farms, an integrated farms located in Aiyede, Kabba/Bunu Local Government Area of Kogi State.
Wemi, who started out his outstanding working career with AG Leventis and ended up with Intercontinental Securities as Acting Managing Director/Chief Executive Officer, is no doubt an example of the never say die spirit Nigerians are known for.
For a man who struggled, and in his words, engaged in farming to see himself through school, his meteoric rise from a common village boy who had no access to the great things of life to what he is today is no doubt a testament to his passionate desire for success, the grace of God and an undying entrepreneurial spirit.
From a dream job with AG Leventis, Wemi, as he is fondly called, moved to All States Trust Bank and from there to Eco Bank. From Eco Bank, he moved to Fountain Trust Bank, where he spent about eight years. After his certification as a chartered stockbroker, he moved to Intercontinental Securities, a subsidiary of the defunct Intercontinental Bank, where he ended his paid job as the acting MD/CEO.
To many, Wemi’s working life, though short, compared to that of many of his peers and contemporaries, was filled with great responsibilities, challenges and exemplary growth, something that would have kept an average young man glued to paid job for a lifetime. But for Wemi, he wanted something more, something much more rewarding and challenging.
According to him, he was never comfortable doing a 9-5 job that would confine him to working for people and stopping him from exploring his passion for entrepreneurship.
An Undying Entrepreneurship Spirit
As a young man observing his mandatory national youth service in the Eastern city of Aba, Wemi caught the entrepreneurial spirit Igbos are known. Serving under an uneducated Igbo man, Wemi was awed at the way the man operated and also made money. He caught the bug and made up his mind to follow in the footsteps of his boss.
That experience in Aba no doubt shaped his life and turned him to what he has become today, a passionate entrepreneur with an undying spirit to explore the unexplored.
For him, been confined to a regular job was like been imprisoned and incapacitated, so he, alongside his diligent wife, started what has come to be known as side hustle.
The side hustle, unlike what would have been expected of a top financial sector executive like him, was rental business. A business some other business minded executives would have considered demeaning but not for Wemi, who saw beyond the present into the future. This rental business, which he started by approaching members of his church who had one occasion or the other offering them his services, has today blossomed into Dates and Events Limited.
A visit to the Oregun based Grandeur Event Centre, one of the many under Dates and Events, speaks volume of what can be achieved through the grace of God, which he believes so much in, hard work, doggedness and innovative thinking.
Speaking on Dates and Events, Wemi said: “A lot of things happened in the capital market as foreign investors divested from Nigeria and shares value came down. This made so many people to go broke. But before this time, as a result of the entrepreneur bug I caught in Aba, I started a side hustle while still at Intercontinental Securities. We were initially getting local canopies and local chairs.
“As time went on, we decided to look for a location to put a big tent and have people come for their events. Before long, I was overseas looking for where to get tents and that was how we started our first event centre, Grandeur on December 4, 2010.
“As at the time we started Grandeur, I was still at Intercontinental but when Access Bank over the parent company, Intercontinental Bank, the business was already running for a year and I decided to resign. I left on the 31st of December, 2011 and resumed at Grandeur on the 1st of January, 2012.”
Speaking further, Wemi disclosed that his sojourn in the business world has not been all success stories as he got his hands burnt several times in other areas because there was no supervision.
As a result of the giant strides and impact he has made in the events and tourism sector, Wemi is today the President of the Association of Events Venue Owners and the Lagos State Chairman of the Federation of Tourism Associations of Nigeria.
Pushing the Frontiers and Empowering Locals with Ibietan Farms
Still smarting from his success in the events and tourism sector, Wemi diversified into another gold mining sector, agriculture. This time around, his involvement with agriculture is not just for profit and the entrepreneurship drive, but as a means of empowering people in his community and federal constituency, Kabba/Bunu/Ijumu.
Speaking on his drive for Ibietan Farms, Wemi said: “I am one person who loves to travel to the village at every given opportunity and I somewhat discovered that I spend so much money on every visit because I have to give to the people at home to sort out one challenge or the other.
“At a point, I asked myself how much I spend on every visit to go round the whole community. So I decided to do something that would involve everybody and that gave birth to Ibietan Farms. I didn’t have to pay for the land and I cultivated over 20 acres of cassava. I also cultivated maize and we have plans to go into livestock farming as well. We have our harvested maize in the warehouse.
“The farm, as I talk to you employs at least 50 people at a time that collect their wages daily and because of this, I spent far less when I travel home because I have been able to give them a source of income. And it is not only that, I am working on a plan that will not just make them have income but also become entrepreneurs in the value chain.
“We are about going into processing and when we start, and that will be very soon, some of these people will become entrepreneurs in the entire process and make money for themselves. That’s the whole idea.”
Speaking further, Wemi disclosed that he has plans to expand the farms to other locations like Ayetoro Gbede and Kabba in the federal constituency, and just like the way he made a success with Dates and Events Limited, Ibietan Farms is already making waves with prospective buyers falling on themselves to buy his cassava though they are still in the soil and not yet ready for harvest.
A Shot at Political Office
For a man who has been busy running his businesses and making a success out of them, Wemi’s decision to go into active politics surprised many and questions have been asked.
For Wemi, the decision to go into active politics and seek the votes of the Kabba/Bunu/Ijumu Federal Constituency on the platform of the All Progressives Congress, APC, to represent them at the House of Representatives, is a call to duty and an opportunity to further attend to the needs of his people.
“Political office, for me, is an opportunity to serve my people and further continue in myself imposed duty of empowering my constituents. I do not see it as a way of enriching myself or engaging in personal advancement.
“The truth is that we have for so long been saddled with leaders who do not have the welfare of the people at heart but those who pretend to. We have leaders and representatives whose motive is more of personal ambition and the need to promote self above the good of the people. I am seeking office for the sake of the people and their welfare.
“I have been able to do the little I can as a private citizen, empowering our people but I believe I can do much more as their representative. It is my belief that our people will be the better for it if I am elected as their representatives at Green Chambers of the National Assembly.
Asked if he will not become like some politicians who spoke glowingly about their intentions only to get elected and become anti-people, Wemi said he would be different, insisting that he rather not get there if he would change from his avowed mindset and intentions.
“I have not been in office before but I have contributed reasonably to assist our people and have been teaching them how to fish. Empowering people should not be about throwing money around or buying them motorcycles or other things that will not empower them for life. Empowerment should not be temporal but something for a lifetime. Skill acquisition or business venture that will add value to the individuals being empowered; and these must not come because you are seeking election or reelection.
“In my constituency, we have energetic and educated youths who do not have an enabling environment to express themselves and excel. This is one thing I have been trying to address and hope to address further when I get into office. Being in government as a member of the House of Representatives will enhance my ability to do more.”