Billionaire Igbinedion speaks about his life's journey: "I once sold kerosene as a houseboy"

Where you are today should not define where you'll get to. Keep hope alive, work hard and believe in God through prayers. Your dreams can come true, in a matter of months or years.

The Esama of Benin Kingdom, Chief Gabriel Igbinedion clocked 83 last Monday. He took time off the celebration to talk about his life's journey...

Feeling at 83 and growing up: 
I owe my life to God Almighty. I thanked Him for keeping me alive.

There are kids who suffer while growing up but I did not suffer. My father died when I was nine years old. I inherited a house in the village and six cocoa plantations. My mother was a big trader, selling fish. I will not say things were not rough but I survived. In this town, I sold kerosene for seven pence for more than three years when I was a houseboy and I went to fetch firewood from the bush five times a week. I remember one day when one of the sons of my boss, who was about eight years, defecated in the sitting room where I usually slept and the mother called on me to go and clean it up. All these were what God wanted me to pass through in life to be able to get to where I am now. I have been through a lot but God saw me through.

Life as a philanthropist and an entrepreneur:  
The way God created me is that I do not like to see people suffer. I can even borrow for you if I know you genuinely need help. And I thank God that people have accepted me as one of the successful persons. And out of the several people that we started doing business together, I am still there today by the special grace of God. When I was being given an honorary degree some time ago, a top politician said there is nobody that God does not speak to. It depends on if you are listening at the time God is speaking to you. I hear God’s voice, I win some, I lose some. I did not succeed in everything I did, but no one in this country has taken the risk I have taken to dig unknown grounds.

When I was growing up, I worked in Leventis Motors. One particular Christmas, I was driving on Sapele Road when I saw a Greek entrepreneur who asked his security guard to mix red mud with water and start sprinkling it on the people there because they were scrambling to buy soft drinks from him for Christmas. I got annoyed. I went to him and told him ‘I will compete with you’. The following January 3, I left the country to go and bring Canada Dry and I located it opposite his office. I do not like seeing people suffering.