Abayomi Awobokun: From Toilet Cleaner To CEO

Posted on Posted in Across The Border, Random Inspiration

I was on IT (Industrial Training) at TOTAL in Port-Harcourt, Rivers State with a course mate of mine from the University. We were undertaking a mini training lecture with the HOD of Operations when he asked “what are you guys expecting as your results?”.

My course mate beaming answered “First class Sah”.

“What of you Charles”, as he turned to me.

I didn’t know whether to feign heart attack at that moment or just faint.

“Charles didn’t you hear me? What are you expecting as your final result”, he repeated this time his eyes transfixed on me.

“2-2 Sah”, I said with a stutter.

“Then why are both are you together, you are not mates”, he said and continued his lessons.


“He was too harsh”, my friends said as I narrated my ordeal but I knew he only said the harsh truth without mincing words.

I left IT and went back to school buoyed by his remarks and subsequently had my best ever GPA in school which was close to a 1st class at 500 Level for that matter but that wasn’t enough to get to the 2-1 promised land. I was only fighting a losing battle.

I left school and it seemed I was unemployable. Every job vacancy requested for 1st class and 2-1 graduates. Employment was based on certificate not on ‘headificate’ (what one could offer).

I wasn’t gonna give up but then up stepped the story of one, Abayomi Awobokun, the 2-2 graduate cum toilet cleaner cum CEO of Nigeria’s biggest indigenous oil retailing firm (Oando Marketing Plc.) and I literally felt like the ‘happiest’ 2-2 graduate in the World.

I had to conquer and his story was the arsenal my self esteem needed to fight and win.

So who is Abayomi Awobokun?


Yomi was an Ibadan boy. He grew up in Ibadan, Nigeria’s largest city. He was born into a modest family in 1978. He attended University of Ibadan to study mathematics and graduated with a lower second class degree. Yes, a 2-2.



After his first degree, Yomi worked briefly at the Lagos Business School as an administrative staff. Determined to get more qualifications to further develop himself and boost his career advancement chance, he meandered his way into United Kingdom with savings from his LBS admin job. He studied international business at Master’s level in the UK.



By now, you must have known that, sojourn abroad, whether for academic or other purposes, is not usually as rosy as people here used to believe. Yomi needed to sustain in the Queen’s land. And for him, no job, in as much as legitimate, was beyond giving a trial. The only offer that came was toilet cleaning. He took it, cleaning public toilets in the United Kingdom and earning a token.



One day as he stood aloof in the toilet, reclining on his cleaning mop, waiting for the occupant of the ladies to come out so he could enter and do the cleaning, a woman came in and she could perceive the ‘Naija blood’ of Yomi. She engaged Yomi on why he was doing the job. Story narrated. One thing led to the other and Yomi landed a job with a bank in the UK. He had no prior banking experience, but within a short period of time, with dint of smartness, Yomi became a regional manager with the bank.



Yomi has always been an IT guru. He had acquired certifications in information technology. Unsure of what his country held for him, he came back to Nigeria in mid-2000s to take up an appointment with Oando Plc as a contract staff. Yes, you heard it well, he joined Oando as contract staff. Yes, contract staff. Yomi, armed with his IT qualifications and knowledge, had been recruited just to be part of the team that would implement Oando’s transition to Oracle Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) in 2006/2007. He was only to be a team member. But like a child of circumstances, what happened? Next paragraph please….

An abroad-based Nigerian world class IT consultant had been practically begged by Oando’s group leadership to oversee the transition – you know Oando leadership don’t joke with quality assurance. Despite the mouth-watering hard currency offer, the Oando management were not able to reach agreement with the returnee IT guru. Here was Yomi, who was slated to work with her. That was how the management decided to give Yomi a trial. And the lot to spearhead the transition fell on the 28 years old Yomi.


His getting a banking job in UK was, in a manner of speaking, by accident. His rise was dramatic. He returned to Nigeria to take a contract offer. And with everything occurring in quick succession, Yomi was handed a career-defining task of implementing software change-over in Oando. He shone on the task. He oversaw the task seamlessly. Project ended. Contract ended?



Like any fixed contract job, Yomi ended his assignment to implement system transition for Oando. But Oando’s Wale Tinubu-led management felt this boy was a gold fish they could not afford to let go. At the expiration of the Oracle assignment, Wale, realizing the talent of the IT prodigy, personally persuaded him to come work for him. Pronto, he became Executive Assistant to Mr. Tinubu, Group Chief Executive of the Oando Group, a role he combined with being the Head of Investors Relation for the Group. Now working very closely with the Oando big boss, his brilliance and soundness were even more visible to the GCEO.



In mid-2009, there was a major tsunami in Oando Marketing Plc, the downstream division of Oando Group. The tsunami consumed virtually all the senior management of that Oando subsidiary. Next task for the Group leadership was finding a capable hand to take over the leadership of the company. After a no-hold-barred interview, Yomi, Tinubu’s EA, was handed the task. He was first appointed Acting Deputy Chief Operating Officer (Ag. DCOO) to understudy Mr. Ajose Adeogun, a former COO of the entity who was temporarily brought to assume that position again and stabilize the entity. Within couple of months, Yomi was confirmed, and by the end of six months, he was made the Chief Operating Officer. He was 31. In 2011, the Deputy GCEO and CEO of Oando Marketing, Mr. Omamofe Boyo, relinquished the position for him and Yomi became the CEO of Oando Marketing Plc at 33 years.


In 2016, he emerged as one of the World Economic Forum (WEF) Young Global Leaders.

Yomi has moved on to greener pastures and is the CEO of ENYO Retail and Supply Limited, a subsidiary of the Yinka Folawiyo Group and he is not even 40 yet. Outstanding!!!!

In the words of Benjamin Bayani, “Life may deal you a bad hand or take away a good hand you were already dealt. The way you play the hand is how your life is defined. Just like in poker you can end up winning no matter how bad the cards are you have.”

Certificate and Grace can’t compete. Seek Grace. Keep believing. Improve yourself. Persevere and the year will definitely bring good tidings.






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