By ADEBAYO OBAJEMU |
Kola Aluko is one of the most elusive , rich and controversial figures in business in Nigeria. He was born October 20, 1969, in Lagos. Aside from his rich pedigree as the son of Chief Akanni Aluko, a successful business man and socialite (Chairman Island Club and High Chief in Ilesha, Osun State, Nigeria), not much is known about this highflier who has dated Naomi Campbell, one of the most successful models the world has ever known, in addition to his high network friendship with Hollywood best acts. He once said this of himself: “From an early age I have been very ambitious and I always knew I wanted to work for myself”. “Highly competitive and keen on sports”, Aluko’s entrepreneurial mind set saw him work in different industries, from pharmaceuticals to cars, before settling for the oil industry twenty years ago.
A flamboyant business man with the mindset of a Hollywood star, there have been lots of controversy around his business ethics, but more controversial is his connection to the former Petroleum Minister, Diezanni Alison-Madueke, whom many regard as his benefactor, and the one that launched his career in the big league. His business interest is said to staddle oil and gas, African infrastructure development and aviation. Aluko is the Co-Chief Officer and an Executive Director of Atlantic Energy, an indigenous, private upstream oil and gas company, focused on independent exploration and production (‘E&P”) participation in Nigeria.
Aluko is noted for his love of good life and luxury. He owned a palatial home which is nestled in the beautiful canton of Ticino, in southern Switzerland. Ticino is renowned for its mild winters and boasts some of the highest number of sunshine hours in Switzerland.
In the week when UK law enforcement authorities arrested Mrs. Alison-Madueke in London and agents of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) searched her homes in Nigeria, Mr. Aluko was reportedly holed up in his Swiss mansion located at Catonale 17, 6948 Porza in Tocina, according to a source familiar with his whereabouts. Mr. Aluko is famous as one of the hitherto obscure individuals dusted up by the former Petroleum Minister to be fronts for her billion dollar schemes in the oil sector. A flamboyant man, Mr. Aluko relished his meteoric rise to stupendous wealth, purchasing villas, expensive cars, and a yacht, and partying with movie and entertainment stars in the UK, Europe and the US.
Allegedly he is one of the launderers of billions of dollars cornered by the embattled former Minister of Petroleum and former President Goodluck Jonathan.
There are media reports of some misunderstanding in the triumvirate relationship between former President Jonathan, Madueke and Aluko over the later’s flashy lifestyle. The major contention was centered on Mr. Aluko’s indiscreet and flashy lifestyle, which triggered the former minister’s fears that his opulent acquisitions and taste could attract unwanted attention. According to sources close to both parties, the relationship between Mrs. Alison-Madueke and her front soured badly after Mr. Aluko was seen in numerous photographs accompanied by Ms. Naomi Campbell. They said Mr. Aluko stopped traveling to Nigeria and allegedly absconded with a massive amount of looted money he was supposed to launder for Mr. Jonathan and the former Petroleum Minister.
Aluko, who is based in Nigeria and Switzerland, is a passionate motor sports enthusiast, who races and competes in conjunction with Swiss-based Ferrari team Kessel Racing. In December 2012, Aluko and his Kessel team-mates Thomas Kemenater and Maurizio Mediani came third in the final round of the Endurance Champions Cup held at Rome’s Vallelunga circuit in Italy.
In interviews Aluko often cites the racing car driver Ayrton Senna as a main inspiration, drawing parallels between racing, business and life in general. When asked on his advice for young entrepreneurs, Aluko said, “The key is focus, focus and again focus. Identify the things you are good at, your strengths, and get to work on your weaknesses. The racing car driver Ayrton Senna, a man who inspired me greatly, is a good example. Senna was an exceptional driver, however, initially he was terrible in wet conditions, compared to racing in the dry. But he identified his weakness, and so every time it rained, he jumped into his car, and practiced, practiced, practiced, until he arguably became the best, wet weather driver in history.”
Mr. Aluko’s sudden wealth came from his ownership of Atlantic Energy, a firm that allegedly received generous oil export contracts from the Nigeria National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) six months before it was legally established as a company. Mrs. Alison-Madueke also recommended the award of at least five oil blocks to Atlantic Energy.
It was learnt that Nigerian leader, Muhammadu Buhari hinted that the Swiss and the UK government were collaborating with Nigeria to retrieve some of its stolen wealth and bring perpetrators of financial crimes to justice. A Reuters news report confirms that the Swiss Attorney General has confirmed requests by the Nigerian government to arrest Mr. Aluko
Kola Aluko was once ranked by Forbes Africa as one of the 40th Richest Africans, as well as included in the Top Ten list of Successful African Entrepreneurs pharmacist.
Aluko co-founded Besse Oil, a pioneering oil trading company among other concerns in Nigeria in 1995. Besse Oil, one of the first to obtain a creditline with major international banks, traded crude oil and fuel oil, as well as being a major importer of gasoline.
In spite of his questionable stupendous wealth, not much is known about his social life in Nigeria. Elusive and self-effacing at home, but visible in the social circle abroad where he flaunts his wealth with abandon, cavorting with Hollywood greats and cat walk queens on the globe.