Posted by Ifedayo Oshin on Tuesday, October 20, 2015

“Nothing is impossible with those who believe and are determined”, this statement best captures the struggles and triumphs of Mr. Olatunji Samson Abdul also known as TJ Bright in South Africa. The Nigerian man whose story is a lesson in listening to the inner mind, doggedness, determination, diligence and integrity of character mixed with clear vision and direction.

Persuaded by youthful exuberance and daredevil determination to succeed, TJ Bright left the shores of Nigeria looking for greener pastures abroad. A teacher and mathematician by training, TJ Bright left a budding career in educational services in Nigeria for better opportunities in South Africa. “I was looking for greener pasture. Actually, Nigeria is a good country and it is good to invest in your country, but to us then as young generation, we saw greener pasture abroad”, he explained.

Arriving in South Africa in 2009, it dawned on the Lagos-born former Physics lecturer, that the grass is not always greener on the other side as expected before he left Nigeria. Not someone to give up or give in, Mr. Olatunji took advantage of his love for education and particularly for Mathematics as anchor in tidal wave of harsh South African economy. He started offering part-time Maths tutorials to students while he enrolled and pursued a degree in Mathematics and Statistics with UNISA. He mentioned how his Mathematical expertise got him into school and put food on his table.  “I discovered Mathematics is a general problem in the whole of Africa and I was very good in Mathematics. That was what motivated me to go and study Mathematics and Statistics part-time at UNISA, while I was hustling for a living”.

Mr. Olatunji’s experience is a school of learning for Nigerians in South Africa in many ways. The Yaba College of Technology trained Engineer, emphasizes the need for learning to grow, the importance of starting small and gaining experience as well as building trust through integrity of character. After graduating from UNISA in 2012, Mr. Olatunji cut his teeth in South African business, by working as Personal Assistant to a company director.  According to him, this was a major break and later exposure to working of business in South Africa. Although, he spent 6 months at the company, the lessons learnt there became the pivot on which he was able to launch his own business.

However for Mr. Olatunji, the road to success was pelted with many stones and rocks to the point that he considered giving up and returning home. “There was a particular year that was so tough for me, I cannot forget that year. It was in 2010, things were very tough. I was even thinking of going back home, but something kept telling me to stay because it is better than going home because there was nothing at home after we lost our father and things became difficult”, TJ Bright recollected.

Another low moment for him was when he was fired from his job after experiencing serious exhaustion as a result of the demands of the job. Yet, the stronger person in him urged him to go on. He narrated how the inner voice came back to him at this trying moment; “I went home and crying for loosing the job and I wondered how I was going to survive after that. Something told me to stop looking for job, but rather give people job. I just took up courage and started working here and there and reconnecting with those customers I have met through my previous company”.

Things came together for the man who was determined to be successful. Mr. Olatunji went from being a jobless man to having his own car and a consultancy business, liquor store and a nightclub in the making. How did he do it? Mr. Olatunji said it was a matter of taking a decision and pursuing the object of your interest. Money does not have to be a problem.  “I decided to open my company in 2012. It is a company that ventured into visa processing, permits and even properties. This made me to know a lot of people in Gauteng. I saw opportunity in liquor business, but many people discouraged me saying it is difficult and impossible. I started gathering money to buy an already existing bottle store. I found one which I bought for R480,000. I renovated it nicely and launched in June 2013. And then I got this place- Hydro lounge, which is like a club. I am planning to make it into a club. I am running it in partnership with my younger brother.

Apart from his determination, Mr. Olatunji showed the character of a well-bred Nigerian man who values the importance of having a mentor in one’s life. He spoke glowingly of his mentor, whom he also called elder brother, Mr. Sunmi Francis who is now the president African Young Entrepreneurs in Nigeria. Mr. Olatunji attributed some of the secrets of his success to the supportive role his mentor played in his life. Speaking of his mentor, he said; “he thought me so many things when I was with him because he is also an educated person. He was guiding me all through my schooling until I started working”.

A man of vision does not rest on his oars. Mr. Olatunji still has a lot of fire in his bones. He is determined to keep acquiring more clubs and also build hotels even as he gives other people opportunity to grow. “I am planning to make it into a club. I am running it in partnership with my younger brother. I just encouraged him to invest and not waste his money. I got here last year and I renovated it.  We are still working on Hydro club and Hydro hotel”.

Yet, he does not believe that he has arrived. As a matter of fact, for him, he has not achieved anything. “I am not saying that I have made it or I am successful. I still see myself as I am nothing. People who are younger than me have achieved many things” said the man popularly called TJ Bright.

In the conclusion of the inspiring interview with Mr. Olatunji, he hammered on integrity; a major character attributes lacking among many Nigerians in South Africa. While advising Nigerians to be focus and be determined, he stressed the need for integrity above all, as the secret to his sustenance and growth in South Africa. He advised; “as Nigerians in South Africa, one thing is you must understand about South Africa is that it is a country where your integrity must be very strong. It is a country where people betray each other but with integrity and trust, you can make it. So, people can entrust their lives into your hands”.

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