Chief Bassey Ndiokho

Chief Bassey Ndiokho

December 30
10:13 2020

Chief Bassey Udo Ndiokho (1939 – 2013) epitomized the term “indefatigable”. This quiet but resolute man from Akwa Ibom dedicated almost three decades of his life to serving UAC Nigeria. He was appointed Chief Executive Officer and Chairman of the board in 1993, at a time when it’s then parent company, Unilever, the Anglo-Dutch multinational had just divested. One may recall that the sheer size of the behemoth called UAC PLC up to this point, was one of the factors which put his immediate predecessor as CEO, Chief Ernest Sonekan, in good stead, when Military President Ibrahim Babangida’s government sought to appoint a respected and nationally acknowledged administrator to head the proposed Interim National Government. The baton passed on to Chief Ndiokho to lead what remained of the company after Unilever’s exit could however best be described as a “hospital pass” as failure appeared imminent. The biggest and most profitable areas of business were taken away by Unilever when they pulled out but Chief Ndiokho refused to bow to the daunting odds. The phrase made popular by Margaret Thatcher, the late former British Prime Minister which says, “this Lady is not for turning” springs to mind whenever one looks at Bassey Ndiokho’s story. Despite the obvious temptation to quit in the face of what appeared to be an insurmountable task, Chief Ndiokho, believed in his ability to rise up to the challenge. Never one to draw unnecessary attention to himself, he began to make big, bold but in retrospect, well calculated moves which took everyone by surprise, including his own staff; many of whom later admitted that they had one leg in and one leg out, as they desperately sought opportunities to abandon what everyone thought was a sinking ship.

To Chief Ndiokho is credited for the complete turnaround in the fortunes of UAC Development Company because of how he was able to innovatively evolve it. He then went ahead to make some totally unexpected acquisitions as UAC acquired CAP PLC, the coatings business which boasts of the premium paint brand Dulux, as it’s flagship brand. Dulux remains the leading authority in this sector; Grand Cereals Limited, which has since established itself as a major player in the agro based industry. Amongst it’s popular brands are the Grand Pure Soya Oil, Grand Cornflakes, Binggo Dog Food and animal feeds; and Spring Waters Nig Ltd, producers of the popular SWAN bottled water. Slowly but surely he was able take his company out of the woods and began to place it on very sturdy footing. In his characteristically stoic but self assured manner, he was able to prove wrong all the skeptics, both within and outside of the company, who didn’t believe a wholly Nigerian owned UAC PLC would survive, let alone succeed. But succeed it did. This is the stuff  legends are made of.

An accomplished man, Chief Bassey Ndiokho held several other highly prized positions during his lifetime. He was appointed the Pro Chancellor of Akwa Ibom University of Technology; held the Chairmanship of Enterprise Development International and was also a non-Executive Director of Union Bank PLC.

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December 2020