Adeoye Ojuoko, a workaholic who is gained fame in the automobile business, is the founder of Work and Play (motorsport) event. He recently spoke with journalists at the venue of this year’s event which held at Alara-Mokin, Ondo state.
What motivated you into organising the motor rallies?
My involvement is basically to create employment. As you can see, with this event, we have created direct and indirect jobs through the invited guests occupying hotels around the venue; people providing the food and drinks throughout the event period; the drivers and scores of people hired to fix things here for the show, the stage, the track and other items; the showbiz people, camera men, photographers and others. You can imagine the overall impact on the economy. A guy came to me and said with excitement that we must be having this programme regularly. It gives many people a lot of fun beside the economic impact.
How did you come about the programme?
It was accidental. Lafarge happens to be my good customer. I had been thinking of giving back something to them. I wanted to organise a golf tournament and other related things that would take care of everyone including the junior workers. I decided to bring out our tractors (which we sell at SMT) to prepare the arena. But it was impossible to bring all the tractors out. Then I considered the idea of a motor rally. I employed a consultant. She came up with a good name, Work and Play. We had the first one in Sagamu, Ogun State, on the Children’s Day. I wasn’t too sure how it will turn out so I had to dress like a clown with some of my friends covering our faces, in case it flopped. But it came out to be something unique and memorable for the children.
Some TV stations came to cover the rally. I was personally touched by the joy I saw on the faces of the children; they shed tears of joy because they saw live things they had not really experienced before. When I came to the office, my chairman, Chief Michael Ade.Ojo, said I did the event without telling him. He said he saw it on the TV and commended it.
So you got encouraged by Chief Ade.Ojo?
Yes, he encouraged me to build on it. Then, we started planning the next one and how to make it better. We bought a motor rally car; which we called Tiger. But the unfortunate thing was that I knocked the engine the first day I drove it. We got someone to repair it; we bought the second one and I began to think of how to make the car in Nigeria. Then I started looking for a technical partner. I found Argo (Raak) when he came for the rally. Now, we build the car in Nigeria.
How much have you invested in the events?
We have invested so much and we’ll continue to invest. But this one is sponsored by Toyota Nigeria Limited. We are trying to look at the idea of creating a good environment for motorsport events as well as test drives. One major thing the automobile industry in Nigeria lacks is an avenue or a centre to compare the performance of different brands of vehicles.
For instance, the Toyota test drive has shown how people can use the two-wheel or L2 to do a lot more than they think.
What is the prospect of other automakers, dealers coming to take part in the motorsport?
We are living in a competitive market. Buyers should be given the opportunity to see the performance of what they want to buy. Many customers don’t have the knowledge; they just choose this over that.
What we are doing is not for Toyota alone; what we have built is for other brands and dealerships too. They will be given the opportunity for their customers to test drive new vehicles and engage them well in what they are doing. We are reaching out to everyone.
How has this event helped tourism?
We combine what we’re doing with promoting tourism industry and Nigeria as a country. The first time I had it in my home town, we had two flights one day fully booked coming this way.
We are doing off-road rally at the Smokin Hill, Ilara-Mokin because of the terrain and we are building track there with the support of Chief Ade.Ojo.
We have the Ondo auto rally, which normally comes up in April; it is an on-road rally in front of the Governor’s Office in Akure.
It has become a passion for me; it started from my home town and it is growing.