CLOSE-UP: From shoe seller to real estate tycoon — the grass-to-grace story of Femi Osibona

On Monday, tragedy brought Femi Osibona into the news. For some Nigerians, he is the owner of the 21-storey building that collapsed in Ikoyi, Lagos. Before the unfortunate incident, he was perhaps mostly known to members of the upper class in society. But there is more to this developer who was on the verge of building the first of its kind luxury apartment in Nigeria.

Who is Femi Osibona?

Olufemi Adegoke Osibona (Femi Fourscore) is a native of Ikenne, Ogun State. The sexagenarian is the managing director of Fourscore Homes, a real estate development firm.

He attended Mayflower School in Ikenne before heading for Croydon University in the United Kingdom to study business and finance for his HND.

‘Built by divine consultation’

Speaking at an event organised by the Commonwealth of Zion Assembly (COZA) on July 4, 2021, Matthew Ashimolowo, senior pastor of Kingsway International Christian Centre (KICC) in London, said Osibona came to him for divine consultation on where he should take his investments to.

Ashimolowo said he first met Osibona in 2001 when he came to preach at an event organised by the Redeemed Christian Church of God (RCCG).

According to him, the developer sought him after listening to his teachings on salvation and wealth creation.

“After listening to my tapes, he built 12 apartments in London, sold eight, kept four. Then he came to me again and said, ‘pastor Matthew, lay hands on me; where should I go again?’ After I’d laid hands the first time, he said ‘where should I go again? I want to go to South Africa; please pray for me.’ I prayed for him,” he said.

“Ladies and gentlemen, he went to South Africa and built 125 houses in the highbrow area of Centurion, next door to Johannesburg. He broke through exponentially.

“Then, he calls me and says: ‘where are you, sir? I want to come to you.’ I said ‘I’m in Ghana preaching’. He jumps on a plane and flies to Ghana from South Africa. He comes and says ‘where should I go again?’ I said, ‘look, I’m not your financial adviser. Go and meet your financial adviser.’ He said ‘you’re doing better than them.’ So, I laid hands on him, prayed for him and I said ‘go to Nigeria, your country’.

From selling shoes to international real estate development

In a 2019 interview with ThisDay, Osibona said he sold shoes and suits as far back as 1991 before venturing into real estate development six years later.

“I started selling shoes in July, 1991 after I finished my HND in the UK, and later sold suits but I stopped in 1998 and I started real estate development and purchase of property in 1997. I also noticed that many Nigerians at that time were reluctant to go into construction but I believed anything was possible with God on my side,” Osibona said.

According to Ashimolowo, Osibona had also sold shirts and ties in Abuja.

Osibona said his company is a member of the NHBRC (National Home Builders Registration Council) in South Africa and Zurich Building Guarantee in Europe.

“We have exhibited our expertise in property development in the United Kingdom, South Africa, the United States of America and Nigeria. Fourscore Homes possesses uncommon capabilities in redefining property development in any market we choose to play in,” he said.

Man of many firsts

Osibona started his real estate business in London in 1997. He is said to be the first African developer to construct a seven-storey building, located at 113, Albion Drive, London Fields, E8, 4LZ, in East London. He then moved to South Africa in 2009 where he built six luxury units of houses called Fourscore Mansions in Waterkloof, Pretoria.

“I was one of the people whose real estate developments led to the growth of East London. I bought a house on New Cross Road and renovated it. I also bought a piece of land behind it and built two flats there, and that is what I will call my first real estate project. That was how I started building houses for sale. Renowned Juju music maestro, Ebenezer Obey visited the property when he was in London,” he said.

Osibona said, 360 Degrees Towers, the ill-fated structure, was designed to be the first of its kind in Nigeria, and that the structure “will give peace of mind and comfort to the residents, because everything works”.

A friend of the Momodus

Osibona is friends with a number of renowned Nigerians including Dele Momodu and Abdulrosheed Akanbi, Oluwo of Iwo.

Momodu often shares pictures and videos of Osibona on his social media handles. On Tuesday, Momodu shared a video of his wife, Mobolaji in the company of Osibona and three Italians, at the top floor of the now collapsed building.

“Mobolaji and I have been inundated with calls from families, friends and others asking if we were fine… We thank everyone for their concerns but we can’t be exactly fine when we have friends and staff who are still being rescued from the site of the building collapse,” Momodu captioned the video.

‘Run after God if you want to be rich’

Osibona is an evangelist and a philanthropist. He is a member of the Celestial Church of Christ (CCC) and a lover of the pulpit.

Speaking with Celestial Ovation Talk Show in December 2018 on how he became a member of CCC, Osibona said he lost his job in 1987 and was invited to the church by a cousin.

“In 1987 I was sacked from where I was working in London and that was what made me to join the church. It was a cousin of mine in London, Ade Awosanya, that took me to the church. I went to him, I didn’t want to lose my job, believing something will happen. He took me to the church and by the grace of God, coming to the church, I met Jesus,” he said.

In another video posted by RCCG, he said anyone who wants to be rich should run after God and not just depend on pastors.

“I want you to understand the point that many people do not understand, I think 98 percent of Christians do not understand. Millionaire in dollars, the man said ‘I speak to God in the night and God speaks to me’. I held that point. Millionaire dey talk to God?

“If you want to be rich if you want to be great as a Christian I advise you run after God, decide to know God for yourself. All these prophets, all these pastors, if you don’t decide to know God for yourself, they will come to you and give you message. It is true they heard from God o, but they will manipulate you.”

‘My flats caught fire and brought me blessings’

For Osibona, the collapse of his building in Ikoyi is not the first time his structures will suffer damage. In his talk with Celestial Ovation Talk Show, Osibona narrated how four of his 24 flats in Atlanta, Georgia, were razed, but the incident turned out to be a blessing for him.

“In an area in America, Atlanta to be precise, I had an apartment of 24 flats and four of them caught fire. By the time the insurance were going to pay me, I was worried I was sad. The money they give to me for four flats was more than what I used to buy the whole 24,” he said.

“Later I sold the remaining 20 that are standing. The difference in what the insurance paid me and what I sold the remaining 20 flats is not up to 10%.

Osibona is reported to have been inside the building when it collapsed and is allegedly still trapped beneath the rubbles. His family, friends and well-wishers are but hoping that as he believed, God will convert this incident to joy.

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