By Toyosi Akerele-Ogunsiji
I am terrified by the torrent of misconceptions & misrepresentations that have taken over the social media space in the last 96 hours regarding the unfortunate tussle between one of Nigeria’s most celebrated Founders and CEO of Health Plus, the Nation’s largest chain of Pharmacies, Mrs. Bukky George and her Private Equity Investors, Alta Semper Capital LLC UK.
In the spirit of full disclosure and proudly so, I have known Mrs. George very closely for about 10 years and to say that she has evolved into a towering figure of grit, tenacity, professionalism and the relentless pursuit of excellence in Service Delivery, Enterprise Building and Development within Africa’s Entrepreneurship and Economic Landscape, is really, more than stating the obvious.
The prevailing realities and facts in the issue relating to the ongoing debacle between both parties call for caution amongst Nigerians and social commentators, especially those who’ve never built and managed a Business in our harsh business climate of uncertainties and multiple complexities.
For Mrs. Bukky George to have started Health Plus from ground zero and built it in a brick and mortar fashion into a Multi-Million Dollar Business solid enough to attract Foreign Investment of about $18Million Dollars is no mean feat on many Levels. Medicines are not Food nor Fast Moving Consumer Goods hence you’ve got to be really good to turn out as great as Health Plus has. How many businesses have attained the level of Health Plus in Nigeria’s History since Independence? Let me add, how many “women-founded/led” businesses have swam against the tide and survived the murky waters of Nigeria? How many wholly indigenous Companies grow into their 20th Year of existence, established presence in 11 out of Nigeria’s 36 States and developed/trained globally competitive local human capital of almost 1000 employees from all walks of Life and various fields of study?
May I respectfully ask that Nigerians please slow down with the varying information and inconsistent percentages flying around like Kites as figures that Mrs. George purportedly ceded to her PE Investors while Regulators, Policy Makers and the Judiciary recognize and utilize this as an opportunity for the Reforms and increased commitment to the budgetary allocation and investments in the Country’s Health Sector?
What sort of Healthcare Intervention Funds are required to support Local Companies to thrive, scale and become sustainable? What Protectionist Polices do our State and Local Governments need to set in motion to preserve and strengthen Healthcare Service Providers like Health Plus?
I take significant note of the fact that Contents of Agreements are to be honored but there are guidelines and due processes in the change of Management and Recapitalization of Enterprises. It is my opinion that whatever actions to be taken herein must not fall short of international best practices regarding the Subject Matter in contention. I also believe that the Legal Documents that legitimize the relationship of both Parties would have contained Amendment & Dispute Resolution Clauses and I strongly recommend that all parties be guided by their provisions in accordance with the Laws of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
In our Country, in addition to the Funding, Land, Staff, Professional Qualifications and Competence Entrepreneurs that require to set up and run their Businesses, be ready to also commit your Sweat, Blood and if possible, “Vital Body Organs” to the growth of the Company. It’s not very easy in here – many have tried Entreneurship and humbly quit to return to Paid Employment. It’s one thing to have owned and built a Company for over 20 years and willingly take a walk away to a higher calling in an equally rewarding and profitable endeavor; it’s another for your compulsory exit to happen amidst controversial circumstances.
I am hopeful that these knotty Issues will be resolved devoid of any acrimony or rancor especially because the continued existence of Health Plus in the safe hands of its competent Founder who has demonstrated incredible understanding of our unique business environment, introduced the application of tech innovation in the Health Sector, provided effective leadership and used her capabilities to drive large scale growth remains pivotal to the continued success of Health Plus and the pride of place it gives Nigeria as the largest and fast growing Pharmaceutical Business in Sub-Saharan Africa.
Nigeria must protect a Sterling Brand as Health Plus and this is not a nostalgic nor emotional Submission. I understand the underlying dynamics around Investments and Private Equity and I just want what works best for all Parties.