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Trouble in Gbenga Oyebode’s paradise… As CFAO Group loses Mitsubishi franchise

Renowned commercial lawyer, Gbenga Oyebode, MFR, is obsessed with the idea of making his mark on history. No wonder his entire career has been a case study in successful professional endeavours. But his appointment as the chairman of CFAO Nigeria Plc, one of Nigeria’s oldest conglomerates engaged in the sale of manufactured goods like automobiles and pharmaceutical products among others, is turning out to be a tactical misadventure. Except the self-effacing billionaire wields his famed mojo, and fast too, the company’s tailspin into the doldrums is as certain as the sun rising from the east.

Oyebode, a former chairman of Access Bank Plc and boardroom guru, was appointed CFAO’s chairman in April making him the fourth indigenous Nigerian to occupy the position. A statement issued by the French company averred, “Oyebode brings his vast boardroom experience to bear on the CFAO Group in Nigeria…His appointment is timely and noteworthy in view of the economic reality and investment environment in the country at the moment.” Indeed, Oyebode came well-acquitted for the role but the reality he met was different.

Hardly had he settled in office than CFAO’s agelong relationship with Mitsubishi Motors was severed. Before now, Mitsubishi was one of the cash cows of CFAO Motors, accounting for about 75 percent of its business volume. That is no longer the case however. CFAO has lost the Mitsubishi franchise when the new chairman still familiarizing himself with his directors. Prior to his coming, CFAO Nigeria had been struggling to keep up, especially in the area of staff retention and a poor management style and porous decision-taking that have resulted in some of the organisation’s good hands departing the company unceremoniously. A major casualty was the former group head of human resources, Wole Ayanleke, who joined the company from Globacom.

Expectedly, the upheaval has left a huge dent on the company’s books as revenues have dropped significantly leaving some of the group’s subsidiaries, notably CFAO Equipment and CFAO Yamaha, with no choice but to draw the curtain on their Nigerian odyssey. At CFAO Equipments, the struggle to stay afloat led to the mass disengagement of its workforce.

A source told The Capital that at Yamaha, a clash of management decisions between its two major stakeholders, CFAO of France and Yamaha Motors of Japan is at the heart of the crisis which got to a head recently when two of the representative directors of the company, Fuji Hisashi and Aishat Ali Diouf were recalled by their individual organizations. Yamaha’s Managing Director, Olivier Levigne, is reportedly also not helping matters with the shoddy way he is going about his attempt to break the stronghold of Bajaj Motorcycles, Yamaha’s major competitor. Where does Oyebode go from here?


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