Home Entrepreneurship Houseboy To Billionaire: Success Story of Dr. Poly Emenike

Houseboy To Billionaire: Success Story of Dr. Poly Emenike

Dr. Poly Emenike

There are some levels of grass-to-grace stories that
sometimes make one doubt its authenticity. One of such is the sudden turnaround
in fortune for Dr. Poly Emenike,
chairman of Victoria Island-based Neros
Pharmaceuticals Limited.

In a typical African setting, it is expected that a child
primary education starts from 4 to 6 years (away from the myth of putting your
right hand across the head to touch your left ear) and possibly gained
admission into secondary school by the time he attains the age of 11 or 12
years. This is not so in the case of Emenike.
At the age of 32, with a wife, children and a thriving
enterprise, the hustling young man reportedly enrolled as a pupil at Ansar-Ud-Deen Grammar School in Surulere
area of Lagos, oddly wearing school uniform like his far younger schoolmates.
The butt of jokes at the time, many thought the jeers he
sometimes received and the strange looks onlookers gave him would make him
throw in the towel. Nay! Emenike forged ahead with the quest for higher
knowledge that he missed out during his formative years. And in 1988, the
effort paid off as he completed his O’ Level. 
His hunger for academic excellence further drove him to University of Lagos where he obtained
his BSc and MSc in 1997 and 1999 respectively. Just when you think that the
Neros boss has seen it all, he capped his academic laurels with a doctorate
degree at the International School of Management, Paris, France in 2012. Also,
in his kitty are certificates from Harvard
Business School
and Lagos Business
School / Pan African University
Emenike with comedian Holy Mallam during his 60th birthday

Before you start thinking What a rosy life he has,’ let us
look at his humble beginning and why he had to delay his secondary education
until the age of 32.
Born on November 28, 1955, at Nnanka in Orumba North Local
area of present day Anambra State to a peasant farmer and a
petty trading mother, the pharmaceutical icon is the sixth child in a family of
eight. He was baptised and enrolled in schools managed by the churches even
though his parents were not Christians. In the face of abject poverty that
overwhelmed his family, Emenike struggled to attend primary school but his
ambition was huge.
“In those days, as we went to Church, we passed through the
house of the richest man in the town, Chief
Aaron Obijiofor
. He owned a Zephyr 4
luxury car, which everybody admired. On the wall of his house was an
inscription ‘A. N. Obijiofor & Sons.’
I recalled then that anytime I played on the ground, I would scribble ‘P. I. Emenike & Sons in the sand.”
It was when Obijiofor built and commissioned the biggest
house in Nanka town in 1964 that Emenike saw policemen for the first time and
he was thrilled by their dexterity at controlling the traffic. This scenario,
he admitted, inspired him greatly.
However on completion of his primary education in 1971, the
teenager dream of gaining admission into secondary school was cut short despite
passing his Common Entrance Examinations
in flying colours.
Posted to Uturu Ihie
which was considered far from his village, he sought for admission with his
mates at a nearby school. To his astonishment, he was not allowed to go.
Another attempt to go to Christ the King
College (CKC), Onitsha
, was also frustrated.
When life was becoming unbearable in the village, he was sent
to live with his maternal uncle, Philip
Ezebilo Umeadi
, a lawyer Onitsha. So in 1972, he arrived in Onitsha to
start a new life.
“A few days after I arrived in Onitsha, my uncle told me that
my new job was to serve as an office boy which entailed going to court with
him, where I got most of the law books. He also allocated to me the task of
cooking food in his house. He assured me however that he would be saving my
salary for me.”
Among other things, the young man was also in charge of
collecting transport fares from clients for out of station services, car
conductor for his uncle’s right-hand steering car and also in care of his law
books. Despite performing his chores diligently, Emenike derived no
satisfaction as he sorely missed the classroom he loved dearly. 
The matter was further
worsened by his classmates from CKC, Onitsha who occasionally visited him on
their way back from school on weekends. Rather than being comforted by their
visits, he was emotionally traumatised by them. The return of his uncle’s wife,
Nora and their daughter, Nneka in 1973 meant additional responsibility of
school runs and hawking pastries for his aunty-in-law.
After spending what looked like eternity (three years precisely)
in his uncle’s house without being allowed to go to school, Emenike started
putting up an act of resistance. With the intervention of his elder brother,
Emenike was sent off to Benin City, Edo State, to learn a trade. But the
journey was short-lived as he resolved never to suffer the same fate that
befell him during his short spell with his uncle. He returned to Onitsha in
1974 and started apprenticeship in the business of shoe making. A year after,
with the meagre sum of N300 his uncle saved for him, Emenike started his own
shoe business, trading on rubber slippers. A business he felt would not
guarantee a future of wealth and comfort he desired –for he wanted to drive a
Volvo car like Alhaji Kadiri and his
brother, both of whom he bought wares from in Lagos. To better his lot, he
decided to embark on international trade.

“It was difficult to
make such painful decision to stop a vocation in which one has been involved
for five years and plunge into a new one, which is relatively unknown,” Emenike

He was convinced he wasn’t going to fail but first he needed
to sort out certain things, settle his senior assistant and what was left, he
divided into two his savings and jetted out in 1980. That was –for him –the
beginning of international trade on clothes.
This explained why he took daring steps when challenged. He
kept faith with his plans, allowing nothing or anyone to distract him. His
suicidal mission to Vietnam, with only $150, travelling on bikes, tricycles and
being harassed by immigration for insufficient funds was a story in
determination. It was a journey that brought him breakthroughs and immeasurable
In the course of his struggling to remain afloat, Emenike’s
encounter with Dr. Napoleon Hill’s
writings early in his business career completely transformed his outlook on
life and business as well. The works of Hill, he disclosed, drove him to the
pinnacle of his successes in life. Emenike first came in contact with the work
of Hill in 1978, in mysterious circumstances, when he bought a copy of ‘Success Through a Positive Mental
co-authored with Clement
. With his little level of education then, he was greatly inspired by
the teachings that he read it repeatedly for two years. Owing to its numerous
references to ‘Think And Grow Rich’,
he bought a copy of the book in 1980.
L-R: James L. Oleson and Chief Poly I. Emenike

Since the day of Emenike stumbled on Hill’s writings, he has
remained his apostle as he owed about 95 per cent of his success stories to the
application of the principles Hill advocated in his various teachings.
The pharma billionaire
realised the role of education early in his business life. Despite his
educational setback, he took correspondence courses both locally and
internationally that could help in his businesses. Luck however ran out on him
one day when he wanted to enrol as a member of Institute of Management, he was
required to fill details of his O’ Level
. That was the momentary setback that fired up his zeal to complete
his secondary school education and reach the pinnacle of his success.
Despite opposition from close friends and relations, he enrolled
to continue his secondary education from where he stopped at Ansar-Ud-Deen
Grammar School, Surulere, Lagos. 
Today Emenike sits atop immense wealth. There is no gain
saying the fact that Emenike has found the wealth and fame he earnestly
desired. His ambition to compete with billionaires like the oil mogul like Femi Otedola, telecom guru like Mike Adenuga and Africa’s richest man, Aliko Dangote has been met. From being
poor and hapless, the 60-year-old has advanced from trading in rubber slippers,
to clothing and now into pharmaceutical business. Artesunate, the anti-malaria drug he discovered and imported from
Vietnam, is today a household brand, amidst other successful pharmaceutical
Far from his ambition of owning a Volvo car, Emenike has added
a Rolls Royce Phantom to the collection of classic automobiles in his garage. Besides,
Neros Pharmaceutical, the firm he founded, has been rated one of the leading
brands in Nigeria. The company has grown into a multi-billion dollar ultra
modern factory, located in Ota, Ogun State employing thousands of Nigerians and
as well, produce world class drugs with branches in Ghana, Angola, and
Democratic Republic of Congo among others.
Looking back to his years of struggle to date, the
billionaire has this much to say:

“It is important for
people to read my book because Nigeria is a country where people are looking
for miracle. There is nothing like miracle. There is nothing like good luck or
bad luck. There is nothing like being focused, knowing where you are going,
having clear vision, working as hard as possible then follow your line of
action, you will make it no matter the time. The caveat there is that enduring
success takes time. If you read my book, you will see that I read the Napoleon
Hill book in 1978. And since 1978 you will see ups and downs. Like I said, a
man’s life is not a straight line graph. It is a moving average; you will be
falling. In my case, I fell almost 15 times but I did not lose focus. That was
why I was able to make it in life.”

What more can a man ask for?
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Adebayo Folorunsho-Francis is a communicator, Journalist, blogger, business coach and, of course, a prolific writer. He has Dip (Journalism) and B.A. (History & International Relations) from the Lagos State University (LASU). The self-effacing young man has worked for national, regional and local newspapers. He had worked with THISDAY covered community news for ISLAND NEWS and corresponded with P.M. NEWS (evening tabloid). Presently, he is the editor of CITYPULSE MEDIA and senior correspondent of PHARMANEWS, West Africa foremost health and pharmaceutical journal.


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