When Chief Isaac Akinkunmi, the Chief Executive Officer of Tito Group of Companies and owner of the renowned TitogateEatery, arrived in Benue State 35 years ago, it was to serve his nation under the mandatory one-year National Youth Service Corps programme.
However, as fate would have it, the young man decided to make the state his home and since then, he has become not only a member of the community but one of its prominent ones.
In the last 35 years, Akinkunmi has been helping to build the economy of his adopted state through many enterprises he had set up. Over the years, he has become a household name in assisting individuals in the community through his philanthropy. As a beacon of hope, he has greatly enhanced the lives of people in many communities in Benue State.
Through his various works, he has offered hope to the less privileged and showed compassion to widows. He seeks out orphans and other vulnerable children, providing them with scholarships and also financially support petty traders to boosttheir businesses.
In an interview with the Daily Trust on Sunday, Akinkunmi said he was inspired to help others by what happened to his children.
“The motivation is that my own children are all schooling in the United States and I’m not spending any amount to train them; it’s just by chance, not by my own making. So, it’s my belief that those of us above poverty level should try to help those in need, especially at this time when families and children are on the street. When you call and ask why they are not in school while their mates are learning, they tell you about their inability to pay school fees and I feel moved.
“So, I felt that I should be able to help children of the less privileged and get them back to school.I also try to do something to lift up those who are unemployed or handicapped, to better their lives. I believe it’s unfair when you eat and have left overs in your home while people around you are hungry. It doesn’t make any sense and my Bible teaches me that anyone who closes his eyes to the cry for the poor; he himself will cry out and not be heard. That’s my motivation but the greatest is that, I’m not the one going out to look for assistance. I used the opportunity to worship God for placing me in a position where I’m able to help others,” he said.
Chief Akinkunmi has also used one of his major companies, Tito Yoghurt, to integrate himself into the local community. Beyond providing employment opportunities for many, the organisation consistently engages in acts of corporate social responsibility. They have played a pivotal role in mobilising volunteers for blood donations, supported victims of conflicts, sponsored children’s education, covered hospital bills for the sick, and even provided for beggars at their premises to ensure their customers’ comfort.
Additionally, the company offers full scholarships to indigent secondary school students, organise annual events like free food distribution on World Food Day, and actively contribute to the community’s development by rehabilitating streets.
A beneficiary of the businessman’s kind gesture, Veronica Ogwunaji, a trader, was in tears when she narrated how Akinkunmi lifted her from the doldrums of poverty.
Ogwunaji said, “I’m so happy for what the owner of Titogate did for me and I pray that God will bless him. I’m a widow and he remembered us. Before, I couldn’t afford a meal for my household but he gave me capital to start a business. He also placed my son on scholarship to enable him return to school.”
Similarly, Chidera Chinwe, another beneficiary, narrated how Akinkunmi picked him up from the street while he was wandering during school hours and offered him the opportunity to go to school.
“That particular day, I was just loitering around during school hours because I had dropped out of school. There was no money for me to go to school so when he saw me, he beckoned on me. I drew closer and greeted him. He asked why I wasn’t in school; I then narrated my plight to him and from that moment, he took me to his office and made the necessary inquiries about me. It was from there he offered me a scholarship,” Chinwe, a 12-year-old explained.
Meanwhile, Chief Akinkunmi has hope of doing more philanthropic work in the future across states in the country and beyond. “What I will do more that I had in mind would be beyond the shores of Nigeria because I’m concerned about parts of Africa that are really not free or independent.
“The independence of the francophone countries is not really independence but honeymoon on the bed of thorns. Their independence is tied to the way France wants it because they were given independence with the right hand but withdrawn with the left hand through a so-called cooperation path that they were armed twisted to sign at independence in which they have to pay colonial tax in perpetuity to their colonial master. So, they will have to fight on the path of France in the event of war.
“For instance, in the event France invades Nigeria, the Hausa man in Niger must fight on the side of France to kill his brother separated by colonial boundary in Kano, Jigawa or Kastinastates and the Yoruba man in Benin Republic must assist France to fight the Yoruba man in Ogbomosho, Lagos, Ife and so on. It’s not like the leaders in that countries want it but the democracy is not serving their people, but rather serving the interest of their formal colonial master.
“So, I want to come in and talk, that’s what I want to do in future. I want our government to begin to look at our foreign policy which gave birth to our complete independence. We should try to do the same for our sister Francophone African countries that are not truly Independent. It’s we (Nigeria) that can help them gain true independence.”
Chief Akinkunmi, who was once the President of the Yoruba Community in Benue State, started his business venture with just N17, 000 producing yoghurt back in 1988. Today, his enterprise employs over 400 people and operates in more than 90 percent of Nigeria’s states. The company’s commitment to making a positive impact on society has been their driving force since the beginning.
Reflecting on his background, Chief Akinkunmi, said he hailed from Ogbomosho in Oyo State but was born in a tin mining village in Plateau State and received his education in various parts of Nigeria, ultimately graduating with a degree in Mass Communication from the University of Lagos.
His remarkable journey includes winning a prestigious award during his university days, which funded his education and a two-week tour of Western Europe and the United States.
Chief Akinkunmi’s career path took an unexpected turn when he was chosen as the sales manager for North Brewery while still a youth corper. He was sent to Makurdi, where he successfully reconciled customers and later declined a transfer back to Kano, as he had already started his own business in Makurdi.
Akinkunmi’s story is one of resilience, innovation, and a deep commitment to giving back to the community that embraced them. From humble beginnings to becoming a force for positive change, Chief Akinkunmi and Tito Group have set an inspiring example of corporate success and philanthropy.