By LANRE ALFRED
A Trailblazer’s Odyssey to National Reckoning
Julius Rone, Group Managing Director of Nigerian energy conglomerate UTM Offshore and the head honcho of the much talked about UTMFLNG Limited, is now revered at home and recognised abroad for his protean productivity and impeccable business foresight, spotting goldmines where many see landmines. Blessed with vigorous optimism, a boots-on-the-ground approach to his endeavours, and an unflinching belief in destiny, it did not come as any surprise that barely a decade after he ventured into the oil and gas business, he is leading older, more established players in the industry by the hand. It was a stormy ride to the top, though. But by dint of hard work, Rone personifies the new generation of entrepreneurs who are establishing themselves as young leaders of the private-sector business community in Nigeria
It is often said that to succeed in the oil sector, you must have the heart of Hercules, the fearlessness of Achilles, the grace of Terpsichore, the memory of Macaulay, and the hide of a rhinoceros. Julius Dediare Rone conveniently exudes all of that, thus his ascension to the top of the oil industry’s greasy pole.
When triumph is your story, there is no right or wrong way to tell it. There is no shame in the intensity or duration of the narrative. Sadness, regret, confusion, yearning and all the experiences of grief become part of the narrative of love for the one who triumphed. To relate Julius Rone’s triumph story is to embark on a timeless journey of sorrow and strife; mercilessness and startling compassion, vigour, hope and accomplishment. Triumph could be cruel. It is characteristically rigged to try and taunt and tear a man apart in its bid to tame perceived lust for its perks in its victim, the man. His story may resonate quite familiarly with so many among us. Yet knowledge of the story is mandatory; it is essential to understand the forces that clawed and pawed him into the human element he has become.
Many of us have been on similar journeys and shared identical travails, thus our capacity to grasp the essence of this inspiring back-story. It was never easy being Julius Rone. It is not easy still to recount how he emerged through his daunting crucible to become a product of his dreams. Reading his story could be cathartic; it could cause you to believe again in the romance and pliant realities of heartfelt dreams. It is said that when you tell your dreams to yourself and reinforce them with a will that toils like a steel forge, the universe makes them come true.
Studying Rone’s trajectory to business excellence, which has endeared him to seats of power, influence and wealth from around the world, one would posit that he knew what he wanted early in life when he headed to Ile-Ife to study Business Administration for his first degree. The fact remains that he embarked on that cerebral exploration to fulfil his yearning for a degree. He surely had no inkling he would today be operating at a corporate pedestal where he takes on projects that have national and transnational impacts that positively affect hundreds of millions of people.
Did it occur to Rone that his shoulders would be adjudged formidable enough to bear the burden of eradicating energy poverty in the world’s most populous black nation? Perhaps. Not only has Nigeria reposed such huge confidence in his ability to bail her out of the energy quagmire that has been deviling her for decades; sectoral players in the oil and gas ecosystem now find him one of the most bankable business minds they are willing to partner.
This is the story of Julius Rone.
So far, he has shown himself as strong and able. Rone has continued to inspire confidence, taking up nation-building roles and huge multibillion-dollar investments that leave his contemporaries’ mouths agape. Yet the journey has just started. Rone has vast experience across the water, logistics, maritime, construction and energy sectors. Since the establishment of UTM Offshore in 2012, Rone’s dedication has enabled the firm to expand dredging, marine, offshore support and construction services across Nigeria and the West African region. As a result, UTM Offshore is counted among West Africa’s regional energy giants, with the firm embarking on a series of partnerships with regional and international governments and companies, including Japan’s JGC, Samsung Heavy Industries and US-based KBR, to fast-track the development of oil and gas resources.
UNCONTAINABLE FIRE WITHIN
Rone, in the estimation of many friends and associates, is unarguably cut out for greater roles in the affairs of the country’s industrial sector, but rather than get high on the wings of the lofty hopes about him, he chooses to begin his humble ascent the corridors of acclaim and entrepreneurial power by espousing the morals, personal and professional ethics. The native of Warri, Delta state, through the turbulence of entrepreneurship’s turbulent tides and windstorms, rides the storms like an indefatigable mariner, bolstered by a tenacious spirit and mulish resolve to excel and arrive with his dreams intact on pliant coasts. Today, that unyielding spirit of Rone has paid off. It has seen him through the teething and oft tumultuous stages of the cut-throat world of global commerce till he emerged unhurt and stronger in spirit and resolve, like a champ. That Rone has attained a specialist status in capacity and infrastructure investment in the petroleum industry has been further buttressed by his latest stride, which is the first of its kind in Nigeria.
Under his astute leadership, UTM Offshore is building Nigeria’s first and Africa’s first indigenous floating liquefied natural gas (FLNG) facility – floating production storage and offloading unit that conducts liquefied natural gas operations for developing offshore natural gas resources – thereby spearheading the expansion of Nigeria’s gas market in line with the government’s Decade of Gas Initiative, an initiative that aims to make energy poverty history through the maximisation of gas.
This is well-positioned to shape discussions around the role the continent’s 620 trillion cubic feet of natural gas resources play in lifting the over 600 million people out of energy poverty and providing access to clean cooking to some 900 million people across the continent whilst driving industrialisation and economic growth. With UTM Offshore planning to take a final investment decision on the $5 billion FLNG project in the second quarter of 2023, Rone is poised to redefine infrastructure investment and ensure a sustainable future for Nigerians and other Africans through expanding access to cleaner, safer and reliable energy.
RENOWNED AND HONOURED
Effortlessly, Rone, the Group Managing Director of Nigerian energy conglomerate UTM Offshore, fondly called the ‘Gas King’, personifies the kernel of Vince Lombardi’s famous quote: “Winning is not a sometime thing; it’s an all-the-time thing. You don’t win once in a while; you don’t do things right once in a while; you do them right all of the time. Winning is a habit.” Thus for being a true man of valour and peerless feats, President Muhammadu Buhari approved the conferment of the OFR (Officer of the Order of the Federal Republic) on Rone, come October 11 in Abuja. For Rone, winning is ingrained in his DNA. All his business ventures have been cutting large swaths through the labyrinths of otherwise unprofitable and volatile industries.
Rone will be mounting the African Energy Chamber (AEC) podium as a keynote speaker at this year’s African Energy Week (AEW) conference and exhibition, taking place from October 18 to 21 in Cape Town. Representing one of Nigeria’s engineering heavyweights pushing for the rapid development of energy infrastructure, the participation of Rone as a keynote speaker at Africa’s premier event for the oil and gas sector is crucial for shaping discussions around Africa’s energy future.
Rone wears his entrepreneurial strength and savvy like a badge of honour on his chest, burnishing it with sweat, as true virtuous men do. Rone presents a rare contradiction to the notion that titans are only appreciated in death. He is a titan. He is very much alive and has become a legend in the hearts and minds of men.
“I am so proud of what Julius is doing with gas. We just need more success in Africa, but we need to nurture it, empower it, reward it, and celebrate it. African entrepreneurs like Julius will help create an African gas revolution that will help transform our continent and the economies of many countries… a great opportunity to share his story about building from bottom up and open conversations about opportunities with service providers,” NJ Ayuk, the Executive Chairman of the AEC stated.
He added, “With abundant gas reserves, amazing technologies like FLNG, and an entrepreneurial spirit, Nigeria and Africa will move towards becoming energy self-reliant. Julius’s gas investments will open the door to a previously unimaginable opportunity that will help invigorate a sluggish post covid economic recovery, speed up job creation, spur new investment, and help us defeat the twin evils of energy poverty and climate change.”
EXCELLENCE FOUNDED ON ETHICS AND GRIT
Interestingly, becoming an entrepreneur is not mere lip service; it takes consistent effort and focus on growing from being an entrepreneur interested in a particular business to becoming a respected and renowned empire builder. Nigeria is blessed with many such men who started from scratch, kept their nose to the grindstone and turned seemingly insignificant ideas into behemoth industries. Julius is one of the risk-taking individuals that would be sent to Mars and still treat it as a stepping stone to Saturn – the quality of constant invention and self-improvement that has earned him worldwide acclaim and prosperity.
Stylish and suave, Julius might be young but has packed so many achievements into his youthful life that would take many a generation to achieve. And he has grown too. Of course, he has so much to be thankful for. God Has been good to Rone, and immeasurable adoration to Almighty God for bringing Julius thus far and has helped him glide through life without breaking a limb.
From a humble parentage, Rone has worked his way, with guts and grace, through the wilderness of life to become one of Nigeria’s leading businesspeople and wealthiest young men. An alumnus of the Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife and the University of Calabar (Cross River State) – where he earned his advanced and postgraduate diplomas in Business Administration, respectively – Rone is a seasoned technocrat with vast experience spanning over a decade in the public sector.
Energetic and enthusiastic; uncompromising, yet realistic; impossibility has no space in his lexicography. With just tenacity of purpose and a terrier devotion to his dreams, Julius has bestridden, successfully, the gap between creativity and commerce. As far as business ideas and innovations are concerned, he turns nothing down except the collar of his shirt.
His life story is not as smooth as a bowling ball gliding on a varnished lane. It is the story of a young man who flailed and floundered against the maelstrom and headwind of a tempestuous home-grown economy but whose resilience and steadfastness kept him on the straight and narrow path to fame and fortune. Rone emerged as a worthy recipient of such honour because his deeds and recurring success established him as a man who challenged resolve with steely grit. He exploited the arduous planes of ambition and toil till he encountered grandeur at the crossroads, where wild contemplation and hard work morph into triumph.
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By LANRE ALFRED