Tonye Cole – Biography Of An Award Winning Architect And Co-Founder Of Sahara Group

Tonye Cole

Nigeria is a country where standing out demands hard work, discipline and bravery. It is a case of “the survival of the fittest”. Despite this known fact, some Nigerian finest are breaking barriers and making a difference. One of such rare gems is the great Tonye Cole.

Tonye Cole is an entrepreneur, motivational speaker, mentor, writer, teacher, and philanthropist. He is the co-founder and former Group Executive of Sahara Group; an International energy company operating across African countries and beyond.

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Tonye Cole Background

Tamunotonye Cole was born on 11th of January 1967 to the family of Mr. & Mrs. Patrick Dele Cole in Abonnema, Rivers State, Nigeria. It is safe to say that Tonye got his exceptional trait from his father who happens to be the former managing director of Daily Times Newspaper and former Ambassador of Nigeria to Brazil.

He started his educational career at Corona School Victoria Island, then proceeded to King’s College, Lagos and later Kings School, Ely Cambridgeshire, United Kingdom. Tonye returned to Nigeria to acquire a bachelor’s degree in Architecture and Engineering at the University of Lagos, Akoka. Later, he also obtained a Portuguese Certificate at Universidade de Brasilia, Brasil. He is also an alumni of Harvard Business School, London.

Tonye is married to Dr. Sylvia Cole and they are blessed with three children; Vanessa, TJ and Serena.

Tonye Cole Early Career

Mr. Cole started his career as an Architect with a Brazilian Architectural Firm, Grupo Quartro SA in Goiania Brazil. He was there from 1990 – 1992. Tonye was part of the team that designed and implemented the Urban Planning and City Development of Palmas, Tocantins, far away in South America.

The award winning architect is the brain behind the Ministry of Justice Building, Palmas, Tocantins and many other buildings in Palmas, Brasilia, Goiania etc.

Tonye came back to Nigeria in 1993 and got an immediate employment with a brazilian civil engineering company, Nigerian Office of Empressa Sul Americana de Montagens S.A (EMZA). He worked there as the Director of Operations for three years.

It is worthy of note that despite Tonye’s achievements, he is a dedicated worker in God’s vineyard. He is an ordained minister at the Redeemed Christian Church of God. Tonye Cole is also the leader of Nehemiah Team, a team dedicated to making the Redemption Camp a modern city.

Tonye Cole And Sahara Group

Tonye started Sahara Group in August 1996 with Tope Shonubi and Ade Odunsi. Sahara Group started as Sahara Energy Resources Limited with the vision of bridging the gap in the oil and gas sector. The company began by trading fuel from Warri and Port Harcourt refineries.

Afterwards, he was able to build depots in Lagos, Port Harcourt and Abuja with a combined capacity of 55,000 metric tones.

In his word, “we came up with ideas that the older generation might not have had an idea of as at then, we brought in newness and freshness. It was a field that was then dominated by foreigners and we were young but focused on what we wanted to achieve. We dared to tread on uncommon grounds and today we look back and are grateful for how far God has brought us.”

As a man with dogged determination, he was responsible for the company’s expansion into global market while maintaining the global status with institutions like:

  • World Economic Forum, where he was a key member of Partnering Against Corruption Initiative (PACI)
  • United Nations, as a pioneer member of the Advisory board of the Private Sector Advisory Group for the UNDP Sustainable Development Group Fund (SDG-F)
  • The African Philanthropy Forum and others

Sahara Group today has become an energy conglomerate operating in 38 countries around the world. The company has staff strength of over 4,000 and records $11b annual turnover. Currently, the company covers upstream, downstream, midstream, power, and infrastructure in its operations.

Tonye Cole Political Pursuit

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In September 2018, Tonye Cole made a decision to pursue a career in politics and as a result, he resigned from all executive positions held at Sahara Group, all boards at Sahara and everywhere else. He contested for the gubernatorial seat in Rivers State, his home town under the All Progressive Congress (APC) in 2019 general election.

Luckily, he won the primaries but due to prolonged inter-party legal issues, his party was removed from the ballot and prevented from contesting the elections by the court.

Tonye has done so much with Sahara Group and we believe that these same structures can still be effected in Rivers state. We cannot wait to see the changes that he will bring to Nigeria’s economy from a high leadership position.

The Philanthropic Endeavors Of Tonye Cole

Tonye Cole is a man with a heart for people especially for Nigerian Youths. He carries out his philanthropic gesture through several means which includes his NGO, Nehemiah Youth Empowerment Initiative founded in 2010. NYEI focuses on bringing young Africans together to create practical strategies that will affect millions of people.

Another platform he set up is the Behavioural Health Institute (BHI) where behavioural health issues among youths in Nigeria is managed.

Apart from the NGO’s he founded, he also work with other foundations like The Compassionate Centre, Down Syndrome Foundation, Slum-2-School Foundation among many others.

Tonye Cole’s Net Worth

We may not be able to categorically state his net worth but news has it that he is worth billions of Naira.

Books Written By Tonye Cole

  • Morning Reflections – A daily devotional for Christians published in 2013
  • My God Thinks – A book published in 2016

Boards Where He Served

  • 2006-2016 – Board Member, Servant Leaders Association
  • 2007-2018 – Board Member, Digital Jewels Ltd
  • 2007-2018 – Chairman Nigerian Private Sector Advisory Group on SDGs
  • 2008   – Governing Council Member, Nigeria Chamber of Shipping
  • 2010-2018 – Board Member, Volunteer Corps Ltd
  • 2010 – Advisory Council Member, Rise Network Youth Foundation
  • 2011 –  Governing Council Member, Afica 2.0
  • 2012  -Advisory Council Member, GLEEHD Foundation for Leadership and International Development
  • 2013-2016 –  Chairman, Greater Port Harcourt Development Authority
  • 2013-2016 – Board Member – Excel Charity Foundation
  • 2013-2018 – Board Member, Ikeja Distribution Company Ltd
  • 2013-2018 – Board Member, Atlas Mara Co-Nvest Ltd
  • 2014-2018 – Private Sector Advisory Group – United Nations Sustainability Development Fund (SDG-F)
  • 2014 – Vice Chairman, Enactus Nigeria
  • 2017 – Steering Committee Member, World Economic Forum’s Future of Trust and Integrity Project
  • 2017 –  Inaugural Member, Presidential Council on Sustainable Development Goals (SDG’s)
  • 2018  – Advisory Council Member – World Bank Group’s Expert Advisory Council on Citizen Engagement
  • 2018 –  Member, National Committee on Job Creation

See Also: Biography and entrepreneurial journey of famous entrepreneurs in Nigeria.

Awards And Recognitions

  • 2007 – University of Lagos Alumni Association Merit Award for Outstanding Contributions and Commitment to National Development
  • 2009 – We are the Future of our Nation Role Model Award for Contribution to Oil & Gas Sector
  • 2010 – This Day Award as Young Global Champion in Oil & Gas
  • 2011 – Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year Finalist
  • 2013 – African Property Awards / Bloomberg TV for highly commendable Office Architecture
  • 2013 – Forbes / Ebonylife TV Best of Africa Award
  • 2014 – Wharton Club of Africa Award for Best Company to Work for
  • 2017 – Oil & Gas Council Lifetime Achievement and Executive of the Year Award.

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