Cosmas Maduka, CON is a Nigerian businessman and philanthropist. He is the founder and chairman of the Coscharis Group, an indigenous conglomerate with diverse interest in manufacturing, ICT, petrochemical, auto care and auto components, automobile sales and services, agric and agro-allied business sectors.
Maduka is renowned for Coscharis Motors, a leading automobile sales and servicing company. In addition to other brands of cars such as Range Rover, Ford and Jaguar; he is the sole distributor of BMW in Nigeria.
FORBES described Cosmas Maduka as a man who knows a thing or two about overcoming adversity.
By the age of six, Maduka had survived bombs and bullets. It was in the dark depths of that civil war over the failed secession of Biafra – a civil war that saw 30,000 dead and more than a million refugees. His home state of Anambra was right in the thick of it; it was the base for relief flights to the beleaguered Biafran population. This drew airstrikes by Nigerian warplanes.
“We had a bunker outside our house which we ran into during times where the military opened fire and dropped bombs with their fighter jets. We did not know whether we were going to survive to see the following day,” says Maduka.
One day, as the young Maduka walked to the market, soldiers opened fire, killing scores of civilians. Again, Maduka was lucky to escape with his life. Soon afterwards his mother sent him away to safety to live with his grandparents.
In these tough early years, Maduka had no idea who his father was until the day he was led to his funeral.
“The best I knew of my father was the day I saw a man lying lifelessly in a suit… It was like a festival, people were exceptionally kind to me that day and whatever I asked for, I got,” he says.
The sad celebrations faded into struggle and grinding poverty. Maduka became a street hawker to provide for his family. Every morning, at 5 am, Maduka would wake up to sell bean cakes on the streets with his older brother, Pius, to feed his family.
In a small step up from street life, Maduka began life as a lowly apprentice in his uncle’s motorcycle business. It was a sour first taste of the motor industry that was to make his millions of decades later.
The motorcycle workshop job was poorly paid and after seven years of service his uncle fired him – the severance package was less than $400. In these difficult times, Maduka hugged to his heart two guiding principles.
“Firstly, no matter how careful you are things are always going to happen that you never anticipated.
The second lesson is don’t ever take a risk you cannot discount.”
Both principles were the rich harvest of a bitter and expensive worst day that will forever haunt Maduka.
Cosmas Maduka in a Q&A section with FATE
In a FATE’s 3rd alumni conference Q&A section, Maduka was asked what his major mistake in business was and how he was able to overcome it.
He answered and said that the “serious, major” mistake he made was in 2011.
“I was in my office and a young man from my village called me and said he wants me to please come see what he is doing. I tried to ask him what but he convinced me to come. “
So passionate about inspiring people, Maduka went with his wife to see what the call was about.
“I was fascinated about the things he was doing and he told me his story… to cut the story short, I took his word for it without having a second check and availed him about over two hundred million dollars and he screwed me”, Maduka said.
Maduka said the money was actually a loan from the bank and it was really a difficult situation for him.
According to him, “I used to beat my chest that if anybody succeeds to dupe me, I will congratulate the person because even my mother when she says something to me, I try to investigate and make sure that whatever she’s telling me is from her heart or somebody told her to tell me”.
He said 21 billion naira crystallised in his account yielding interest of N300, 000000 (three hundred million naira) every month.
“It’s like a man breathing to death, if you don’t stop that breath, you can die”, he said.
Maduka said that the situation was the most difficult challenge in his life and it was also the best test he has ever made in life.
He further explained in a short word saying:
“You never know who you are until you see what you can do, and you can only know who you are if you do something that you know nobody would find out if you do otherwise but to do the correct thing.
“I didn’t sign any paper in the bank when that money was given and it crystallised”.
Maduka said his board members advised him to forget it as they will not rule Coscharis because of the situation and that the LC (letter of credit) was not opened in Coscharis’ name, they didn’t sign any paper and it has nothing to do with them, that the bank should carry the responsibility, etc.
But he thought to himself after the board meeting with his board members, “did the bank give this guy money because of his merit or did they give him because of me?
Obviously the money was given to the guy because of him and according to Maduka, he has been a preacher of integrity all his life and was now subjected to this test.
He had to call the bank’s MD and asked for the papers and signed them.
Maduka said when he got home that day after signing the papers, he jumped to his feet screaming “I won, I won”, and his wife asked what lottery he had won and when did he become a gambler but he kept on saying “I won”.
When his wife asked him to be more serious, he said to his wife, “I signed that paper” and the wife screamed saying, “you signed?” and he said yes.
Maduka explained that he used to own about 25% in one of the financial institutions in Nigeria and had to sell off all his percentage just to pay his debt.
Concluding, Maduka said, “I had peace, I did not bridge integrity. That’s my greatest trial and that’s my greatest mistake.”