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Conquering the World: Tunde Onakoya’s Strategy for Success

Victor Odogwu
Published: July 10, 2024

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Tunde Onakoya sitting down on stage talking at Sterling Leadership Series event


Two boys, two locations, united by two things: humble beginnings and a love for the game of chess. Tunde Onakoya and young Ferdinand grew up in different corners of Lagos – Ikorodu and Makoko respectively. Their shared passion for chess became the grand strategy that brought their paths together.


From Humble Beginnings to Global Success

At the second edition of the Sterling Leadership Series (SLS) for 2024, Tunde Onakoya shared his journey from a small community in Ikorodu to global recognition.


“I dropped out of school because I no fit afford school fees,” Tunde told Sheila Ojei, the event’s moderator. “Chess gave me hope and helped me see a future. That’s why I want to give other children the same hope for a brighter future,” Onakoya added.


Chess in Slums: Empowering Through Chess

Inspired to help children from poor backgrounds, Tunde established Chess in Slums Africa, an NGO teaching children to play chess. In Makoko, he discovered Ferdinand, a young chess prodigy with Cerebral Palsy.


“I went to Makoko to profile 20 children to teach them chess. I saw one little boy being pushed away by other children. Something drew me to that boy. I pulled him close and registered him to learn chess,” Tunde shared.


To capture interest, Tunde convinced parents of long-term benefits and paid children’s school fees, showing his commitment like a well-executed chess gambit.


Strategic Thinking Beyond the Chessboard

Tunde’s strategic thinking extended to engaging with community leaders. “At Oshodi under bridge, we talked to the heads of the area boys. We got them weed to get their attention and involved them in training the young ones,” he explained.


“Today, some of those kids are in schools, while others are learning trades. We’ve moved them from being idle on the streets to becoming valuable members of society,” Tunde proudly added.


Conquering the World: Guinness World Record

Preparing for the Guinness World Record for the longest chess marathon, Tunde faced physical and emotional challenges. “I had to undergo surgery which affected my legs. The recovery process almost made me give up,” Tunde recounted.




“I decided to attempt the record at Times Square with only ten days to plan. Despite falling ill and facing food poisoning, I couldn’t give up. I was representing Nigeria,” Tunde said.


Building a Winning Team

Tunde shared insights on leadership: “Understanding is important. Help team members find their place. Make them passionate missionaries for your cause.”


“Transform missionaries into machineries by nurturing dedication and building expertise,” he advised.


The Future: Small Steps for Big Impact

When asked about future plans, Tunde responded, “I’m focused on helping children better their lives through chess.” His commitment to grassroots efforts is like a strategic chess move, showing true change comes from consistent small actions.



Tunde Onakoya’s journey from the streets of Ikorodu to global recognition is a testament to determination and strategic thinking. His story proves that with the right mindset and effort, anyone can turn life’s challenges into a masterful game of chess.


“Don’t waste time being a victim of your circumstances. Participate in your own life,” Onakoya urged.


Did you miss the Sterling Leadership Series? No worries! You can catch all you missed right here.


Want more inspiring leadership insights? Check out our previous feature with the great football legend, Segun Odegbami.


Don’t let these valuable lessons slip away. Tune in now and fuel your leadership journey with wisdom from Nigeria’s finest!




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