Idris Abolaji-Ajimobi, the only son of Oyo governor, Abiola Ajimobi is one of the luckiest men in the world. He is not just your run of the mill governor’s sons. He is the heir apparent to one of Nigeria’s richest men. Now that’s enough to make some people play god but this super rich young man is moulded in humility. Maybe that’s because of his British orientation; he left the shores of Nigeria when he was barely 17 in pursuits of academic fulfillment. The intellectually smart younger Ajimobi didn’t disappoint in his academic adventure as he returned back home with a Business Management degree in the bag in 2004. He also holds a Masters degree in International Relations from the prestigious Kings College in London. Despite his privileged background, Idris is not a prodigal son. He is a serious-minded young man and has aspirations to surpass his father’s accomplishment. Idris plays big in the Real Estate industry and he is the MD/CEO of Grandeur Real Estate Limited, a forward-thinking Real Estate development company. His vision, Grandeur Real Estate is the brain behind the luxury residential estate called Akora Estate located inside Wemaboard Estate, Adeniyi Jones, in Ikeja axis of Lagos mainland. Idris’ property company is also expanding into the nation’s capital city, Abuja with a couple of affordable real estate investments. Idris, who is a bit private and reserved, generated quite a buzz last year when he got married to sinfully beautiful Fatima Ganduje, the last daughter of Kano governor, Umar Ganduje. Some few months back, prior to his lavish wedding ceremonies in Kano and Ibadan, the handsome young man spoke to Abuja Standard’s Publisher, SEYI ONIFADE where he opened up about his joyful childhood, love life and his views on life in general. Enjoy it!
Tell us about yourself, who exactly is Abolaji Ajimobi?
Ermm. Well, Abolaji is a 29-year-old (31 now) young guy. I work in Property Development, Real Estate and Facility Management as well. I just moved back from England late last year (2016). Personality-wise, I hear a lot that I am very humble but I try every time I meet someone new, I try and treat them the way I would like to be treated if they would have met me. I never let my father’s position to get the better of me when dealing with people because at the end of the day that’s my father’s position. I am not the governor. I am just a son, so I haven’t accomplished much yet but I have a lot of dreams and ambitions, there are lots of things I intend to accomplish but I would say I am a very quiet person. I keep to myself and I don’t go out much so I tend to hang around with friends indoors. I would like to think I am a kind person. And I am a fair person and I never judge a person based on either a parents or past experience you know, I judge based on how you treat me in that very moment when I meet you.
How best would you describe your childhood?
Well, childhood was very fun actually I was filled with love, growing up in my family they showed me constant love. My dad always taught us the most important things in life like for example the value of money. You must never waste money; you work hard for it so you must spend it wisely. And my mother taught me how to love people, you know you must open your heart to people especially people who don’t have the same opportunities as you do; you must be nice and kind to them. Ermm being the only boy you can imagine I was constantly showered with love, some would say I was spoilt but I don’t believe that because as long as my father was around I was never spoilt. I was taught never to hit women, never to even hold them let alone hit them. I was taught that hard work is the most important thing. And success is not measured by how much money you have in your bank account but how many accomplishments you have and what people say of you, and your accomplishments. So yeah my childhood was very fun. I had a lot of fun, there were some very difficult times growing up mainly when it was something I didn’t enjoy so much like school growing up; what boy enjoy school you would rather go out and play football with your friends but it was very fun. I will hope a lot of kids could have half the childhood I had because they would have a great time if they just have half of what I had growing up.
Any fond memories you would love to share with our readers?
There are a lot of memories. Okay I give you one of my favourite childhood memories; this actually taught me how to value money more than anything. I was young and it’s actually one of my mother’s favourite as well when I was younger I had a Play Station and I wanted an Xbox – the new Xbox. And I went to my Dad to ask him for money for the new Xbox and he was like errm wait so you want a new Xbox, where do you think money comes from? Do you think I steal money? This must have been at least 10 years ago; do you think money grows from a tree? And I am like No. And he now said this Xbox you want, don’t you have another game that I saw you playing. I said yes I do. He said so you want 2 games? Ha! You are a thief, that means you are very greedy (laughs), money does not grow from a tree you have to work hard for the money. And I am like okay you know this guy has given me maybe like a 10-minute talk. And I am like I don’t want this money anymore, sorry dad I don’t want this game anymore I am going. And he was like no, no, no come back you must buy that game, take the money you must go and buy that game today. And I am like no dad; he said you must buy it. You know when I grew up later I realized that he is right money does not grow from a tree. Yes, the game cost maybe 150 to 200 pounds but back then that was a lot of money. And now when I have to buy the game myself I don’t joke around with those games (laughs). So that was one of my favourite because it gives us a lot of laugh because it taught me something without me knowing at that time but later in life when I looked back on it I realized he was trying to teach me that you can’t just be wasting money. You have to spend it on things that matter to you and even when you buy it or when someone is giving you the money, you must appreciate and thank them for giving you because not everybody has that opportunity.
Tell us about your educational background?
I studied in Nigeria up until my GCSE. I did my GSCE in Nigeria up until I was 17 and I left in 2004. And I moved to England then I re-did my GSCE while I was there. And then I did my A-levels there as well. I went to Hurtwood House in Surrey, and from there I went to do my undergrad. I started off with Accounting and Finance and that proved a bit difficult, it’s a bit tricky the numbers got trickier as I went. I then switched to Business Management which I graduated with in 2014. I graduated with Business Management degree. And then I moved on to Kings College to do my Masters. It was completely a different field I went into – International Relations because I am passionate about politics. And I finished my Masters in 2017, just January actually and now I moved back to Nigeria to give something back.
You are into Property Development and Real Estate. Tell us how has it been operating in the competitive Nigerian Real Estate market and how do you manage to keep your head above water in this tough economic period?
Ermm it’s difficult you have to get loans, borrow money from people because I am also the one who believes that being a man you cannot depend solely on your father for income, you cannot ask your father for money unless you are giving him something like interest in return. So it’s difficult, it’s actually been slow. I just started my first project. And I am about to start my second one in Abuja as well and that’s why I go back and forth. But property in the current economy is very difficult especially with a lot of – I would say I don’t classify but I would say a lot of big men’s children they tend to go into building property in Ikoyi and Lekki. And they want to sell it for N300 million, what is that? I rather go to more affordable areas where working class is working. I am more interested in providing accommodation for working class people. So, I am building my first one in Adeniyi Jones and I am not looking to sell more than N70 million. I am looking to start small and build, I want to focus on that kind of work. In Abuja, I am looking to build like luxury accommodation for Law School students. And I am more focused in niche areas where you don’t find a lot of Nigerians going into especially people that their parents are well-off. You will never find them looking at those areas because they think that it’s not profitable. I have to sell 5 places for N70million to make N300million. I would rather do that because you have less risk especially in this economy where not many people are buying places and also because nobody has money to be wasting. You can’t waste 100m on a property and you sit on it for a year trying to sell it. No, I will rather wait even if it takes me a year to sell a N70million property; it’s only N70million that I have tied down not N300million. So it’s difficult in this economy but you have to keep pushing. Times will get hard and as some people say the night is darkest before the dawn. So it will be hard before you make it but you have to at least push. You can’t just say because the economy is bad, I am not going to do any work, No that’s wasting the knowledge I have acquired. I have wasted the education that my father has paid for and I can’t do that. So I try my best to just deal with the tough time and do what I must.
Can you share with our readers the challenges you have encountered thus far trying to run a business since you returned back home?
(Laughs) Well, to be honest, I would say Nigerians can be very frustrating. But as I always tell my friends unfortunately for them I came from England. And in England, a lot of things frustrate you about the English life but one thing you learn is that you can never react when you are frustrated there. So in Nigeria they expect you to react but because I am coming from there (England) I know not to react to their frustration. So, whatever they do you just ignore it and keep going about your business. But one thing I do with them in Nigeria here a lot is that, maybe if I give you a deadline and you don’t meet my deadline. You have taught me one thing; I can’t trust you so I can’t work with you again. So next time I might tell you about another project I have but you can be damn sure you are not going to be on that project no matter what because you have proven to me that you are not reliable. And I can’t deal with people that are not reliable because at the end of the day I am trying to run a business. Even though I am trying to help people at the same time, I cannot be losing money on that business because it is not an NGO. If it was an NGO it makes sense. I found out that Nigerians – they are too relaxed. They don’t push for things some time. I mean not every Nigerian but many of them are not willing to push. Another thing I don’t like is how people feel like oh! Because it’s my job – for example, I am cleaner but because I am doing my job, Oga what do you have for me? No it’s your job I don’t need to give you extra but because of the hardship in the country I understand that. But I prefer if you don’t ask me and I choose to give you but when you ask me it pisses me off more because it’s your job why are you asking me? Those are the main two things that I hate. I think those two things are the most frustrating things in Nigeria. It is almost as if people go out of their way to frustrate you. They frustrate you until you are like you know what I am done but unlucky for them I come from a place you are frustrated and you can’t say anything. So, I will take your frustration and then I will do what I will. And when I do that you cannot react and say this man is horrible. No, I will have proof that see oh when I gave you this deadline, you didn’t do this. And when you said you will finish the project on Monday and then come Monday maybe you are still halfway through the project. Your word is your honour; you have to keep to your word.
So, mentally where is your mind at for the future? What are you looking at now?
Currently, I am just looking to growing my Property Development Company, to give quality service because I found that a lot of people don’t give quality service that’s partly because of the mentality I just spoke of. But I intend to give high quality service – to build maybe even a hotel you know and manage the hotel and when customers come by, the one thing I want them to always comment on is the quality of the service they received that it’s top-notch whereby the staff are polite; they are helpful and efficient. First of all, in the next 5 years I see growth in my business currently and in a couple of years, I wouldn’t say how many but some people would want it sooner rather than later like for example my girlfriend would have it that I start in 2019 but I can’t. I am not ready as I see myself so I am thinking in a few years maybe 6 or 7 years to venture into politics because I really believe I can make a difference. I want to make a difference. I want to serve the people. And I want to serve God. So politics would be my longtime goal.
Yes, talking about politics now, Hon. Dapo Lam-Adesina, son of the late governor of Oyo state is currently a member of House of Representatives. Also Olamiju Akala, former governor Akala’s son is the boss of Ogbomosho local government at the moment. Why not kick start your political career in 2019 considering your father’s political influence?
No! nothing for 2019. I just moved back as I said maybe just over 6 months ago, so I want to acquire the business acumen. And the thing about managing a business is you learn about leadership, you learn organizational structure, you learn about managing people. And you learn how to generate an income so to speak, these are all the skills you need as leader, as a politician. You need to be able to bring money in for your State, you need to be able to give to the people; know what areas you can give and what areas you can hold off for a time. You need to be able to know the people in your constituency and I think that’s something you wouldn’t take 2 years of business management to learn. I think that’s something you might acquire over 5 years of working in a business or running a business. So, I think I want to run a business first. 2019, no it’s too soon.
Being the only son and an heir apparent to one of Nigeria’s most successful men, definitely a lot is being expected from you. Tell me how do you manage to handle such a huge expectation in consolidating on your father’s achievements?
(Laughs) Well, I think first thing I do is I accept it graciously. I have always been the one who is willing to rise up to the challenge whatever the challenge maybe. The other thing is, since I was young I never let the fact that my father has a lot get to my head. And anyone you ask about me that knows me will tell you the same thing, I have always said I don’t care what my father has – that’s his stuff. And again one thing my father taught us is that just because you are a boy doesn’t mean you will inherit everything that the girls can inherit just as much as you do. If you are a useless boy, then, the girls will get everything, so from a young age I have always known that I want to work for my own money. If my father chooses that, Ah! You are doing well, I want to give you what I have earned oh I will be more than happy to accept and I can only hope that I will make him proud at the end of the day. But I have never thought that just because he is going to give me, I shouldn’t do anything, no, no I must earn my own living. I must make my own mark in the world because at the end of the day as we have seen with many rich men when they die, their children cannot continue their legacy. The most important thing is to be able to carry on his legacy so that when other people meet me it wouldn’t be like Ah your father was a great man. No, they would be like your father was a great man but you too are doing a great job that your father would be proud if he were here and that’s always the mindset I have always had. And because I have always had very accomplished sisters so I have always have to compete with them; and not look at them as girls but look at them as equals and competitors for my role. So I have always been more than happy to rise up to the challenges and do whatever needs to be done to show my father that one, I am up to the challenge. And secondly, that if he just decides to bestow that honour on me I will make him very proud.
Who would you say had the most influence on you while growing up that really shaped you into the man you are today?
I would say a bit of both. My mom mostly, because as every boy would say, especially if you are the only boy, you are always closer to your mom and girls are closer to their fathers. It’s when you are older that your father then draws you closer and, then, be like okay you are becoming a man I need to guide you. So I say growing up I would say mother, yes, but my father also played a key role. He being present was as important but she was the one who taught me a lot of the lessons that I learnt growing up.
I know being a governor’s son comes with a lot of privileges and there is the other side too. How do you feel when you read negative press about your parents in the papers or some social media backlash about his government and family?
I think one thing for me, I don’t know about other kids. I think growing up from a young age, I think if you can find people up until I was 13, they would tell you I have always wanted to be in politics so knowing that I always watched a lot about politicians, read a lot about politicians. And one thing I know is that you cannot please everybody and you cannot make everyone happy, there would always be somebody unhappy with your work. What I always keep in mind is whenever people say something about my father; they are entitled to their own opinions. I cannot challenge them for thinking what they think because I don’t know why they think what they think unless we have a discussion. I cannot challenge their opinion; they are entitled to that right. But when I read stuff on social media about my dad, I don’t let it get to me because yes he is a public person. He is a person of public interest. He has put himself out there so he has made himself available for attacks. You see, so I try not to let that get to me, there are many times that even people have sent me messages on Instagram insulting my father. And I treat them with respect because I expect to be treated with respect. There was one recently actually on Instagram he sent me a message insulting my father that your father is this and that. He was like can your father open our school, that he is this, he is that. And I am like first of all, if you start off by insulting my father how am I inclined to help you? And second of all, I do not control what my father does you forgot he is my father and he controls what I do. So I cannot order him but I can talk to him if you are polite enough to ask politely but you cannot start off by insulting him or I and you expect me to help you? No! I said that to him and he actually apologized. And I actually spoke to my father about it and he said don’t worry now we are already going to open the school. It’s not even us that closed the school. It’s a two states business you know, it’s not one state so why are they attacking only me? But it’s normal with people who go into political careers, even business executive they are always under attack and you must be ready to deal with the pressure. Yes, I do not choose it but as his son or as his daughter or even representative in the outside world I must know how to cope with it. And still deal with people respectfully, respond to them respectfully and if you insult my father I will respectfully tell you that he is not like that. And if you still believe he is, then, that’s your own opinion. If you are stuck on your own then you might as well go with it.
What informs your humility? Was it part of the training you received while growing up?
Yes, the training I was given was key mostly because you know when I was growing my father never gave me too much. He only gave me enough to survive and to some extent even nowadays when my dad asks me do you want me to give you some change? I would even be the one that says no I don’t need it; you just gave me some money last week so you don’t need to give me again. So I think he instilled that in me by the discipline he gave, by the lessons he taught me about money so I never grow up thinking that my money runs the show or that because I have money or from a privileged background that people are beneath me, No!. And my mother taught me love as well, so the love I was shown taught me that you cannot treat people differently because they don’t have as much as you do; everybody is your equal until they prove to you that they are not your equal, then, they are your equal so you must always treat everybody like that. And I also think the role models I had growing up were always people of humility, so that was one of the first thing I picked up that you must be humble to everybody that you meet no matter who they are. I think my father played a role in my humility. He always taught us you must be humble, my mother taught the same but him more than ever to some extent disciplined you for being rude. And he was always humble I think.
Let’s get a bit personal now; you are a very good-looking young man and a governor’s son. That makes you a prime target of interest to girls. I know you are on the wanted list of so many Nigerian girls, tell me how do you handle your female admirers?
(Laughs) Ermm I keep out of the public eye actually that’s what I do mostly unlike other previous governor’s sons I know, they go out and popping bottles in the club. If you find me popping a bottle in the club it’s going to be a Coke or Pepsi bottle (laughs), and if you ever find me doing that, then, there’s a special occasion that I am celebrating. I am not the one to go into a club and spend N1million, for what? There are a lot of people starving, why would I do that? So I always keep out of public face. I stay home a lot and hang out with friends a lot; I stay at work a lot. I try and focus on my ambitions and see how I can achieve them, not about how much I can spend or how many girls I can sleep with. I also pray a lot because God is close to my heart and one of the things God preaches is that you must not be loud. He doesn’t say you mustn’t be loud but in His preachings and teachings as well, he teaches that you mustn’t be proud. You must be humble, you must give back. You mustn’t just take and give; you must give more than you take to some extent. I tend to go to private gatherings rather than public gatherings, I try and keep myself out of the public life because one thing I learnt is that especially if you want to be a politician or the one mindset I always had growing up was that if you want to be a politician, you cannot do certain things. You mustn’t come across as proud or loud; you mustn’t come across as the one who goes and get drunk, and does stupid things. I have always had that mindset growing up, so I always conditioned myself to be like that. So when I go out, I try not to get drunk that I can’t drive home. And I like to drive so I try not to get into a condition whereby I cannot drive myself home but I always have a driver just in case I cannot drive myself home. I try not to make a fool of myself because I feel its unbecoming of someone that wants to lead people. You have to lead by example and I try to live my life on that basis. I tend to find girls through either house party or private parties and if someone introduces me to a girl, then, I get to meet her and if she is what I love or like then I move with that.
How soon can we expect the wedding bell to ring for you?
(Laughs) Well, in my current situation it’s solely based on the parents of the girl. I think you have to ask permission from the father, he has to accept your permission. And then you can propose to the girl. I am ready to marry her. She is a wonderful woman I feel her father has to be willing to accept me and I think I am worthy enough to have his daughter’s hand in marriage. And right now, that’s proving a little difficult but I feel with God, prayer and over time he might see that I am more than qualified. I think she is very intelligent, very beautiful and she wants to help people, she wants to do well and for me I think that’s the most important thing – to find someone that to some extent have similar characteristics to what my father found in my mother. And once her father thinks that this guy would do good by my daughter which I promise to do, but he (the father) has to feel that way. There is nothing I can do to convince him you know he has to get there by his own will. Once he sees that and accepts my proposal, then I am ready to marry his daughter today, tomorrow, next year, 10 years, and the thing is I would wait for his daughter however long it may be. I feel like once you found the one you will know and there is nothing that could change my mind. And I am one that when I am set on something, nothing can change my mind. I am set on his daughter and once he accepts I will step to the challenge.
Do you want to let cat out of the bag on this girl you are so crazy about? Or do you want to keep it close to your heart for now?
(Laughs) I think it’s in our best interest to keep it for now but what I can let out is that I am not one who grow up thinking that I must marry a Yoruba girl – I mean my mother is half Lebanese, half-Yoruba or stuff but you know she is a mixed lady. I have always thought I can marry anyone who loves me enough and who I love enough. So I can let one thing out of the bag which is that the girl is from a northern family and that’s why its proving slightly difficult because we are from different cultures, we grew up differently, they have different values and rules as to who they believe can marry their daughter and who can’t you know but I have always believed that you can marry anyone you love. And you can be anyone you want to be, I think she grew up with the similar mindset as well. Yes, she grew up in her Hausa Muslim family but she went to schools that taught her that you can love whoever you want and marry whoever you want. I think that’s causing a bit of little problem but once her father is willing to accept me, I will love to marry his daughter.
Let’s talk about style now; you are no doubt a stylish man. What does style mean to you? What’s your own definition of style?
Style is important because perception is the most important thing – first impression. And your first impression of someone you can never take it back, you see once your decision is made that’s it. So for me I think style is quite important because it’s how people see you even if that’s not what you want them to see of you. That’s how they will judge you the first time they meet you, it’s your style and how you approach them, how you greet them; if you are humble or proud they would take that with them forever. Even if you spend the next 10 meetings or visits trying to change that opinion, once it’s established that’s it. So I think style is very important for me and I try and always dress good, I try to always look good, neat and presentable. And you know, whenever a person sees me they are like this guy is a well dressed guy. They think I need to even get some tips from him, there are even few occasions that actually where people even try and give me tips but I will still take it. I think style is important because it is how the world will look at you especially when people never get to meet you, for example, if you are a politician many people or many of your voters will never get to meet you, they will only hear the words coming out of your mouth. And they would see how you dress and that’s how they will judge you. They would decide whether this one that I want to vote for, if you look rough and unkempt, they would think this is how he is going to deal with the country or State affairs. I think it’s very important how you present yourself because that’s how people will view you in the future.
Are you a casual or corporate person?
I think I mix it up, you would find me mostly during the week, actually anywhere you find me 90% of the time, you will catch me either in traditional or in a suit. For example, people ask me why you always travel in suit. And I say I never know who I am going to meet on the plane. I might meet a future employer, a future father in-law, so I always try and be very presentable to whoever I meet. And in clubs I always wear native a lot and one of the reasons is because well, one, I don’t like to carry cards. I like to carry cash so I know exactly how much I took out and I know how much I can spend in that night. Also it looks neat, it shows how clean and neat you are and it’s very comfortable. And it’s our native attire and I like to represent Nigeria as much as I can wherever I can.
Where is your favourite holiday spot, and why?
Besides Nigeria I would say I haven’t been that many places, I have been to mostly North America, Europe and parts of Asia actually but I will say my favourite two would be Lebanon, Beirut, particularly and errm Miami. And Miami, well being a guy one thing all guys love is beautiful women and you will find some of the most beautiful women you will ever come across in your life. Also there are so many beaches there you know, just beautiful site, lovely worlds and lots of stuff but mainly the women in Miami. And the second place is Beirut and that’s partly because I have a lot of family from my mother’s side, so I love going there to see them, just spend time with them, I have a great aunt from my mom who really love me very so much so I love always going to visit her; she is very old so can’t travel much. So the only way I can see her really is by going there but I am hoping when I get married she can come to me or I will take my wedding to her but I love going to Lebanon because I have family there. It makes me feel at home. Yes, I am a Nigerian and no one can take that from me but I love that part – the Lebanese part. And I love relating to the Lebanese side of my family because I have so many cousins who lives there and who never travel out much, so I get to spend time with them, I get to see how they are living, meet their kids and hear their stories, and they have many stories. So I love going back home to Lebanon as far as I am concerned it’s my second home.
Do you speak the language too?
(Laughs) Arabic? No, I don’t speak Arabic but I am trying to learn Arabic more, I mean with prayers there is a lot I can say with prayer. I didn’t actually learn Arabic growing up but right now in the last year or so I have been trying to learn it as much as I can and rushing up slowly. But I am hoping especially with a northern Muslim wife, I will be able to learn more Arabic quicker. And once I have kids, we would love to teach our kids Arabic’s because they will practice the religion we practice so they have no choice but to learn. And by them learning, I would learn more.
When you are not busy with your Real Estate business or tracking one deal or contract, tell me how do you unwind?
To be honest, I am very tenable. I am a lover boy that’s what some would say. So I try and spend a lot of time with my girlfriend, I try and spend as much time I can with her, speaking to her just finding out how her day was like I said she’s into a lot of – I would say some humanitarian work. She does a lot of work with lots of children, so I am always interested to learn how her day went, what she did and how the kids were. I think most of my days I spend it staying at home watching movies, shows or reading a biography. I like reading Robert Green; I read a lot of his books. I like books like the Art of War and I like Robert Maxwell books, so I try and read a lot of those kinds of books that can help propel me for the life I would like to live. They were politicians years ago, leaders years ago but I can learn something from them because they did what they did at the best they could, and to some extent they were one of the best at what they do, and I want to be the best at what I do; so I will like to learn from their teachings. I think I spent a lot of time at home either with my dog or I spent it with my girlfriend. I spent time with my family as well because family is important, so I try and visit my nephews, nieces and catch up with my sisters. And sees what everyone is doing, I spend less time going out and more time indoors, and while I am indoors I have so much to do – I can have friends over watch football and sometime just by myself. I mean who else has my back all the, it’s me and my God so I try and spend it with those people as much as I can.
Talking about charitable ventures now, are you currently involved in any charitable efforts? Are you thinking of giving back in your own little way?
Currently, I am not involved in any but actually with my lovely girlfriend I was trying to do some work in Ibadan, it was delayed slightly. We should hopefully by God’s grace be able to do it before the end of the year or sometime. She provides hearing aids for disabled children and clean water as well; so I will like to do that somewhere in Oyo State as a start. I would at some point in my life, maybe, in the next 5 years I would like to start and run an NGO as well as focusing on my business. Yes, I would like to give back to the people for as much as I can because I feel like I have been blessed with so much. And, Allah has been kind to me and my family, so I would like to give back to Him as much as I can and the best I can do and one of the pillars of Islam is that you have to give back no matter how small it is but you still have to give back – it is a must. It’s an obligation of yours as a good Muslim you have to give back, so I would love to give back as much as I can to people. I would love to help the motherless kids, children displaced by war or conflicts, I would like to help them as much as I can but mainly I think motherless kids and also single mothers because I feel like one of the most difficult things for any child is to grow up without a father. But one of the most important one is to have a mother because a mother can be your father and mother – one thing a child must learn is love, yes, you must learn how to be a man but you can learn how to be a man outside; you can learn how to be a man from an uncle but you can’t learn how to love from an uncle because an uncle will never show you love the same way a mother can show you love. So I feel like a mother’s love is the most important thing, so I feel I must help mothers who are unable to provide for their children because either the husband has left or the husband has died, or he had married another woman and kicked you out. I want to help as many mothers because my mother helped me in growing up and becoming the man I am today. She taught me a lot and my father being there taught me just as much but my mother made me the man I am today. My father supported her in making sure I am a man. She made me the man but my father made sure I was a man because I could have become a boy, a grown up boy (laughs), but she made sure that, yes, you must learn to love, you must learn to be kind and you must to give no matter what. And my father supported us by providing the education that I have that brought me to where I am today even though I am not where I wanted to be 5 years ago but I know that I can still get there because of the education he afforded me.
How would you describe your parents?
I would say they are very kind, I have heard of other people’s parents what they put them through so I know and as far as I am concerned I have the best parents in the world. Anyone you speak to might say the same thing, I can’t judge your parents and you can’t judge my parents. They are very loving, kind and they have taught me very good lessons in life, and these are things I intend to teach my children. And one of the most important things I think to some extent beating your children when they are growing up, when I was naughty they beat me and put me back in check, so that’s something have learnt that if I fall out of the line they can always put me back in check. And one thing my parents always say is that just because you are 30 or 40, doesn’t mean I can’t beat you. If you think I can’t beat you, you are highly mistaken. So they have instilled great values in me that I intend to pass onto my children, and maybe one day if Allah wills it and bless me with the opportunity I will be able to instill it on many Nigerian children through an inspired educational system where they learn that you must respect authority, yes, you might have opinions that you want to voice towards them but you should find a respectful way to voice those opinions. They are very loving and very supportive in whatever we do even when they disagreed with us; they tell us why they disagreed and then they support you regardless because long as you have made your decision and you are sticking by it. And you are willing to present a supportive and valuable argument to stand by that decision then they would support you no matter what. And that’s one thing I found in Nigeria, that you will find it very difficult that not every parents will support you – they might love you but they will not support. But I think it goes hand-in-hand, you cannot claim you love me 100% and then not support everything I do. If you love me, you will discipline me but you will still support my decisions, you will discipline me with love because if you are too harsh on your child, then your child grows up rebellion, and if you are too loving, then your child grow up spoilt. So growing up I think we got a balance, my mom was the loving one and my dad was the disciplined one but when we were in school, my mom was the disciplined one and my dad was the loving one. So when you get those not so good grades, my mother is the one that will say Ah! How is it that you didn’t get good grades? Does the person that got first, is that person smarter than you? Whereas my dad would be like ehn but you know honey he tried his best okay so come next time read harder, come I will teach you what you don’t know. And my dad is very good at Mathematics, he studied Economics so growing up he was always someone to go back to with my Mathematics and Economics questions although I ran from Economics but he was someone that taught me mathematics. And even my sister he taught her more than I got, so they always taught us how to be loving and how to be there for each other no matter what. So with my siblings even when I am angry at them if they call me and need me, I will be there and that’s the same thing I know they will do for me if I am in trouble and I need them, they would be there for me.
Finally, how would you like to be remembered by your family and friends?
By family and friends, I would like to be remembered by my good deeds and by everything I accomplished really because that’s the only thing you can be remembered by. Your name can go on forever but your legacy is in what you do and how you do it and how people talk of you later 20 years from now. So I will like to be remembered by my accomplishments. I want to be remembered by my own accomplishments not by my father’s accomplishments because I am not my father and no matter how much I try to be like him I can never be like him. So I must be my own person and so they must remember me by what I do.
Thank you so much for your time
Thank you for having me. It’s my pleasure to speak to you.
Editor’s note: This interview was conducted about 2 years ago!