- Water-tight security in Kano •7 churches, 8 shops razed - Police
- Terror suspect nabbed with N3m •As army uncovers bomb factory
- 2012, deadliest year for journalists - UN
- Court adjourns on missing N12.4bn oil windfall
- Why we cleared Molete under-bridge - Oyo govt
- Court jails courier over $286,400 cash
- Court rejects fridge repairer’s plea to keep Ibori’s bribe money
- Oyo to involve artisans in N.5bn schools rehabilitation contracts
- All set for LG poll today in Benue
- Mrs Braithwaite buried amid encomiums
- Forget presidency, Jonathan’s aide tells ex-military rulers
- FG sends delegation to Onaiyekan’s consecration, Suntai
I Lived With Different Relations ’Cos My Parents Were Divorced – Abdullahi Arisekola-Alao
Abdullahi is the third child of business mogul, Alhaji Arisekola Alao. In this interview at his home in Lekki, Lagos, he let down his guards and took Tunde Ayanda to the A-Z of his life as he speaks freely of his admiration for boxing legend, Muhammed Ali, his dad and the role religion and his family background had played in his life.
What fond memories of your childhood do you have?
My childhood comes in chapters, I could remember I lived somewhere around Challenge in Ibadan , my dad and mum suffered an early divorce, so I was privileged to live under a few family members like my stepmum, my uncle, I also lived with my mum for a while, I lived with my grandmother as well…I stayed with a lot of family members and I think it was from there that I got to be accommodating, learnt to live with others. I was a normal child, highly inquisitive, I could ask the most stupid questions like any other child, it was fun.
You come from a family with strict religious background and discipline, can you say this, has in a way, or another influenced your attitude to life?
Let’s put it like this, people often misinterpret religion, my religion is Islam. A muslim is somebody that the society is completely safe with and he is also safe with the society, it means everybody has to be so secure with you and at the same time you have to be at peace with everyone, it’s both ways. I can say my Islamic life has given me a conscience, it has given me the eyes to be able to guard myself from rights and wrongs, it has given me a pedestal, a good school of thought to work with, knowing how to relate with others and how I expect others to relate with me. You can’t say you are a muslim and you want to wage war with everyone because the environment is bad, no, that is not being a muslim.
While growing up who were the people you looked up to?
I’m a product of the West(laughs), Hollywood played a big role in my life, it was a way of getting away from reading. Instead of reading books you watch and get the knowledge, seeing how people put motions together and getting the message they are trying to pass across. In terms of role models…I will say Muhammed Ali is someone I’ve always loved, I love the man with a passion, I had his posters in my room because he is somebody I really love. I love his openness, his life, I’ve watched all his videos, he has been my figurative role model. Again, there are so many qualities I can’t take away from my father. I grew up with my father, I’ve watched his ways, his integrity is second to none, I don’t know any man in this country that shares his kind of integrity. It is not because he is my father, he is a very unpredictable man, he is kind and like you mentioned earlier, his social justice is second to none, he is just a man of peace and I think many of this children take after that path, even those that are not his biological children do, you know my father has many children among I’m only privileged to be one of them.
How do you differentiate your social life from religion, you said you are a product of the west, your dressing, your education is from the west?
The question is not whether Islam accommodates the West. The question is, can the West accommodate islam? Islam is a personal thing, it’s a relationship between you and your God and how you live with your other fellow men. Islam does not have problem with the western way of life, not at all! There might be few restrictions on dressing to protect muslims and none muslims alike, to prevent vulgarism in our environment. One thing I need to really clarify is that a woman wearing a bikini does not connote a western culture, it’s a derived culture and if you look at what we call western culture, we understand the dynamism at the moment, western-european men were gentlemen and their ladies were “ladies”(laughs), that is the culture I’m talking about, but of course everything is on the run, even Islam is on the run(laughs) everyone is a victim, the muslims and non-muslims alike are all victims.
Despite your influential background you chose a life of modesty, is there a reason for these?
I don’t know of any other life. I would have, probably, chosen an arrogant life but I don’t know how to do it unless you want to teach me(laughs). I’m a product of my past, I’m what my past taught me to be. Maybe if I had grown up in a royal household where servants bow to me . I could have been aversed to modesty, but I thank God for that, I’m just a local boy from Ibadan, I’m very proud of my city.
You seem to be a very busy man, how do you relax?
I give my hundred percent to my work, I’m very healthy, 8:30 p.m I’m already in my bed but I still create time to relax, I watch a lot of movies, I get in my pool at home and swim and mostly on Sundays I take a boat and go across the shore.
Do you have any particular book you have read that made an impact on your life?
(Sighs) I wont say a particular book, what I always see is that whenever I read motivational books I always see the book trying to teach me what I already know. I believe I’ve got a degree on psychology and philosophy in my own bedroom, just by lying down, thinking, anyone can do it. You sit down and think about creation, how people interact socially, politically, economically…I wont give credit to any particular book for impacting so much on my life. If you study the life of Muhammed Ali you will see he wasn’t so much of a reader, though I agree there are lot of things to learn from books, I have some books but I wont attribute my lifestyle to any kind of book.
what can you call your most cherished posession?
It’s my belief in God, my belief in one God, that he created me, he is my forgiver, sustainer, he has commanded me to worship Him. He could have created me as an aetheist but he decided to create me into what I am and I’m very grateful.
You are a handsome young man, fashionable…what defines your style?
I am tired of dressing up, I’ve had my own time of trying to look best, now I’ve shifted my energy to my work, what I do on a daily basis than my dressing. I think the kind of high school I went to, added to my being dress-conscious. I attended the International School, Ibadan, it was a school where you won’t want to wear the shoe you wore the first term in the second term unless you want them to come over and make jest of you (laughs) you have to basically have something new for each term, very unfortunate position but that was the order of the day. I think my high school played an important role in the way I dress and the same mentality was taken to the University, you will always want to look good, wearing designers to the socks but time has overtaken all these as I choose my work first and think less of what I wear.
Do you have favorite labels?
I’m more of Hugo Boss, Versace, Gucci…Gianfranco Ferre was my label when I was in school, I’m more of these and not the usual high street labels. I don’t do Thomas Pink or Aquascutum or what have you, although I respect people that do.
Let’s know more of your educational background?
I attended a Catholic Primary School, Sacred Heart, Ring road, Ibadan. From there, I proceeded to International School, Ibadan, from there I gained admission to Uthman Dan Fodio University, I was there for a year but the ASUU strike chased me out of there because I didn’t want to spend six years on a four-year-course, so I proceeded with my study at the University of Nottingham in England, had my first degree in Economics, after that I did my MBA at the University of Dundee, Scotland in Oil and Gas management.
Can you remember the first work you ever did?
Yes, it was a big challenge for me, I knew I had to get myself prepared for a work life before I finished my Masters, so going back to school for my Masters was actually a cop-out of not getting into the job market immediately. When I was doing my Masters, I met with other Nigerians and was able to get the reality of life in Nigeria which almost immediately made me write a letter to my dad to stop fending for me and allow me try and venture into life to see the reality. I thank God we are very privileged, our father really took care of us. If you want to keep schooling for thirty years, my father will keep you in it, he will do anything to make sure you get the best of education. I went to join a few societies in America, including American Society for Transportation and Logistics, International Logistics Organisation, just to get into a certain industry which was transportation, one thing led to the other, I used to attend a lot of seminars, forums and round tables that were meant for managers and it was from there that I got the idea to know which direction to go.
I went to the States in 1999 immediately after my Masters to work for a German company, Esoft in Manhattan, New York, it was there that I trained as a Business Engineering consultant and I went from there to work for Adventist Crop Science in Cambridge as a contractor, from there I was called in for a job in California with auto desk, they are the makers of auto-card, the famous engineering software. From auto desk, I went to work for Sunsweet growers in California, from there, I went back to the UK to work for Loreal, from Loreal to Shell in the UK, from Shell in the UK, I went to Japan to work for ExxonMobil, from there I left Japan to come back to Nigeria to start a mining business and it was when I was here In Nigeria that I got a call from Saudi Arabia to come and work for Saudi ARAMCO, which is the biggest indigenous oil company in the world. My first enterpreunerial experience didn’t turn out as good as I would like it to be because our environment in Nigeria is such a harsh buiness environment that you micromanage everything you set up, it was a challenge in the mining industry. Later in Nigeria I worked for SNEPCO and after that I got a work through Accenture with National Guild in the UK before I finally came back to Nigeria to work for Lister Oil.
Despite your wealth of experience what informed your decision to come back home to work in Nigeria?
I’m a born executionist, if you want to know how to do it call me(laughs) my instincts are always right and like I told you in the beginning that I’m a product of the West, I’m an actor in several fields, you know Hollywood makes you believe you can do what is almost impossible, so growing up in such an area you put that kind of imagination into your own life, you know there are so much that you can achieve.
Are you satisfied with where you are and wht you do at the moment?
Satisfaction comes from God, there is no situation ifind myself that I’m not happy with, I;m a happy-go-lucky, I’m always happy, when I work I put on a work face and be happy, naturally I’m a happy person and I don’t attribute success to having a lot of money or having economic power, to me salvation is success, in terms of that I will say yes, I;m successful.
Where do you see yourself in some years time?
I will leave you this quote to ponder on ‘imagination is a gift in years, it is the elixir of life and the seed of greatness’ it’s a quote from P.T Barnum.