Posted by BY MIKE AWOYINFA [ firstname.lastname@example.org ] on
While researching the forthcoming biography of the Nigerian and Africa’s business icon Dr. Mike Adenuga, I interviewed his daughter Bella for an insight into Adenuga’s life as a father.
* Mike Adenuga played the role of father and mother, says daughter
While researching the forthcoming biography of the Nigerian and Africa’s business icon Dr. Mike Adenuga, I interviewed his daughter Bella for an insight into Adenuga’s life as a father. She painted a poignant picture of a father who doubled as a mother in the wake of the separation of her parents. She talked against the backdrop of her childhood picture on the wall of her office at Globacom where she works as Executive Director.
She spoke of a doting father who would dress her up for a party and put on her jewellery. “Like in this childhood picture behind me, all my accessories, he did for me,” Bella says, pointing to the picture on the wall. She adds: “We had a situation where dad was also the mother.” This is an abridged version of Bella’s impression of her famous dad who will be 55 on April 29:
My dad, Dr, Mike Adenuga is someone who believes that birthdays should be celebrated in a special way. Even when I was in America, he makes sure on my birthday I go to the best restaurant with my friends. He believes that on that day you should at least enjoy and be out. And he always gives me gifts. He always takes me out, if he is around. If not, he makes sure that I go out.
My name Bella means “Beautiful” in Italian. The story goes that when my dad first saw me she exclaimed: “Oh, she’s so beautiful.” And she named me Bella. The funny thing is, my other name is Bunmi, and when I was younger, Bella was a nickname my dad gave me. Only those who were close to me knew that my father called me Bella, or I was Bella. The irony now is that only those who are close to me know that I am also Bunmi. But before, only those who were close to me knew that I was Bella.
I was born in London, England. I had a very strict upbringing. My dad is a disciplinarian and he was very strict. However, he instilled a lot of good values in us. And he was very thorough with us.
My parents are separated. So growing up, my dad played the role of mother and father. And he was very hands-on. He would buy me dresses, if I was going to a party, he would dress me up, put my jewellery. Like in this childhood picture behind me, all my accessories, he did for me. We had a situation where dad was also the mother. But then, if you don’t do well in school, or someone reports you, he would discipline you.
So he instilled that fear in us. Apart from that, we had a privileged childhood in the sense that my dad is someone who believes that if you do well, you should be rewarded. It was not just the case of going on holiday to London, he loves taking us to different places. We went on holidays, if we did extra well in school. Even if we are already in London, he would make sure he takes us to the zoo himself. Such little things. He used to go out of his way to do them, to take us on trips. He is a very busy person. Not a lot of busy people can afford to have that time for their kids. But dad was exceptional. He created time for us. But he was a disciplinarian. He limited our access to having to go out for parties.
I didn’t go out for my first party until I was in SS3. And in school, the term for such students is a slacker. As a student in America, even when I had all the freedom and could have gone haywire being someone who never used to go out as such, my upbringing made me focused. I did not abuse my newfound freedom.
Dad was strict. He was a father that you don’t want to mess with, but at the same time he was a father who enjoyed spending time with us—taking us to dinner, doing little things down to dressing us up. My dad would not spare the rod. When we were younger, if our lesson teachers came, we used to delay the lesson and we would be giving all kinds of excuses—that our dad asked us to do this and that. And the teacher would be willing to wait, but one day, we delayed a teacher for over an hour and dad opened our study and he couldn’t find us. And when he asked the teacher about us, the teacher gave him one of such excuses that we were doing this and that for our dad. He got angry and flogged all of us.
Looking back, it was in our best interest that he flogged us. I wouldn’t say my dad made me fearful of him or whatever, but he was strict. We knew: Don’t mess with him and don’t do this. If not, you are going to get into trouble. We didn’t want to mess with him or get into trouble. And that has guided me in even things that I do. It has helped to shape the person that I am. So, I believe him being strict was good for us. Because we didn’t go haywire like a lot of other kids. As kids he would tell us: “I’m flying all over the world, I am working day and night because of your future, because I want to make a better life for you. You cannot afford to mess up or disappoint me.”
In his disciplined way, we didn’t ride flashy cars to school. If you said, “Daddy, other kids are driving Jeeps, we want a bigger car, this car is small and it has scratches,” he would say no. He would ask: “Have you worked for money in your life?” For him, as long as the car moves, it drives you to school. Even if we want to change our school bags every term, he would say: “No. There is nothing wrong with your school bag.” If there is a cut, he would ask for it to be repaired.
Dad gave us discipline and conduct. When you have those two things, everything else in your life is shaped around that. Once you have discipline, you conduct yourself properly. My dad was so particular about so many things. When you are eating, you must know how to close your plate, you must have table manners, dressing and all that. Unlike my mates some of whom were just party freaks and they went haywire and they did this and that, I just always knew how to conduct myself.
My dad is someone who believes there is nothing like being a genius. He believes that if you work hard and you have the right backing, you can excel in any situation you are in. I entered university at the age of 14 and I finished at the age of 18. People would say I am a genius. Yes, when I was young, my dad noticed that this girl is sharp, let me put her through school. And he made sure that while I was in school, I was monitored well and I had proper teachers. He used to tell me: “You don’t have to be a genius. If you work hard, you would excel.
If you are put in the right environment, you would excel.” All through my life, me being always younger used to be a disadvantage until I moved back to Nigeria. When I was younger, I used to lie about my age because your mates would call you a baby and they would not feel like talking to you. I realized that when I got to the university that I am young, but it is up to me to conduct myself in a way that people perceive me as being mature and being older. And I was able to do that. And when I came back to Nigeria, people told my dad: “How can you put so much responsibility on her young shoulders? She is so young.” But my dad was giving me a challenge.
He was sending me a message that says: “You are young but I am putting you in a higher position and so you have to excel. People are looking at you and saying you are young for this position, but you need to prove them wrong and make me feel like I made the right decision.” It just the fact that I was always younger than all my peers and I was thrown into a situation whereby I didn’t have the opportunity to slip or to say that: “Oh, I can’t do this well enough.” I always had to.
I don’t think dad is unnecessarily putting so much pressure on me at a young age. My dad is building an empire for his children to run. If he doesn’t put us in the mix early on, then what’s the point?
What I took after my dad
If there is one thing I took after my dad, it would be the fact that I am very organized. My dad is very organized and I am extremely organized. I am almost a perfectionist. People say I have obsessive-compulsive disorder. For me, things must be done in a certain way, in a particular way and I just don’t take excuses. It just has to be done. A lot of people, from the way I relate with people at work, say that I am a replica of my father. And my dad says one thing: “If you have a business, if you don’t run it yourself, nobody can run it for you.” People always say the chairman is so busy, he wants to be involved in everything. But he tells me all the time: “If you don’t put your eye on your thing, no one else would run it for you the way you want it to be run.” So, basically, every single detail of everything, my dad is involved with. He chooses, he is involved in everything. Things he can’t see that has to be purchased, they send him pictures, they do videos for him and all that stuff. In that regard, I am like him. Because I am almost a perfectionist. I hammer on that critically.
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