Dotun is the first son of the late Ibadan-born celebrated historian, Adekunle Ojelabi, who wrote the popular West African History textbook. He is into oil and gas, aviation, real estate, among others. He shares life experiences with SEGUN KASALI.
YOU were born into a prominent family
I was privileged to be the first son of late Adekunle Ojelabi, an illustrious Ibadan man, friend to Professor Banji Akintoye and media guru, Chief Areoye Oyebola. He was a notable historian and politician and the writer of the popular textbook, West African History, first published in 1970. Note that the book was the official approved WAEC textbook for history. Also, my late mum was an erudite French teacher at the Ibadan Grammar School. My parents had a good name. They had good reputation in the society. So, they told me their expectations as the first son.
What were the expectations?
They were constantly telling me or demanding that their legacy must be preserved. I learnt the strength of character. I learnt the value of education. I learnt that great leaders are great readers. Because my late dad was a hardworking researcher and prolific writer of many books, I imbibed research and I have managed to write two books: The Eagle Personality, and The Eagle Manifesto. I learnt that the first law of integrity is respect for time. My dad and mum didn’t believe in African time. So, till today, I don’t go late for events. It has become a part of me.
You learnt through discipline, presumably with cane?
Yes. My parents were strict disciplinarians. I was not pampered at all. So, I don’t have any option other than to commit them to heart. They used cane, but most times, counsel. I can remember at age 14, I took one of my dad’s cars out without permission and burst the sump tank and he discovered. I knew I was in trouble. So I confided in my sisters and they lobbied my mum. I had guilty conscience for weeks. I remember he didn’t beat me. He just counselled me. And I really learnt the lessons.
What were these lessons?
Doing what is right and strictly adhering to guidelines and the need never to be overambitious.
Did these lessons shape your academic performance?
Of course, yes. I was very playful but smart. I had a 2.2 [second class lower] for my bachelor’s degree at the University of Ibadan. However, I went back to the same school and I emerged as the best student in the postgraduate petroleum engineering class of 1998.
When did your dad’s name start opening doors for you?
My boss, Dr Olumide Phillips, executive vice chairman of Texaco Overseas Petroleum Company Unlimited where I worked as a petroleum engineer for 14 years, was giving his daughter out in marriage in the mid 90s. As I entered the engagement party, respectable elite walked up to me and said, ‘young man, who are you? Your face looks familiar’. I said I am Dotun Ojelabi and he said, ‘Dotun, aburo (younger brother to) Nike, son of Adekunle Ojelabi?’ I said ‘yes sir’. He wrapped his arm around me and said ‘your father was a teacher in A-levels in Ibadan Grammar School in 1968. He was a good man. You have constant smile like your dad’. He gave me his complimentary card thereafter and asked me to see him in his office on Monday. The card read ‘Eecutive Vice Chairman, ExxonMobil’. This was one of the 10 most powerful oil and gas executives in Nigeria. He asked me point-blank, ‘do you want to work with me in ExxonMobil?’ I said ‘Texaco is treating me fine sir’. Meeting him turned around my fortune and accelerated my progress.
You must be grateful to your dad for this.
I am sure it was as a result of his good virtues that his name is still a great one. My late dad was very generous and benevolent as a politician. Every Saturday, relatives, friends and party locals would visit and he always had something to give everybody. He gave education scholarship to many young people. This is one area I will love to continue and that is why we established James Adekunle Ojelabi Foundation in April last year at his post-humous birthday lecture. That would have been his 80th anniversary. Shortly before he died, he became born again. I mean born again; he joined a Redeemed Christian Church of God parish, attended all the training and became a Sunday school teacher. His friends could not fully fit his new life. So he was shuttling between Ibadan and Lagos and it was a great time for us to bond again. When we visited my dad’s office – Educational Research Institute and Valuta Publishers at Oke-Ado growing up, Kingsway meatpie and doughnut were regulars and these are still nostaglic years after. So we all loved going to his office.
What are the fond memories of your mum?
Mama Dotun… There was nothing she could not give me. She defended me the way a mother would when I got into trouble at the university. She rose in my defence when I started pastoring in RCCG in Victoria Island in 2001. I was on cross-posting in Houston Texas and the young church could not pay the rent. My assistant pastor, Lekan Arisa and Ilesanmi Owoeye told my mum. She told them to come and collect the rent in Ibadan. She gave them in cash. I asked her, ‘where did you get this money, ain’t you a pensioner? She said it was the money I had been sending to her which she was saving.
Were you searching for a wife like her?
Do you know that was correct? My mum studied French and speaks French fluently. My wife studied French in Unilag and speaks French fluently and very providential.
What is your love story?
Adetutu and I met 27 years ago at Yemi Akinlawon›s bachelor’s eve at Texaco Guest House in Surulere, Lagos. It was love at first sight. I was a newly-employed petroleum engineer in Texaco Overseas, Ikoyi and Engineer Yemi Akinlawon was my boss. I drove to that party in a sleek white sports car owned by Dapo Babajide, Orix or Orinoco, an extremely brilliant mechanical engineer-turned banker. Credit to Charles Agbalajobi for inviting her. I did not have an idea of what providence was playing out for us. The constellation of stars, the moon, the sun and the Orion were all in perfect alignment with true love. Never the shy type to ask a babe to dance in a party, I asked her to dance and she agreed and I got stuck to her and wasn’t able to dance with another lady throughout the rest of the party. That was the beginning of our love life. The rest, as they say, is now history.
What was the family reaction on both sides?
My mum and dad fell in love with her immediately. Her mum and siblings also fell in love with me. In the same rhythm and sagacity, the trio, senior sister Nike, Bisi and Yinka followed in the same direction. They orchestrated and masterminded the coup plot of bringing an Odogbolu princess into an ancient Ibadan warrior’s family.
How were the early years?
We used to have a lot of disputes because of personality conflicts. She’s an introvert and I am an extrovert. So, we intentionally and consciously allow each other to be, respect each others’ boundaries. Give mutual respect, forgive each other in advance, know that no matter what, the covenant of marriage is eternal. We will not go separate ways. I also learnt to serve my wife and sacrifice a lot for her. She, in return, reciprocated this gesture. She taught me the five love languages and we have been practising or practically, I sing it. It takes a lot of wisdom and maturity to have a successful marriage. By force, we had to exercise high level of wisdom and maturity.
What would you change, if given an opportunity?
Sincerely, opportunities that I did not maximize to advance the kingdom cause and benefit humanity. I believe God is a God of second chance. He will bring such opportunities back and grant us the leverage to maximize.
Adnan Khashoggi, the late financier of the Sultan of Brunei, said relationship is everything in life, every other thing, is details. Archimedes said give me a lever long enough and a place to stand and I will move the entire world. The grace of God has brought me in great relationships across the world, in different strata of the society; in business, government, ministry, et al. On many occasions I have turned down opportunities to join businesses, partner with ministries or not even following up on a great contact or connection. I now know better, how to nurture relationships and leverage.
What makes you give daily gratitude to God?
I am a product of God’s grace. I know deeply within me that I am undeserving for all the blessings of God in my life and family. So I am eternally indebted to God. So daily, I sing and dance to God. I even composed songs to show my gratitude to God in two separate CDs.
What are your unforgettable memories?
When I lost my immediate younger sister, Bisi and senior sister, Moji.
They died of sickle cell crises. They were the kimdest sisters anyone should pray to have. They were always praying for me till I became born again.
What gives you so much joy?
It is not money that gives me joy o. I think that is how God created me. I love life. I live life to the fullest. So, I see every new day as a gift and a plus. So, I celebrate life and God daily. I also like to celebrate and honour people. When I now became born again, the joy now escalated because I started enjoying the joy in Galatians 5. That is the fruit of the Spirit. Like John Maxwell said every man in a lifetime will directly influence about 10,000 people. I believe by the grace of God I have surpassed this record. I was created by God to raise influential leaders or influence young people for peak performance in life. I believe access or platforms to influence and impact lives positively in hundreds of thousands will give more fulfillment in life.
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