A prominent Lagosian and a prince from the Basua and Ashogbon ruling houses in Lagos State, Edward Akinlade is a real estate mogul and chairman of Suru Group of Companies. He shares his childhood experience and journey into property business with SEGUN KASALI in this interview.
How has royalty moulded your character, were you pampered as a child?
I would not say no, I was not pampered. I wasn’t pampered as a child. I spent my childhood with my mother in Idi-Oro, Mushin area of Lagos State. Idi-Oro is a low-class district. There was nothing like affluence in the area, but I enjoyed a bit of privilege lifestyle when we moved to Surulere, Lagos State, in the late 70s. Generally speaking, we had our fair share of living in Idi-Oro which is mainly a lowly community.
Fair share of living in Idi-Oro, how do you mean?
In Idi-Oro, we led a communal lifestyle. We celebrated festive periods together. In spite of our little means, my parents ensured we had a memorable celebration during Christmas. We were contented with the little we were provided with. During birthday parties, children from various homes would gather together to eat rice and meat from a big bowl. We never discriminated. There was love among us. We tolerated each other.
We did everything together. I could remember we had an area boys’ governor at that time. His name was Mighty Joe. He had a very grip and control over children in the community. We always carried out his wishes.
There was a fuel station where we gathered at the weekend taking turn to run an errand for him and he fed and guided us in return.
What kind of errand did you run for him?
We chased after girls for him. Girls of the time were morally upright and dressed decently. You won’t see them wear skimpy dresses like girls of today. He deliberately chose us because of our innocence and the fact that children could not be arrested by the police. I wasn’t always available for such escapade because I would be with my mother helping her out with her trade between Monday and Saturday except on Sunday which when I would have the opportunity to mingle with other children because my mother would be at home sleeping. Mighty Joe was a disciplinarian. He would discipline young girls for indecent dressing. His goal was to see girls in our community leading a moral and decent lifestyle. In Idi-Oro of that era, you won’t find girls walking the street naked contrary to what obtains in present-day Idi-Oro which is notorious for boys and girls of shady characters and different form of criminalities.
When you chased after girls, were you at any time reported to your parents for engaging in such act?
I was at no time reported to my parents. This is because it was not just a one-child affair. Many of us were involved in running such errand. He would send seven to ten boys. So, it would be difficult to pinpoint who did what.
So, what impact did it have on your academics?
My academic performance was very low when I was in idi-Oro. I was so playful but everything changed when we relocated to Surulere. There, I was attached to my studies rather than being a truant. It was a good experience because when we moved to Surulere, I missed the togetherness and communal lifestyle in Idi-Oro. I became lonely until I got used to not having friends around to play with. I preoccupied my mind with the mindset that my friends were the only ones I was seeing at school. So, this limited my friends to my classmates only rather than people on my street because they were nowhere to be found. Let me say this, for as long as I think, I have always wanted to study accounting.
Why the choice of accounting?
The reason is this, when my mother returned from Tejuosho market where she was a trader, she would give me her money to count. This was how I developed interest in calculation. I knew that my brain is very sharp for mathematics since I was eight years old. I got used to that throughout my primary and secondary school days. My parents have seven children. Three of us were in boarding school. I was alone with my mother until she had twins.
As the only child with my mother, I was overburdened with house chores. Every morning, I would trek from Idi-Oro to Tejuosho market to help my mother with her trade. My mother would come around 11 am and I would attend evening classes. I attended evening school until I got to my final year in secondary school. I loved being around my mother. The experience I had in Tejusoho market guided me in so many things. I hawked a product for my mother. This is because whenever she went to the Lagos High Court to buy second-hand furniture, she would buy other things which I would sell in the market. I made a lot of money trading at Tejuosho. I would sell a product of N1:00 for N1.50 and I would give my mother N1 and keep the remaining 50k in my safe. It was a period in my life that shaped my adulthood. I cultivated the traditional behaviour of market women in Tejuosho which I learnt and still practise till today. Nobody can get money out of me on a Monday. I don’t spend money on a Monday.
Why is this?
Well, this is one of the theories of traders in Tejuosho market. If you collect money on a Monday, it is believed that you would collect money throughout the week. So, it is a myth but it is still in me till today. But if you begin the week by spending on a Monday, it means you would spend throughout that week. So, I was not feeling the stress of going to the market in the morning and going for classes in the evening because of the love I have for my mother. If my mother was not around, I would feel sick.
Between your mother and father, who is dearer to you?
I don’t know how to describe my love for my mother. There is something in me that she could not give away. I just know that I wanted to be around her. I would become stressed up if I didn’t see my mother in a day. The biggest trait I took from her is giving because she gives a lot and that is in me. I also believe I share in her inspiration that giving is the surest way to prosperity. When you give, you shall also receive. I learnt that from her. Let me tell you one of the greatest lessons I learnt from my mother. There was a day we left Tejusoho market and trekked to Barracks bus stop where we were supposed to take a public transport home. But my mother dragged my hand and we walked home after she had spoken to someone. Why would we walk home? I began to cry. For half an hour, we walked. When we got home, she sat me on the table and said, ‘look! I had given the remaining money I had on me to a man who begged for money from me. The man said he was heading to Obalende and he had no money. So, I gave out the transport fare to him. But I said, ‘we made a lot of money in the market today, why couldn’t you put your money in there?’ She explained that she had tied it in her inner chamber and there was no way she could loose it at the bus stop. I think that is why she is a blessed woman. So, I have that belief that the more I give, the more the almighty God will bless me and protect my soul.
What about your dad?
I love my father too. I learnt a lot from him. He is a focused man. But, you dare not ask a question. In those days, it was difficult to ask your father a question. You dared not! So, my dad was a disciplinarian. But, my mother played a great role in my academics.
How did you meet your wife?
I met her by chance in London. It was on a Saturday morning when I went to the bank to withdraw some amount of money. She was distressed. Something in me asked me to find out why she was distressed. And then, I spoke to her and she said her employer had not paid her salary and she needed to buy something in the market. I gave her the money and that was how we met. The decency in her speaks volume. She is so focused; she is not one that frolics with men.
And what did she see in you?
I think she appreciated me more. Unlike other girls around me at that time, she was hard-working. In fact she was into three jobs at the same time.
What would you like to be corrected about you?
I won’t say I am a perfectionist, but I am okay with the way I am both in character and appearance. Throughout my entire life, I am like sugar that ants would always look for. I am highly sought after.Right from my younger years, ladies have always flocked around me and I have more girls than boys as friends.
Hardly would you see two or three male friends with me. If I am at home and my phone rings, you may guess who is calling: a woman! This is one of things I consider as a vice which gets my wife upset. My wife believes that women are attracted to me rather than me being attracted to women.
Can you share some of your escapades with women?
On many occasions, I would get calls and text messages from women. There was a time a woman sent her pictures to me. At times, they come around to my office uninvited and lie to my secretary that they have an appointment with me. They put up all sorts of weird attitudes to get my attention. So, you can see how desperate some of them are. I have not less than 15 of such occurrences on a daily basis through different social media platforms. One of my prayer points is that should God destroy the Lucifer and Jezebel in the forms of women before they can find their ways to me. It is a prayer I pray on a daily basis.
Apart from prayers, how do you handle advances from women?
When a woman desires you, she will do whatever it requires to get your attention. For me, I wear my wedding band all the time so that those looking from afar would see that I am hooked already. I know how to immediately shut down a woman making advances because I am blessed with the Holy Spirit.
How do you socialise?
I am more like a loner. I don’t really socialise because of issues of insecurity. But when I go to London, I really enjoy myself because security is assured. On weekends, I would dress up and go to the mall. My wife and children would follow if any of them is around. But, my main social outing is going to the cinemas and also going to the beach.
In the course of growing up and in your adult years, have you had any unforgettable moments?
Professionally, the intervention of the Central Bank of Nigeria in the defunct Oceanic Bank Limited in 2015 is one of my never to forget experience. It affected my plan on where I would like to be today. When CBN intervened in Oceanic Bank, they took out Mrs. Cecilia Ibru and the new MD stopped all our funding. It was really a tough time for me. But, I always believe that tough times don’t last, but tough people do. I stood my ground, journeyed on and today, I give thanks to God. Also, I would never forget my first meeting with Mrs. Ibru. I was taken there by a lady who wanted to get a job from Oceanic Bank. She worked with Zenith Bank. Prior to meeting her, God had already told me in London that I should sell everything I had and come to Nigeria. I had a lot of money. When I met Mrs. Ibru, she supported my business and I brought in my equity and used it to buy a lot of properties from Nigerian Airways. At a point, we owned about 32 hectares in Ikeja GRA which she supported. So, those are life-changing moments in my life.
I don’t have any regret. All I can say is that I have had challenges in becoming who I am today. The challenges of running businesses are very common in Nigeria. It is also a reason why a lot of businesses collapse. So, that has always been the regret, asking myself, ‘Did I regret coming to Nigeria at that particular time?’ I did not.
What gives you joy?
My joy lies in God. The realisation that by His grace, I will make His kingdom. This is what is important to me. Forget about money, culture, aspiration and other things. Money can only give temporary joy. My joy comes from God. So, in everything I do, I am consciously working towards that. So, if I am blessed today, I want to build a church for God. I want to support the underprivileged. We have supported children’s home in Gbagada where we give them money on a monthly basis. I am happy. We are also supporting the Lagos State University Teaching Hospital and so many others.
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