Segun Abraham is a chartered engineer, businessman and former Chairman of Owena International Hotel. He shared the soft side of him and some of the important lessons life has taught him in this interview with Eric Dumo
How was growing up?
It was quite interesting. I grew up in my home town, Ikare-Akoko, a village in Ondo. There were many opportunities to learn every day about what life truly was. As a child, I passed through various stages of developments and my parents loved me so much even though they were a bit strict. They taught us how to look after ourselves because a lot of times they went to the farm and left us to take care of ourselves. As a result, I learnt how to cook very well because we were all males in my family at the time.
Then from time to time, I also went to the farm to assist my parents after school and at weekends. I also used to help them sell kerosene at evenings and that taught me a lot of things about economics as it enabled me learn how to save and manage money very well at such a young age. I became a little bit comfortable at that time.
Did the fact that you were raised under the roof of a disciplinarian rob you of any childhood adventure like playing football and going to swim at the stream with your peers?
I had time to play just like the other children. In fact I was a very good footballer as a young boy and for my powerful left foot people gave me a nickname, ‘ballistic acid’.
I also used to write with my left hand then but changed over to the right when I got to Form 1 because at that time it is said that those who used left hand cannot be successful in life and that you could never become a king. It was that saying that propelled me to change to my right hand. It took me a while to adapt because if I had to write very fast I switched over to left but otherwise I used my right. However, it got to a stage where I could not even write with my left hand again, it was that interesting. Mine was a childhood filled with interesting memories.
Why didn’t you consider becoming a professional footballer having played so well?
For me, football was just a game of fun at the time; I never had the ambition of becoming a professional footballer in the future because such was not common in those days. My intention was to become an agriculturist when I grew up because we used to have a man who went to school to study Agriculture and he always came back home telling us about the benefits of the vocation. I fell in love with his words and felt I could take after him especially since my father had a huge cocoa plantation. That was my initial ambition, I never thought I would go to study Engineering at the higher institution.
So, what was the experience like for you as a student?
It was a great experience for me; I always took up challenging positions. One way or the other, I was always a revolutionary. I remember when I was in secondary school and a time came when we changed the principal and other senior management staff because of poor performance on their part. We protested and the board of governors of the school waded in. We insisted and ensured the principal and his accomplices were chased away.
Also, I remember when I was at the Yaba College of Technology; we had to put up a solid fight for the authorities to establish Higher National Diploma programmes. We rioted against the Commissioner for Education at the time and they had to beg us to come back to school after several weeks. On one of those riots, we had to paint the Students’ Union’s bus into a commercial colour for us to bypass the police and military that were chasing after us. They didn’t know we were the ones. While they were waiting for us on the road, they didn’t know that we were already at Dodan Barracks. Immediately we got in, we brought out our placards and started singing the national anthem. We had already divided ourselves into four groups at the time and as we were singing the national anthem, the soldiers could not move, so one of the groups moved in while another group also moved in as some other set were singing the anthem. Before they knew what was happening, we were already in front of the office of the then Head of State, Shehu Shagari. We bypassed them by adopting a crafty and non-violent strategy. Some ministers had to appeal to us and promised us that they were going to look into our case. That was how HND programmes were eventually introduced into the Nigerian polytechnic system.
For the role you played, did you suffer any witch-hunt or punishment from the authorities?
We were not engaging in violence and as a matter of fact, the authorities liked what we were doing even though they could not do it themselves. They were happy silently. The Minister of Education then fulfilled all the promises he made to us and that was how the polytechnic system in Nigeria started offering HND certificates and from there they could go to do Masters’ degree anywhere in the world.
That agitation was not all about Yabatech alone but the whole polytechnic students across Nigeria. If not for that struggle, we would have been having HND now. That gave me a deep sense of fulfilment.
While in school, how often did you engage in social activities?
I was involved in all things good. I attended parties often and immediately we get back to the hostel at about 3:00am, I would carry my books to the class to read till 7:00am before going to sleep. I was involved in campus politics and also engaged in other extra-curricular activities in school but I was never involved in cultism.
There was nothing like kidnappers or hoodlums waylaying people anyhow, it was rare. As a matter of fact, we attended about four parties in one night. Life was very easy and enjoyable then.
When I started working, the company that first employed me, which was owned by Germans, said that as part of their new policy, they were not giving young Nigerian employees like me car loans. I told them I didn’t need such a loan either because I believed that by the time I worked very hard for them and they liked me, they would be the ones begging me to use their car so that I wouldn’t leave them. Not quite long, what I said happened and they gave me a brand new car. I was in my early 20s then and it felt wonderful sitting at the back and being driven around in a brand new and fully air-conditioned Peugeot 505 car. The job involved a lot of travelling, so I used to move around very well and I enjoyed it.
Your success at such a young age must have endeared you to a lot of people especially ladies, how did you cope?
One thing in life is that there are parameters to measure success. These could be in terms of money, intelligence, academic qualification, political power and the rest. So, if ladies are smiling and flocking around you, then you know you are being successful. But again, it also means that you have to be very careful because you may lose out at the end.
I used to have a lot of females friends but I was always particular about telling them that I wasn’t ready for marriage because I didn’t want to deceive or disappoint anybody. It is not every relationship that can end in marriage. That made me to have a lot of reliable female friends. Many of us still maintain contact today even though we are all happily married.
At what point did you meet your wife and what attracted her to you?
I used to have a lot of ladies around me those days but I prayed to God to choose the best for me and He gave me my wife. Her gentle nature and beauty really attracted her to me. I fell in love with her to the extent that I proposed to her less than 30 minutes after first meeting her. I never thought I could do such in my life but then, God has a way of doing things which we may never understand.
So, did she accept your proposal right away?
Oh, she stressed me a bit. She took her time in assessing me, to know if I was the right person for her. By the grace of God after some time, she found me worthy of her love and accepted to marry me. It was one of the greatest moments of my life.
What lesson has marriage taught you?
Marriage is the University of Life. It is an institution in which one cannot stop learning. It is one that transforms a person both physically, emotionally and spiritually. Without marriage, we won’t know a lot of things in life including the worth and sweetness of love. We won’t even know how to resolve conflicts. It helps to remind us of our mission in this world. So, I have learnt a lot in marriage. It has helped me gain a sense of responsibility.
You attended a theological school and now you are into politics, don’t you think you might not fit into the system coming from such a background?
Theology is about God and all that He has made. As a matter of fact, the administration of man and society started from the Bible. Even democracy is a Christian value now used to run societies. There was a time in Europe when it was the Church that appointed the prime ministers. Most of the Western rules you see today emanated from the Bible.
In Nigeria, a lot of people go into diabolical things because they are not enlightened about the teachings of God. Those who go into occultism become servants to such powers. I am into politics to impart what the word of God says on the lives of people who have suffered for too long at the hands of individuals who do not have the slightest inkling on how to run the affairs of men. I am in politics to set example by shining the light of God on the society. My mission is to use the word and teachings of God to transform the life of people especially in Ondo State where I come from.
Since you said you are a good cook, do you still have the time to go to the kitchen once in a while?
Yes, I do once in a while especially when my wife is not around. I love it when I cook for my children even though these days, they don’t allow me to do that. But then, I still stay to give them some secret recipe. In fact recently, I taught them how to cook without using palm oil and the food still tasted nice.