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Chude Jideonwo pens Emotional Ode to His Friend & Business Partner Adebola Williams in Celebration of His 30th Birthday

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Adebola Williams & Chude JideonwoMy car had broken down, for the umpteenth time, on the high way.

This was a car I bought under ‘tension’, so desperate to have a car in ‘this same Lagos’ where my friends who didn’t work as hard as me were driving SUVs and CRVs.

I had saved up all I had to buy it, despite my mother’s caution. And, so of course, it  became a vehicle of disgrace.

It had broken down on Ikorodu road. Broken down at Agidingbi road. Broken down on the third mainland bridge. Broken down in front of the filling station at the University of Lagos just as I was late for my exams.

And here, we were again. It was past 10pm on Eko Bridge; Adebola Williams and I had just finished one of our endless meetings seeking funding for the Future Awards Africa; and my ‘motor car’ had broken down again.

While I sat in the driver’s seat, thoroughly confused, ‘Bola swung to action. He got out of the car and looked around. He began to make calls, while I failed to emerge from my paralysis. He asked me to get out and see if I could push the car. He reminded me to quickly take the little money I had just been paid from the back of the car and put it under the seat.

Remember: this was my car. My mess. But Bola was taking charge.

Then suddenly, four guys appeared, menacing as they must look. One wielding a knife. Another gesturing towards his right hand in his pocket, to suggest that he may or may not have a gun.

While I was shaking like a leaf, they took our phones, and anything else they could find. They warned us to say where we were, and they began to walk away.

As they began to move away: I felt dread descend on me: “Bola,” I barely managed to whisper. “They took my laptop! They took my laptop ooo. They took my laptop.”

This was the time before ‘fast’ Internet in Nigeria, and when only geeks knew about Dropbox and iCloud. When I could barely afford money for a laptop, talk less of an external drive. So all my writing, all my work, all my articles, everything was in that laptop.

“Bola, they took my laptop! I am finished. What am I going to do?

And then without thinking, without pausing, and with no regard for himself, Bola raced after the men who might or might have had guns to retrieve my laptop.

I stood there, transfixed. I couldn’t believe what he had just done. Why he had just done it. What he hoped to achieve. I could only watch Bola run towards them, risking his life, because he knew how much mine depended on my personal computer.

It wasn’t until one of the guys turned back and waved a knife, that I had to scream for Bola to retreat, to let them be, to stop risking his life for me.

Adebola had forgotten this story. But I had never. I have never. Probably never can. I share it with everyone who asks to know why our friendship has stood for over 12 years now. A friendship that has seen us build a business, build brands, build relationships, build institutions – and through it all, keep growing and learning. I tell it to my team members every now and again. I tell it to those who seek to understand.

I tell them: Adebola Williams is the most selfless person not named ‘mummy’ that I know.

He is vain. He loves to take selfies. He was born for luxury. His middle name is ‘Lush’. He knows how to work a room. He can talk to anybody, anywhere, at anytime. He can turn a ‘no’ into a ‘yes’ in a matter of seconds. He steps into a room and he sucks all the energy out of it. He wills you to notice him. He dares you to ignore him. He walks through the space like he owns it, suffering no lack of self confidence. His sheer presence overwhelms friends, intimidate foes.

But Bola is the most selfless person I know.

A person who will suffer inconvenience, with no regard to himself, to help you find rest. A person who will drop everything he has to show up for you, even before you ask. A person who will, and has, emptied his bank accounts, just because you asked. A person who has never wished anyone harm, no matter how hurt, no matter how betrayed, no matter what gain will come to him. Ever.

He is 30 today.

If I myself weren’t a victim of those who cannot believe my age, I would doubt it. Because he has lived so many lives in one. He has accomplished plenty, beyond imagination. He has built a sterling character-based reputation – rejecting everything from questionable wealth to tempting government appointments. He has sealed million dollar-deals and spoken everywhere from Harvard to the African union.

But none of those things truly matter, as far as I believe, if the people who are closest to you don’t feel that you, as a human being, are a gift. That you are kind. That you are faithful. That you are true. That your heart is beautiful. That your will is good. That your intentions are pure.

Accomplishments mean nothing if your humanity is empty; and that is where Bola truly shines.

I am an only child, growing up loving the pleasure of my own company. I was used to the role of the outsider. Uncomfortable with crowds. Manic about my personal space. Deeply distrustful of people, because I grew up to see a country that rewarded evil, and gave no space for decency, for good faith, for love.

Adebola broke through all of that.

It was easy for him to do so because I could see a beauty of soul and a poetry of spirit that one finds so rare in a world where everyone is trying to gain an inch over the next person, exploit your weakness, show off their superiority, cheat, lie and deceive, prove that they are better than you, run you down in public while they claim to be your friends, and abandon every dcency in the pursuit of advantage.

Sometimes, it gets so tiring. You wonder: how did people get so bitter, so small, so insecure, so hateful and spiteful, so lacking in the good graces of basic humanity?

It was easy for me to give in because I met a friend who, over the past 12 years, has risked his life, and much more, for so many people I know – and then for me.

There is a friend that sticketh closer than a brother. As always, the Bible puts it in better words than I could ever have.

And it’s from that place of glorious safety that I say: Happy birthday, my brother.

I celebrate your life.

And I thank you. For the gift of your friendship.

Jideonwo is a storyteller, using the research and evidence on human flourishing to inspire new narratives about politics, markets, faith, identity and society in Africa. He is a co-founder of RED, which he ran for 13 years before stepping down in December 2017. One of its companies, StateCraft Inc. handled communication for the Muhammadu Buhari campaign in 2015 and has worked in elections in Ghana, Kenya, Liberia, and Sierra Leone.

38 Comments

  1. Dongagaleo

    March 7, 2016 at 7:53 pm

    Hey!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
    See the beauty of the art of writing. I want to learn!
    This is so beautiful and probably one of the most genuine things I have read/seen.
    Happy birthday Adebola.
    Chude your words, your words!!! Please teach me.

  2. Sco Sco

    March 7, 2016 at 8:03 pm

    My Mentors from AFAR! Love the footprints you two continue to leave for those of us coming behind. Thank God for making your paths cross and thank you for being so real in a world that is increasingly filled with friendships solely for the camera and social media likes. This is at real as it gets. Happy Birthday Debola. Great write-up Chude

  3. luvnaija

    March 7, 2016 at 8:04 pm

    Happy birthday Bola! I knew you from a distance and 1st meeting you’d bought me a bottle of Bulvgari perfume from your trip! Don’t wanna divulge much cos you could decipher if you see my post. HBD and more grace to you!

  4. dobby

    March 7, 2016 at 8:04 pm

    I love this Article! So true in every way. Happy Birthday Debola.

  5. Lil

    March 7, 2016 at 8:09 pm

    So sweet, I pray to God to be this selfless

  6. Sanusi Adetoyese Olabisi

    March 7, 2016 at 8:29 pm

    Adebola Happy Birthday.
    You and Chude has chatted a course for upcoming generations. I am dazed by your ability to know the why of your existence at 18!
    Future holds a better ace for you!

  7. Honeymix

    March 7, 2016 at 8:31 pm

    I don’t remember d last time I left a comment on here but this brought tears to my eyes . So sweet n genuine. Happy birthday Adebola.
    Mw, I’m 32 and I hope to leave my mark n help my country in some way like these 2 guys n more. Isn’t it getting rather late. Lord, see my heart n grant me d strength m resources.! Amen

  8. Habiba

    March 7, 2016 at 8:45 pm

    Wow…. Egbon Chude ???????? Happy birthday Adebola, God Bless You Richly.

  9. Ginger

    March 7, 2016 at 8:54 pm

    Nice. Well done to both of them….but honestly it would be nice to see more younger folks in government. Its a shame that we are celebrating only a few of the people of our generation holding such positions. Its always Adebola Williams and Chude Jideonwo and nobody else. Before and during independence our leaders were in their thirties and they were controlling things; now its different and we find it ‘unique’ and worth celebrating when the the younger generation have such positions

    • Tosin

      March 17, 2016 at 11:25 am

      Whatever your hands find to do…
      There are many ways to be outsize in influence today. Elected and appointed office, yes, true, you’re right, i will now shut up.

  10. Halima

    March 7, 2016 at 9:07 pm

    Good friends are hard to find. If you ever find one, keep him!

  11. Ginger

    March 7, 2016 at 9:08 pm

    In addition, if we had the number of young people who are make-up artist, in government, then things will start to change for the better….sometimes I think we the younger generation should slow down on entrepreneurship (makeup, catering, fashion etc), entertainment and the like a bit and pursue public office positions. Such would put one in a position to enforce policies that can create a change for the masses….my two cents

    • Corolla

      March 8, 2016 at 1:26 am

      Why are you waiting for people to quit their entrepreneurial endeavors. You sef go run for office na .

    • Naomi

      March 8, 2016 at 2:38 am

      Yimu…be the change you want to see.

    • Olabisi

      March 10, 2016 at 9:50 am

      You have just charged me.

  12. 'Diddie

    March 7, 2016 at 9:16 pm

    Happy Birthday Agemate! 30 is the new 20, abi?
    But Chude really wrote from his heart#Nice one#Kudos
    wish I could have a friend as Bola or betterstill be a good friend like Bola?

    • zarah

      March 8, 2016 at 7:13 pm

      Me tooooooooo

  13. nb

    March 7, 2016 at 9:30 pm

    and this is the man mochedda is dating…… good for her, no wonder she don dey claim future wife already!!!
    nice article!!!

    • wrong

      March 7, 2016 at 9:56 pm

      Mocheddah is dating gbemi oo’s brother.

    • word

      March 7, 2016 at 10:04 pm

      Mochedda kwa?! Biko go back to her Instagram page and look well well. Hian!

    • ese

      March 7, 2016 at 10:20 pm

      Lool! Who is this Lastma? He isn’t the one she is dating o..although I can see the resemblance so I understand why

    • kandy

      March 8, 2016 at 12:21 am

      Nope mochedda’ own is even younger and ha made money out of money!

  14. Hordunayor

    March 7, 2016 at 10:36 pm

    Very Apt!

    So, so, So……. true.

    Happy Birthday Sir Debola

  15. Tosin

    March 7, 2016 at 11:19 pm

    Happy birthday peeps. Long life and great joys. Amen.

    Please, this was overly sappy (but isss allowed.)

  16. Adebola

    March 8, 2016 at 12:21 am

    Am inspired. A true friend indeed. Despite all; I believe there are still plenty of good and selfless people in world today.

  17. ATL's finest

    March 8, 2016 at 5:13 am

    I’m one of the lucky ones to say my Bestie & I are still hanging in from yesterday?. Although it’s very rare to find these days.. I LOVE ME my BFF 10yrs pls & still counting ??????THAt chick rocks & of course, she’s my partner in crime. HBD Mr. Williams

    • Sharon

      April 11, 2016 at 11:19 am

      Chude, I have to think twice before I finally summon courage to write this, posting a comment to a Megastar writer like you is a great challenge, but I must confess – I love the way you write, it’s always outstanding and pragmatic. More grace to you.

  18. ATL's finest

    March 8, 2016 at 5:13 am

    *plus*

  19. Nkem

    March 8, 2016 at 6:16 am

    Okay, it’s official. I am slowly – but surely – falling for Chude.
    Keep writing, Chude. I will keep reading.
    …And Happy Birthday, Debola.

  20. Mrs Oke

    March 8, 2016 at 9:57 am

    ….. if the people who are closest to you don’t feel that you, as a human being, are a gift. That you are kind. That you are faithful. That you are true. That your heart is beautiful. That your will is good. That your intentions are pure.
    Accomplishments mean nothing if your humanity is empty;

    Wow… This got me really thinking… Happy birthday Debola

    • ardnas

      March 8, 2016 at 12:48 pm

      @Mrs.Oke you took the words right out of my mouth. Charity indeed begins at home.

  21. X-Factor

    March 8, 2016 at 1:40 pm

    Wow!….Chude is a profound and first class wordsmith
    Happy Birthday Debola….

  22. prince

    March 8, 2016 at 4:16 pm

    Adebola… I’m still looking forward to the day I’ll meet you, I’ve been a fan from afar, both of you inspire me greatly.
    I celebrate you Great Man. Happy Birthday, I love you

  23. Eka Odee

    March 8, 2016 at 5:56 pm

    Adebola Williams for being such a nice, dependable and fine natured person, may God bless you. Just like your friend mentioned dependable friends are very rare to find. I am wishing you a very happy birthday. May your joy continue to multiply. You will never know a better yesterday in Jesus Name. Amen. I also say a big thank you to your parents for a job well done. Happy birthday.

  24. Uber bella

    March 8, 2016 at 10:59 pm

    Aww. Was so touched by this. Good friends are very rare to find . Happy birthday Debola. So hard to believe you’re only 30 as you’ve accomplished so much. All the best to you.

  25. wow

    March 10, 2016 at 12:24 am

    I rarely cry, before I cry ehn, you go know wetin cause am, I guess life and Nigeria has toughened me up. but I had tears in my eyes while reading this, this is so heart warming that two people from probably different ethnic groups (who senselessly don’t like each other), two ppl from differing backgrounds and personalities can have this much selfless love for each other. may their friendship touch and change every Nigerian’s heart, may we strive to be good like Bola. happy birthday Bola, God bless you both, your families, and the works of your hands. let us use these guys as examples to raise our children to shun selfishness, hate, and prejudice.

  26. Venne

    March 14, 2016 at 8:41 pm

    I celebrate you. Adebola.

  27. Ngozi M.

    October 25, 2016 at 9:48 pm

    Your story is a breath of fresh air. God bless

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