“Suji, in all my years of experience, this has never happened before! I have never seen people coming together and contributing $50k at such short notice! Wow! Just keep doing what you are doing because the Almighty is true with you”. These were the words of Lanre Alfred to me after my surprise dinner birthday party put together by my friends.
Show me your friend and I will tell you who you are.
One of the questions the king of Dubai – Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum asked me in 2015 was ‘What’s the quality of your network?’
I didn’t know how to answer that question then, because I haven’t really given it a thought but I told him about my vision and dream to redefine luxury living in Nigeria and I remember he said to me:
“If you want to grow faster, build a quality network. And to do this, you must remember that friendship is more like farming than hunting. You plant, nurture and weed it.”
Today these words came to me and I understood better what HRH King Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum was trying to explain to me.
On my 40th birthday, I had wanted to travel to Saudi Arabia and rest, restrategize and refuel! But my friends had other plans.
First, I couldn’t find my passport. Secondly, numerous people started calling, giving me reasons not to travel. Some raised the issue of the pandemic, while others were bent on taking me for dinner. Someone, in particular, called to say his Mum is interested in purchasing a unit of our project in QueenAminaBySujimoto Abuja Project and would want to come around to discuss with me (Of Course anything transaction, I am surely interested).
All of these were just to get me not to leave the country before my birthday and they succeeded!
To my greatest surprise, in less than 4 days, they raised About 20 million and planned a surprise birthday dinner party, bringing friends from Lagos, Abuja, Dubai, NYC, and the UK. How they were able to do this within the shortest possible time is the true test of friendship.
I was blown away when I got to the venue of the surprised dinner party and saw a lot of my friends, some that I haven’t even seen in years. It was a very emotional event for me because it reminded me of my Mother’s famous saying: ‘Eniyan Laso Mi’ which means ‘People are my covering,’ and the little investment we put into the development of friendship, gives the highest Returns.
My friends didn’t only plan a Surprise Dinner Party, knowing fully well my love for children and my philosophy of generosity, they also went ahead to put together a Charity Visit to a slum school on a dunghill in Ilaje, Bariga; known as the Footprints of David. The fact that through them, I could put a smile on the faces of these kids, who have defied their environment and have embraced learning as a tool to fight poverty, increased my faith in humanity.
I have learnt over the years that one of the fundamental secrets of success is surrounding yourself with assets, not a liability. If Jesus, understanding the importance of building a strong network, loved the whole world but selected 12 friends from different walks of life, then why shouldn’t you?
I am forever grateful and will never forget this favour from these amazing friends who have turned family, they are; Adedoyin Alatishe, Kabiru Rabiu, Chioma & Kika (Good Hair), Maurice Khawam, Jad Jarmakani, Frederic Nader, Seyi Tinubu, Hafeez Balogun, Olori E, Maiden Ibru, Toke Ibru, Tive Ibru, Hajia Tai Elemesho, SIP brothers , Eni Adenuga, Obi Iyiegbu (Obi Cubana), Petee, Chief Chikelo Ejikeme, (Amb) Dr. Sowemimo Abiodun, Bovi, Ubi Franklin, Tosin Oshinowo, Folajimi Lai-Mohammed, Arese Alonge, Alh balogun, TJ Saro, Folly Coker, Chef Tolu Eros, Ahmad Damcida, Mariam Timmer, Akin Cole Onitiri, Dabota Lawson, Rasheed Muri-Okunola, Habeeb Okunola, Tayo Otubanjo, Bamikole Omishore, Tim Trevari, Victor Ovia, Rep Babajide Obanikoro, Tunde Otufale, Chinedum Odogwu, Niyi Adeyemi (sirspin), Hon Ololade Onakoya MFR, MKD Araoye, Suleiman Sani Bello, Akin Cole Onitiri, David Branbaifa, Hon Elvis Dada, Mbadiwe Twins, Mary Dinar, Mr. E.A, Miss MA, Demola Fashola, Seun Okin, Chima Anyaso, Alao Semih Oladimeji, Andrew Zidon, Nkemkanma Kama, Akinfemi Akinruntan, Commander, Tunde Otufale, Korede Roberts, Joseph Orike, Kennedy Njideofor, Christopher Taiwo, Laniyan Kolawole, Victor Ikem, Uzoma Konyeaso, Akin Afe, Nkemkanma Kama, Osemwengie G. Agbonlahor II, Tope Ajileye, Lanre Badmus, Solomon Agbataekwe – Richmond, Ogunlesi Simon Kay, Ola Daramola, Suwaid Muhammad, Wemo, Afolabi Olatunji, Funmilola Olotu, Sam Iwuajoku Jnr., Olakunle Olaniyi, Owolabi, Farouk Bello, Hon Funke Adesiyan, Tobi Emeke, Saheed Kuteyi, Tajudeen Ahmed, Olaseni Ogundairo, Richard Nnadi, Alaoma Anumudu, Rt. Hon. Amarachi C. Iwuanyanwu, Ogunlesi Simon Kay, Tajudeen Ahmed, Nicole Tafawa Balewa, Lakunle R, Joseph Orike, Zero percent, Mustapha Umar Ali, Dr. Jamal Akinade, Uzoma konyeaso, Akin Afe, are Aliu TDA, Akin Olaoye, Sagun Malumi, Donald Wokoma, Babajide Balogun, Adedoyin Alatishe, Tayo Otubanjo, JT, Yahaya Zekeri Junior, Leke Dokunmu, Dr. Jamal Akinade, Aedan Asika, Gbenga Adeyi, Rasheed Kashamu, Stephen Ajadi, Estanola Oyelese, Rilwan Layode, Seun Okin, Tope Shonuga, Mazi A.V. Orji, Frank Papas, Barr Ify Morah, Kennedy Njideofor, Lanre Onabowale, Dr. Ibidapo Fashina, Gbolahan Osinowo, Aramide Adetayo, and others.
Photography by Frank Ugah