How My Past Prepared Me For My Present • Debola Williams Reflects On His Life

Posted on April 16 2018 , at 04:36 pm
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Adebola Williams, the MD/CEO of Red Media, an advertising/brand company is one of the leaders of the new generation in Nigeria. In his early 30s, Debola has done a lot to turn him into a global phenomenon. He has always been a leading light in his generation. Over the last few years, he has accomplished a lot. He is one of the brains behind Future Awards. Two Sundays back (8th April 2018 to be precise) City People Magazine Publisher, SEYE KEHINDE spent some time with this celebrated professional who was one of those who worked on the Buhari brand in 2015.

In this interview, he revealed how his growing up shaped the kind of person he turned out to be in life.

The name Adebola Williams has become a big brand, how did you achieve that?

At every point in one’s life, you will always have some kind of brand. It’s your duty to dream and imagine what you would eventually want to end up as and begin to walk that journey. I have always had an audience, be it one, two, three, four, but I have never despised the small audiences that I had. I have always presented myself and engaged those audiences the way I saw myself at every point of my life. So, its that spirit that continues to demand excellence.

I have always gone the extra mile when I was in primary school, high school and all my life. So, I delivered a speech on an occasion where Obama was present in 2017 in Chicago, I was given a standing ovation for the speech I then went to Yale University to give another speech and I was commended. Someone asked me how long did it take me to prepare the speech? I said Haa! A life time. So, the Adebola Williams you see now has always been here its just that there are different stages that every human being will go through in life.

When I say stages, I mean the real physical stages Backlight and Spotlights and at every stage of your life, you need to keep working hard. The last big stage you had will be a rehearsal to the next Big Stage you have. So, what I am saying now is that the Adebola you see now, the brand you see now, was simply the fact that I did not despise the times I was at the backstage. Many times, people are always sad and unhappy when they are in the backstage. What you are failing to do is to prepare for when the curtains will raise, because the curtain will open. It might open and it might not even be the curtain or the stage you want to open to but take advantage of that. Make use of it. Do that.

Another curtain will open and another curtain will raise. You will keep going and going. That is the reality of life.

What were the things and people that influenced you from your earlier years?
A lot of things. I was born in the UK and my mum was an International Trader, doing Buying and Selling from Hong Kong to London, Saudi Arabia to Europe. When I was about 5 to 7, tragedy stuck, we lost everything. We went from living in those high profile places, with drivers, going to the best schools, to no cars, no drivers.

I remember my sister would laugh and say she was worried how I was going to move from eating Kelloggs Cornflakes to nothing. That was luxury to some people. What my sister did not realise was that Gari was waiting in front and that Bread with Milk and Water was also waiting in front. I think that process was what brought me up and moulded me again. I was very young. About 2 years ago, my mum called me and described me as a hopeful child.

She said I was the one, who encouraged everyone in the family, to be nice. She said I will say all will be well, don’t be sad, you are going to do well. And they all used to look at me and wondered, who is this little boy? We are the ones who should be saying this. But she said. I was such a hopelessly hopeful child and that I was driven by what I read in books.

I used to like to read and read all kinds of books. I used to like to sit with older people and learn from their feet. There are 3 phases in life:

Morning, Afternoon and Evening. In my morning time, I would sit with older people and I would understand what it is to be in the afternoon. I would sit with those who are really older and I would understand what it is to be in the evening.
I was so young. But I had a vast understanding of life I just grew with the hope that nothing could break me. And that process helped me. It shaped me. My family members have the red passport for the UK. My mum tried to get one for me a few years ago. It didn’t work out. She wanted me to go and live abroad. I am glad I didn’t go. I am glad I didn’t get a red passport. I am glad I stayed in Nigeria. I am glad I went through all that process that helped me build resistance, that has helped me to remain hopeful. I have seen that everything that I have given to the universe in one way or the other have been given back to me. It has helped me learn humility, hard work.

My mum taught me that ‘hardwork does not kill’. I have learnt these things. I have learnt to put my hands on the plough. Anything I have had to put my hands on in my life, I have always seen it as an opportunity to climb, because if I conquer it, I will feel like a victor. What many don’t know is that sometimes, life gives you an opportunity to be your own hero. Many times in my life, I’ve been given an opportunity to be my own hero, and I have stood and I have taken up that opportunity. That is how we grew. We dropped out of school when everything happened.

We couldn’t go to school for a few years. I finally went back to school. But I got double promotion which made me make up for the lost years and it moved me forward. It’s really about having that willpower, that faith, that hope.

The biggest thing my childhood did for me was that it strengthened my hope and it gave me that can-do, salient, tenacious spirit. And it pushed me to realise my dream. When I was 14, I left home. I woke up one morning when I was 14, we had moved to the family house, it was my mother’s father’s family house at that time, in Surulere, Lagos. We were living with extended family members then. We had 2 rooms to ourselves. One for the kids. One for my mum. But all of us used to stay with my mum in the room. Myself, my sisters, my brother all on the same bed.


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