PRINCESS Adesola Areago-Elegbede, the Chief Executive Officer, Macbel Groups of Companies and AT SIZZLES Limited, an epitome of beauty, humility, hard work and success. Born into riches, her passion for work is evident in her entrepreneurial success and social activism. In this interview, the wife of the then Military Governor of Rivers State and Chief of Naval Staff, late Admiral MAB Elegbede spoke on her life and other issues bordering on empowerment, parenting, and family values among others.
PRINCESS Adesola Areago-Elegbede’s style of social activism for a just and equitable society is quiet but strategic.
Often, she uses her life story to inspire younger fellows, who seek how best to pursue a career and make a success of it.
Her admonitions and recommendations can be blunt but they are always practicable and result-oriented. “It is better to learn from the mistakes of the past,” she would advise, reiterating to her listeners that there is no short cut to success.
The easiest and sustainable way to break away from obscurity into fame, she believes, is to solidly and painstakingly prepare the foundation.
According to her, parents are one of the problems of the country. In their needless social competition, they have misled many children and killed, from birth, many hopes and chances of future prosperity, by imposing on them professions that are not related to their interests and natural capabilities.
Princess Adesola, a graduate of Law with other degrees in Public Policy and Administration, Management and Business and Security Management, noted that many children “reluctantly went to university to study Law, Engineering and or Medicine, among others, just to please their parents. This trend is rampart and too dangerous for the future of the country.
“It is pathetic! There are many ‘unemployable’ graduates: lawyers, engineers, doctors …They are not employed. They are working as cab drivers or bus conductor as a lifeline, or have taken to criminal activities for survival. This is possible because their ambitions have been thwarted. Their parents have murdered their dreams. Instead of consulting them on their future ambitions, their parents have imposed their own wishes on them.”
To address this anomaly, Princess Adesola has taken, upon herself, the task of enlightening young mothers on how to help their children choose careers. As a follow- up, she is guiding and mentoring youths on smooth and legitimate route to prosperous and fulfilling future.
She said: “I was speaking to a group of youths in Lagos recently. And one of them was lamenting the imposition on her of a course of study at the university by her parents. I simply asked her of her hobby, she said she likes sewing. I told her to stop pursuing a needless bachelor’s degree in Law at the University of Lagos (UNILAG) for a Diploma at the Yaba College of Technology (YABATECH). That is practical and it would bring her prosperity and fulfillment rather than regret.”
“Interestingly, among this group, about 10 of them called me a month later that they have gone to obtain different forms at YABATECH for a course tailored towards their interests,” she added.
Determined to reverse this trend, she said she had put in place certain measures, including the establishment of Areago Memorial Technical Institute, where technical education and skills are acquired to create manpower and promote self-reliance.
The inspiration to establish the empowerment centre, she said, came from the teachings and qualities instilled in her during childhood.
Born with a silver spoon in her mouth, having been born to a notable industrialist, Chief Ajani Areago and married to a one-time Military Governor of Rivers State and Nigeria’s Chief of Naval Staff, the late Admiral M.A.B Elegbede, Princess Adesola, as she is fondly called, is surrounded with wealth. Yet, her passion revolves around work and diligence.
Princess Adesola is a workaholic and her passion for work is fuelled by her flair for perfection. To her, nothing brings more confidence and promotes self-esteem better than being perfectly acceptable in every standard. “Sincerely speaking, I love perfection and strive hard to be the best at all times. During my primary school days, I washed and ironed my school uniform every day; arranged my hair and ensured I maintained a gorgeous look every time. It’s my daily routine. And when I became an adult too, I continued with the principle. I strive hard to be the best and get the best out of every given situation. There is hardly any problem for which I would not have an idea on a possible remedy, ” she said.
These virtues haveblossomed into the establishment of successful companies with interests in, textile, hospitality, fast foods, education, bakery and beauty management, among others.
She is the Chief Executive Officer, McBel Group, a company dealing in importation/exportation of building materials and household goods. Under this group, exists McBel Security Services Limited, a security-consulting agency with affiliation in the United States of America, Europe, Middle East and Asia. Mabaka Designs is an African Textile Collection concept, transforming the making of Ankara, Adire and Batik, her hobby, into a money-making venture.
AT SIZZLES Limited is an indigenous company with interest in hospitality business, food processing, bakery and beauty care. She also founded Areago Memorial Technical Institute and Daycare, Nursery and Primary Schools.
Physically, Princess Adesola is a beautiful woman. Her gorgeousness attracted her to her husband. But when they got married, she recalled, her husband was surprised to find out that her wife prefers being soaked in work than enjoying a night out.
“My hobby was and still is work. I have passion for work and I can go for a longer period of time without fatigue. I am not the romantic type, my husband was. He was always having issues with me because I overwork. He believed and always made reference to me that I work 48 hours a day. But I strongly believe that work doesn’t kill. It makes one strong, agile and relevant in problem- solving situations,” she said.
Her other hobby is reading. Right from childhood, she recalled that while her friends and colleagues, revelled in social activities, she stayed at home reading.
“I love reading and read a lot of adventure books,” she said, “ adding that, one of the attributes that distinguishes her from her peers and siblings, was her continuous affection for knowledge acquisition. “At least, I read 10 different books a week. I read a novel a day, no matter how hectic my day was or voluminous the book.
Her favourite books are historical materials, science fiction and other materials relating to general knowledge. “Also, I love cultural anthropology because I want to know about culture all over the world and when I am reading a novel, I travel with the book to where the scene is happening and interestingly, I have been to most places, it’s just like I am back there.”
As a responsible wife and a mother, Princess Adesola advised that besides positive mentoring, paying attention to children while growing up helps them in choosing a noble path in life.
She warns that many homes have been shattered because of needless intrusion of house maids.
She revealed that as a wife and mother, her secret to successful marriage was her submission to her husband and being self-reliant as a woman. “As a wife, I would never allow anybody to cook for my husband. I cook and do every other thing expected of a good woman in her matrimonial home. Also, I nurtured and passed on the principle of hardwork and self-reliance to my children, ensuring that they are shown the pathway to a descent and honourable life.
“Therefore, my advice to Nigerian women is that they shouldn’t keep house helps—- either a male or female. No matter how tasking their job, they should create time for the children. A good woman should create sufficient time to nurture her child. The social upheavals we have today are because parents don’t have time for training of their children. Everything is now left to the house help, who is not well-trained in his or her house either.
“Also, I will not advise any married woman to take up banking job because of the longer hours required to get the job done. Such jobs are meant for single ladies and when they are married, they should leave. If there is no job, then we should start promoting entrepreneurial spirit. People should be self-reliant. A lot of them should go and start their own businesses. I started mine own while in the university. As an undergraduate, I was into import and export. I was bringing things, like gift items and books from the United States of America to Nigeria and the money realised from the business, I put in my adire business, which I supply to major boutiques abroad. I learnt the skill from my great aunt and mother.