Being Like Ike

Unintended Influence

I had very little contact with Ike Nwabuoku but I always saw him coming out for a smoke break on the balcony at International Merchant Bank (IMB) whenever I was there waiting to see my uncle. I typically did a lot of waiting and Ike did a lot of smoking.

Merchant bankers were the rave of Nigeria in the 80s but he was different from the rest of the merchant banking crowd. His dressing was impeccable and his shoes always shining bright. I admired the way he carried himself and soon I started dressing like him and inevitably also smoking like him.

I did not however become a bank CEO as he did as I discovered quickly that I did not like banking. Why I fell out of love with it is however the subject of another blog post. He however did not know of any effect he had on me, the pain I went through to stop smoking. The money I spent on suits, suspenders and shoes. I still spend a lot of money on shoes and maybe subconsciously I want my shoes to still be like Ike’s shoes.

That is the way we affect those around us without even knowing it.

I remember a young guy in Benin coming to meet me to say:

“bros, I know say you dey try and we know say you dey hammer but just dey code, make you try encourage us small now?”

For those who do not understand pidgin English, he was referring to the battered old Toyota Celica I was driving at that time and was letting me know that they were looking up to me but my appearance in that car was unsettling.

I bought a BMW later that year and the same guy came to thank me for the “encouragement”. He also came to meet me the day he bought his first car to show it to me. I was touched that day and I remembered Ike.

It is because of Ike’s influence on me and my lifestyle that we must be very careful about the way we live. What we say may not matter as much as the way we look or live. There may be other 19 year olds out there hungry for role models and you may be that role model without your own knowledge.

It took me 5 years to give up smoking but I still have not given up good shoes. It is all Ike’s fault.

A transcript of an interview by Ike Nwabuoku for Forbes Magazine is below—

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