MOST PEOPLE REMEMBER HIM PERHAPS BY THE EXEMPLARY ROLES HE SHOULDERED AS THE FORMER HEAD OF CORPORATE AFFAIRS, CADBURY NIGERIA, BUT GBENGA X-ADEBIJA, THE CEO, ASHTON AND LAYTON, A budding CORPORATE COMMUNICATIONS FIRM IN LAGOS, HAS HIS FINGERS IN MANY PIES JUST AS HE REGALED LANRE ODUKOYA IN A RECENT CHANCE MEETING
If anyone discerned the transiency of power, privilege and fortune and prepared well enough for life after paid employment, Gbenga X-Adebija’s portrait perfectly exudes this. Not only does he cut the physical frame of basketball vivacity, Michael Jordan, Adebija’s buoyancy may as well be as sturdy as the world celebrated champion. This he acknowledged jocularly in the chat, “Well, much as I would like to claim I have a unique face, I do look like my father but outside the family, many people have pointed out a resemblance with basketball superstar, Michael Jordan. Even my own mother said, hah, this man and Gbenga looks alike. I remember two incidents in Dallas and in Los Angeles few years ago. Two cops stopped my friend and I because they thought it was Michael Jordan in the passenger seat.
The moment I opened my mouth and they heard the Nigerian accent, they knew it was not Michael Jordan. Personally, I admit there is some resemblance but I wish I had his money and not his looks.”
In the days he held sway in Cadbury Nigeria under the chairmanship of Bunmi Oni, this firebrand executive had the mastery of the corporate ethos that worked magic for his employer. “Cadbury was a wonderful chapter in my past and it will remain so. The only change is that I now allow my friends and family to patronise competing brands without any form of harassment. While I was at Cadbury, that was an unpardonable transgression for any of my friends, family or associates,” he muttered.
And he moved on to establish his company in the sphere of his expertise—Ashton and Layton—was berthed with organisational philosophy to create a differentiation for excellence with keen understanding that it was enrolling into a business sector that was to proliferate very good players to be more determined with the use of better resources. Five years later, the company’s outlook and schedule for 2013 appears quite bright and busy on the other hand. In addition to its regular schedule, quite a few projects are lined up including a national golf tournament, a beauty pageant, an activity patterned along the format of a Treasure Hunt and possibly looking at evolving concert promotion. It’s also extending its tentacles across hospitality and catering services, especially with its new franchise from frontline confectioner, Mr Biggs.
Adebija travels everywhere with infectious smiles, so we’re mostly always at loss as to when he’s happy or otherwise. X-raying his personal plans outside the commercials, he revealed a few other things he’d be busy with within the year. “I see a ramping up of the scale of my involvement in various activities both personally and professionally. Hopefully during the year, we will have the public presentation of my new book, ‘Storitella’ that is in commemoration of the 25th anniversary of the transition of my father, Peter Adebija.
“My family is also planning to inaugurate the Adebija Foundation that will support worthy causes for needy individuals locally and internationally. I was recently appointed a faculty member of BusinessDay Newspapers and also to the governing board of a school in Ondo State, so there will be excellent outlets for my passion for capacity development,” he emphasised.
A devout Catholic, his blemish-free track record in the church circuit should have earned this hunk a place in Knighthood, but he declined comments on it. However, our further checks revealed that he might become a Knight before the year ends. Fanatical about Catholism, Adebija would have become a priest if he weren’t a corporate communications expert.
Still particularly enamoured with his ex-boss, Bunmi Oni’s born leader charisma, he confessed; “Bunmi Oni is not your regular kind of thinker, he is a genius and he taught me everything I know in corporate communications”. Adebija’s role models are his late father, brother Clement, Bunmi Oni and Barack Obama.
He desires fortune like every other capitalist, but his philanthropic interest overrides materialism; “I want to be as rich enough to provide for my family, friends and all the needy people around especially children. If I ever become as rich as Bill Gates or Warren Buffett, I would probably end up giving it all away”, his words read in part.
His darkest moment ever was in 2001 when his elder sister died in his arms and, as he had to prevent his mother who was in the same room with them from knowing until the next day he sent for the rest of the family so that there would be enough people around to break the news and placate her. And the next was also watching his mum die helplessly Adebija would like to be remembered as someone who did his best and stretched himself to the fullest, giving full expression to all the talents and capabilities God endowed him with.
As an adventurous young man, Adebija has had to determine what course to study in the university by the tossing of a coin when he was to choose between Biochemistry and Microbiology, “at a point in my life, my brother was with me then and he had to watch me decide what course to study in the university. And you wouldn’t believe that I followed what the coin chose. It was Microbiology. I would have ended up in the healthcare sector, but I resented the sight of blood and injuries.
“The first time I had to go with my father to the hospital during my course of study, I couldn’t stand what I saw”, he confessed. He grew up as a lover of books and read from all kinds of authors, James Hadley Chase, Nick Carter, Enid Blyton, William Shakespeare and the entire African writers’ series. Now, he reads works from Jeffrey Archer, Robert Ludlum, Sidney Sheldon and John Grisham.
On his choice music, Adebija explained: “I have a wide and varied musical taste. I’m fascinated about the music of King Sunny Ade, I.K Dairo, Victor Uwaifo, Rex Lawson was my best soundtrack at childhood. Now, my preferences are very eclectic and I listen to heavy metal, rock, rap, R&B, hiphop, fuji, indigenous South African music and so on. My favourite singers of all time are Peter Tosh and Michael Jackson, but I also listen to Phil Collins, Snoop, Steve Winwood, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Def Leppard, Hugh Masakela, Youssou N’dour and Shania Twain”
He’s patriotic enough to support motherland, Nigeria whether team Super Eagles wins or not and a fan of Chelsea FC since 1993. Adebija is married to Yetunde Adebija and blessed with three kids, two boys and a girl who shares her dad’s birthday, August 17.