Gratitude: it is taking acknowledgement 20 steps forward in saying, “not only do I see/hear/feel you…I thank you for X”, it doesn’t matter what that X is”-Anonymous.

“Feeling gratitude and not expressing it is like wrapping a present and not giving it “– William Arthur Ward.

“In ordinary life, we hardly realise that we receive a great deal more than we give and that it is only with gratitude that life becomes rich” – Dietrich Bonhoeffer

“Gratitude acknowledges what is, not the lack and makes room for what can be so that we can live, love, laugh and leave a legacy” – Helena Frey

“I awoke this morning with devout thanksgiving for my friends, the old and the new” – Ralph Waldo Emerson

“We must find time to stop and thank the people who make a difference in our lives” – John F. Kennedy

“Gratitude is the healthiest of all human emotions. The more you express gratitude for what you have, the more likely you will have even more” – Zig Ziglar


Let me write this and get done with it very quickly. This will be the last and final edition of the weekly conversation series with my first Billionaire Friend, which started some 31 weeks ago. The reason for this will be dealt with in the seven discussion points that follow this short introduction. Three will run this week and we conclude with the remaining four next week. Here we go!


One early morning, while I was going to the office with my colleague and friend, Chuks Onwudinjo, THISDAY Director of Print Production, I got a call from Eni B (that is what we call our MD, Mr Eniola Bello) and what he said next got into my soul. He said: “Hey Ayo, when are you going to end this fake conversation with your imaginary Billionaire Friend, because a bank wants us to introduce a personal finance page which they want to sponsor. I want you to anchor it, so let me know when you can start”. With that short conversation, he had thrown a heavy knock on my spirit that almost instantly killed all the inspiration to continue the column. He did not mean anything harmful. He just thought that the column was my style of telling a story.

By 9.27 am, a billionaire friend of mine who, together with his partner, had replicated a David vs Goliath story of the Bible in the banking sector by acquiring a much bigger bank than the one they were both running, sent this text to me on WhatsApp:

”Ayo, good morning, and trust all is well. Please let’s discuss when you have a minute”. I had shared every single edition of the Conversation series with him, and he had thrown in one or two suggestions along the line. That morning, I quickly called him, and the following conversation ensued after some preliminary chats: “When are you going to reveal who this your Billionaire Friend is. I know one day we will get to know him”. We closed the discussion after a few more exchanges of notes. A number of the readers of the column have also asked me a few times to reveal my Billionaire friend’s identity.

My Billionaire Friend is not imaginary; he is a real, genuine investor, a notable billionaire in Nigeria who has left solid imprints in the sand of time with his philanthropic endeavours both in and outside the country. He started building his wealth right from his undergraduate days through deliberate investment, which has now grown into a web of wealth portfolios covering real estate, stocks, gold, solid minerals and so on, spread across Nigeria and some parts of the world. He has travelled to over 70 countries and has hosted several notable ambassadors and diplomats in his house. I first met my Billionaire Friend around 1992 when I was a cub reporter at The News Magazine through a mutual friend, and we have been very close since then.

When we started this conversation series earlier in the year, we both agreed to keep the identity anonymous, strictly my initiative and suggestion. In my relationship with the people on the street, the impression people have about wealthy people is not positive. Most believe that all the wealthy people (especially those from Nigeria) make their money through rent-seeking endeavours or some crookedness. From my interaction with several successful people throughout my career that has spanned more than three decades, I have observed first-hand, however, that some of the wealthy people in the country created their wealth through pure entrepreneurship, investment and other legitimate wealth creation paths. I can trace how some of them made their wealth because they left pathways. So, I decided that if I started by revealing the identity of my Billionaire Friend, he may have some people who don’t like him and no matter what he says, they would treat such nuggets with a biased mind. So, we agreed that we should focus on the message, not the messenger. That is the truth and nothing but the truth. And this has helped a great deal.


Again, not too long after Eni B threw the jab, Chuks and I decided to check him out in his newly furnished office in Ikoyi. The first thing he said when he saw me was: “The man who writes about billionaires, but he is not a billionaire. Why don’t you make the billions first and then you can write about it”. I did not provide any answer, and I was not angry as I was now getting used to the joke. Indeed, Eni B is not alone. In my very first conversation with my Billionaire Friend, the following discussion ensued:

“Yes, my boss (that is what he calls me), thank you for honouring my invitation. I have two concerns about you that I had wanted us to discuss but had just been unable to get around to doing so. My first and main concern is this. We have known each other for close to three decades. There is possibly nothing I am doing that is secret to you. I just want to ask a simple question: ‘Is it that your profession prevents you from building wealth or you are not just interested?’”

“I am a journalist. I am trained to observe what people do and make news and features out of such.”

“And that prevents you from building your wealth in the process of reporting others?”

“Not exactly, sir.”

“Or is your religion against you making money ? I understand you are a pastor. Is your religion against wealth accumulation?”

“By no means, sir. I am not a pastor. I am not even a deacon, just simply Ayo Arowolo. But more accurately, you could call me Brother Ayo in our church parlance.”

“That brother one is beyond me. Let me stick to the one I know. You are my boss.”

And when I was about to depart from his house after our conversation, he repeated the question this way:

“Let me still ask my innocent question again: are you averse to making money?”

“Not in the least, sir.”

“Good! Let us have a deal. You would come around once a week. I will share with you one wealth-building tip per time. You would promise that you would attempt to put it into practice. And you would also tell your readers to do the same. I will take questions. They can ask me questions on any issue or topic through you if it has to do with wealth building. We will cover Personal Finance, Investment Tips, Savings, Budgeting, Financial Planning, Commodities such as gold, and anything that helps you to increase your knowledge about Wealth Creation.

“Is it a deal?”

“By all means, sir.”

“But there is a rule: I would stop the weekly conversation once I see that you do not try to apply what I share. What I say to one, I say to all. What I say to you, I say to your readers as well.”

Here is my short response to this. While I don’t mind concentrating on learning how to make money, I see myself first and foremost as a journalist. By training, I am an investigative journalist, but I have kept this aspect of my trade silent deliberately. I get a kick observing how and why people behave and act the way they act. Due the nature to my career, which started over 33 years ago, I have related at different levels of intimacy with several individuals who started small and in the course of tracking them, they have grown to become notable wealth builders. I have made copious notes from observing their wealth-building endeavours. A number of them started very well, but through some business and life mistakes, they fell out of the path without a trace, even though some of them are still alive. I have witnessed, for instance, the story of three partners who started their wealth-building endeavours together at the same time I started my career. As I watched them, something began to unfold: Two of the partners fell out of the pathway. In contrast, the one who appeared less visible then worked his way steadily through the path, and today he is a multi-billionaire touching lives across Africa and the rest of the world, especially through entrepreneurship and philanthropic endeavours. I was very close to the three of them from the beginning. One of them is late, and the second of the trio, I have no idea what he is up to now. In my notes, I have been trying to understand why three individuals started as partners with the same resources and privileges but ended up at different destinations. I have been interested in studying the choices that landed them in different fates. That has been my interest.

I have also tracked another set of two individuals who started as partners and over the past two decades have created what could be described as a financial empire with footprints in many African countries.

Again, I have been interested in understanding what they got right that other partners missed. I have taken copious notes on the journey over the past 33 years, but from 2001, I began to study these great individuals and document my observations. In the process, I have also tried to create some ventures but they all failed. However, one of those individuals who started the same year I started to try entrepreneurship is still standing having built a solid enterprise that has become a source of succour to so many families. I wanted to know what he got right and what I did wrong. Sitting on the balcony, watching these individuals as they move on, has been a very engaging hubby. In the process, I decided to interview some of them to share their life and business lessons, and those lessons are invaluable. I was able to interview about 30 of them through a column I started in THISDAY ON SUNDAY called LIFE LESSONS. The WhatsApp version was created in 2017 and is still running. Those successful people regularly share their lessons with over 230 individuals on the platform. So that has been my interest up till this moment.

I hope one of my friends, a Lagos state-based judge, will read this piece. I was in his company with another close friend in the same car two years ago to honour a senior colleague who had invited the three of us to his ordination in his church, outside Lagos. While we were in the car, the judge started a very humourous discussion. He asked my other friend to openly ask me if I was averse to making money. He worried that given the number of billionaires in my network as friends, he wondered what was wrong with me and why I was not a billionaire. He said his wife, who has a copy of my book, THE MILLIONAIRE CAPSULES, has remained a raving fan, and he is always confused about how to relate my story to her. I just hope he is reading this.


For those who started reading from the very first session with my Billionaire Friend and were very observant, you would notice that the column started on an inspirational note. But after the 8th edition, or thereabout, I lost all the stream of inspiration to continue, for no reason. We sometimes call it writer’s block, but this was an unusually long one. I had almost created a scenario where I would just manufacture a reason for stopping it. But a few things happened that got me to hold on even with no trace of inspiration left.

One early morning, a multi-billionaire, one of the four on the Forbes list, called a colleague at THISDAY and talked about his excitement about the column. He asked for my phone number from the colleague and told him he wanted to talk to me and appreciate the column. I had written in one of the series that briefly mentioned his journey and the difficulties he faced on the path. I was surprised that such a notable billionaire could even be interested in the column. My spirit was revived a bit. Then I noticed that two of my friends, one a former Central Bank of Nigeria deputy governor and another a former minister of finance, who receive the article directly from me weekly made it their duty to send in very encouraging comments for every single edition to date. Another friend who sensed that the column was losing steam called me as he normally does and issued this command: “Ayo if you have to crawl, you must never stop the column.”

Another factor that kept me on was when I realised that a friend of mine had instructed that the article be circulated to over 3000 youths in 54 African countries, every week, and a number of them had written back to give me feedback on the series. I just felt I would let them down if I suddenly stopped it.

But the most important factor that influenced my not stopping was the attitude of my Billionaire Friend. He made a particular scripture on partnership I have always loved come alive. It reads:

“Two are better than one because they have a more satisfying return for their labour, for if either of them falls, the one will lift up his companion. But woe to him who is alone when he falls and does not have another to lift him up.

Again, if two lie down together, they keep warm; how can one be warm alone? And though one can overpower him who is alone, two can resist him. A cord of three strands is not easily broken – Ecclesiastes 4:9-2 (AMPL).

My Billionaire Friend and I had agreed that we would not stop until we generated 52 wealth capsules. We were very determined to make this happen until I started to show signs of distress. He noticed it, and he swung into action and even took up the job of dictating his thoughts (while I transcribed) and he created another time to edit and even re-write most of the content. At one point, it was getting to him, too, as he told me his wife told him to take it easy with the project. But we held on until we got to Session 26 when we realised we needed to stop the conversation and think of a creative way to continue the project. I want to especially thank my Billionaire Friend for his incredibly positive attitude that saved the project.

We stop here for this week; we shall conclude next week with the remaining four discussion points.

Please ensure you don’t miss the edition; my Billionaire Friend has a valuable gift for dedicated followers of this column.

See you next week…meanwhile share with me your thoughts on the column; in what way has he impacted you: what should be improved; which of the articles resonated with you most.

I shall be eager to read from you. Share your feedback with me either via my whatsap (0906 705 9433-text only please) or via my email:

Can’t wait to catch up with you next week


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