Famous author, John Maxwell once said that one of the greatest values of mentors is the ability to see ahead what others cannot see and to help them navigate a course to their destination. Over the years, several relationships between mentors and their mentees all over the world have not only proven this to be true but also underscored the benefits of mentoring. In this article, we will look at some mentoring relationships that involved Nigerians at home and in Diaspora.
Sound Sultan and Asa
On her journey to stardom, popular Nigerian singer, Asa was mentored at some point by songwriter and actor, Sound Sultan. He describes mentoring as being essential to a lasting growth. “You don’t have to wait for your fire to die down before igniting another person’s, while your fire is burning you can use it to ignite another person’s fire, so they could feed off the good energy that you emit. That’s why I’m always here; I feel I’ve already done my own thing,” he said.
Wilson Knight and Wole Soyinka
Nigerian playwright and first African to win the Nobel Prize in Literature, Wole Soyinka was mentored by Wilson Knight at the University of Leeds. Knight was known particularly for his interpretation of mythic content in literature, and his essays The Wheel of Fire on Shakespeare’s drama. He was also an actor and theatrical director and considered an outstanding lecturer.
Dantata and Dangote
The media pays a lot of attention to the Africa’s richest man, Aliko Dangote but the story of how it all began can be traced to his mentor who happened to be his grandfather. He was mentored by his grandfather, who was a successful businessman in his time. His grandfather gave him a small capital to start his own business and an additional loan of N500,000, which was not a small money those days. Dangote was supposed to repay the loan in 4 years, which was when the business was expected to have begun yielding profits. However, Dangote repaid the loan within 6 months under the guidance of his mentor.
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Okocha and Ronaldinho
Ronaldo de Assis Moreira, also known as Ronaldinho stands out as one of the greatest footballers in the history of the game. He was so skilled, fellow footballers like Nani considered him a legend. “The best player in history? Ronaldinho. Because when he was at his best nobody could compare.He always had a smile on his face as well. He had the skill, scored fantastic goals and put magic into the game,” Nani enthused. Ronaldinho was mentored by Nigeria’s Austin Jay Jay Okocha whom he described as the only number 10 shirt he has always admired. During his time in Paris, Okocha served as a mentor for the young Brazilian footballer.
Genevieve Nnaji and Mercy Johnson
Nigerian actress, model and brand ambassador, Genevieve Nnaji was a mentor to fellow actress, Mercy Johnson who eventually rose to become one of the most celebrated faces on the silver screen. To highlight how much of a mentor Genevieve was to her, Mercy Johnson noted that she believed Genevieve was full of career experience she could tap from. “There is no acting I will act today that Genevieve has not acted. So, it was more like I want to learn from you and I want to better myself for me… The 2nd time I saw her was on set. When she came down and I met her she said “Ahh! Mercy, I like your movies” and I started crying. I was in tears of joy. I said “Aunty Genevieve, so you watch my movies?” She was sort of embarrassed. Before I met her, she had already known that there was somebody who was crazily insane about her. She was really nice to me and receptive.”
OJB Jezreel and Wizkid
Late music producer, OJB Jezreel has been credited with discovering Wizkid way before Banky W signed him. Prior to his demise, he shared some details of how he discovered Wizkid’s talent. “To set the records, I discovered Wizkid’s talent. We basically started his career and I remember when we had to push Wizkid around and take him for shows but nobody was ready to allow him to perform because they were not ‘feeling’ him at that point in time. I was the first person to go to his family house to tell them that it would be a nice idea if they allowed him to go into music,” OJB said. Wizkid has grown to become one of the most respected performing artistes of his generation.
Chinua Achebe and Chimamanda
Nigeria’s celebrated writer, speaker and author of Purple Hibiscus and Half of a Yellow Sun, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie has grown to a point where her stories have won her several international awards. In recent times, her books have been adapted into movies. In 2007, her book Half of a Yellow Sun won the Orange Prize. The mentoring relationship between Adichie and her mentor can be best described as profound. “We do not usually associate wisdom with beginners but here is a new writer endowed with the gift of ancient storytellers. Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie knows what is at stake, and what to do about it. She is fearless, or she would not have taken on the intimidating horror of Nigeria’s civil war.” The respect between both Achebe and Adichie was as mutual as it was enduring. On one occasion, she said “Achebe is the writer whose work is most important to me because he gave me permission to write my own stories. I started writing very young and before I read his work, my stories were imitative, I was writing my own versions of the British and American children’s books that I was reading. (We just don’t have access to many Nigerian children’s books.) His novels made me realise I could write about my own reality, that my own world was worthy of literature. I admired his integrity. His was a moral, as well as literary, voice. Arrow of God is one of my favourite novels.” Men and women around the world have gone further than they ever imagined with the help of the mutually benefiting relationship that mentoring establishes between the mentor and the mentee. The role of mentors is to guide you to the best of their knowledge and steer you towards self-improvement. Do have any mentoring relationship you’d like to share with us?