The courtyard of his home truly looks expansive. It speaks of the remarkable taste of a man who has been listed by Forbes as the 40th richest man in Africa. His living room is heavily decorated with paintings, sculptures and nice miniature pieces of arts. The business side of Hakeem Bello-Osagie is well known, but not very many people know about his love for the arts, especially music.
“It is my honour to welcome you to my house,” he says, as soon as our meeting began. Bello-Osagie’s love for music started when at 11 years of age. But it was further strengthened at 12, as a form two student at the King’s College, Lagos. His ambition at the time was to be a Pop Star but as fate would have it, the Harvard Business School-trained petroleum economist now chairs the Nigerian arm of UAE telecom provider, Etisalat.
While in school, he and other senior boys started a Pop group called ‘King’s College Hotspot’; he was the vocalist of the group. At that time, he was elected head of the school’s council. As the council head, his job was to organise the school dance. And so, Bello-Osagie embarked on an ambitious project— to organise the best school dance ever and have famous Afrobeat legend, Fela Kuti perform at the school party.
“We decided to show how effective we were and we believed the way to do this was to get Fela to come and play at the school party,” says Bello-Osagie. “We didn’t know as young boys how to get hold of Fela. I later found out through my father, that he was once the boss to Fela’s younger brother, Dr. Kuti, he also knew his older brother who was a professor of medicine at the University of Lagos.”
With these connections, Bello-Osagie went to negotiate with Fela Kuti to come and play at the school party. “Fela gave us a discount,” he recalls, “but still we had to choose between eating at school and having Fela. We believed we could do better with the girls by choosing Fela. I am delighted to tell you he came to play at the school dance and it was probably the most ever glorious dance we ever had. In the middle of the occasion, he insisted that the band of the school should come to the stage and play. He backed us up. For that occasion, I can tell you that for the entire Queen’s College Girls, I was a hero.”
Thereafter, Bello-Osagie’s passion for Afrobeat also saw him specially invite, Femi Kuti to perform to the management of the then United Bank for Africa. “When I was the chairman of UBA, I invited Femi Kuti to play to the UBA management. I wanted to give back to young Nigerians through music. With what the Nigerian musicians are currently doing, our ambition is to make Nigerian music go more global. There is no reason why Nigerian musicians should not win the Grammys.”
Also, his love for music has also seen him become the chairman of famous music company, Chocolate City. “I am happy to be a part of the success story at Chocolate City. It is important we celebrate Chocolate City and Audu Maikori, the chief executive officer; he has done a remarkable job of moving Nigerian music forward. He has become a role model. It is because of his achievements I decided to be part of Chocolate City, even though my wife thinks it is not good for my brand. But it is my honour to be a part of the vision,” he says.