Our Gem of the Month is Mrs Fijeh Roseline Aadum, an astute entrepreneur, wife and mother. She is a successful woman by all standards. In this interview, she shares some of the life lessons that have helped her in her journey to success and have shaped who she is today.
Read excerpts below:
Please tell us about yourself, starting from background to present day.
Born some 35 years ago into the Okenyi family in Makurdi Benue State, I am the 7th of 10 children.
It was a very eventful childhood for me with lots of great memories. I particularly remember my childhood as one when I took care of my younger ones because my mother was almost always schooling and at some stage in our lives, she moved out of my father’s house. This memory is the most pronounced in my childhood because when other children my age where busy with dolls and doll houses, I was actually playing mother mostly to my little brother. I think these circumstances greatly shaped who I am today, and what I have grown to be passionate about.
God blessed me with a very loving father whose wisdom and love may be the only thing (apart from God’s Grace) that helped me grow up not being a bitter child because of the awesome responsibility thrust on me at such an early age.
I studied Accounting for my fist degree at the University of Abuja, got married in 2006 to the love of my life and together we have 3 blessed children. Today, I work as a financial adviser, public speaker, coach and trainer.
One of my greatest passions in life is a deep desire to show love to motherless babies and to empower the less fortunate in the society.
What was growing up like? What fond memories do you hold dear?
Growing up was fun. Having 9 siblings to roll around with, you didn’t need many friends.
Today when I feel a deep revulsion towards oppression, I remember when this strong feeling was demonstrated back in elementary school. I remember a particular incident where my classmates had all gathered around this student who joined the school and didn’t speak very good English. Every one laughed at him and the poor boy was close to tears. I remember feeing so bad for him and before I knew it I had pounced on the leader of the group hitting him very hard and pushing him off the oppressed boy. I remember getting really punished for that, but the pain of the punishment was nothing compared to the joy I felt for having stood up to the bullies against the other boy.
Some of my dearest memories are of my father sitting with us in the evenings especially on days when the power was out to tell us stories about his father’s life or other tales orchestrated by men of old. It was a real life Tales-By-Moonlight.
Could you tell us some of the major or critical decisions you took at various times of your life that you think resulted into who you are today as a professional, wife, mother and your other callings?
Knowing Jesus has shaped my life and defines the very fabric of my being today. It is a major reason I do what I do today and I am who I am today.
I will say marrying my husband is another major decision that has defined who I am today.
Thirdly, will be resigning my first major job with Premium Pension and joining my husband’s practice which exposed me early to the Entrepreneurial life. Resigning from Profin Group was a second major event as that step took me to a whole new world I only read about and didn’t really know existed, The world of International Business.
What are the major obstacles you overcame in the process of becoming the woman you are today?
What could have turned out to be the greatest challenge I experienced in life I believe, also turned out to be my greatest blessing, so I see it as a two-edged sword.
Having been trusted with the care of my younger ones so early in life from a tender age of 8, I felt like I was responsible to take care of my younger brother and then sister a few years later. This sense of responsibility has positioned me to understand a very important principle in my life; the fact that I am responsible for how my life turns out; whether I succeed or fail.
Even in secondary school and university (By which time my father had passed), I never had time for the issues other young ladies struggled with – boys, fashion etc). For me those years were spent seeking admission for my siblings, visiting them in school and looking out for them generally.
This helped me turn out to be a very focused and responsible young lady, I grew up very fast. (There are times today I just want to do some fun things for my self and when I feel guilty, I am like, well, you can still make up for lost time).
What are the life lessons you have learnt in the process?
Whatever challenges life brings your way can make you better rather than bitter, if you allow it.
You are stronger than we know and more capable than we ever imagined, don’t be afraid to stretch yourself, mentally, physically or otherwise. It takes pressure for the best of the earth to be released. Diamond, Gold, Oil, name it.
Selflessness and service should drive you.
What brings you fulfilment as a person or a woman?
As a person: Helping people understand the infinite abilities they are endowed with. Self- Realisation.
As a woman: Loving my biological children and showing love to God’s other children that are separated from their natural mothers’ love.
What are your personal values and how have they impacted on your marriage, career, and general way of doing things?
Do unto others what you will want them to do to you. Everybody in the world is looking for love. Give them some, it costs you nothing but earns the world a lot.
This has a major impact on everything I do. I give you an example. After working in Premium Pension a few years and my first son came along, my husband advised that I resign to enable me give him enough attention. I struggled a bit but my husband insisted and my desire to please my husband prevailed and I resigned. Today I can boldly say it was one of the best decisions of my life.
What books have you read that shaped your thinking and changed your outlook on life?
The Bible and too many books to mention. I am an avid reader.
What do you do to unwind and recharge your battery?
In the days my time was mine, I would read a book or watch a movie.
Well now, with so many forces to contend with, (between family and work), I still steal some time to try a movie or a book but mostly, family time.
What are your favourite holiday spots?
I love England, some people think it is boring but the ancient and timelessness of the structures and most things in London appeal to my ancient soul.
Do you believe that, as a woman, ‘you can have it all?’ Why?
Well, that depends on your definition of “ALL”.
For me “All” is peace in your spirit; oneness with your maker; the love of your family and joy and fulfilment in the work of your hands. So YES I believe you can have it all.
However if “ALL” means A perfect Home, Husband, Children, Perfectly done hair, nails, the right waist size, a posh car in a posh neighbourhood, ( I can go on and on), then I don’t know about that. To me Godliness with contentment is great gain.
I think one of the major errors in our generation is the idea that the more wealth you amass the happier you will be. I think the way present day stars take their own lives with drug overdose and so many other vices will tell you this is a major misconception.
People try to find fulfilment and happiness in the wrong places; fame, more money, a bigger house, a better car, more friends, drugs, etc, all to no avail.
Tell us about your career sojourn
After I graduated, I volunteered with a Christian Ministry NIFES, a few months after that I got a job in Premium Pension as a marketing staff and moved on to the audit department. Three years later I resigned to be a stay-at-home mum and raise my children. My restless spirit didn’t survive that for long so I joined my husband’s real estate business as an accountant and administrative manager.
In 2013, I joined ProFin group as a financial adviser and then started training as a public speaker, coach and trainer. I moved on to ABANA group as their Country Manager at the same time starting my pubic speaking/coaching career with John Maxwell Group.
Today I am into wealth management with The ABANA group; I am an Executive Director with Elvis and Associates Co. Ltd; a consultant for Offshore Capital and Loans and I run Fijeh Leadership Academy and the Value Centre.
Tell us in detail about your life’s adventure
Basically the stories I have told from the beginning of the interview encapsulate my life’s adventure.
I will share a couple of other adventures that have shaped who I am today though. In the summer of 1996 I came home from school and was told there was a pastor and his family living in the BQ of our house.
The same evening, a knock on the door sent everybody scurrying for cover. Being almost the youngest, I had to go open the door, it was the pastor and he invited me to join them for church service, which I did as I did not want to hurt his feelings.
I can say that was the beginning of the rest of my life. As God had strategically placed that family in my path to offer me the direction and guidance I needed through life. It was the day I met Paul and Becky Enenche whose lives have been a tremendous blessing to my life.
Secondly, the most adventourous journey I took was marital. Marrying my husband was a risk that has paid off (so to say). For space I will share with you a part of that journey that still amazes me today. In 2011, I decided to apply for an MBA in the UK. It turned out to be pretty expensive and we couldn’t afford it. At the time my husband was studying for an MSC in The College of Estate Management University of Reading.
As was my habit, I went ahead and secured admission when I had no idea where the fees will come from. To my greatest surprise and delight, my husband put his programme on-hold and used the funds for his tuition to pay my own tuition. This act blew my mind as I thought it was a Bible story being repeated in our time; Jesus gave his life for us, and to see it in real life was a lesson I never recovered from. Till date I tell people that before I met Godswill Aadum, I thought I was the most sacrificial person alive. Now I know better.
What causes are you involved in and what impact has it made?
From my days in the University, I have been involved with motherless babies, visiting them, sometimes simply to spend time with the children and care for them. At other times I gathered materials from friends and family to deliver to the homes. I know somewhere in my journey of life I will be involved in building a home where those that are called motherless can find someone to call mother. But for now I have not gotten the green light to commence that project.
Also through the leadership academy, I have a programme for elementary and secondary schools where we teach young people leadership principle.
The Value Centre is also involved in trainings and teaching programmes that aim to empower people especially the youth.
In retrospect, is there anything you did, you wish you hadn’t done or are there ambitions you nursed that you haven’t achieved?
There is nothing I can say I wish I hadn’t done because they all resulted in lessons learnt, howbeit hard lessons at times.
In terms of ambition, I haven’t even scratched the surface of what I hope to accomplish and be a part of in this life.
I aim to train, coach or produce, through whatever it takes, 100 successful entrepreneurs/employers of labour who will in turn employ a million others in Nigeria alone.
The city for children is at the centre of what I will accomplish among other things if Christ tarries. The good news is that I am young and there is still much land to conquer.
How do you juggle all your numerous responsibilities and still maintain balance?
I will say God is at the centre of it all for me. There are times I erroneously think I am too busy to give Him His place and those have been the worst and most unproductive times in my life. If He holds the world together by the word of His mouth, my life is a small fry, if I will only allow Him.
I have also taken it upon myself to study the life and principles of the most productive people and I have learnt that there are practices that can improve one’s productivity. I will share one of them; It is the need to reduce the noise and traffic in your life. The buzz in today’s world is unbelievable. Social media and all manner of technological equipment gives us access to an overload of information. You need to learn to control it before you loose control. For example, turn off your phone once in a while, just give yourself time to think. Turn off all social media accounts at least one day in the week. Apportion times in your day for productive thinking. Among others, a few changes to your lifestyle will double your productivity.
Please share with us how you met your spouse
(Boring Story) We met at the prayer department in our church. Nothing exciting or romantic, (sorry to disappoint).
How and when did he propose to you? What was your reaction?
He asked me out to lunch, I remember clearly, Mama Cass restaurant in Wuse 2 and asked sitting down; he didn’t even get on one knee, no ring, nothing! I told him to give me time to think about it and pray. I did pray sincerely and consulted with Mrs Becky Enenche. I gave him feedback a month later.
How long did you date and/or court before you got married?
Exactly 1 year.
How has marriage (particularly wifehood and/or motherhood) changed your person and affected your worldview?
Wifehood, helps to keep you humble (laughs), and thoughtful of others. You realise you can’t dump this person like an employer or just a friend so you do your best to make sure you both enjoy the journey or stay miserable together. It also gives you the added responsibility to ensure this other person succeeds, so you look out for him more than yourself.
Motherhood, well…to put it lightly, it changes everything. The moment you realise you are responsible for bringing this living being into the world, your world can never be the same. It gives you a sense of God’s love. I will just say it changes everything so I don’t write a whole book trying to explain that one.
In specific terms, what role has your husband played in your career, matrimonial and other successes you have recorded in life?
There was a time I thought my career was doomed because I married my husband. This has turned out to be my biggest error. Like I shared earlier I studied International Business in one of Uk’s elite Business schools because of his sacrifice.
He pays for most of my expensive ideas and trainings, local and international.
I am blessed to have a husband who supports my career. I must confess that there are times this feeling is not so obvious like when he doesn’t want me travelling or asks that I spend more time at home. But the truth is I won’t be where I am today without his support.
What about your parents? In what ways have they also contributed toward your becoming the woman you are today?
My parents have formed the foundation of who I became. My father had such a large heart and loved so deeply that his love covered for what I felt I missed as a child. For a child with few friends, he was my best friend for as long as I can remember. I actually thought I would cease to function when he died, I lost interest in school and struggled through the rest of my university days.
My mum on the other hand is one of the strongest women I know. Life threw so many challenges at her and she came out on top. She set an example for her children, especially for the girls.
I am also blessed with great maternal aunts whose interest in my life kept me in line.
Do you have any recollection of how a friendly or professional relationship affected you for good or bad?
I think the circumstances surrounding my growing up made me closer to older people than people my age. A senior friend who greatly impacted my life was Dr Becky Enenche. She was also my pastor but I consider her a friend because I barely made any decisions in life without consulting with her. Her wisdom and good counsel have been invaluable to me (back in the days though, now she is mighty busy). But I encourage every young person to find such people in their life’s journey, you can never over-estimate the value of good counsel.
With the benefit of hindsight, what would you have done better if you were to start your life all over again?
Love more, give more, forgive more.
What are the specific advice you have for single ladies, married women, and professional women?
Single ladies: You deserve the best; look out for the right things and above all, enjoy it while it lasts.
Married Women: As you would have discovered, nobody is perfect. Make room for errors and treat others (husband, in-laws) as you will want to be treated).
Professional Women: Do not compromise, you deserve the best please go for it. Never lose sight of the important things in life like family in the process.
What counsel do you have for women who have given up on their dreams?
Dream again. If others did it, you can too. Refuse the temptation to be a mere statistic in the world. Please leave your mark.
What would you like to be remembered for after you have transited?
That I gave the world the best of me, holding nothing back.