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Meet Africa’s Most Influential Woman In Ireland – Yemi Adenuga

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A few weeks ago I had the opportunity of researching an amazing individual; Yemi Adenuga especially when I have been following Nigerian Carnival Ireland for awhile now. At first I recognized her husband Deji, whom I have seen several times in Nollywood movies.

“Wow!! so this man marry fine babe sha” was my exclamation nevertheless I was fascinated by the fact that a Nigerian can be honored far away from home as being influential contrary to the bad names some others give us.

Yemi Adenuga is such an amazing person, I enjoyed every bit of conversing with her during this interview. Down to earth is more like the remark that fits her personality. She is on the list of Most Influential Women in Ireland.

So here is to this adorable mentor, inspiring mother and beautiful wife.

Enjoy the interview…..

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TIC: Can you tell us about yourself?

Yemi: My name is Yemi Adenuga. I am a game changer, an audacious woman of Influence, an activist, a broadcast media executive, a dynamic International Public speaker, a social entrepreneur, an ambassador of culture, a wife and a mother.

I was born in Ikare, Ondo State, into a polygamous family, to Late Pa Isaac Olujimi Solaru and Deaconess Christian Solaru. I am the 16th of 27 children of my father who is from Iperu-Remo, Ogun State and the 1st child of my mother, who is from Ejukwu, Kogi State.  As a little girl, we moved around Nigeria a lot by virtue of my father’s job at the time as a top officer in the Police force. I grew up in Shell residential area, Rumukwurushi, Port-Harcourt, Rivers State, where my father, after his retirement from the police force, worked as a senior manager for Shell Petroleum Development Company.

I attended Army Children’s School, GRA, and Government Secondary School Eneka, both in Port-Harcourt, completing my secondary school education in Christ Apostolic Grammar School, Iperu-Remo, Ogun State. I studied Accountancy and Mass Communication at the Moshood Abiola Polytenic, Abeokuta, Ogun State, and hold a Bachelors degree in Business Studies (Human Resource Management Stream) from University College Dublin (UDC), and a Master of Business Administration (MBA) degree (Project Management stream) from the Liverpool John Moores University, United Kingdom.

I am a qualified and highly experienced training and development consultant and have a certificate in First Line Management from the Institute of Leadership and Management, Ireland and a Diploma in Television Directing from the CEFAP institute of Television production and Directing, Paris, France. I am a member of several professional bodies including the Institute of leadership and Management, Ireland, the MBA Association of Ireland and Project Management Association, Ireland. I am also an associate of the Irish Institute of Training and Development.

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TIC: You were recently named one of the most influential women in Ireland, can you tell us how it all started?

Yemi: I’m not sure exactly how it started, but I suppose it happened as a result of the work I have done and still do within the Irish society. Even I was surprised myself but everyone keeps telling me it was well overdue. Honestly, I believe it was all God’s favor, especially giving the fact that I am the first and only African/migrant woman on that list. As an African business leader and role Model in Diaspora, one of my desires is to make positive impact on women and youths and bring about positive change in my own little way.

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Everything I do revolves around making my family, friends and my countries Nigeria & Ireland proud of me. My mission is to empower women and I do this through my development brand which inspires, motivates, encourages and challenges women around the world to achieve their dreams. Over and over again, I have demonstrated by my own examples, determination and hard work, that any goal can be achieved. Through my NGO, African Women Development Initiative (AWDI), I give back to Africa by supporting the education of girls, supporting the less privileged and encouraging women and youths through personal/business development training and career guidance, to build their confidence and take the key to their own success. I do a lot of lobbying and advocacy work in the (Dáil) Parliament here in Ireland on behalf of Migrants.

In my local County, Meath, where I live, twice I have been elected chairperson of Cultúr Migrants Centre, a community work organization working across Co. Meath with ethnic minorities with a vision to see an equal and intercultural County Meath and a mission to promote the empowerment, participation, self-determination and rights of ethnic minorities who experience or are at risk of poverty, social exclusion and racism.

I am a director and member of the Executive Board of the National Women’s council of Ireland (NWCI), Ireland’s leading national women’s membership organization which represents over 170 groups and a wide range of individual members from a diversity of backgrounds, sectors and locations and seeking equality for women. So going back to your question, these and other reasons might account for how it started.

TIC: Can you share some of the challenges you faced and how you were able to overcome them?

Yemi: If its with regards to my listing as one of the most influential women in Ireland, there were no challenges for me because I didn’t even know I was nominated, shortlisted and listed. But in other areas of my life generally I have had challenges. Who hasn’t? Growing up I had to deal with the challenge of being a girl child, one of 27 children of my father. My mum has 6 girls and my uncles never thought we would ever amount to anything.

I overcame that challenge by studying hard, working hard and staying focused with a determination to succeed. Moving to Ireland over 15 years ago I had to deal with the challenge of starting from the scratch. I had to leave the life I knew behind and getting a job wasn’t the easiest thing. I overcame that by constantly searching till I found and I worked my way up the ladder in spite of all odds.  In my work life as I broadcaster, I had to deal with the challenge of losing my privacy.

People automatically make themselves authorities where your life is concerned; if you spit it means you must be pregnant, if you board public transport it means you must be broke, if you have lunch with a person of the opposite sex you must be having an affair. The tabloids don’t help matters. They make up all kinds of headlines to sell their papers and leave people miserable and relationships broken. People love you when the going is good and hate you when you make wrong moves. I know some celebrities mess up, big time, but that doesn’t mean every celebrity WILL mess up.

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We will certainly make mistakes because we are human, but it doesn’t mean people and the press should bring the sledge hammer down as judge and jury with hardly any chance of an appeal. I believe also that if celebrities stay true to themselves and remain consistent, whatever people say or write, the truth will eventually be known. Without planning to, because we are in the public eye, we become role models for so many and have to work towards doing the right thing always as people constantly watch our lives.

It’s a privilege to be a role model and a popular face, but it comes with its challenges. I could go on and on, but challenges are a big park of stepping up in life and my challenges have lead me thus far. I love challenges.

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TIC: What influences did you have growing up and what were the things that inspired you?

Yemi: My initial influence was from my background and great love for music. I love music passionately and growing up, I use to listen to the radio a lot. There was a lady presenter on Radio in Port-Harcourt (Forgotten her name now). She was good and I always looked forward to when she was on air. She influenced my interest in radio and years down the line, my husband insured me to go into broadcasting.

My mother was a big influence in my life. She was my hero who had this unique way of making every situation ‘okay’ at the end of the day. I learnt ‘money management’ from her and how to keep my home intact. She is a woman of wisdom. My father taught me that it is never too later to achieve whatever you want, once there is life.

TIC: Would you say today’s youths have the right kind of influences as you did growing up?

Yemi: No, not at all. Times have changed so much. Sometimes I wonder at how things have changed so drastically. Growing up, everyone looked out for everyone else’s children along with theirs, now if you as much as correct a child, you are accused of child abuse. As a child, you wouldn’t dare encounter an adult and not greet properly, you wouldn’t dare look an adult straight in the eye when they chastised you, you were born and trained to ooze respect and I honestly believe it defined us and made us good people.

Today, I watch youths speak rudely to their elders, even their parents and the parents shrug it off as ‘children of now-a-days’. It’s very disheartening. If you tried that in my time, prepare to receive half-a-dozen slaps from uncles, aunties, neighbors, etc. (Your head go correct). The struggles of our mothers made them our direct role models, we saw them as our super heroes, somehow they always made things right, but these day youths hardly have direct role models.

They chose their role models on Television and on social media. People they will never see or interact with. It’s such a sorry state of things.

TIC: How were you able to distinguish yourself as a force to be reckoned with in Ireland?

Yemi: I didn’t set out to distinguish myself as a force to be reckoned with in Ireland. I just did the things I was passionate about and I did them consistently because I enjoyed and loved doing them. My passion to pay it forward and the things I do have gotten recognized in the humanitarian and philanthropic initiatives I lend myself to.

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I am involved in my community and I get asked to contribute or support a number of projects in and outside my local community. What I do is part of who I am, so it come naturally, not out of a wish to be the most outstanding African woman in Ireland. All of those recognitions are extra added value to what I do.

TIC: What is your mission and why do you do what you do?

Yemi: My mission like I mentioned earlier is simply to empower women, support and encourage them to build their confidence and take the key to their own success. Why do I do what I do? It is simply because I wish to see a society where women can rise through the ashes and make a success of their lives like myself even when family, friends and society have all condemned them to a life of failure.

I want to pass a clear message that you can achieve your goals in life as a woman without compromising your dignity and integrity and even still have a loving family to crown all your hard work. People (and sadly some women too) believe that, for a women to be very successful and outstanding she has to either be single, divorced or willing to sell herself short. Well I make bold to say that is a whole load of hogwash. Success comes at varying levels and if people work hard at what they love doing without the need to prove anything to anyone, the limit is beyond the sky.

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TIC: Tell us how you met your husband and what was the attraction?

Yemi: I met him in 1985 in Church at the choir rehearsal for our annual convention in Ikenne, Ogun State. Sparks did fly or anything of the sort. I simply thought,  ‘Hmmm… here is a fine looking guy, too dark, but not bad looking’. That was all. There wasn’t really a ‘toasting’ as such. We became friends, we wrote to each other regularly and I suppose the content of our letters spoke plenty without being direct. We became so fond of each other so much so that things naturally fell into place. I became attracted to him as a result of his sincerity and kindness. He’s very genuine. He’s never afraid to admit to a mistake and apologize for it. He sees the good in everyone and always has a kind word for people. He is nice to a fault, but I love him like that.

TIC: Can you remember how he proposed?

Yemi: It was on the balcony of his three bedroom flat in Ijebu-Ode, Ogun State then. He first rattled some mumbo-jumbo about the past, the future and the reasons why he loved me. Then out of the blue, he got on one knee and asked me to marry him. He even had a cake with a candle in it. (My kids think that was so weird) but how does one resist that at that time?   

TIC: With your hectic schedule how have you been able to balance career and family?

Yemi: It was a challenge a few years back, especially when we first started running our company in Ireland, but we have overcome that challenge now. The kids are grown and are still growing so they have become accustomed to my husband and I being away often. The best part is, my husband and I work together so we get to mix business with pleasure a lot. Every business trip is a ‘holiday’. We make the best of it. Plus we spend a lot of time with the children when we are home to make up for when we are not.

TIC: What principles have you applied to enjoy marital bliss?

Yemi: Enjoy what you have right in front of you as what you’re struggling to have might either never come or might come at a time when you’ve too old to enjoy it. Life is too short, enjoy the time you’ve got.

TIC: How have you been able to instill the Nigerian culture in your children being based abroad?

Yemi: As you may be aware, I run the annual Nigerian Carnival Ireland (NCI) every August with my husband and a very dynamic team. As a result, we have both become ambassadors of Nigerian Culture. We are very proudly Nigerian and we teach our children respect and the fear of God. We speak Yoruba to them at home. My two older girls understand and speak Yoruba and the boys understand but are learning to speak. They love singing in Yoruba and dressing in native attires. They all love Nigerian food which we make often at home.

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They have a lot of fun watching Nollywood movies as they are always quick to point out ‘crazy’ scene such as when someone is shot and there is no blood, when guys take girls shopping (they say it’s always in a boutique), when someone is having a flashback of a situation he wasn’t even present at etc. They love going to Nigeria and getting caught in the traffic with the crazy noise all around, they get excited at seeing live chickens, lizards etc. We teach them about who they are and who they can be.

TIC: What do you do in your leisure time and how do you relax

Yemi: I spend time with the family and totally chill out. I listen to music too. I love music. I also do a lot of write. I’ve currently writing 6 books and will publish them soon when I finish the 7th one I am writing with my husband.   

TIC: What African dish do you love to prepare for your family?

Yemi: Amala, Gbegiri and Ewedu.

TIC: If you weren’t doing what you are doing now, what other career would you dive in?

Yemi: Acting. I have done some acting a bit on the side and I love it every time I do it.

TIC: What advice do you have for young youths pursing their dreams?

Yemi: Consciously find a direct role model who has made it in the line of your chosen career. Someone you can actually see in real life and talk too. Tell them you have chosen them to be your mentor and set out a mentorship plan with them. You need someone to see your dreams as you see them, to encourage you and tell you it’s doable because they’ve done it themselves and to show you how to achieve that dream.

Sharing your dream with the wrong person may kill that dream for life. Be wise in the choices you make and be ready to accept responsibility for them even when you fail. It’s the best way to learn from your mistakes.

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2 Comments

2 Comments

  1. Chioma

    July 8, 2015 at 5:09 am

    I feel very inspired by this story especially how she is able to balance her work life and family. This is prove that any hardworking woman can achieve success at home and also in career. Keep the flag flying Yemi Adenuga, we are proud of you.

  2. Tola Rilwan

    July 8, 2015 at 5:12 am

    Ehn ehn, she is even in the wikipedia. My first time reading about her tho however her profile is tight. She is indeed very influential, I pray you continue to grow stronger.

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