Christmas Special: My Favourite Things, Places, Books, Music – Iyin Aboyeji

Co-founder of two unicorns in Nigeria, Flutterwave and Andela, the tech entrepreneur shares some of his favourite places, thoughts on leadership and Nigeria

Top five songs?

I really like what I call our alternative national anthem, Timi Dakolo’s Great Nation. I’m a very big fan of Maverick City music, I can name about 20 of their songs. And I enjoy hearing the (Nigerian) national anthem.

Top five movies?

I don’t watch that many, but I’ll say my number one of all time is still The Social Network. It’s a bad movie from a plot narrative, but it’s incredible for the lessons that are held within it. I enjoyed watching The Men Who Built America, I don’t know whether that’s a movie or a documentary (series), or if it counts, but it’s a great watch. I really liked watching American Gangster, it has a great storyline. There’s this movie about (the late) Stella Adadevoh (93 Days), it was an incredible movie and story about an amazing person.

Top five books?

Zero to One by Peter Thiel is my all-time favourite. I also liked reading The Courage to be Disliked, an incredible book. There’s a book called The House of Morgan… a biography on the J.P. Morgan family. It’s an incredible book. Oracle for Leaders by Gbile Akanni is also one of my favourite books. I definitely recommend it. Also, there is the Bible, the greatest book ever written.

Favourite cities?

First of all, Lagos. Lagos is home. No matter where I go, I love Lagos. I love the chaos, the fun, excitement and the promise. I really like San Francisco for what it represents. Some of my favourite memories as a young person were inspired by some of the things I saw, heard or did in San Francisco. I really love Waterloo (In Canada), because it’s a big part of my origin and story. I also like Bridgetown, Barbados, because it reminds me of Lagos; Lagos Island in a calmer time. And then, Kigali (Rwanda).

Your biggest mentors?

Definitely, my father is one. And for me, I’ve learned from several persons. I learn from so many people. I read widely. I have the benefits of being able to reach out to the best of Nigerian leadership. And I have been inspired by many of them over the years.

What’s your biggest take on leadership?

My biggest take on leadership is that you don’t need the title. My favourite leaders are leaders without authority (title), leaders that only work by influence. And it’s something I’m learning to do. I think the moment you have to get a title for you to do the job, it’s corrupted. It’s not genuine anymore. I think each one of us has the capacity to assume leadership with or without permission.

What are three of your most treasured possessions?

Although functionally, I like my phone, but I don’t think I would be stranded if I didn’t have it. It’s very hard for me to think about anything that I cannot lose. Now, if you talk about heavenly possessions, I have a long list of them. I don’t want to preach Jesus, you know, and stuff, but I can’t think of anything on this earth that I cannot lose.

How do you handle criticism?

Actually, I like criticism, because I learn from it. I usually share my ideas on X (formerly Twitter). Many people who may, quote or unquote, have achieved same level of prominence would say, “oh, I don’t want to be on Twitter.” But I look at it as an opportunity for you to see what the holes in your arguments are. And I do often get very insightful feedbacks, and consider them as gifts. Of course, unfortunately with Twitter (X), it sometimes come with insults, which are okay. I don’t think that being insulted on Twitter means anything. It doesn’t bother me. However, I am of the opinion that there is a kind of criticism that makes things better. And there is a kind that doesn’t. Criticism must be constructive for us to be able to use it to build something. If it’s not, then it’s just garbage.

What’s the Nigeria of your dreams?

For me, it is a country that gives every young person the opportunity to reach their full potential by giving them the skills and tools they need to participate in the digital, global economy. That’s the Nigeria of my dream. It’s not about handing things out to people. It’s about creating an environment where if you work hard and you play by the rules, there is no limits to what you can do and where you can go.


  • Arukaino Umukoro

    Arukaino is an award-winning writer and journalist, a recipient of the CNN/MultiChoice Africa Journalist of the Year Awards (Sports reporting)

Arukaino Umukoro

Arukaino is an award-winning writer and journalist, a recipient of the CNN/MultiChoice Africa Journalist of the Year Awards (Sports reporting)

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