Sunday, March 27, 2022

Life Lately: Becoming Koye

Show me a better Saturday morning routine

One of my new favourite habits is reading the FT Weekend on Saturdays. It’s really nice to make a coffee and sit down to the crackle of the newspaper and the smell of ink. Every week, the FT magazine interviews a celebrity using a similar set of questions. I’ve been wanting to answer those questions for a while, so I thought I’d do so in this post. If you don’t know me personally, think of this as an introduction of sorts. (You’re welcome 😁). 

Here goes:


What was your childhood or earliest ambition?

I wanted to be an astronaut. I loved reading about the universe and the other planets in our solar system. I remember sitting outside our house as an eight-year-old lost in thought – reflecting on Pluto’s lonely journey around the sun.


Obviously, I did not become an astronaut. After I stopped wanting that, I thought I’d be a pilot. Then I wanted to be an aeronautical engineer but I could not study that in Nigeria, so I thought I’d study the next best thing – mechanical engineering. There was also a brief period where I wanted to be a neurosurgeon after reading Ben Carson’s Gifted Hands.

I’m still strongly drawn to space. One day, if only for a brief moment, I look forward to escaping gravity for a few minutes and looking down at our pale blue dot.

Can’t count how many times I’ve returned to this exhibition at the Science Museum, to imagine myself hurtling into space in this capsule

Private school or state school? University or straight into work?

Private school for my earliest education – what we called primary school. And then public school from then on. First Loyola College Ibadan and then Wesley College of Science. I got a pretty good education in both schools for free.


University first – went to Obafemi Awolowo University (OAU). My journey to OAU is a whole story on its own and I learnt a lot about fatherhood from watching my dad go to battle with several powerful people to open that door for me.


I was fortunate to go straight from university to work. Handed in my final year project on February 29 2012 and started an internship at P&G on March 1.


How physically fit are you?

Not very, unfortunately. I enjoy running, but have not run for several months after getting piriformis syndrome in 2020. Now I walk for at least 30 minutes every day.


Ambition or talent: which matters more to success?

Both. I’ve gotten by on talent a lot but I also believe in being So Good They Can’t Ignore You. Getting that good at anything takes a lot of work and ambition drives you to put the work in.


What would you like to own that you don’t currently possess?

A lovely house just outside London with several bathrooms, a nice garden, and a shed where I can tinker to my heart’s content while listening to music from a record player.


What’s your biggest extravagance?

I don’t know – really. Perhaps my iPhone 13 Pro? I buy a new phone every three years so I don’t know if that counts. However, it’s the single thing I’ve spent the most money on within the past few months.


On a more regular basis, it would have to be books. I buy more books than I should, but thankfully – books don’t cost a lot. There are worse things to spend a lot of money on. I’m very fortunate that it doesn’t cost a lot to keep me happy.


In what place are you happiest?

At home, reading or tinkering with music playing in the background.


What ambitions do you still have?

I’ve currently got three that are top of mind. The first is to be a great father and godfather. I am deeply invested in the children in my social circle and it’s very important to me to help them grow into well-adjusted adults. The second is to successfully transition into a second career in Nigeria’s public policy space. It’s currently unclear how I’ll do this, but it has become increasingly important to me over the years to someday apply myself to making some small part of Nigeria better for the future. The third is to be a good Christian, living a life that shouts God’s fame.


What drives you on?

A realization that I’ve been fortunate to have the life I now do and that many talented people I grew up with have had very different outcomes because they weren’t as fortunate. I’ve had what someone once described as “several lucky breaks”. I think everyone who works hard deserves a chance at a good life without needing “several lucky breaks”. This belief drives me to make the most of the life I’ve been given, and fuels my desire to work for a Nigeria where more people can have a good life without needing… “several lucky breaks”.


If your 20-year-old self could see you now, what would he think?

I think the first thing he’d think is that I’m fat. I was really skinny at 20. More seriously, I think he’d be very pleased with how I’ve turned out.


Which object that you’ve lost do you wish you still had?

I had a black leather bookmark from the 2018 Game of Thrones exhibition in Paris that I really loved. It had a quote from Tyrion Lannister: “a mind needs books like a sword needs a whetstone”. It disappeared somewhere in Lagos early in 2019. I’ve spent several hours looking for a replacement online with no luck.


What is the greatest challenge of our time?

To bring ourselves into balance with the earth. Our planet is about 4.5 billion years old and anatomically modern humans first showed up about 300,000 years ago. So, we have been around for 0.007% of the time. Or put another way, if the earth has been around for 24 hours – we’ve been here for less than six seconds. That’s nothing.


If we don’t act quickly and in unison to address climate change and live more sustainably, the earth will carry on – but it’ll do so without us.


If you had to rate your satisfaction with your life so far, out of 10, what would you score?

Seven. There’s always room for improvement but I’m happy with the journey I’ve been on and I feel very blessed.




What I’m currently reading: Busola and I recently climbed to the top of Arthur’s Seat. Situated in Edinburgh, Arthur’s Seat is an ancient volcano with lava samples dating from 340 million years old. I don’t have the words to describe how magnificent Arthur’s Seat is. It reminded me so much of OAU’s Old Buka hill – but with a much better view. Reflecting on the hill and what it meant for it to be 340 million years old led me to pick up Helen Gordon’s Notes on Deep Time. Notes on Deep Time contrasts between geological time and human time. It’s also interesting what’s out there. For example, the atmosphere from 500,000 years ago is preserved in tiny bubbles of air in Greenland’s ice cores.

A panorama from atop Arthur's Seat


What I’m currently listening to: Can’t help plugging the first single from TAYA’s upcoming album.


I won't lean on my own understanding

I will let go, follow, empty-handed

You say, "Your yoke is easy"

You say, "Your burden's light"

So I'll let you lead me for all my life

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