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Being in nightclub business has given me opportunity to touch lives our society reject’

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Pretty Mike. Photo: Ijebuloaded

Upon his return from the United States in 2008, Mike Nwalie popularly known as Pretty Mike, got involved in nightclub business starting with QClub in Lagos. In this interview with ENIOLA DANIEL, the Computer Science graduate from the University of Houston spoke on his journey in the nightclub business, the challenges, controversies and his women empowerment initiative.

How did you get involved in nightclub business?
My primary business is nightclub; I own several clubs in Lagos and I’ve had several in the last 15 years. The first one was QClub, which I opened when I came back from the US in 2008 and we closed it after three years and rebranded it to Club Uno. Later, we changed to Club Scandal after which I gave the mainland a break. Then, I moved down to Adeola Odeku with my elder brother and started Club Cubana. We’ve put up another structure in Ikeja; we are taking it back to Ikeja and it will be opened this year. Cubana is a big brand and we are pushing it from state to state.

You are always involved in one controversy or the other; is that supposed to be a strategy?
I schooled in the US. When I came back to Nigeria in 2008, I didn’t know anybody and a lot of people keep asking me how I have been so successful, how I become so popular. When I came here, I figured the only way to drive traffic to my business was through controversy; this is what people enjoy. You have to stir up something and let them ask ‘who is that guy within him dey do? oh that guy, oh we go check him place up…’ that was how it started. With several stunts I have to pull over the years, some people usually call me an attention seeker but to me, it’s a way of life.

With a degree in Computer Science, why did you choose to play in the entertainment/lifestyle industry?
During my college days, I was throwing the most elaborate party in school. Back then, if you didn’t attend Pretty Mike’s party, then you are nobody. One of the good things about the US, which is one of our problems in Nigeria, is that most college students have a job to be able to sustain themselves; the society makes it so conducive that you can work and still go to school.

The students work and make enough money to buy cars, get a nice apartment. Even when my friends were doing that, I refused to work because I always have an independent mind; I don’t like people shouting on me. I was into the entertainment business and I was making more money but the good thing about it was that I had more time to myself; I still live a playboy lifestyle. After University, there was a strong drive to come back to Nigeria. A lot of my friends also came back and some couldn’t survive it; they ask me how I manage to survive.

For those of you in Diaspora, how challenging was it returning to Nigeria to set up business at the time?
Every Nigerian in Diaspora wants to come back, but they have a couple of challenges; there are lots of questions to be asked. When they come, who helps them with the foundation? When they do come back, what kind of experience do they have? Unfortunately, some of them have bad experiences and they go back and tell others. One thing about Nigeria is that everybody has to be on guard; you cannot afford to lose focus. You can’t lose guard with your father or mother; your father will take advantage of you and be laughing with you. We are in a society where everybody is a lion; even the young ones are young cobs aggressively growing up to get their own share. People talk about how we must change the country and I ask how? Who wants to change it? The lions? The truth is that every lion wants to be a king; suppression is in our blood.

You have been accused of taking advantage of women and here you are setting up an empowerment scheme for women, what informed the decision?
One of the biggest problems we have in Nigeria is a misconception. For those that don’t know me, they will tell you that Mike takes advantage of women. But for those that are close to me, they would tell you that I’m one of the biggest supporters of ladies over the years. Sometimes ago, the Lagos State Government under Akinwumi Ambode invited me when the news of me taking advantage of women spread; I went there and sat with them. They said I should say something about the allegation and I told them it was purely a ‘woman right movement.’ And one of them told me he has been working on a woman’s right and that they have a line to contact when any woman is in trouble, but I countered him; I said to him that he couldn’t reach those that I’m championing. Look at the young ladies on the streets, if they are abused, where do they run? They can’t run to the police because the police will segregate them, call them Ashawo (prostitute), neither can they run to their family because they will kick them out and blame them. If they are college students, they cannot run to the professors because they too are taking advantage of them. So, they get to run back to the street and who is their most favourite person on the street? It’s Pretty Mike, the only person they can talk to without judging them. I’m championing a non-governmental organisation that will cater to these people. Being in the nightclub business has given me the opportunity to touch some lives that our society has rejected.

In a situation where there’s a clash of interest between one of your girls and your deep pocket patrons, how do you manage the situation?
I’m a big advocate for peace at any given point and for fairness. Except for those, who just started the business, what I believe is that what is mine is mine. I’ve in several instances told my customers they were wrong, and one thing I found out is that shame will not let them stay far away. I always like to hit it on them hard because if you are calm with them, they will think they have another opportunity to do the same or you fear them.

What’s the nature of this empowerment?
One of the biggest problems we have in our society at the moment is our students; what our platform is planning to do is to support up to 1,000 businesses between now and 2020. This laziness, idleness starts from the students; no college student has a job and they all want to work, that’s why you see some of them on the streets; the word ‘runs’ started from there. They are looking for an opportunity to make money, and how much money would a parent give a University student that will be enough for such a student? If you go to Unilag today and tell the students that there is work, they will get up and follow you. But there is no such opportunity, which is why when they wake up, the first thing to do is to check their WhatsApp to check if any guy sends them a message. If there’s no boy, they go to Instagram to see who has DM them. If there’s nobody, they proceed to Snapchat; if that doesn’t work, they kick off a format, adjust their breast and post. Anyhow, a guy must send a message; it becomes work. They see every day as the time to party, whereas it’s not like that in the US. Not as if our ladies want it that way, but because they have not been given the opportunity to do something. No lady always wants to depend on a guy. I don’t want them to finish school and look for office jobs.

What’s the name of this NGO?
The name of my NGO is PM Women Development and Empowerment. So many people will say we have had enough of women’s development and empowerment, but I say it’s not enough. A society where every young lady is unique, you need more than one empowerment foundation to go around because you might not understand her; another person might not understand her. My father told me one of the most complicated beings is a woman; they are versatile.

Where are you targeting in the pilot phase of the scheme?
If I tell you I’m going to target the whole of Nigeria, I will be lying to you. We are going to kick off from the Southwest- from Unilag to Babcock. Sometimes, people think that these private universities don’t need help; they tell you their parents are rich. In truth, they need help more than some of the students in public universities. What I found out about kids from well to do homes is that a lot of them lack attention. As a man in a nightlife business, I see a lot of them; they come out more at night than most of the students in public universities. Their request for cash is like a vampire. Students in public universities club once in a while, but those in the private university, when they go out, they go all out.

Apart from giving them cash to start up business, what the other things you have in plan?
Empowerment cannot just come from one side; if I give them cash, it doesn’t mean I have empowered her. One has to educate her so; we are going to have business training. We are going to be asking the students what they are interested in doing, what businesses are you interested in? When we are done training them, we put the cash in their hands.

Again, we cannot put cash in their hands without having some form of monitoring. We are also going to have a legal department that is going to champion all their needs. Apart from the legal department, we are also going to have a counseling department to pick people they can talk to. Most people that will be in charge of this are also ladies because women tend to open up more to fellow women.

You talked about using stunts to attract people to your business; do you sometimes have regrets about that?
I don’t think I have ever regretted the stunt minding the fact that some of them come with a lot of backslashes. But I have developed a tough skin in cyberbullies; cyberbully is another department of criminology that we must take seriously.

In the US, it is punishable. Very soon, in Nigeria, that will start happening because the way people talk on social media without control is appalling, they can almost do and undo. But I and my team and people that know me, know what I stand for. So, sometimes I care less about what the other person thinks about me. I found out that wherever I sit down with anybody and we talk one on one that perception changes. I have my angels’ wings; I have the black one I have the red one. So, I thought I should put them on and go to church to see their reaction.

Which church do you attend?
I attend Christ Embassy, but I was born and raised in the Deeper Life Bible Church; I was raised in a very strict Christian background.

My mum was one of the founding members of Deeper Life prayer warriors. I think to date, I don’t know anybody that can fast and pray 40 days and 40 nights, only my mum does that dry fast. I believe that I have a calling into the ministry; I’m willing to leave everything for the Lord.


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