‘I’m In Pain 24/7, But Sickle Cell Can’t Stop Me!’ – Billionaire businessman with sickle cell anaemia

Youthful Ademola Majekodunmi
  • His father ejected him and his mum from the family home – the elder Majekodunmi was fed up with a child who fell ill at the drop of a button
  • Diagnosed with SS at 22
  • University of Lagos dropout. Later went to Harvard University
  • By age 26, his company employed 500+ personnel
  • The company grossed over N180m annually at a time when $1=N5
  • Once paid $50 thousand to ride in a submarine
  • Silent philanthropist gives away millions in scholarships

By Ayoola Olajide

Ademola Majekodunmi, former Chairman, Chriestlieb Plc

Demola Majekodunmi certainly knows how to live. On his 40th birthday in 1994, he paid $50k to go one thousand metres down the surface in a submarine merely to see what the seabed looked like. Majekodunmi’s life is a testimony to the fact that diligence does pay.

In his quest to leave heavy prints on the sands of time, and in his ongoing grapple with sickle cell anaemia, he has had to call on every resource of inner strength and on every sinew of the divinity within. He has so far succeeded that he asserts both he and SCD harbor ‘mutual respect’ for one another.

‘I allow the disorder to hibernate within me, and it allows me to hustle – am in pain 24 hours daily, but sickle cell can’t stop me!’

Diagnosis with SCD

Yet the relationship between host and parasite was not always so symbiotic. As a lad, Majekodunmi was so sickly that his father, thoroughly upset with him, threw him and his mother out of the matrimonial home.

Doctors averred he would not live to see his 18th birthday.

Apart from branding him an Abiku, no-one quite knew what was wrong with the young Majekodunmi, not even the doctors who said he wouldn’t survive beyond adolescence. The doctors could have ascertained his Hb with an electrophoresis – strange that doctors in the 1960s could be so ignorant!

Majekodunmi was 22 years old when he received an accurate diagnosis of what had troubled him so long. He was air borne, en route to England when he suddenly developed the classical bone pain crises – no doubt triggered by the unpressurized cabin. The plane had to detour to Spain and, even there, the doctors had no inkling what was wrong. With the pain brought under control by the administration of analgesics, Majekodunmi was flown to London, where, in February 1976, he heard the word sickle cell anaemia for the first time!

Giving Up On Sports

Before his diagnosis, Majekodunmi loved swimming and soccer, both of which he unwillingly gave up when the direct correlation between the sports and sickle cell crisis was explained to him.

‘Disappointed that I could no longer swim or play football, I embraced books like one possessed,’ Majekodunmi told The Sickle Cell Journal.

He might have taken up a romance with books, but he quickly got fed up with the academic life. Two years to graduating, Majekodunmi abandoned his Business Administration studies at the University of Lagos and proceeded to Oke Arin market on Lagos Island to buy and sell. Having learned the ropes, he later attended Harvard University for a theoretical grounding in Business.

Super-hyper-workaholic

Majekodunmi’s business life is so hectic that describing him as a workaholic would be an understatement. He is a super-hyper-workaholic – if such a word exists. He has traveled to all of Nigeria’s 36 states and to many cities on every continent. On business, of course.

The silent philanthropist gives a strange description of how he manages his SCD:

‘I talk to the disorder and it listens. I set it limits and it abides. I tell it I have a mission in life, feed it medication and lots of water; then I push strongly on with my ambition.’

By the time he was 26, the Lagosian’s business empire had more than 500 employees on its payroll and grossed over N180m annually.

Majekodunmi later became Chairman of Chriestlieb, a Public Limited Company quoted on the Nigerian Stock Exchange. A self-proclaimed freethinker, Majekodunmi is at home with the tenets of Christianity, Islam and Orunmila.

‘I allow the disorder to hibernate within me, and it allows me to hustle,’

Majekodunmi loves to reward excellence in academics and working life. Hundreds of students who attained first class receive scholarships to go on for further studies at his expense.