Businessman, club owner and socialite, Mike Nwogu, aka Pretty Mike, speaks with TOFARATI IGE of the Punch on the many controversies surrounding him
You have a lot of controversies trailing you. Is it intentional?
I actually enjoy the fact that I am a mystery to many people. I feel fulfilled knowing that people are still yet to figure me out. When I pull one stunt and people ask, Pretty Mike again? I tell them I have not even started. A lot of people try to box me into the category of certain people but I just laugh.
So you are really enjoying this?
Yes, I am loving it. I have aggressively studied the social media to know that it can be controlled, whether positively or negatively. I came into the industry having lived in the US for almost half of my life. When I came into Nigeria, my elder brother and I started a night club business.
You mean you left the US to start a night club business in Nigeria?
I can tell you that most Nigerians who live in the US, no matter how rich or poor they are, want to come to Nigeria. They always have the urge to come home but they get scared because of the negative stories they are inundated with. Even some, who actually returned, had to go back because they could not find their footing. For me, I took the bull by the horn. It wasn’t as if it was safe for me to come or I was sure it would work out, but being from the kind of family I am, I just had to push it from there and I drove it very hard.
How did you come about the name, Pretty Mike?
I didn’t add Pretty to my name. I have been answering that name for a long time, and it has never had anything to do with my looks. Growing up among many sisters, the name became a part of me because people addressed my sisters as pretty. So, over time, people would say I was pretty too. And that was how the name came about. I initially didn’t like the name because it sounded feminine.
At what point did you decide to start practising your ‘weird’ concepts and what do you aim to achieve with them?
A lot of people ask me how I come up with these concepts. The truth is that I have over a million concepts in my head that I can deploy at any time. The first thing people noticed was that I was always going about with an umbrella, but that was actually borne out of necessity. I was the best man for a friend of mine and we were taking pictures but the camera man was taking forever. For some reasons, I had an umbrella in my car, which was supposed to be used for the rain. I pulled out the umbrella because I didn’t want the sun to hit me. The camera took my picture while I was holding the umbrella and it looked nice. When it was time for the groom and bride to dance into the auditorium, and it got to my turn, I started thinking of what I could do and how to dance. I remembered my umbrella and asked someone to get it for me. I put up the umbrella and all the cameras were trained on me. It was so much that all the attention shifted to me. I think I got more pictures than the bride and groom. I became the cynosure of all eyes. That was how it became part of my brand that accompanied me to all events I attended.
You have not been using the umbrella. Are you tired of it?
I am not tired of it but I had to stop it because when people saw me, they knew what to expect. It had become a norm and I didn’t like that. So, I gave it a break. I don’t like it when people predict me.
You got on the bad side of Nigerians when you went about with girls on a leash. What necessitated the act?
I have never really shared that story fully. I am writing a book now actually and I am going to elaborate more on that story. That point in my life was when all the ladies were my friends and I was managing a lot of girls. I was not their lecturer and I was not a pastor, but these girls kept coming to me for advice. I started an NGO at that time because of these ladies, trying to bring attention to the abuse our ladies suffer in society. I figured that since I was catching people’s attention with what I was doing, I could use it to shine the light on certain things. However, you may come up with a concept but it ends up going the wrong way. I think that’s what happened in that case.
While the controversy raged, you were said to have been invited by the former Lagos State governor, Mr Akinwumi Ambode. What did you tell the governor about your motives?
At that time, the governor had launched a campaign against violence against women and there was a hotline that ladies were advised to call to register their complaints. But a lot of girls I knew couldn’t access the hotline. So, I thought the best thing to do at that time was to create awareness for some of the girls that had reached out to me. I then came up with the ‘leashing’ concept, which I actually saw at a fashion show in Paris, France. I did it the first time and it caught the buzz on social media. The second time I did it, I was supposed to come out with a statement on what I was trying to do, but I couldn’t go far with it. After the second one, everyone was talking about it in a negative way. A lot of people said I used dog chain, but I actually used leash, though many people don’t know the difference. Nobody cared to ask if the girls did it freely. Nobody bothered to know if they did it under duress. What everybody was talking about was the fact that they saw some girls being tossed around with a leash around their necks. Nobody cared to know if this thing had been done somewhere else before.
You were said to have been arrested by the police because of that act. Is this correct?
I wasn’t arrested, but I was invited. Some people came to my club and said they were from the governor’s office. I went to their office and we waited hours for the governor. I had an elaborate meeting with the governor and almost his entire cabinet. It was a big gathering. I told them the girls were not under duress. It was a stunt that we pulled together. The petition that was written claimed that I forced them, enslaved them, chained them, paraded them in public and sold them off against their will. We were all having fun but people blew it out of proportion.
How did that particular episode affect you?
I have grown a tough skin. Once you call something a business, you must toughen up and make sure your emotions don’t ruin your business. Sometimes, mine doesn’t ever come out. I received calls from every part of the world and I told everyone, including my mum who was worried, that I was doing fine.
What drives your outlandish concepts, money or fame?
I think the two go hand in hand. The popularity will drive the crowd and content to your business. A lot of people actually come to my club and the first thing they ask is, “Where is Mike?” If I’m not around, they would wait because they want to meet Pretty Mike. The concept sells the business because I am popular and everybody wants to see the guy that does crazy stuff at parties. The more one is in the news, the higher the traffic.
You recently attended a wedding with some dwarfs holding pots and it looked like a ritual procession. Don’t you think you went overboard because it made people believe that you are fetish?
I can’t stop being controversial. Controversy is part of my life. Think whatever you want to think, I don’t care. My life is like a movie. People should not expect anything less. When I arrived at my friend’s wedding with the big calabash and smoke was coming out, everybody started saying I was fetish. I just laughed because it showed how ignorant our people are. I mean, who does ritual in public? I have never heard of it. Let’s even agree that I am fetish, do you think I would take it to the wedding? It shows the level of ignorance in our society but I like it. When I went with dwarfs to a party, people said the dwarfs lived in my house and I used them for sacrifices. That is social media for you.
You once got yourself a sex doll. What happened to it?
She went for a surgery to fix her body.
Do you prefer the doll to a real woman?
Yes, I prefer my sex doll to a woman. We have heard people say a lot about women but I don’t want too much stress. Some of our ladies are just too stressful.
Are you planning to marry your sex doll?
Sure, why not? We might have an elaborate wedding next year.
What were your childhood ambitions?
I believe one day, I would become a pastor. It might still happen. It depends on when the Lord calls me. I like to speak to people. I like how motivational speakers talk to people. I grew up in a Christian background.