Ben Murray Bruce, 62, is a Nigerian business magnate and politician. He is the founder of Silverbird Group and a member of the People’s Democratic Party who was elected to the Senate of Nigeria in March 2015; where he currently represents the Bayelsa East constituency, in Bayelsa, Nigeria.
In a recent interview with The Punch, one of the children of the self-styled ‘common-sense revolution’ senator, Jared Murray Bruce, a Nigerian/American entertainment executive talked about his father without holding back.
Below is an excerpt of the interview:
How was growing up like as Murray-Bruce’s son?
I had lots of fun as a kid. I am from a large family; so, most of my memories were the times spent with my family members. My uncles, aunties and cousins stayed in the same place; I grew up in Victoria Island and Ikoyi, both in Lagos.
But when I first moved to Nigeria, there was a bit of culture shock. I was born in Georgia and moved to Nigeria when I was 10. I lived in Nigeria for six years before going to the US for high school and university education.
How would you describe your father?
He is a very peculiar man. He is highly driven and he takes his work very seriously. Growing up with him, I got to see the fun part of my father and how he relaxes. He has always been a big fan of Dean Martin and my mother complained bitterly about it. Early in the morning, while growing up, my father would play Dean Martin’s song even when we were yet to wake up fully.
Apart from that singer, he is also a great fan of James Brown and Fela. Like I said earlier, till date, my mother doesn’t find it funny whenever he plays these songs. But my father is the kind of man who hardly listens to anyone. Once he likes something, you can do little or nothing to change him; it is his personality. This is exemplified in his passion for entertainment and current position as a senator.
My father is charming and funny. No matter who you are, he can use you as the theme of his jokes. Even if the person is the president of a country, he doesn’t mind taking a few jabs at him or her. He can be a bit laid-back once he is home. But if he has something to do, regardless of the time, you will see him making calls and trying to speak with people.
Did your father use the cane on his children?
Whenever it was necessary, he did. But my father doesn’t make use of a physical cane. He has the uncanny ability to lay down rules. He is very straightforward; he doesn’t mix his words and he tells you exactly how he feels whenever he feels wronged. We learnt from a young age that we could not try to talk our ways out of certain situations. He made that clear. But I think my mother has used the cane a few times.
How does he reward his children’s good deeds?
He has his ways. He will tell us he is proud and we could hang out as a family to spend a good time together. It is great to celebrate an individual’s achievement; celebrating together shows that we are all part of the team as a family.
How many siblings do you have?
I have three siblings. My elder brother also works in the company, while my younger brother is still in high school. I also have an elder sister.
How often do you spend time with your father?
The last time I saw him was two weeks ago, but we talk every day. Growing up, there were times we didn’t see him often because we were at different places at different times. But my father made efforts to spend time with us, especially during holidays.
What do you think about your father’s ‘common-sense revolution’ series?
I know some people think he is controversial. Yes, he is very controversial. We live in a world where we have people with different opinions. With the help of social media, everyone can get their opinions out there but you shouldn’t expect everyone to agree with your ideas as well.
Certain people will always have issues with the things my father talks about in his common-sense series. I think what he does is to share things he feels strongly about. Of course, he does his research to back up his ideas. There will be elements of controversies, but it should not stop him from continuing to do what he feels is right.
Do you agree with his ideas?
I don’t necessarily agree with everything. But I am always supportive and I do enjoy the fact that we can sit down and debate things, and share our opinions. I will not agree with him on everything, but in my family, we are able to talk about things.
What are the things that get him annoyed?
He doesn’t like being told he cannot do something. That alone can get him annoyed, as he believes that there is nothing impossible to achieve if one puts one’s best into it.
Also, my father doesn’t like getting too close to people who are too negative. When you are too negative or too reserved when he is ready to do more, he may not be happy with you. He is always ready for new challenges.
What lessons have you learnt from your father?
My father has instilled in us lots of things while growing up. I have learnt not to take excuses from people; to communicate freely with people and be direct, especially when there is a conflicting situation. Also, he has taught me never to be too complacent in any situation I find myself. It could be work, relationship or any other thing. He believes one shouldn’t be too comfortable with one’s position as there are other opportunities waiting.
I have learnt from him the need to enjoy what one does. If you want to achieve more, you have to chase it and be ready to do it alone.
Do you intend to join politics someday like your father?
I am staying away from politics; he can handle politics for everyone in the family. Honestly, I don’t see myself or my siblings venturing into politics in the near future.
How did he react when you told him you found a wife?
He has always given me relationship advice randomly. When I told him I was getting engaged, he was quite excited and happy for me. He has always talked to me about developing a relationship and the need to build a happy future.
Do you think he has done well as a senator?
Given a chance to vote him again as a senator, I will do so 100 per cent. He has a genuine passion for the things he wants to achieve and the things he fights for. Though some of the things could be difficult to attain in the political landscape of Nigeria, he is committed and has the passion to improve the lives of people around him.
Do you share anything in common with him?
I will like to think I have a little interest in public speaking, which I definitely inherited from him. We both like music, but we have different tastes. I listen to all kinds of music, unlike my father who likes certain music. Though I listen to the kind of music my father likes too, it is not a regular thing. I also think I have his desire to go for anything he wants to achieve regardless of the challenges ahead.