Chief Bola Kuforiji-Olubi, a foremost administrator, accountant, boardroom icon and former Minister of Commerce and Industry, died last week at the age of 80. By all standards, she was an outstanding Nigerian woman who showed generations of our womenfolk that it was possible for them to break through the glass ceiling and attain the peaks of their chosen professions.
Kuforiji-Olubi was an industrious woman whose accomplishments in both the private and public sectors spanned decades. Her distinguished career made her a role model for millions of people, especially women, for whom she was a positive influence. In every appointment she held, she brilliantly distinguished herself. As an entrepreneur, accountant and banker, she stood out for her strong work ethic and quest for excellence. She was never found wanting in any of the many responsibilities she was saddled with. To her, every appointment was an opportunity to demonstrate the capability of women. It is, therefore, unarguable that her strong performance and public service propelled the appointment of many more women to positions of authority.
Kuforiji-Olubi was a woman of many firsts. She came into national prominence when she became the first woman to be the President of the Institute of Chartered Accountants of Nigeria (ICAN) and first female Chairman of the United Bank for Africa (UBA), 1984-1990. Her achievements in the banking sector as the first female chairperson of a major bank in the country and ICAN President underscore her prodigiousness. She was the first chairperson of Ogun-Osun River Basin Development Authority (1976-1980).
Her demise has been greeted with an outpouring of eulogies from many Nigerians in appreciation of her services to the country and humanity. President Muhammadu Buhari, in his tribute, praised Kuforiji-Olubi for serving Nigeria and humankind “with all her God-given strength and talents”. According to the President, Kuforiji-Olubi’s multiple professional and national awards and fellowships were all well-deserved. Former Governor of Abia State, Dr. Orji Uzor Kalu, recalled that she created a niche for herself in both the public and private spheres and lived an extraordinary life.
In the same vein, Senate President, Dr. Bukola Saraki, described her as a noble woman and an accomplished administrator who discharged all her duties with passion and exemplary dedication. Governor of Lagos State, Akinwunmi Ambode, said that she wrote her name in gold in the banking industry and was a pacesetter and leader in the manufacturing sector not only in Nigeria but also in Sub-Saharan Africa. Governor of Ogun State, Ibikunle Amosun, described her as an international icon who made her state proud.
Mrs. Kuforiji-Olubi was born on September 28, 1936 in present day Ogun State. After her secondary school education in Nigeria, she proceeded to the University of London where she obtained a B.Sc Honours degree in Economics in 1963. She was inducted a distinguished Fellow of ICAN in 1976, and a Fellow of the Institute of Chartered Accountants of England and Wales in 1977. She was also a Fellow of the British Chartered Institute of Company Secretaries (ACIS) 1964; Nigeria Institute of Management (FMIN) and the British Institute of Directors in 1985. She was also a worthy recipient of the following honours and awards: Doctor of Business Administration (honoris causa), Enugu State University of Science and Technology; Doctor of Laws (honoris causa), Bayero University, Kano; Olabisi Onabanjo University, Ago-Iwoye in 2006. She had many more awards to her name, all of which were testaments to her immense contributions to the socio-economic development of the country.
The Federal Government duly recognised her accomplishments in 1979, when it conferred on her the National Award, Member of the Order of the Niger (MON). In 2002, she was a recipient of the National Award, Officer of the Order of the Niger (OON. Her other awards include an Award for Excellence for Outstanding Entrepreneurship Achievement from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), USA, in 1992. She was also a recipient of many chieftaincy titles across the country. At some point in her illustrious career, Kuforiji-Olubi served as Vice Chairman of National Conference on Nigerian Foreign Policy; member, National Sports Commission (1986-89); foundation member and Chairman, Lagos State Education Endowment Fund (1988-1999).
She also authored many books, among them, The Corporate Woman, A Marginalized Group: Problems and Strategies for Success. We commiserate with the Kuforiji-Olubi family and Corporate Nigeria on the demise of this great woman. She, indeed, left indelible footprints in various sectors of the economy and will be greatly missed.