She was the first Nigerian woman to be appointed Minister of Industry in Nigeria. She recently served out her tenure as President, Lagos Chamber of Commerce and Industry. Ever Smiling Dr (Mrs) Nike Akande’s profile is indeed overwhelming. She has in her kitty several awards including The Sun Lifetime Achievement Award; chairman and advisory member to different companies. She attended the University of North London where she studied Accountancy, had her postgraduate study at the prestigious Harvard Business School, Boston, USA. She also attended a management development course at Oxford University, United Kingdom, among others. She told Effects the story of her success and what other women should do to move up the ladder in their chosen field of endeavor.
How tough was it for you to reach the successful height you are today, being a woman?
Men never want women to compete with them but I have a good personality. I don’t struggle with them; I use a soft way to achieve what I want. For example, at the Lagos Chamber of Commerce, only men have been president for decades. The only woman that became president once died before the end of her tenure, so I wanted to become president to show that we, women, can do it. I talked to the past presidents to please vote for me; that I wanted to become president of Lagos Chamber of Commerce and Industry and I eventually became the president. I have been working extremely hard to prove that I deserve the position that was given to me.
Any significant achievement during your tenure?
Yes, there’s ease of doing business. Under Commerce and Industry, there are a lot of small-scale industrialists but they are not able to access funds. They have ideas but they are not able to implement their ideas. I was talking to some people recently and I said ‘something must be done to give people funds’ and they agreed. I told them some of the things that government has done that people are not able to benefit from because they don’t have collateral. I suggested that they should have a collateral registry; they agreed and that is what is assisting them till date.
You are a role model to millions. What advice would you give to women, to the entrepreneur, and the girl child?
The 8th of March was ‘International Women’s Day’ and the theme, this year, was ‘Let No Woman Be Left Behind.’ This means that women and society, at large, should make sure that women are supported to succeed. Women are dynamic, vibrant, very enterprising. You know that mothers trained most of the successful men in this world. Nigerian women don’t want a situation where it is business as usual; they want things to change for the better. This is why they are working so hard; there are a lot of women group, these days, trying to network and help themselves. We try to help and find a way to make life easy for them. Personally, if there’s an opportunity for a woman to benefit, I never hesitated. I will always make sure that they get the opportunity.
I always tell women that it is hard work. You know, I have said this about three times. There is no other way; hard work is the only way. You may be beautiful, you may be something that you want to be, you may even be ugly but if you are hard working, you will get to the top of your career. Just be focused, be honest, have integrity and determine to be a high achiever. It’s not easy but you must be determined. Nothing is easy in life, so let us be frank; you must be consistent in what you are doing.
What is the secret of your success?
Let me confess, the secret of success is hard work. There is no other way. Let me explain. It is not easy, as a woman, to get what you deserve. For instance, when I was a minister, we were only two women. Now, the situation has changed. Women are dynamic, hard working and they are also trying to prove themselves while asking for more. As president of Lagos Chamber of Commerce and Industry, in 129 years, they have had two women and I am one of them; because of that, I wanted to show that a woman can do a good job. Yes. And, I have been getting accolades from all over for what I did.
You have worked really hard and served the country and still working. At what stage do you wish to retire?
I will just be working till I will not be able to work again. I enjoy what I am doing. You see, the problem with people like us is that if we just stop working, we might age quickly. Maybe, I will do my own gradually; you know, your body will tell you when you have to slow down. I get on well with people, even young people because I have a young heart. I can relate to people of all ages so I think that helps me too. Thank God, I still have energy. Let me continue to do what I am doing because I enjoy what I am doing.
Can you share your happy moments?
I have always been me; I am always smiling. I have a good heart and I get on well with people because I like to help people when I am in a position to help. I do it and people appreciate me for it. I have helped a lot of women; even men too, got them sponsored to a lot of places. I always love to help people.
You must have a succession plan; you cannot be there forever. I have always thought of this – how to help people so that they can grow to the top and people appreciate this in me.
With your busy schedule, how do you maintain the home front?
The home front is very important. Most women, when they reach a certain age, they become so cocky, so important that they neglect the home. It is not right. You have to carry your husband along with you. Thank God, I have a supportive husband because sometimes, when you want to carry some men along, they won’t even be available for you to carry them. But luckily, my husband has been very supportive and at the same time, I never joke about things that affect him.
Time management is important. There is time for the office and time for the home. When I am at home, I am always with him.
Any regimen for your skin texture and beauty?
Thank you very much. I do a bit of exercise and I do some dieting. I just stop because I love food. When I am not exposed to food much, I do some dieting. And, if I over-eat one day, I go on a diet the following day. I am very conscious of my food. I don’t want to be too fat and I don’t want to be thin. I do everything in moderation. I don’t drink alcohol. I watch what I eat but sometimes, the food can be so tempting.
You are beautiful and has a graceful look, what are the secrets?
I do exercise sometimes but not strenuous ones. I have a massage chair that I sit on to do all the massage for me. I try, as much as possible, not to over-eat. My type of lifestyle is exposed to different kinds of good food. I can eat anything but every day, I must eat vegetables and fruits because I know they are good for me. I also take a lot of water and I do not drink alcohol. Sometimes, I get tired of drinking water and I drink juice because of the taste.
What lessons has life taught you?
Life taught me to be good to people and to respect people. What you give out is what you get. Human beings are good people. If you smile at somebody, that person will smile back at you. Look in the mirror, if you smile, what do you see? Somebody is smiling back at you.
Treat people the way you want them to treat you and you won’t be disappointed. There are few cases of awkward people in life; we are not all the same. When you meet such people, avoid them and move with the ones that can be useful to you and you can be useful to too.