Alakija gives a graphic account of the [auto] accident that could have taken her life and those of three other occupants inside the vehicle…
For Africa’s richest woman and Vice Chairman, Famfa Oil, Mrs Modupe Folorunsho Alakija, it was only God that saved her recently when her Mercedes G-Wagon jeep lost a tyre and somersaulted a couple of times before landing on its roof on the ever busy Lagos Third mainland bridge.
Alakija gave a graphic account of the accident that could have taken her life and those of three other occupants inside the vehicle during an interactive session with a team of Editors from The Sun earlier in the week at her Rose of Sharon Towers office, Victoria Island, Lagos.
It’s really hectic traveling round the globe and it seems not to weigh you down, how do you do it?
Grace. That grace is plentiful. God is amazing.
As Africa’s richest woman, how many hours do you sleep in a day?
I get some sleep because God tells me ‘I want you to be going to bed by 10pm. However, I still struggle with that.
Do you get up to four hours sleep?
I have to obey Him. He commanded me to go to bed at 10.pm; maybe there’s something He saw that made Him to command me to be going to bed at 10pm. However like I said earlier, I struggle with it. Initially, He said for 21 days, I want you to go to bed at 10pm. There must be a reason why He must have said that. I obeyed the first 21 days and He said, why don’t you continue. I must confess it’s tough. These days, I go to bed around 11pm but I say sorry to God every night.
I just imagine the energy it takes you to juggle all these you are doing…
Don’t forget, God has given women some special grace to do multi tasks. You are the wife, you are the mother, you are the grandmother, you are the employer and you are the housewife too. People ask me how I do it but it’s grace. You have to prioritise, you have to delegate, you have to have round pegs in round holes, otherwise you just drop dead. You just have to apply wisdom. God must have looked at me and said, you need to get more hours of sleep . From now, I do get at least six hours sleep. But before, I go to bed at 1.30 – 2am, wake at 6.30am but now, I feel better and look better with God’s instruction to go to bed early.
When you look at the kind of responsibility you have, the kind of what God has blessed you with do you think normal, do you feel normal?
You will feel normal, you do things normally but you also have to do something abnormally by going the extra mile. That is the difference. It’s going the extra mile that makes all the difference. Many people can’t be bothered. They see the glory, but do they care about the story? They only see what is happening to you now, what you have been through, what you are going through or what you are likely to go through they don’t care. They are not interested in that.
Are there things you miss?
What I miss are the times when I was able to create time to go and play lawn tennis. That’s one of the things I loved to do and I even played for my school. I find it difficult to create time to do things like that anymore. I used to watch movies but there’s hardly time to do that anymore. I love reading. I created a whole library in my prayer room, books about Jesus Christ, christianity, religion, would have loved to create time to sit down and read them . I admire them, read two, or three pages and put it down again. This needs to be done, that needs to be done. I would have loved to read them but there is no enough time.
They say time waits for nobody, is it?
Yes, anytime that is lost cannot be regained. Once it’s gone, it’s gone. It can never come back.
So why do you think people are poor?
The poor will always be with us. That is what the Bible says. Sometimes, some people are just lazy, some couldn’t be bothered, some work hard and sometimes they are not going extra mile, applying a little more wisdom or getting some mentorship on doing things differently from the way they’ve always been doing it. Ooh, this is the way my mother taught me to do kit, how have you improved on what your mother taught you to do or how have you used technology to improve on how you have been taught? For everything, it’s going extra mile. I’m not saying we are all going to be rich but we can all be comfortable to a degree; at different degrees of comfort but we also have to be ambitious and you have to be contented. So, it’s about balancing.
You don’t do politics?
I will never be in politics.
Because God told me that. He said ‘I have not called you into politics.’
If He calls you, will you?
If He calls me I will because that will be obeying my father’s calling. For now, He has said to me that He has not called me into politics.
Do you support politicians because their policies will affect you one way or the other. Do you support politi- cal candidates?
We all will, everybody does, somehow, somewhere, in one way or the other.
Do you have time for music?
I love listening to music but I don’t have time to set things aside completely for music and I love dancing.
Does God talk to you personally or through dreams?
All of the above. My main gift as far as receiving is concerned is through dreams and He gave that to all my mother’s children.
You are the eldest?
I’m the second but we all discovered we all have that as a gift amongst other gifts. The decision to start looking after widows was one of such. I was in my prayer room when He told me to raise an altar. I had to call a pastor and ask ‘how do you raise an altar in your house, God told me to raise an altar.’ He dropped it in my spirit, He speaks now and again in my ears but most in my dreams. So, when I’m a bit confused and not knowing whether I should go left or right I talk to Him and He may answer same night or two days later or a few weeks. You have to learn how to receive and how to discern from Him. Sometimes, just as we are seated here, I could just sit quietly, watching something like a movie, just for like a minute or two and I could just close my eyes, to take it in. I will just take my note and write it. We all receive differently. In my ears, I would say I haven’t received more than four or five times in my life but the dreams are very regular. The one about the widows, He gave me the scriptures. That scripture I have never heard it, James chapter 1 vs 27, that was how I discovered where He was calling me to work for Him.
You are Forbes rated as the richest woman in Africa, how does that make you feel, does that create a struggle within you that you have to remain at this level because there are others competing with you?
I love that because you just took the word out of my mouth because I’m not in competition with anyone. I didn’t rate myself and how they did their rating I didn’t know and I didn’t ask and I’ve not told them whether they are right or they are wrong because I myself don’t know. Why didn’t I know? Because I don’t know what is in other people’s pockets. But if it’s the will of God for them to start calling me that, so be it.
It doesn’t create pressure for you?
At all, none whatsoever.
What of demands from everybody, your kinsmen, everybody coming with a bowl?
That is coming from all over the world. Not just Nigeria.
But still, some think that your hands are tight not just doing what they expect?
You just have to do what you can. You just can’t do everything for everybody, you can’t. You need a lot of wisdom.
Some people climb the success ladder before getting to the climax, how did you sustain your own?
There are big pillars in this building. None of them is as strong enough as God’s pillar, I hold on to God’s pillar and I hold on to His words. And I walk with Him daily. No other power anywhere than His power. I can look at anybody in the face or in the eye.
Do you still socialize?
Do you still have friends you are close to?
We don’t have as much time for one another like before. I have had two friends that we used to socialize together but I know I’m not doing it the way as I should because God actually told me to consecrate myself and I have not done that the way He wants it. So, I have been applying wisdom and doing it gradually because He told me like five or six years ago; to consecrate and segregate myself.
How do you get the confirmation that you hear from God?
God tells you that for you to know that He’s the one who is talking He has to confirm it through others. It may be a question you just ask God and you think He has not heard you, but somebody can just walk through that door and just start talking about the same thing. That is a confirmation. Somehow, somehow, you will know if He is the one that has spoken.
You had a ghastly accident three weeks ago, how did you feel coming out unhurt?
We thank God. It was a terrible accident. It was on the Third Mainland bridge. I just arrived from abroad. Unfortunately one of the tyres burst. It was on my side of the car, the car was veering towards the lagoon. Four of us were in it, but surprisingly none of us sustain injury? We just arrived Nigeria from a programme in America, we were on our way to a crusade.
Were you afraid?
Excuse me, excuse me, not one of us was afraid, not one. In fact, my heart did not miss one beat. I just said to myself, over to you Lord in my heart. Did you know what I did? I put one hand in my seat and I put the other hand there and I sat back and said over to you Lord.
Was it when the car was somersaulting?
No, not while the car was somersaulting, but when the tyre burst and the car started veering towards the lagoon. I saw the driver turning away from the lagoon as best as he could, but it wasn’t working. Two inches to the lagoon, the car started turning away from the lagoon and facing oncoming traffic. As soon as we faced oncoming traffic, the next thing we had was another bang and that bang was the biggest. At that point, I don’t know whether anyone knew what was going on at that time. All four of us were told later that the vehicle somersaulted a number of times. To God be the glory, we were all wearing our seat belts as obedient citizens. People don’t know that once you are in a moving vehicle, you must wear your seat belt, it doesn’t matter whether you are sitting in the front or at the back, as far as it’s a moving vehicle you are vulnerable. And then, the vehicle came to a halt, landed on its roof and we were all suspended in the air like astronauts in space. Commuters coming behind got out of their cars, came to open our door and unlock our seat belts because our legs could not touch the roof of the car and we came out all four of us. When we got out of the car, I said everybody talk to me and they did. Is that not God?