By Christy Anyanwu
FOLORUNSHO Alakija in her youth decided to study Law in the university but her billionaire father thought otherwise and sponsored her to become a secretary because he felt it would take more time to study Law and that it would be a waste of money spending so much on a girl-child. Last Wednesday, Osun State University, Oshogbo conferred on her an honorary doctorate degree in Business Administration and also made her the Chancellor of the university. Alakija, Executive Vice Chairman of Famfa Oil and the Group Managing Director of The Rose of Sharon Group (which comprises The Rose of Sharon Prints and Promotions Limited and Digital Reality Prints) spoke with Sunday Sun at the occasion. Excerpts:
What do your honorary degree and the chancellorship of Osun State University mean to you?
It means a whole new level, especially as Chancellor. I’m a custodian of four other honorary doctorate degrees and this is the first time a woman is appointed the Chancellor of a public university in the whole of Nigeria. I think I heard the governor saying South of the Sahara, I had to check on that. (She smiled). To God be the glory, elevation does not come from man, it comes from God but God ministers to people and he gets them to minister and act on His wishes, desire and purpose. I guess I’m working according to God’s purpose because I didn’t influence the decision to make me chancellor . I believe it’s the Lord’s doing and it’s marvelous in my sight. I congratulate Osun State University for taking such a bold step in this government owned university to appoint a female Chancellor. I’m really humbled and proud. I thank God for this opportunity.
The appointment and award coincide with International Women’s Day. How do you feel?
I’m very proud to be a woman especially at this time. I expect more women to give the best to their education, especially in Nigeria and Africa generally. Women and the girl-child are very much under-represented especially in higher institutions of learning and in the economy as a whole. Giving women the opportunity to achieve their potentials must be a priority. The first female PhD holder in Nigeria, Prof.
Grace Alele- Williams emerged 63 years ago and became the first woman to head a university in Nigeria. She’s the first female Vice Chancellor at the University of Benin. In information technology and sports, our womenfolk have made their mark as Nigeria won her very first Olympic gold medal in 1999 and by a woman. In the field of Information technology, Mrs. Florence Seriki of Omatek Limited pioneered a computer assembly plant and our first female Rear Admiral, Itunu Ihonu, an engineer who was rejected by the army was celebrated by Nigerian Navy.
In times past, few women had formal education as they sat at home and were married off early.
They took to domestic education and vocations like dressmaking, hairdressing, mat making etc.
How does your husband feel about your appointment?
I thank my loving, kind and indefatigable husband, a legal luminary who has been a pillar of support to me. Mr. Modupe Alakija is really elated about it, otherwise I won’t be here now. This is also my very first time in Oshogbo and I know it will not be my last as I have accepted this five-year tenure as Chancellor.
You were rewarded for your entrepreneurship. Could you comment on that?
I love entrepreneurship. I love buying and selling, making sure that your money goes a long way by making sure you are getting value for your money and that’s what trading is about. When you get what you want and I get what I want, then the world goes round and everybody is happy. We’ll continue to improve and impact our world by enlarging our coast because when you turn one thousand to ten thousand as the bible says, you know what the multiplication effect is. Fruitfulness and multiplication in every area.
You still dote on your husband like a teenager who just found love. Could you comment on your marriage so far?
My husband is my best friend, biggest adviser and supporter. We’ve known each other for 40 years and have been married for 37 years now and with four boys. Even though we work in the same office, I always ensure that we kiss twice in a day, morning and night. I still wash his undies until six years ago that he insisted I should stop. I also prepare his special vegetable dish, do his manicure and pedicure regularly. I go to the airport to pick him whenever he’s returning from foreign trips. It gives me joy whenever his friends praise my vegetable dish based on what my husband tells them.
In your speech today and anytime you hold the microphone, you hold your audience spell-bound. How do you do it and what’s your advice to younsters?
Life’s wisdom pill that has helped me over the years taught me that I shouldn’t accept no for an answer. I’m reaping the results today? I’m determined and I believe there is always a way where there seems to be no way. Persistence and diligence are keys. I advise youths that time is money, so spend it wisely. Say no to corruption. Find mentors for practical guidance in your chosen career.
Be patient and be courageous, always remember that anything worth doing at all is worth doing well. Seek solutions and follow through. Don’t sit on the fence.
My family inculcated strong ethics in me as a child which I have imbibed. I usually like to do the right thing and this would be my guiding principle throughout my tenure at Osun State University.