Africa is known to be the home of many great men and women, relatively. One of such women in Africa is Apostle Folorunsho Alakija who has continued to expend her horizon in the business world. She is making a mark and creating long lasting legacies in a patriarchal world, proving once again to African women that they too, can achieve, grow and break new ground just like the men.
With a sound and strong business acumen leant from her late mother, she is the C.E.O of The Rose of Sharon group and the executive vice-chairman of Famfa oil. She dedicates her resource and time to advance the course of women and passionately sees to the welfare of widows and the less privilege.
As an apostle, she is known to have a strong Christian background- as a result, she shares the experience of her walk with God and the many benefit she has gotten from her submission to God’s will in her life.
In this encounter with Azuka Ogujiuba, she also takes her through the journey of her life and some fascinating details of her social and personal life.
Q: During your early days as a fashion designer, you were one of the people that dressed the late Mrs. Miriam Babangida. She would always mention of your name (Rose of Sharon by Folorunsho Alakija) as her designer, how was it working with her and what memories of her do you have?
A: She was extremely fashion conscious. She had a good eye for quality. She knew what she wanted. She would be preparing to attend important events and she would place orders with a lot of different designers that she uses and then she lays the clothes on the table and picks the one that suits her for the occasion. She knew what she wanted. She was just a natural power dresser.
Q: With the shift in the way young girls dress now and then, how do you feel when young girls expose their bodies on social media, twerking- does it makes them more appealing or it is demeaning to womanhood?
A: I think its demeaning womanhood. I don’t think it’s right. That is not the Way to get a husband in the first place. I think any woman that does that maybe attracting the opposite sex, but negatively. None of them would want any of such women as a wife. So, I think it’s the wrong way to do it not unless that’s what they want to do all their lives and never settle down to be wives and mothers.
Q: As a mother and a Christian, how do you feel when you come on videos showing women twerk and half naked on social media?
A: I just say that the world has changed and a lot of things are going to the dogs in the sense that Satan seems to be wining in some arears and that’s not the will of God. It also shows that Christians aren’t evangelizing enough and so we need to double up as Christians.
Q: In your body, mind and spirit, how do you feel as you turn 70?
A: In my body I feel very good. In my mind I feel like am 40 or 50. In my spirit I want to go!go!go!
Q: With all you have achieved, people think you are a super woman. Do you agree with that?
A: No, I don’t. God is the super man. I have a very supportive family, we all put our heads together to run our family businesses. With God’s guidance, wisdom and the opportunity he has given us, we are able to do what we do,the way we know best with God on our side and here we are.
Q: As a staunch advocate for women empowerment in Nigeria and a very successful woman at all fronts, do you see a woman becoming the president of Nigeria someday?
A: There are people who never thought a black man could become the president of the United States. For as long as there is a God, glass ceilings will always be broken. I see it happening in the future, I just don’t know when- a future where a woman would be vice president and even president of this country. Glass ceilings are being broken all the time. Look around us, at different parts of the world there are a lot of female presidents and prime ministers, it never used to be like that if you look down the line ten years ago.
Q: How did you feel when a woman became the vice president of America?
A: I felt really happy for womanhood. Those ceilings will continue to come down, the world will have no choice.
Q: Your life revolves around hard work and service to humanity. What would you say has been your greatest challenge on the road to your success?
A: You will always find those who believe that women should not be seen in male dominating sectors of industries or business. As a result, you would always have to double up by going the extra mile to proof that yes, you can do this. Once they see that you can and have done this, they will back down.
Q: You’re always beaming with smiles. Does that have anything to do with being happily married at seventy (70)?
A: God is in total control. If you have God, you will have peace in your heart. You will be able to overcome any challenge with the help of God. There is no perfect relationship, marriage or situation or perfection in anything that we do or experience, but we have to learn and know how to forge ahead and learn from our experiences to move on.
Q: Do you still wear trousers?
A: I stopped wearing trousers last years when I became an apostle. I love them, but you will give anything up for Jesus.
Q: What advice do you have for the young women who look up to you as a mentor?
A: My advice to them is that they must be focused. They must be levelheaded. They must know what they want out of life and be willing to face the challenges that come with it because nothing comes easy; nothing ever gets dropped on any body’s laps. You have to go the extra mile all the time. You have to ensure that you keep your eyes where you want to go- see a light at the end of the tunnel and work towards that light. They should not be copy cats. They should get advice where and when it is needed. They should draw a plan and work towards those plans. They should make sure that they are not misled by friends they don’t share the same vission with. They need to ensure that they are getting involved in what they want in life rather than what life throws at them. With that, they can become great achievers.
Q: Where is your favourite holiday spot in the world?
A: I love Dubai. I like the weather when it’s not too hot -that’s about this this time. I love Dubai for the shopping too and there’s a lot to there as well.
Q: You’re also one of the women who have been so lucky to have a supportive husband. In most cases, when the woman is very successful, the husband is intimidated, how have you been able to balance marriage, motherhood and business?
A: Each one of those roles are totally different. You just take one cap off and wear another one to attend to each appropriately and infuse them and balance them- you have to be a wife first before you can be a mother. So, anything the bible has told us to do as a wife, you have to put it into practice. Everything you have to do as a mother. It comes from a natural instinct, that’s the way God created womanhood. For business, business is a part and parcel of me. I grew up in a business-oriented family and I enjoy doing business. I’ve always done business ever since I was old enough to know how to spend money and enjoy spending money. So, I’ve always done one thing or the other because going to school, coming back, I was always with my mum- she was always doing one business or the other especially when she is not at home with us. I learnt a lot through her -how to run your business and how to merchandise. She was into textiles and as a result I learnt a lot about textiles and colours. Mixing and matching- everything like that. I leant how to relate with the public and also my clients from her. So, you see, that’s where I got my tips in business. The fashion part is inborn. I just discovered my love for passion from within myself just like my other siblings. My mother was not as fashionable as my dad. Also, I come from Ikorodu, a part of Lagos where people are always fashion conscious and are into textile trading. They know a lot about clothing and how to wear it. As a result, I grew up learning all of that and having that as a potential and talent that I have continued to develop.
Q: What is your favourite food?
A: I love plantain(dodo) and vegetable stew.