From fashion to a billionaire businesswoman, Apostle Folorunso Alakija has unveiled her over three-decade voyage into the worlds of business, fashion, marriage and more as she turns 70. Dignitaries thronged the Wheatbaker Hotel, Lagos for the unveiling of her five new books to mark her birthday, EVELYN OSAGIE reports.
She was named Nigeria’s richest woman by Forbes with an estimated net worth of $1 billion in 2020. Her first company was a fashion label with bigwigs as customers; she went on to become an oil magnet with an exploration company with a stake in Agbami Oil field. Welcome Nigeria’s billionaire businesswoman and woman of faith, Apostle Folorunso Alakija, who recently joined the septuagenarian club.
Like a wine that grows sweeter with age, the dotting mother of four and grandmother, who is also the vice-chair, Famfa Oil and director, The Rose of Sharon Group, grows older with grace. She had a unique glow when dignitaries thronged the Wheatbaker Hotel, Lagos, to celebrate her.
To kick start activities marking the milestone, she treated guests to mouthwatering offerings from her acumen in diverse life’s endeavours with the unveiling of five books.
The books included an autobiography, entitled Blossoming with the Hand that Gives the Rose which chronicles her life’s journey over the last 10 years in five major sections. It also signifies the different hats she wears and her close shave with death on Third Mainland Bridge, Lagos.
The other four books included Mysteries of Marriage Unveiled, The Master Key: The Power of Prayers, Lamp Unto My Feet and Answers to Marital Hiccup.
“Money is not everything,” said the philanthropist whose foundation has empowered thousands ofwidows.
Values must be at the core of transactions
For the Dayspring Properties Development Limited and Digital Reality Print Limited, values should be at the core of transactions. “Money is not always the answer to our problems. Money cannot buy happiness. If you have items in your home that you have not used for two years, there is someone out there who is in dire need of it.
“I have come across business deals that I had to walk away from because they would have caused me to compromise my values as a Christian. This is difficult for most business people to do especially in Nigeria but even those who end up compromising in most cases cannot account for tangible things they have achieved with the money,” she said.
The event featured book readings with a blend of tributes and comments on the celebrator. It paraded women who are highflyers in diverse fields, including the First Lady of Ekiti State, Mrs. Bisi Fayemi, Senator Florence Ita-Giwa; former Deputy Governor of Lagos State Mrs. Sarah Sosan; former First Lady of Lagos State, Mrs. Abimbola Fashola; the first female and immediate past Chairman of First Bank of Nigeria, Mrs. Ibukun Awosika; celebrated musician Onyeka Onwenu and Aisha Babangida.
The Regional Evangelist, Redeemed Christian Church of God, Pastor Johnson Tomisin Kalejaiye led the formal presentation of the five books. He was in the company of Ita-Giwa, Sosan; Chief Tunde Ponle and his wife, Otunba Titilayo; Erelu Fayemi; Mrs. Fashola, Onwenu and Hajia Babangida. Other guests included Resident Pastor, KICC Church, Pastor Femi Faseru; Social Entrepreneur & Special Adviser to Governor of Ondo State on Entrepreneurship, Summy Smart Francis and award-winning producer and journalist, Peace Hyde.
The review of Apostle Alakija’s autobiography, Blossoming with the Hand that Gives the Rose, took a little twist. It was read and reviewed at a panel session with Awosika; Onwenu, Francis, Hyde and Pastor Faseru. During her discussions with the panelists, the author reflected on her experience across different areas of her life.
Power of collaboration
Calling attention to the power of collaboration likening it to a relay race where collaborative effort is essential to achieving success, former bank Chair and motivational speaker, Mrs Awosika read and also reflected on the author’s leadership style and her Junior Chamber International (JCI) connections where she had the rare opportunity of being a speaker twice.
Deep sense of stewardship
Pastor Faseru highlighted the author’s ministry and calling, and the need to walk closely with God, while Francis read from the chapter titled entrepreneurialism, which emphasised Alakija’s deep thoughts on compassionate capitalism, her generosity amid fear and uncertainty and how she shows astute stewardship towards God’s resources.
On her part, Hyde reflected on the gift of family and how a subtle intertwining will help create a balance for the multifaceted roles that women play.
From passion to business empire
The last reading was taken by Onyeka Onwenu from a chapter, Fashion my Passion. She recalled her encounter with the author as a fashion designer, praising commendable successful strides into other businesses that have become a business empire.
A decade’s voyage documented
Investment banker and convener, Abia League of Professional Initiatives, Mr. Sonny Iroche reviewed Apostle Alakija’s four other books.
He named mentorship as a major vehicle for passing down values to younger generations. On this front, he observed that author is not lacking. Highlighting her dedication of various activities geared inspiring the young, he drew attention to the author’s use of language in her books, particularly those on marriage, are instructional materials.
Iroche, who is also a former Executive Director, Finance & Accounts at the Transmission Company of Nigeria, said: “Apostle Alakija is an epitome of simplicity and this reflects in the book. She appropriates some self-made coinages to articulate her views, such as ‘Out-laws’ to describe in-laws that are destructive elements in a marriage. While the author used “in-love” instead of “in-law” to suggest “family members” without hopes of being dragged to court someday.
“The two marriage themed books, (Answers to Marital Hiccups and Mysteries of Marriage Unveiled), are compilations from Apostle Alakija’s university of marriage retreats and conferences convened quarterly and annually; while Master key is a prayer guide and Lamp unto my feet, a 100-day Bible study guide