It is double celebration for business
tycoon, Mrs.Folorunso Alakija. Next Friday, the philanthropist will turn
65 years. Not only that, her marriage to Mr. Modupe Alakija will clock
Meanwhile, the Vice Chairman of Famfa Oil and gospel preacher
is full of excitement ahead of the celebrations. Although Mrs. Alakija
is a workaholic, she’s also not found missing in social circle. For her,
everyday is fun, considering her dressing, carriage and demeanour. As a
fashion designer in the 80s, she made her mark in the fashion industry
as President, Fashion Designers Association of Nigeria (FADAN). Her
label, Rose of Sharon metamorphosed into Rose of Sharon Prints and
Promotions; then Digital Reality. This reporter met Mrs. Alakija during
the week during the Rose Of Sharon Weekly Fellowship where she
officiates as ‘The Servant – Leader’. She was in a convivial mood as she
answered questions posed to her.
You’ll turn 65 in a few days’ time. How do you feel about your new age?
I think I feel much younger than the age figure. It’s the grace of God.
Is there anything special to mark the occasion?
Of course, I will celebrate the 65th birthday and my 40-year wedding anniversary.
Do you do anything unusual to keep this trendy?
Well, I did something lately. (I don’t know how to tell lies,
(laughs) I went on a crash diet. Its not that I hadn’t done that before.
I had done it two or three times over the years. It’s not fun, but the
result has been rewarding. I only hope that I can keep it up. I have
definitely gone down. I want to look maybe 20 years younger than my age.
Every woman does, Everybody wants to look nice. It’s not easy. We only
need to watch what we eat and adopt a new lifestyle in the way we eat
and our choice of meals.
You’re intimate with your husband, what has been the secret of your happy marriage of 40 years?
We are very close and there’s no doubt about that. Members of the
family are also very close. It boils down to give and take and a lot of
patience. We ensure we communicate with one another.You should also
understand your partner and be able to work things out between the two
of you. Moreover, you should not allow external influences come between
you. That way, you would be able to keep your home and have a blissful
With your busy schedules, traveling all over the globe on business, how do you cope with the home front?
I have a very understanding family.I unveil my plans to my husband.
He also tells me about his plans, We juggle things and the children tell
us about their plans. I try as much as possible to balance both and I
priotise things as much I can in addition to prayers.
At what point in your life did you take a detour into business?
I had my heart set on managing my own business as far back as my
teenage years. I spent every secondary school holiday in my mother’s
fabric shop at Ereko area of Lagos between Tinubu and Idumota. I helped
out by attending to clients and I got used to fabrics like Sindodo lace,
floral polyester and nylon fabrics, voile and other cotton. I knew all
these helped to prepare me for a future in fashion designing. No
knowledge is lost and the things I learnt as a teenager in my mother’s
shop gave me insight into business and that helped me later in my life. I
started trading after I returned from England where I did a secretarial
course and I continued as I moved up the corporate ladder. I was into
importation of ready-to-wear clothing; scarves, and jewellery from
Europe. I became the representative for manufacturers of drinks and I
had wholesale outlets in Iponri Shopping Centre, Surulere and Alade
market at Allen Avenue, Ikeja. All my life I took small practical steps
while I kept dreaming big dreams.
Could you throw more light on that your preaching at the Marriage Seminar in which you admonished women on Aso-Ebi?
The tradition has since spread from identifying family members to
wearing Aso-Ebi even at gatherings of friends. At first glance, this
makes sense, since the Aso-Ebi can give people a sense of belonging and
attachment. Of course, the aso-Ebi adds beauty, colour, glamour and
uniformity to every event. Of course wearing Aso-Ebi to events can
become very costly and result in expending resources not budgeted for.
Some Aso-Ebi can run into thousands of Naira or even millions, and by
insisting on this tradition, some families may end up stressed,
distressed, and even in debt. As early as the mid 70s, I had more
Aso-Ebi in my wardrobe than I knew what to do with, and the idea of
carrying on the tradition puts me off, because it was eating into my
salary. I stopped wearing Aso-Ebi with friends since 1977. I discovered
my own style and that stands me out in the crowd.
As the first female Chancellor in Nigeria, how did you
receive the news of your appointment, what does the conferment mean to
It means a whole new level, especially the chancellorship. I have
four other honorary doctorate awards. It’s not that this one is of less
importance. This is the first chancellorship award. Not just that, it is
the first from a public university in Nigeria. I think I heard the
governor saying, it is the first from the South of the Sahara, (I had
to check on that). To God be the glory, Promotion does not come from
man, it comes from God. God ministers to people and he makes them to act
on his wishes, his desire, and purpose. I guess I’m working in God’s
purpose because it’s not something that I orcchestrated, I believe that
it’s the Lord’s doing and it’s marvelous in my sight. I congratulate
Osun State University for taking such a bold step to appoint a female
Chancellor. I feel really humble. I also bagged an honorary degree in
business administration. I thank God for the opportunity.
How do you spend your day?
My typical day begins with early morning devotion and I receive phone
calls to get my work started. I would do all those before I go to
office to sort out my correspondence. On the days I’m not in seclusion
for the Lord. I work very long hours in my businesses or my
philanthropic endeavours. I strive for excellence in all I do and
sometimes, it seems the hours of the day are not enough to get things
done well. I look forward to the end of the day when I can pamper my
husband and talk about all the trappings of the day. We look forward to
watching the news together and sometimes I sit with him to watch Arsenal