Fellow Nigerians, it is not every day that we get to celebrate the great women of Nigeria, not because there are few of them, but because sometimes their modesty, humility and cloistered nature makes them keep away from hugging the limelight unlike their more aggressive and socially astute male contemporaries. However, Ovation often seeks out women of this ilk because that is the essence of what Ovation stands for – the celebration of Black people of quality, achievement, distinction and honour.
As I have always noted, I am a male Feminist (wrote my Masters thesis on The Oppression of Women in African Literature) and an avid follower and respecter of women who have shown their competence, capability and ability by succeeding in a male dominated world. I greatly admire such accomplished African women and it is my pleasure and privilege to felicitate and congratulate one of such women, our dear Sister, Mrs Foluke Kafayat Abdulrazaq, who marked her 65th birthday yesterday. Fondly called FKA by her friends and admirers, she is someone I like to describe as a silent powerhouse. Despite her significant and enviable achievements, Mrs Abdulrazaq has resisted the temptation of flexing her muscles around town.
She remains one of those few modest Nigerian personalities quietly serving her country well and without fuss, in a country where the commonest rhetorical question revolves around self-recognition and self-propagation, “I am such and such” or “do you know who I’m?”
I am happy and pleased that five years after I paid glowing tributes to her, on her Diamond birthday, I’m back here celebrating her again today. This is not only because of the high esteem with which I personally hold her and her illustrious family but because she has continued to excel and make herself relevant and useful in society.
In summary, FKA attended the Yaba College of Technology and Kwara State College of Technology, where she obtained her OND and HND (Accountancy) respectively. Later, she earned a Master of Science degree in Banking and Finance from the University of Ibadan. Mrs. Abdulrazaq is also an alumnus of the Harvard Business School, Boston, USA where she has undergone leadership and financial courses.
Mrs. Abdulrazaq is no stranger to public office. Significantly, she was the Lagos State Commissioner for Finance, and later, Women Affairs and Social Development, between 1997 and 1999. As Commissioner for Finance, in 1997, she was the first and to date, the only female Commissioner for Finance in Lagos State. To her credit, the broad policies on which Lagos State’s much vaunted Accelerated Revenue Generation Programme (ARGP) is founded were formulated during her tenure. She worked with the Nigerian Security Printing and Minting Company Limited, where she headed several departments, including Administration, Management Services, Commercial and Corporate Development. Between 1999 -2001 she was the Executive Director, ML Securities Limited a stock brokerage firm. She has also been heavily involved with the construction serving on the board of Nigeria’s largest construction company, Julius Berger plc (1997-2000) as a Non-Executive Director.
Mrs Abdulrazaq is a consummate financial guru and has been much sought after in banking and financial boardrooms for her gifted and innovative ideas and contributions to financial issues and affairs.
She was a Non-Executive Director of the United Bank for Africa Plc (UBA) from 2008 to 2020. It is noteworthy that despite the constant changes witnessed in bank boardrooms she remained a non-executive Director for so long. During her tenure, she served on various committees in the bank, and she served as chairman of the Bank’s Board’s Credit Committee as well as member of the Statutory Audit, Nominations and Governance committees until November 2019. In recognition of her contribution to the industry at boardroom level, she became the Vice-President, Bank Directors’ Association of Nigeria (BDAN)
With a distinctive record of service in finance, banking, stock broking, business and public office, in June 2020 she was appointed as Vice Chairman of Transcorp PLC, a diversified conglomerate.
She is currently a member of the Institute of Directors (IoD), Women Corporate Directors, National Council of Executives (NASFAT), Board of Trustees (Fountain University Oshogbo), Olave Baden- Powell Society (OBPS) and Sarah-Adebisi Sosan Foundation. She’s currently a member of the Governing Council of the Lagos State University (LASU).
Mrs Abdulrazaq has won several awards in recognition of her contributions to the many and varied sectors of the Nigerian economy that she has been involved with. Amongst these illustrious awards the coveted “Lagos State Woman of Excellence” Award which FKA won in 1999. Mrs Abdulrazaq is a Justice of the Peace (JP).
In 2004, Mrs. Abdulrazaq yielded to her passionate love for education and her desire to make a genuine lasting contribution to the education of our youths in their most formative adolescent years. She founded what has now become the prestigious and highly regarded Bridge House College in Ikoyi, Lagos. The College, which is of a high international standard, is an independent private sixth-form co-educational institution that focuses on the Founders vision of bridging the gap for Nigerian High School leavers to be able cross to universities of their choices all over the world and hold their own and distinguish themselves in those institutions.
Mrs. Abdulrazaq is happily married to Dr. Alimi Abdulrazaq, a scholarly and renowned lawyer and reputable arbitrator, prominent and respected politician and successful businessman. Dr Abdulrazaq is the first son of the highly respected and revered Alhaji AGF Abdulrazaq, one of the foremost Senior Advocates of Nigeria. Dr Abdulrazaq and FKA’s marriage is blessed with children and grandchildren.
Please, help me raise a toast to this great woman of impeccable pedigree for her service to her nation and mankind as she marks her Blue Sapphire Jubilee. She is truly a precious gem…
25 Years of Ovation International (Part 2)
Last week, I skipped this second part of my serialisation of the events that have shaped the existence of Ovation Magazine since it was published 25 years ago. I did this in order to address matters of serious national importance tearing the polity apart since I believed that addressing the matter could not wait because they go to the very root of our unity and future as a nation. I am therefore happy to be back on the beat today and writing about something equally positive and more pleasant.
Starting Ovation International magazine in the city of London in 1996 was not an easy task but we were determined to give it a powerful and determined shot. It was better to try and fail than fail to try. A man who is down should fear no fall. So, we took a kamikaze jump, a giant leap of faith and waited for God’s miracle to happen as we were sure it would do. And to ensure we attained and achieved our vision and goals we gave it our all and sacrificed as much as we could and more. You cannot expect people to join you in your dream or help as you go along, if you yourself do not make the personal choices and sacrifices that demonstrate that you have total belief and faith in what you ae propagating and pursuing. You cannot and should not expect understanding or assistance of others if you personally do very little in helping yourself. Once again, my biggest thanks to all those who made it happen.
Our mission was to change or, at least, improve the way in which the African man is projected and visualised. We felt that there was a genuine need to change the narrative about Black people and people of African descent because there has always been a tendency to denigrate them. For us, the simple way to do this was by showcasing and celebrating our own success stories, our successful entrepreneurs, businesses, innovators, geniuses, artistes, celebrities and newsmakers.
Our second mission was to resist censorship in every form. This has always been a personal crusade for me, strengthened by my experience over time. It was one of the reasons I found myself in detention in 1993 and why I was forced into exile in 1995. For me, the fundament right of freedom of expression within the acceptable legal boundaries is a sacred and sacrosanct right which must be protected and always espoused. It is salutary that our leaders got it right when they made this right a basic fundamental right in all our constitutions in keeping with international norms and practice. We took the decision that under no circumstance shall we deprive anyone of news coverage or interview. No matter how famous or notorious the personality, news is news, and it is not for us to decide or manipulate the people’s conscience or morality. It is for the reading and viewing public to decide having been provided with all the facts. We have been controversial and stirred up publicity but ultimately, we believe that it has been a positive development for the general good of all.
Our credo is that it is the right of saints and sinners to be able to express themselves without being encumbered except if downright vulgar or libellous. We have adhered strictly to this rule and it has definitely helped us achieve some monumental results. I am only expected and allowed to publish my opinion within my personal column. I cannot muzzle anybody or bowdlerise someone else’s write-up simply because it is different form mine, or I think it does not conform to societal ethos or mores. I am proud to say with all sense of modesty and humility that our decision to practice responsible journalism of this nature has really paid off in terms of credibility and integrity. Everyone knows we are not reckless or vindictive. For example, we continue to publicize the activities of President Muhammadu Buhari more avidly and ceaselessly than most of those paid to do so, despite my sharp disapproval of his colourless and sluggish style of governance!
We promised to make high standards and quality of our publications our favourite mantra. This is why we’ve remained with the same printing press in Enfield, England, for the past 20 years. Our readers and clients already know what to expect from us. It is a covenant that has endured till now, and which we expect to keep forever. It has made us to recalibrate the fact that Nigerians will pay for excellent quality, flair and distinction no matter how expensive it might seem.
Despite making Nigeria and Nigerians in particular, and Africa and Africans in general, our primary focus, we set out to publish a global magazine. Our determination was to ensure that our impact and esteem would reverberate and reach far flung places. Thank God, this goal was also realized by His grace. This has helped us to expand our social, developmental and business image and horizon. We have even experimented with publishing in different world languages, including English, French, Portuguese, German and Hausa to the amazing delight of our fantastic readers and clients.
Our biggest initial challenge was funding. What we had at the beginning was far short of our needs and requirements. We could easily have given up, but we managed to switch on the can-do spirit of Nigerians. We believed so much in the power of possibilities and it is why we can tell a success story today. At different times, we ran into troubled waters, lost our beautiful office Suite in London Docklands, including our archival materials, office equipment and so on. We remained undaunted and unbowed. We simply soldiered on knowing that our success was being forged in the furnace of seeming gloom and disaster. In retrospect, it was good we did not have access to sufficient funding. I’m sure we would have blown and frittered it all and would not have known how to micromanage like we are able to today. It is why we have been able to adapt and cope with the otherwise devastating effect of the pandemic. We trusted in technology and have always thrived on using state of the art equipment and the embrace the latest technologies available in the industry. Practically all our competitors took this fact for granted and soon disappeared into oblivion!
Some words of Advice! Media business is the ultimate casino. You need the spirit of a compulsive gambler to stay afloat. You also need loads of prayers. Hopefully, one or both combinations may rescue you from the perilous business of publishing and the media. Above all, you must be lucky, fortunate and blessed, as we have been these past 25 years to succeed. We give God the glory.