Positions of leadership are, automatically, positions of influence. It is the dream of everyone to be in such positions, so as to exert some influence, but only a few, through their hard work or courage, get to experience it.
Leadership does not necessarily translate to influence, but influence begets leadership and inspiration.
Some women are particularly influential, either by virtue of their being born into wealthy families, their marriage to people of affluence or by their business relationship with others. In any case, those who are better placed always have some degree of influence wherever they find themselves. Having searched through the nation’s capital which serves as a home to more than a few of the nation’s women of reference, LEADERSHIP Friday, brings you some women who are considered ‘Abuja’s Most Influential’, either by virtue of their business, wealth, association or family. You may call them the ‘iron ladies’ if you wish to. But then… they deserve it.
Senator AISHA JUMMAI AL-HASSAN
Aisha Jummai Al-Hassan is a woman of influence within the FCT. Currently, Jummai represents Taraba North federal constituency in the Senate and has formerly served as attorney general and commissioner of justice in Taraba State before clinching the senatorial seat. She has also served as chief registrar of the high court of the federal capital territory. Aside her political inclinations, she is also engaged in flourishing businesses.
Jummai owns the popular A-Class Park and Events Management Services Limited located in Maitama District which is rated as a multi-million naira complex. The popular Eat.com eatery is a part of the park which attracts people from all walks of life in the nation’s capital.
She is among those determining where goes the weight on the political fulcrum in the PDP before the splitting of the party into two factions, leading to emergence of a new PDP (nPDP). Of course, she identifies with the nPDP, perhaps, for calculated political gains. While the political crisis between the two factions lasted and gathered momentum, her A-Class Park was marked for demolition by Federal Capital Territory Administration (FCTA). She cried out foul and raised the alarm that it was a case of political vendetta because of her membership of nPDP. However, after the entire wrangle, the park continued its operations. Who says Jummai is not influential?
HAJIA BASIRAT NAHIBI
Hajia Basirat Nahibi, the owner of al-Bashir Interior Decors in Abuja is in a rocketing connection. For this, her personality and influence just keep on snowballing. Her business brings her into constant business deals with the highest echelon of Abuja’s affluent men and women.
Nahibi is also a politician. She is widely believed to have influence outside the shores of Nigeria, especially in some African countries. This multi-millionaire businesswoman cum politician enjoys a lot of patronage from the wealthy class who can afford her household furniture and other products.
MADAM NUOMA EZEDIKE
Orange Garden in Wuse Zone 3, Abuja, needs no introduction. It is a posh place of a sort, no doubt. Madam Nuoma Ezedike who owns it is another influential woman to reckon with. The eatery is a popular meeting point for the crème de la crème in FCT to suit different events. It also provides a comfortable atmosphere where friends and associates gather to discuss issues. The business turns in money in large chunks.
Madam Ezedike is among the successful businesswomen in Abuja whom others look up to with admiration. This industrious and enterprising woman stands to gain not only financial profits from her business but also influence considering the socialite nature of the business.
HAJIA BOLA SHAGAYA (MON)
Hajia Bola Shagaya is not a declared politician but her influence and presence around the corridors of power is an old thing. She is also an outstanding business woman with exceptional degree of success. Shagaya is particularly known to be hobnobbing with wives of serving heads of state or presidents.
Shagaya also uses her closeness to people in power to secure business deals, increase her fortunes and expand her business territory. She is currently keeping a strong and seemingly unending relationship with Dame Patience Goodluck Jonathan. She also attends social gatherings with the First Lady which often make people believe that whenever she is sighted in occasions, then Dame Jonathan should be somewhere around.
Her business capacity is noted across Africa. She was among the winners of the prestigious Africa Investors (Ai) Investment and Business Leaders Awards which took place at the Africa Investor CEO Climate Summit in Washington DC, USA in October, 2013. This tells part of her success stories.
She has served on the board of defunct Intercity Bank, now part of Unity Bank Plc, for over a period of eight years. She then served in several capacities in various committees including the position of Chairman of the bank’s establishment committee as well as Chairman, Audit Committee. She also served as a member of the audit and credit committees of the board of Unity Bank Plc. She is, in addition to these, a member of the recently inaugurated NEPAD Business Group in Nigeria.
Fotofair (Nigeria) Limited is one unit of her business empire which she opened in 1997. She further opened a photo laboratory unit using advanced Japanese technology. Today, Fotofair is reputed to have over thirty photo laboratories across the country.
MRS EMILIA ATOBETELE
Emilia Atobetele is the president of Abuja Market Women Association. As a businesswoman with this position in a traders’ association, she is also found to be influential especially in issues that may need the attention and support of women in the FCT. She has been noted for being an advocate for women emancipation all through her life. She is passionate about organizing women traders and making them more productive as a means of empowering and liberating them from the shackles of poverty.
She once advised women not to wait for the government to do everything to improve their standard of living but to do anything they can to help themselves. Atobetele is bent on ensuring that market women are very productive as well as assets to their spouses. Discipline is one of her hallmarks in leadership. Chief Rita Lori Oregbor
Rita Lori Hotels is one of the prominent hotels that have distinguished themselves and made their marks in the Hospitality industry. The brain behind this venture however, is non-other than Chief Rita Lori Oregbor. This business giant is a native of Delta State and of the Itsekiri tribe. She is an indomitable entrepreneur who has strived hard to become successful in the competitive world of Hospitality. She had been a journalist. She later quit the job and started running her own magazine, “The Teenager”, with a branch situated in the Nation’s capital and another in Lagos State. Ogbebor eventually branched into the hoteling business.
The Hotel which was established in the early 80’s has risen through the years and grown so prominent that it has now become a household name for everyone.
Despite negative rumours to drag Obgebor down, the Warri Chief gives no damn, as all she does is thrive to see her venture soaring high.
Mrs Charis Grace Onabowale
Mama Cass is no doubt a name that rings a bell to all. There is hardly one who has not had a feel of the mouth-watering dish from Mama Cass restaurant. Even if you haven’t, your friend or neighbour has. The eatery, which operates in over 15 outlets spread across the nation and even in the United Kingdom (UK), is owned by Mrs. Charis Grace Onabowale.
Onabowale is the Managing Director and prime mover of Mama Cass Restaurants Limited. She graduated from the West London College in 1973 with a Higher National Diploma in Business Administration. She worked as an Accounts Supervisor at Holland Hanen & Cubitts Limited, St James Park in London for a year after which she moved back to Nigeria and worked with British Petroleum (BP) in Nigeria for 13 years and rose to the position of Employee Services Superintendent in charge of staff services and welfare, including the staff canteen where she was opportuned to attend in-house and external courses in Catering and Hotel Management. In 1986, she moved to Sir Lawrence Petroleum briefly as Personnel Manager and later resigned a year later to face her business. She is a Member of the Institute of Personnel Management of Nigeria (CIPMN).
Mrs Abosede Ayeni
Another woman who has made her mark in the eatery business is Mrs. Abosede Ayeni. Ayeni is the CEO and Managing Director of Tantalizers Plc (alternate name: Tantalizers Nigeria Limited). Mrs. Ayeni joined Lever Brothers Nigeria Limited (now Unilever Plc) as a Marketing Management Trainee in 1980 and became Brand Manager, Product Manager and Group Manager at Unilever. In 1991, she became the Manager of Senkay Nigeria Limited and in 1997, she started Tantalizers. In 2004, she received the Fate Model Entrepreneurship Award (FMEA). She graduated with a Degree in Language Arts from the University of Ife (now Obafemi Awolowo University) in 1979. She bagged an MBA from the Pan African University (Lagos Business School) in 2004.
Tantalizers, which is only about a decade old has lived beyond expectations as it seems to be expanding rapidly with so many branches spread all over the federation.
Mrs Comfort Jummai Adesoye
Mrs Comfort Jummai Adesoye, a native of Niger State whose husband is from the west, is the CEO of Jayees Cakes located at Maitama, FCT, Abuja.
She is no small fry in the business of cake making and giving social events a good taste. For her, class of occasions is defined by the class of treatment given to it, hence, her determination to satisfy her clients by “creating exclusive cakes that tell your story with every tasteful slice of ecstasy”.
She has actually provided very challenging but exciting services in the course of delivering quality services to her clients who cut across politicians and other top celebrities. Her clientele include the presidency, the wife of Niger State governor, Babangida Aliyu; the minister for agriculture; former governor of Niger State, Abdulkadir Kure; banks and telecommunication giants such as UBA, Etisalat, MTN, amongst others.
She started baking about 12 years ago, but Jayees was established in October 2012 in Abuja.
Mrs Dayo Benjamins-Laniyi
Mrs. Dayo Benjamins-Laniyi, the MD/CEO of DOXA Digital Communications Limited is one of the powerful women to identify with or seek when it comes to event planning in the FCT. She has, over the years, proven her worth in events management and entertainment industry at the highest level. A graduate of English from University of Ibadan (UI), she has been able to use her fluency and mastery of the language to excel as a revered Master of Ceremony in occasions of great importance.
Her event management firm, Doxa Digital Communications Limited stands out with a dominating profile when it comes to event planning in the FCT and beyond. Admirers often call her DBL. The celebrity compere has planned and masterfully executed such high profile events as celebrations for presidents, state governors and their wives, embassies, top corporate organizations – local and international, celebrity occasions and such society weddings that set tongues wagging.
She currently operates at international level to great admiration. This business has brought her not only to limelight but also to influence and affluence. Perhaps, Benjamins-Laniyi can serve as a good example of fulfillment derived from passion and commitment in pursuing a desired dream. Indeed, hard work and commitment is paying off for her in event management business.
Mrs Rebecca Okogwu
‘Becky’, as she is fondly called by her high-level clientele, is the woman behind Rendow’s Event Design Ltd. Okogwu is an amazing designer and wedding-planner of repute. More than a few times, she has given many a bride cause to smile on their wedding day, thanks to her exquisite designs, fantastic ideas/suggestions, wonderful problem-solving techniques, as well as finely mixed colour themes.
She has gradually warmed herself into the heart of the city’s influential folks and, by virtue of her involvement, become influential herself.
Arc Fifi Ejindu
Besides being a well-recognised architect, Ejindu is also a philanthropist who has spread her love far and near.
A princess, Ejindu is one of the first African women to graduate from the prestigious Pratt Institute School of Architecture. In Nigeria today, she is one of Nigeria’s most celebrated female architects and CEO of Starcrest Group which is involved in the sectors of building construction, project management, real estate, oil and gas.
In September this year, Ejindu appeared on CNN’s African Voices, where she expounded so much on her philanthropic activities with Hope Centres all over Africa and her African Arts and Fashion Initiative launched in August at the Dorchester at the grand finale of the third edition of Africa Fashion Week London (where she is life patron and chairperson of the advisory board).
The proud holder of a traditional title of Her Highness, Obonganwan, Ejindu is also a member of the National Heritage Council and Endowment For The Arts, which aims to ensure the protection and conservation of places and objects of heritage significance