•Chief Mrs. ADEBISI EDIONSERI Reveals The Secret Of Her Success
Call her the grand dame of Business in Nigeria and you won’t be wrong. This is because Alhaja Adebisi Edionseri, the Iyasuna of Ogun State is a big-time businesswoman who for over 4 decades dominated the business terrain like a colossus. That is why everywhere you turn, her name is on everybody’s lips. Who does not know the name Cash Madam in Nigeria? It cuts across the West, East, North and South.
That is why when the fake news of her demise broke sometime last week, the whole of Abeokuta was thrown into crisis. Even in Lagos, everybody kept glued to their phones to hear the latest on that breaking story which turned out to be false.
Promptly, one of her sons, Otunba Abdulfalil Abayomi Odunowo issued a press release denying the story. He called it fake news. He said “Our mother is very much alive… I wish to inform all our friends and well-wishers that there is no iota of truth in the news.”
Let’s tell us a bit about this successful woman, who in the 60s, 70s, 80s and 90s, dominated the business scene until she retired in 1995 and relocated from Lagos to Abeokuta where she has lived in semi-retirement.
If you are looking for an example of a woman who can be described as an ageless beauty, it is Princess Khadijat Kuburat Adebisi Edionseri. This is because she is 84 but does not look it. She looks a lot younger than her age. Over the years she has maintained her pencil-slim frame. She is cute. She is strong. She is full of life. She is athletic. She is smart and still very stylish and fashionable. She still looks radiant.
Cash Madam, as she is popularly called is a lady, in every sense of the word. She is prim and proper. Can you imagine that at 84, she does not wear glasses? She reads letters with her bare eyes and her mental faculty is alive and acute. She remembers dates, ages, names and recalls events that happened in the 40s, 50s, to 60 years back vividly. She likes to tell stories. She has a clarity of thought that is superb.
At 84, she still calculates figures off hand and she has a retentive memory that is uncommon. She is very calculating. And over the years she has learnt to draw a thick line between Business and Pleasure. Business for her is to make money. No sentiments involved.
No wonder, over the years, she has emerged a big businesswoman, someone who you can call a quintessential businesswoman. Can you believe it that there is no form of big business that she has not done, from Trading in general merchandise to Supplies for many government agencies? She has done supplies for the Army. She has also done for the Prisons, to mention only a few.
She has done road construction. She has done real estate construction, name it. And she has made a huge success of all of it.
What sort of a person is this adorable woman? Where was she born? Where did she grow up? These and many more are the questions often asked about this great woman who is the 1st Iya Suna of Ogun State and the Iyalaje of Egbaland. Princess Khadijat Kuburat Adebisi Edionseri is a successful businesswoman and a society matriarch of note. Over the last 5 decades, she has dominated both the business and social scene like a colossus, with her alias (Cash Madam) travelling far. All her life, Chief Mrs Adebisi Edionseri has been a big-time trader and distributor to all the big foreign and local manufacturers. She did supplies at some point and soon became a big supplier to all the major agencies of the federal government. She was a big supplier to the Army and the Prisons across Nigeria. She was also into construction of houses and roads. And was soon to become one of the biggest government contractors in the ’80s and ’90s when doing government contract was in vogue.
At the height of the success story of this petite and adorable woman, her name was everywhere. She was sociable and rose to become a big-time socialite, so much so that Chief Commander, Evangelist Ebenezer Obey composed a track for her in one of his albums. He coined the alias Cash Madam. Before then she was called Cash Woman.
This Egba woman is still waxing strong and has managed to maintain her lovely look and petite figure. She is still full of energy and activity. Though she retired a few years back, she is not tired yet. She still does a few businesses here and there to keep fit. But she is more active in religious activities. She is a respected Muslim leader across the country. She is the Iya Suna of Ogun State.
Not too long ago, City People Publisher, SEYE KEHINDE, visited her Abeokuta residence and spent about 2 hours talking to Mama about her success secrets in the business plus what it takes to dominate the scene for decades. Below are extracts of the interview.
You are 84 but you don’t look it. You keep looking young and ageless. What’s the secret?
Its because I don’t let things weigh me down. I don’t go to bed with problems. I am always happy. I am happy every day of my life. I refuse to be sad. I refuse to let problems bother me. Life is about the good, the bad and the ugly. So I take life as it comes. I take life as it presents itself. And I eat well.
I eat healthy meals. And I have good children who don’t trouble or bother me. All the children of my brothers and sisters are doing well too. They are successful in their own right. That happiness is what you see on the outside of me which makes people say I look young.
God has done a lot for me. God has done all I want for me. I feel fulfilled. I feel accomplished. I travel abroad at least twice a year just to relax and rest and I will come back when I feel fully rested. I stopped work for about 25 years ago. I have just been having fun.
I attend parties. I celebrate with people. I attend religious activities. I am there for other people. I just take my time to rest. When I want to rest I rest. When I want to attend an event I do. I am not under any pressure to do anything. I am therefore my children and their friends. I am there for my friends. After all these events I come home to sleep.
Why did you retire early? Why did you decide to retire 27 years ago? You were still young then.
Then we used to bid for jobs in December as against the coming year. We would tender for the job and this will go on for the next one year, till the next December. It was changed to every 4 months. Then it was changed to every 2 months. And I sat down one day and thought about it, that what I have is enough to sustain me. All my children had graduated and they have good jobs.
My grandchildren too have become grown up. They have graduated. There is nothing for me to do again why can’t I go and sit down and rest. When I was much younger I worked a lot. I was busy.
I was always travelling. So after all these, I needed to rest. I was appreciative of what God has done for me. I decided to retire home in Abeokuta. Then, I was in Lagos. I used to live in Lagos. My house is in Victoria Island. I now decided to leave Lagos and come and stay in Abeokuta and spend more time with my family members.
My philosophy is if you are into a job and you have become fulfilled on the job why not retire early and enjoy the fruits of your labour. Me that I started doing tenders that usually lasts for a year, you now want me to stay on even when it was now reduced to 2 months. I have seen the good days, I don’t want to stay to see the bad days. Let me leave when the ovation is loudest. Instead of waiting to compete with the new players who are young people. I have seen it all. I decided to leave the business to those coming behind me. Once they decided to reduce the expiration of our tenders to 2 months, I decided to retire.
How did you get the name Cash Madam? How did you feel when Ebenezer Obey did a track for you, on Cash Madam?
It started when I was in Ibadan. I got the name then in Ibadan. It was in 1969. I was first living in Ijebu with my husband (who is the father of a son, MT (Mutiu). His job transfer to Ibadan made us go to Ibadan. Then, I became a big distributor for so many companies like CFAO, GB Olivant, John Holt. I was made a distributor and they used to give me goods and products to sell. At the beginning of the month, they will give us products to sell. They got me a shop and put a shop attendant there who did all the documentation. And they kept supplying me products. So, I now decided to go and get customers that will buy these products so that I can sell a lot of it and pay my supplier back to be able to get more products. That was how I was doing it. My customer base began to grow.
Customers will come from Kwara and other towns. My bank then was Barclays Bank. We had coins as part of our currency then. We had notes too. Whenever I was going to the bank to pay in I will get Alabaru (those who carry goods for us in the market). They will carry my money on their head from my shop to Barclays Bank at Ogunpa. Nigeria was safe then nobody will attack you. People were trustworthy. There are 3 men who used to come to the bank. One of them was John Ojomo. He is from Owo. He was a Lawyer then. The other is Kunle Fagbenro. He is from Abeokuta. He is a Lawyer. They are friends. Then, there was Tunji Oladoyinbo is from Owo. They were successful men at that time. They used to come to the bank.
I was popular at the bank then because once I arrive I usually come in with a lot of money. So, once I arrive they will go and open a place for me to count my money. Koforiji Rotimi was a Cashier who counts money on the counter at the bank back then. He was one of those who counts my money for me. There were about 6 of them.
When my money gets there at about 12:30 pm this 3 men would wait for me to finish counting my money till about 2.30 I will leave to go back to CFAO to take more stock. That Kuforiji Olubi is dead now. He is from Abeokuta. He became a Director at National Bank. He used to call me Auntie mi. He handled my money well. Those 3 men gave me the name Cash Woman. It was Ebenezer Obey that turned it into Cash Madam. Those men called me one day and said jokingly. We are going to give you a new nickname, Cash Woman. They used to buy things from me. I used to sell a lot of things, so many products. I was a General Merchant.
I was selling Milk, Sugar, Plate, Wholesale, Charcoal Iron, Tyre, Bicycle Tyres (the Igbo people used to come and buy from me. They all come to buy a carton of milk, they will now distribute. They come to buy Tea, wholesale, they gave me the name Cash Woman. Ebenezer Obey now changed it to Cash Madam. That is how the nickname Cash Madam took over the whole place.
How did you feel when the record came out and everyone was singing your name Cash Madam?
I was happy. I danced to it. I like to dance a lot. I am a good dancer. I like parties. I like socialising. I enjoyed it. I dance a lot. I am a happy person. By nature, I don’t have a dull moment. Every day is a happy day for me. That is the secret of my youthful look.
You did not go to a business school. And you became very good at it. Who taught you the ABC of Business especially trading?
My aunt taught me. I lived with her. I went to Badagry to meet her. She is my half-sister. It was when I was with her that I learnt how to sell fish, Catfish. When the Igun people bring fish, she will buy from them and we would start selling.
One day I came to see my dad in Abeokuta. And he gave me £25 pounds that day. I was happy. When I retired to Badagry, we bought goods and started trading. I will buy the goods myself and will go round selling them.
My aunt doesn’t use to follow me. I used to go out alone, she is an Eleha (in Purdah), she was also into hairdressing. I will enter the car and take it to all the towns around. Badagry market holds every 9 days. So before the market day, I would have gone around the other towns to sell my goods and make money to stock up for the Badagry Market. I will buy things on the market day and the 2nd day after the market I will then start travelling round to sell it to other villages and towns.
So you mean you started with £25?
Oh yes. My father gave me £25. I started out helping my auntie (actually she is my sister) before I came to Abeokuta to see my dad, and he gave me money. That was in 1948, Nigeria was good then. The currency was strong.
After we finish selling our goods and we are going back with the money, there was nothing like Armed robber to waylay you. When we do night parties it was safe. We used to trek all over, to anywhere to attend parties. No problem. Everywhere was safe. Whenever we trade we are always ok with the little margins we get. There were no millions like now.
When you were made Iya Alaje of Egbaland?
I was happy. It fits into my field, my line. I am good at trading and business. I love sales and marketing. I have come to learn the business. After making me Iya Alaje Egbaland. They now made someone from Oke Ona to be Otun Iyalaje of Egbaland. They now made someone from Gbagura to be Osi Iya Alaje. They now made someone from Owu to be Ekerin.
So if there is an event to attend and I can’t go, I will send my Otun, then Osi will go or Ekerin especially if it is happening outside Abeokuta. But if it is in Abeokuta, we can all go. These are all the things I had in mind when I decided to retire early. I had retired before I became Iyalaje Egbaland.
You will be 82 on 8th April 2017. What are the lessons you have learnt in life?
Have the fear of God in you. Once you have that all your problems are half solved. Be truthful. Don’t be a crook. Be trustworthy. Once you start as a crook you will end up a crook. After the fear of God, being truthful is the next. Be contented.
I have known you to be a contented woman. Where did you learn that from?
It’s my parents. My father and mother gave birth to me at the centre of that Omida market that was demolished in 1935 when I was born. My mother had no shop in Omida. She was selling mats (eni) right in front of her husband’s house. I am a mat sellers daughter. Omo Iya Eleni ni mi Iya mi so ni itelorun.
She was so contented. In my mothers family, she is the only one that her mum gave birth too. And it is a big family. She didn’t use to share in the proceeds that they bring to the family. When they bring gifts, she will give it to her other siblings and family members to distribute. She is so contented. I learnt it from my father and mother. That is why I am a contented woman. I am not attracted by other peoples things I don’t envy people. I don’t envy what they have. I am okay with my own things.