•Reveals How She Became New NACCIMA President
Iyalode Alaba Lawson is a very popular woman in Yoruba land. Hardly do you find a woman holding 2 powerful titles like she does. She is the Iyalode of Egbaland and also the Iyalode of Yorubaland, a title bestowed on her by the Alaafin of Oyo. The big news is that Chief Mrs. Alaba Lawson will on 25th of May, 2017 be installed as the 19th National President of the Nigerian Association of Chambers of Commerce Industry, Mines and Agriculture (NACCIMA). How did she achieve that feat? Iyalode Alaba Lawson is the 1st female to occupy this position.
A few weeks back in her school in Abeokuta, she spoke to City People Publisher, SEYE KEHINDE about her life and her forthecoming installation as NACCIMA boss.
Congratulations on your forthcoming installation as the next NACCIMA President and the first female President?
I feel happy. I feel great. I feel that at last I could get there and do my own little bit and try my best I see it as a post that needs to be well founded. By the special grace of Jehovah God and reach out to my colleagues. Working together we can do it.
What made you join NACCIMA at the time you did years back?
I joined NACCIMA from my City chamber in Abeokuta in 1982 through the inspiration of my brother in law Chief Adeyemi Olushola Lawson. The trio of him, Chief Fajemirokun, and Chief Akin George were into making sure Commerce was well taken care and through the LCCI that was first established by the white people in 1888 they were handed over to people like late Chief S.L. Edu, Chief Henry Fajemirokun, late Chief Adeyemi Lawson, late Chief Akin George. All these were great people. who made sure that commerce was put in its proper place to help the economy of any country. The commerce must be extremely good. And so therefore when he introduced me to the chambers of commerce in 1982, he held a brewery in Abeokuta called West African Brewery then. He used to call me Iyawo because I am the wife of his junior brother, Kehinde Lawson. One day, he said with your intelligence, I know you will be good at the chambers of commerce. So, he started introducing me since 1979 but finally I joined the Abeokuta Chamber of Commerce in 1982 as an ordinary member. Later I rose to become the Executive Secreatry, Financial Secretary Treasurer, Deputy President and finally President in 1995 till 2000. When I tried to make sure that commerce in my community is placed on a higher pedestal. I tried to get this current Commerce House during my tenure. Since then I have not looked back.
You have made a name for yourself in the educational sector. Why did you go into that sector to set up schools?
As for that, I will say its a divine call because when I left school in 1967. I wanted to be an actress on stage. I like a lot of mimicking people. So, I really wanted to go on stage. I had this divine call when I was at the Green Park in London watching nature at the park with the geese on the water there, on the pond.
What happened was that these little children came into the park with their teachers. They were interacting with themselves, looking round. As I sat down watching them a chord struck in me. I said now, so these young children can be themselves without anybody taking care of them. And that voice said you have to look after these children. That was in 1973. I accepted. I then went for this course, at Montessori College of Education, 22-24 Princess gate, in London. I thank God for my life I came out with 1st Class diploma in Education.
I came back to Nigeria in 1975, in 1976 Ogun State was created from the old western region. A lot of Civil Servants were looking for where they are going to put their children. So I started with daycare. Those first set of pioneer civil servants will come to work in Abeokuta from Ibadan and go back to Ibadan. So I came in readily to make sure we have the Creche and the Daycare.
The approval was given to us in 1977 and I started with 3 kids. The 1st one to be enrolled was Miss Toyin Ariyibi followed by Remi Ilo. I started with them. At the weekends I will take them home and they will play with my children. Thats how I started gradually, and then I went into the nursery section. So, we started with the Kindergaten and Nursery. Approval too was given followed by the Primary section. So it has been one step at a time. Then I went into the continuing Education Centre, the Oyewole Twins started in Abeokuta. I joined also I had my Lawson Continuing Education Centre. We help students prepare to resit their exams. We coach them and they will do well in 1995 finally with the help of one Ghanaian, Mr. Adjeman, with set up the College, the Secondary School called Alaba Lawson Royal College. That is what I want to be remembered for Education.
You are the Iyalode of Egbaland. You are the Iyalode of Yorubaland at the same time. How do you cope?
It has been a very good experience. The special grace of Jehovah God has made it possible for me to occupy the two titles and roles. I have enjoyed the help of our women at the grassroot level I am a grassroot woman and I love Tradition and Culture. The great honour was bestowed on me by our late Kabiyeesi, Oba Oyebade Lipede, Alake of Egbaland on August 7, 1999 is greatly appreciate. My women appreciate it too. With my women we move around we collect information and move along.
Holding the 2 reverred titles is not too much for me to handle, but it is very challenging because you have to listen to different stories at different times and then pick the truth from it. My own people know me very well. And I know them too. They know I stand for Justice, Equity and Fearness. And so therefore they always know which area I can fault them.
I am also greatful to his Imperial Majesty, Kabiyeesi Ikubabayeye, the Alaafin, Oba Lamidi Adeyemi for making me the Iyalode of Yorubaland. That was on 23rd of August 2008.
You are still very energetic at over 70. How do you achieve that? What has kept you going?
It is the grace of God. I don’t run after material things. I just live my life as it has pleased my God. One thing is, with this younger children I feel very young at heart with them when these young children stop me along the corridor and say Mrs. Lawson you know what? I will wait and listen.
Tell us about your growing up years. Where were you born?
I was born by late Pa Emmanuel Abiona Jiboko alias Jiboku Tonatona. They call him that because my daddy worked in ECN for 39 solid years. He joined them in NEPA for one or two years before he retired. My late mother is Mrs. Ruth Olabisi Aina Jiboko (nee Coker) Aderupoko-Coker. My mym came from that beautiful and powerful clan of the Aderupoko Coker family in Itesi, Abeokuta. My own father is purely from Oke Ona Egba while my mum is purely from Egba Alake section.
I was born on the 18th January 1951. My mother told me she didn’t even feel the labour before she had me. I first went to this Mama Saro at Igbein opposite the St. John Church, Igbein. She taught us bible principle and Bible verses, especially the Psalm. I was around 4 to 5 years old then.
By the time I was 6 years old, yyour hand must reach your ears, I was enrolled at St. James African Church School at Idi Ape where I had my Primary education, from Primary 1 to Primary 6. That was 1957 to 1962. By virtue of my father being a technician at Electricity Corporation of Nigeria (ECN) he was able to meet highly placed people. That is where he met Mrs. Marian Hughes of Abeokuta Girls Grammar School. I sat for the exams to go into the school. I passed very well. I was taken in 1963. The school shaped my life. We were under her tutelage. She taught us so many things. You have to sit upright. You cannot sit and bend. You have to walk straight. You have to talk properly. She used to tell us you are ladies! Walk straight. She made us to be elegant ladies at that our tender age. She would want you to say nothing but the truth. We were served mid day meals to keep us going then. That is why I do the same here.
When you were in school then what did you want to be?
I really wanted to be an actress. That was why I was always on the drama group. That was why I said veering into education was a divine call.
You are always in Adire. How have you helped these Adire women?
We have been helping them. My predecessor, the 2nd Iyalode, started the Adire in her domain, and it is still within her domain today. I mean Madam Jojolola, at Kunta. That is where the home of address is.
I am very proud to be able to promote our own Adire in my own domain and we have added more colour to it. We are now working on copyright for them. We have formed them into a trade group and they are now in the Abeokuta Chamber of Commerce. Where they can monitor them. The Chinese have been talking their designs. But the ones the Chinese people do run colour. We have introduced so many things into it.