•As He Celebrates His Life @ 53
Alhaji Lukman Fowotade is a successful businessman in Lagos. He runs a popular clearing and forwarding firm. He is one of the top members of Royal Pioneers Club and his name can open doors.
A few days ago, he turned 53 years and had a low-key birthday celebration. It was also a double celebration for him, as he declared his event centre and complex opened.
This man of honour, who has enjoyed musical praises from Naija music acts, took us through his grass-to-grace story and how he started his life with absolutely nothing. He spoke with City People’s ABIOLA ORISILE, enjoy it.
How do you feel seeing your 53rd birthday today?
I say Alliamdulai, that I Alhaji Lookman Fowotade can see another year, it is His grace that has kept me.
You grew up in Agege?
Yes, I grew up in Agege, Oke-Koto to be precise.
You have a grass-to-grace story, can we hear it so it can motivate many young people?
Yes I grew up in Agege and I have a grass to grace story. I look back and thank God for how far he has brought me. I lost my father in my first year in secondary school in 1979. I had only my mother. I went to ODC Primary School and Ansarudeen in Ota.
It was not a smooth journey. I was given peanuts every month. And I will be expected to eat from that. As a young boy, I would fetch waterleaf to supplement what I was given. During dry season, I fetched and sold firewood to supplement what I was given. I went through many travails, but to God be the glory, we are here today.
You are so brilliant, your English is so fluent how did you do this?
This is because I was brilliant in school. The problem with many youths is that they want to speak big English and they don’t even know the meaning. I want to communicate to my audience and not speak big grammar.
You run a big maritime company, how did you start your company?
The journey of my clearing and forwarding firm wasn’t smooth. I completed secondary educated in 1984. I decided not to go further. I went into Aluminium industry learning profiling. The company folded up in 6 months and I joined clearing. It was not even a profession perse. It turned out that I was not cut out for the job.
You were not cut out for clearing, why?
This was because Natko was just booming then and most of my friends were in NAHCO. So when we went there then, we would just see them sitting under a tree. There was no office then unlike now. So, I used to think it was a lazy man’s job. But to God, be the glory, when I joined clearing at Apapa, it was totally different. So I found out that at Apapa, what they did is proper documentation of clearing jobs.
What age did you float your company?
I joined Wilmart Nigeria Limited 1st June, 1987, when I was just 22 years old. Don’t let me forget that after aluminum, I joined an Architectural company. That was where I got the idea of Real Estate. Everything you see here is my design. I worked with Wilmart for 15 year and 1 month. 1st of July, 2002 I floated Bilaf, which is 16 years now.
How was the journey when you started?
It was rough. I didn’t have a single client. I started seeking clients. What I want to say is this, whatever you are doing, be good at your job, money will come if you are good. Don’t make money your priority when you are learning. If you are not sure of what you are doing, how would you defend yourself? I don’t do export, I can defend import any time you wake me up. I can beat my chest on it.
You own an estate?
No, I own the event centre and mall. I decided to build this event centre just as an additional income venture.
You have only one wife, how did you meet her?
That is my jewel. I call her my jewel and my mother. I appreciate people a lot. I don’t forget people. I met my woman when I was nothing. The day we went for my introduction, she was the one who provided everything we used for the introduction. I had nothing then. I was just Lukman.
I won’t say because I am now L&K and not Lukman and forget how I started. I won’t marry any woman now and spend on her from shoes to bag on and forget the woman who married me as Lukman.
How long have you been married?
I have been married for over 2 decades and still counting.
What has sustained your marriage?
My wife sustained the marriage. She gives me peace of mind and all the peace I need. She doesn’t give me issues and that is why I look younger than my age.
Women sustain marriage. Don’t check your husband’s phone. Give him peace at home, he will come running to you all the time.
You have known Tunde Borokini for 25 years and you grew up at Oke-Koto, who are your other friends?
I have many friends, who are all doing well in their chosen career. Yes, Tunde Borokini, Olanrewaju Lamex have been my friends for over 2 decades. We didn’t just start. We started when we were just coming up.
When you remember how you started, what comes to your mind?
Allianduli has always been my slogan. I don’t leave my house without that.
How many staffers do you have?
Over 30 members of staff in the office and many other field workers too. We thank God.
How do you get your name?
B for Biodun, Lukman Alade Fowotade. It is a combination of my name.
What is the secret of your youthful look?
It is my wife. I thank her for giving me peace at home. She makes sure the home is safe for me.