Princess Abiodun Folashade Omotade isn’t your regular Lagos society woman.
Not one to joke with her whatever she lays her hands on, her business tentacles spreads as far as shipping, oil & gas, real estates, manufacturing and consultancy. Who is this astute businesswoman from Abeokuta? A close relative of former President Olusegun Obasanjo, Princess Omotade nee Madojutimi is an inspiring story of endurance, staying focused and a heart that desires success without fear or favour. Welcome to her world as she grants an interview to Kemi Ashefon.
Kindly introduce yourself ma?
I am Princess Comfort Abiodun Folashade Omotade.
Where do you hail from?
I am from Abeokuta, Ogun State, precisely from Oke- Ijemo.
How would you describe yourself?
I see myself as a pretty lady, smart, intelligent, hardworking woman, and honest, decent and responsible mother.
Where did you grow up?
I grew up in Ibadan but I was born in Ghana. That was what informed the facial mark. We came back to Nigeria in 1970 when Kwame Nkrumah sent Nigerians out of Ghana. It was not a funny experience returning to Nigeria because we could not speak the Yoruba language. We were accosted by some military men who requested that we call ‘Toro’ to know if we were Yorubas. My brother and I couldn’t. The saving grace was my mum who could speak many languages including Yoruba.
I later attended my primary and secondary schools in Ibadan where I met the wife of former Oyo State governor, Mutiat Ladoja. She was my senior in secondary school.
My father was not a poor man. I knew him to be living in his house and driving his car which was a Peugeot brand and the number plate was ML 5040 . But I really don’t like remembering my childhood because I didn’t live with my mother. I was treated badly by my brother’s wife who I lived with. She is still alive but I thank God.
After a while, I moved from Eleyele in Ibadan. Then, I decided seeking admission at the Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile Ife.
So, I went to Ife. The day I went to Ile Ife, the friend I met for the first time was Adeola Adedeji. She also came to Ife from Ila Orangun and we came seeking admission. She is now Mrs. Adeola Babalola. Surprisingly, we knew nobody but we wanted admission to OAU.
My result wasn’t very good and we met a lecturer who looked at our results. He advised that I should re-take my English language, where I had F9 since I told him I wanted to read Law. I passed Geography and Economics well.
We went to College of Arts and Science in Ife. Then we saw a signboard with the inscription, Universal Tutorial College. We picked the form which cost N1. The owner of the college is Dr Rahman Adedoyin who advised us to work hard at making it in English Language where I had F9. I went ahead to have my A levels at Universal Tutorial College and then, passed English. I got admission to read Law at OAU but I never finished—dropped out of school.
Can you reflect on your mother?
My mum was a princess but her mum (my grandmother) was a Fulani woman, she was born in the north. She was the daughter of Soun of Ogbomoso, Oba Olatunji Elepo Aran. She was a very beautiful woman, hardworking and could speak over 13 languages.
You lost your elder brother in 2016?
That was one of my darkest moments in life. My elder brother, who was of same father with me, was Phillip Adetokunbo Madojutimi. We were born in Ghana, have same facial marks. We were of same height too. It took us time before we could speak Yoruba because we were born in Ghana. I can recall when we returned from Ghana in 1970. Then, it was during the war. After alighting from the ship in Apapa, we were accosted by soldiers who were Hausas. They thought we were Ghanaians but when my mum spoke Hausa to them, we were allowed to go. My brother was my confidant. We both suffered because our parents didn’t live together. Our parents separated after we got to Nigeria.
My brother’s death was a big blow and I miss him everyday. Every birthday I had before his death, even when my husband was alive, my brother was the first person to call me. He was very intelligent and remembered everything. I didn’t know he was in the hospital when he called me in 2016 on my birthday. He never missed it but ironically, he called me on August 6. I reminded him it was August 7. He apologized and called me again on August 7. His birthday was 17th July and mine is August 7. I never knew he was calling me from the hospital and was moving from one theatre to the other because he had cancer. I’m yet to recover from this loss because we were very close. He called me every night. I still miss the night calls. He did that every night and we would talk for a long time.
You also lost your husband in the Bellview plane crash of 2005? What kind of man was he?
That remains indelible in my heart. My husband was Olaseni Ayodeji Omotade. He died as a Permanent Secretary of a federal ministry in Abuja. He was a good man, handsome, calm, loving husband and responsible father to his children, decent and generous to a fault. He was polished too. He was more than a husband but a friend who allowed me pursue all that I needed to succeed in business. He never hindered me in any way as a businesswoman.
How has life been without him?
In every challenge in life, there is a lesson to learn. For 13 years now, I have gone through the school of life. I’ve gone through the good, bad and the ugly sides of life. But when God is with you, no man can fight you. I have God who is the husband of the widow and father of the fatherless. Yes, I might be going through a lot, God still talks to me that He loves me and He will not allow me to be disgraced.
With your experience, what is your advice to widows?
I always tell widows to take care of their children first and not think of remarriage after the death of a spouse. Remarriage should not be a priority. First, you should think of your children’s education, shelter and their welfare. There are many men who want to sleep with you as a widow. In fact, there are some gold-diggers who want to have you and take all the money you have as a widow.
In 2005, I suffered double blow of tragedy. As I was mourning the loss of my husband, I was also mourning the death of a very dear person—Stella Obasanjo. Stella Obasanjo played the role of a mother in my life. The day she died, was also when my husband died. It was a big blow. That I survived all those occurrences was a miracle.
But in this society, women are still constantly facing challenges at home, work and society?
Well, I still harp on hardwork. You are nothing without a means of income. I’m an advocate of women taking the reins in politics, business and other fields. Women should be hard-working, we should also learn to support one another in times of need and shun jealousy.
You are a very busy businesswoman, how do you juggle every aspect of your life
I am a full time businesswoman. I am into shipping, oil and gas, manufacturing. I got my shipping license in 1994 and I have an office in Apapa. I also tried diverting to running a bureau de change which I still do with an office in Ikeja. I have a bag-weaving factory in Sango Ota. To the best of my knowledge, I have 12 companies with staff working for me. Actually, I don’t sleep early and could be awake till late in the night, but that doesn’t stop me from waking up before 6am. My kids are grown up now. My routine is simple—after my prayers, I check my diary to see where I need to touch—whether my office in Apapa, Ikeja or the factory in Sango. I believe in hard work and can go the whole hog in attaining success in business.
You once worked at the Nigerian Ports Authority?
Yes, I worked at NPA. My uncle, Hon. Joshua Ogunleye helped my entrance to Ports Authority in the early 80s. He was the president of the Dock Workers Union of Nigeria and wanted me to work at the docks. But I refused because my sibling was working there. So, I opted for Ports Authority where I gained the knowledge of the shipping business. That was where I met my husband. We met while I was working at NPA. He came to seek enquiries on a container of juice he imported that year but had challenges with the clearing. He met me at my desk and that was how we became friends.
But now as a businesswoman and a widow, when do you have time for social?
Yes, I carve out time to unwind. But that doesn’t mean I attend every party. In this year, I have not attended up to five parties. Also as a matter of policy, I don’t buy aso ebi. I wear what I desire to parties and I have shunned the Aso-ebi culture. Remember I am a widow and have to be prudent with how I spend. I still pay school fees.
You are an elegant woman who dresses very well, what inspires your fashion sense?
I wear what suits me. I love both local and international designers. I love the designs of Ngozi Harry-Ngonadi (NHN couture) and Tee-Kay fashions. My shoes are always designers label and I love exquisite jewellery.