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Boss Of The Week

Chinedu Ikwudinma: Quintessential Banker Worthy of Emulation



By Eric Elezuo

The financial world cannot be discussed without the mention of whiz kids of the industry, chiefly among them the Chief Executive Officer of the newest bank in town, NOVA Merchant Bank, Mr. Chinedu Ikwudinma.

The ebullient economic guru is a typical example of a child who is dining with kings for the lofty reason of having washed his hands very clean.

Born during the thick of the Nigeria/Biafra Civil War in 1967, Chinedu spent the first 30 months of his life in the theatre of war, absorbing the gun shots and pains of struggle for survival with letting it affect his greater vision of becoming one of the greatest bankers of his generation.

The irrepressible banker though the Chief Executive Officer/Managing Director of the newly innovated Nova Merchant Bank Limited, crossed hurdles and paid his dues in the financial world before the exalted position he occupies today.

Consequently, prior to this role, he was the Executive Director and Country Risk Manager for Citibank Nigeria Limited. It is on record that Mr. Ikwudinma spent over 25 years building a career at Citibank, and during this time, he was the Country Head of Commercial Banking for Citibank Nigeria from 2005 to 2006, and proceeded to become the Corporate and Investment Bank Head at Citibank Zambia between January 2007 and April 2009. He concluded his meritorious service with Citibank as its Ugandan branch Managing Director, a position he held between May 2009 and April 2015.

Ikwudinma also held various executive positions covering Corporate and Investment Banking, Risk Management, Commercial Banking and Transaction Banking.

His vast knowledge in activities relating to finance and economy has set Mr. Ikwudinma apart among peers in addition to possessing a strong track record and expertise in large ticket transactions across vast sectors of the economy, covering Oil & Gas, Manufacturing, Trading, Consumer Goods, Telecommunications and Building Materials/Construction.

It is noteworthy that the financial wizard did not commence life with finance at the back of his mind as he graduated as a Civil Engineer from the University of Nsukka. It was after his B Eng. honours that Ikwudinma went ahead to acquire a Masters Degree in Business Administration (MBA) and capped it up with M.Sc. degree in Structural Engineering from the University of Lagos. Being passionate for calculation and figures, Mr. Ikwudinma chanelled his professional might towards finance and economy, and today, he is reputed as the one of the innovative bankers of the time. Otherwise he is certified engineer professionally.

In addition to his lofty achievements, Mr. Ikwudinma was the Chairman of the Uganda Bankers’ Association from May 2014 to March 2015, during which period he significantly improved the perception and reputation of the banking industry while at the same time developing strong engagement with all key stakeholders. His efforts earned him the Bank of Uganda Governor’s Award of Appreciation for Dedicated Service to Uganda’s Banking Industry in 2015. He also served as the Director of American Chamber of Commerce in Uganda from 2009 to 2013.

An ardent reader and writer, Ikwudinma has once started that he loves books I because they are excellent sources of wisdom and knowledge.

In his words: “Books have been the most durable and effective means of transferring knowledge from one generation to the next, at least until the advent of the internet and the electronic age. Both fiction and nonfiction works are sources of inspiration for me. I was privileged to have parents who love knowledge and when I was young they inspired in me the desire to learn by telling me stories.”

Among the books he read and loved are As A Man Thinketh by James Allen, which he stated ‘encourages me to believe in myself’, focus on his work in order to achieve success, learn to deal with failure, and realize that success comes from making the effort to be the best one can be.

Ikwudinma’s other source of inspiration is another book with the title The 48 Laws of Power by Robert Greene. He had described the book as the most lucid books he ever read on the subject of power – relations and influence.

Hear him: “It’s an analysis of how one should conduct himself/herself in different scenarios and environments. The style is more expository than prescriptive.”

Others include Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe, which was set in the eastern region of Nigeria where he comes from; The Richest Man in Babylon by George S. Clason, which teaches financial affairs, including how to save and invest, through a very simple and charming story. It also gives guidance on the principles of effective money management.

A very religious person, Ikwudinma’s spiritual anchor remains The Bible. “I find it to be an extremely powerful book and a source of strength and succour. It has survived for over 2,000 years and it is still relevant and revered. One needs to build their spiritual strength to have a balanced life,” he said

With the berthing of the fifth merchant bank in Nigeria’s banking industry, NOVA Merchant Bank Limited, the emergence of Ikwudinma as the man at the helm of affairs did not come as a surprise. In the brief period the bank has existed, he has revolutionalised merchant banking with fresh thinking, ideas and unique offer channeled specifically into wholesale banking, investment banking and asset management.

At the launch of the bank, Ikwudinma, who explained the strategic direction of the financial institution, said offering of trade services, project financing, cash management, corporate solutions and advisory services will be focused on among other juicy packages which are already manifesting.

Still searching for more virgin business environments to conquer, he said this about his person and aspirations:

“I want to be a distinctive first rate professional, a respected financial services expert, a motivator, positive change agent, a leader and a recognized visionary in all fields of endeavour I choose to apply myself to, including but not exclusive to banking and financial services. To apply my extensive knowledge of banking and financial affairs, my abilities/knowledge in other spheres of human endeavour, and my own resources, material and otherwise, in the service of my community and any communities I may be privileged to associate with, measured by my positive impact on people and in the betterment of human society.”

A gentleman and family man to the core, Ikwudinma is happily married with children.

Sir, for your innovative tendencies and superior achievements in every area you have been privileged to participate, you are our Boss of the Week.

Congratulations sir!


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Boss Of The Week

Nigeria’s Literary Genius, Chimamanda Adichie, Revels at 46




Eric Elezuo

For 46 long years, one of Nigeria’s literary icon, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, has remained in the business of dishing out incontrovertible storylines, with impeccable stylislics, making her one of the sought after writers, especially with a feminist worldview, in the world today.

She said of herself: “I think of myself as a storyteller but I would not mind at all if someone were to think of me as a feminist writer… I’m very feminist in the way I look at the world, and that world view must somehow be part of my work.”

Adichie’s name stands out among all amazons of professionalism, especially those in the writing profession. She is a woman who has conquered all odds to carve a niche for herself in every facets of human endeavour. She is beautiful, humble, humane and of course talks tough. She is a dutiful wife, adoring mother and a global citizen. And as she Celebrates her 46th year of existence on planet earth, it is worthy of raising a toast to the literary giant.

The fifth of six children, Adichie, who hailed from Abba in Anambra State, was born in the city of Enugu on September 15, 1977, seven years after the devastating Nigeria Civil War, which took away almost everything from her family, ended, and grew up in the university town of Nsukka where her father, James Nwoye Adichie, worked as a Professor of Statistics at the University of Nigeria. Her mother, Grace Ifeoma, is not left out in the academic endeavour as she set a record as the university’s first female registrar. The family is a purely set up.

During her secondary school days at the University of Nigeria Secondary School, Nsukka, Chimamanda won several academic prizes, and maintained the feat at the University of Nigeria where she studied Medicine and Pharmacy for a year and a half.

However, at the age of 19, Adichie abandoned her medical studies in Nigeria for the United States to study Communications and Political Science at Drexel University in Philadelphia. Report has it that she later transferred to Eastern Connecticut State University, primarily to be near her sister, Uche, who had a medical practice in Coventry, Connecticut. She received a bachelor’s degree from Eastern Connecticut State University, with the distinction of summa cum laude in 2001.

It was while studying in America that she was confronted with the challenges of being a person of colour, and this reflected in her work in later years as depicted by her novel, Americanah. It is worthy of note that Chimamanda’s original and initial inspiration came from Chinua Achebe’s “Things Fall Apart”, which she read at the age of 10. She was inspired by seeing her own life represented in the pages.

In 2003, she completed a master’s degree in Creative Writing at Johns Hopkins University. In 2008, she received a Master of Arts degree in African Studies from Yale University. The University was later to honour her in May 2019 with a doctorate honours.

Among many other honours she is identified with include a Hodder fellow at Princeton University during the 2005–2006 academic year. In 2008 she was awarded a MacArthur Fellowship. She was also awarded a 2011–2012 fellowship by the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study, Harvard University.

Apart from churning out thought provoking books, Chimamanda teaches Writing Workshops. In 2016, she was conferred an honorary degree – Doctor of Humane letters, honoris causa, by Johns Hopkins University. In 2017, she was conferred honorary degrees – Doctor of Humane letters, honoris causa, by Haverford College and The University of Edinburgh. In 2018, she received an honorary degree, Doctor of Humane Letters, from Amherst College. She received an honorary degree, doctor honoris causa, from the Université de Fribourg, Switzerland, in 2019. She is a known name to honours and awards.

In 2018, she was honoured by Duke University in the United States with an honourary degree.

Chimamanda was among the few recipients of the honorary degree from the university and they were all described as people making changes in the world in very extensive ways. “Few writers have captured the challenges of immigrants and others navigating those changes as Adichie,” the university said.

In 2019, the award-winning author joined the short list of receipiants, who were honoured by the prestigious Yale University as she was conferred with the Doctors of Letters, Honoris Causa.

It didn’t end there, she went on to speak at the school as part of the 2019 class. Chimamanda Adichie keeps adding more feathers to her already overflowing cap and we can’t but admire her passion and zeal towards her career.

A Catholic by background, Chimamanda is a stern believer in feminism, and most times, her views, especially those on feminism, sometimes conflict with her religion. Wikipedia noted that at a 2017 event at Georgetown University, she stated that religion “is not a women-friendly institution” and “has been used to justify oppressions that are based on the idea that women are not equal human beings.” 

Her writing ability, like her mentor, is yet to be equalled. Among her publications include a collection of poems in 1997 (Decisions) and a play (For Love of Biafra) in 1998. She was shortlisted in 2002 for the Caine Prize for her short story “You in America”, and her story “That Harmattan Morning” was selected as a joint winner of the 2002 BBC World Service Short Story Awards. In 2003, she won the O. Henry Award for “The American Embassy”, and the David T. Wong International Short Story Prize 2002/2003 (PEN Center Award). Her stories were also published in Zoetrope: All-Story, and Topic Magazine.

Below are her works, and their depictions as portrayed by Wikipedia:

Her first novel, Purple Hibiscus (2003), received wide critical acclaim; it was shortlisted for the Orange Prize for Fiction (2004) and was awarded the Commonwealth Writers’ Prize for Best First Book (2005). Purple Hibiscus starts with an extended quote from Chinua Achebe’s Things Fall Apart.

Her second novel, Half of a Yellow Sun (2006), named after the flag of the short-lived nation of Biafra, is set before and during the Nigerian Civil War. It received the 2007 Orange Prize for Fiction and the Anisfield-Wolf Book Award. Half of a Yellow Sun has been adapted into a film of the same title directed by Biyi Bandele, starring BAFTA award-winner and Academy Award nominee Chiwetel Ejiofor and BAFTA winner Thandie Newton, and was released in 2014.

Chimamanda’s third book, The Thing Around Your Neck (2009), is a collection of 12 stories that explore the relationships between men and women, parents and children, Africa and the United States.

In 2010 she was listed among the authors of The New Yorker′s “20 Under 40” Fiction Issue. Her story, “Ceiling” was included in the 2011 edition of The Best American Short Stories.

Her third novel Americanah (2013), an exploration of a young Nigerian encountering race in America was selected by The New York Times as one of “The 10 Best Books of 2013”.

In April 2014, she was named as one of 39 writers aged under 40 in the Hay Festival and Rainbow Book Club project Africa39, celebrating Port Harcourt UNESCO World Book Capital 2014.

Adichie’s short story, “My Mother, the Crazy African” discusses the problems that arise when facing two cultures that are complete opposites from each other. On one hand, there is a traditional Nigerian culture with clear gender roles, while in America there is more freedom in how genders act, and less restrictions on younger people. Ralindu, the protagonist, faces this challenge with her parents as she grew up in Philadelphia, while they grew up in Nigeria. Adichie really dives deep into gender roles and traditions and what problems can occur because of this.

Chimamanda and beloved husband, Ivara

In March 2017, Americanah was picked as the winner for the “One Book, One New York” program, part of a community reading initiative encouraging all city residents to read the same book.

In April 2017, it was announced that she had been elected into the 237th class of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, one of the highest honours for intellectuals in the United States, as one of 228 new members to be inducted on 7 October 2017.

Her most recent book, Dear Ijeawele, or A Feminist Manifesto in Fifteen Suggestions, published in March 2017, had its origins in a letter she wrote to a friend who had asked for advice about how to raise her daughter as a feminist.

Chimamanda’s personality is larger than life, and so it seems as accolades from every corner of the earth follow her. It is also presumed that the her name ‘Chimamanda’ is a combination of both Igbo, her origin and English (Chima and Amanda). But that does not seem to be the case. The name, according to source, is purely an Igbo name, meaning My God (Chim) will never fail/fall (amanda). In 2009, she married her medical doctor-husband, Ivara Esege, who a writer described as ‘comically suitable’.

We hereby say a hearty 46th birthday to a pen woman of global repute, an egalitarian scholar and a symbol of societal regeneration.

Congratulations ma!

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Boss Of The Week

Rufai Ladipo: Epitome of Entrepreneurial, Professional Ingenuity




By Eric Elezuo

When God blesses a man, the primary intention is to see him replicate, and be a blessing to humanity on a larger scale. As a result, most men have proved God right, using the blessings, both intellectually and materially to further lighten the world’s burden and spread joy. One of such men is Mr. Rufai Gbolagade Ladipo, a fellow of the advertising practice (frpa), and a seasoned entrepreneur, who is the Group Managing Director of Agile Communications and former President, Association of Advertising Agencies of Nigeria (AAAN). Not only is he a man of means, he is a man of direction, a pathfinder and a nation builder, and presently, the Vice Chairman of Ikoyi Club 1938.

Born 67 years ago, Rufai Ladipo, who is also a fellow of Advertising Practitioners Council of Nigeria (APCON), and due to be honoured with a meritorious award by the AAAN as part of its 50th anniversary celebration in a few days, has been a key player in the advertising industry for decades. His intimidating profile includes serving as managing director/CEO of STB-McCann for eight years. While at STB-McCann, a company he joined as an Accounts Director and eventually left as the Chief Executive Officer some few years later, leaving behind footprints indelible to erase, he played a key role at the McCann-World Group level.

A go-getter of no mean feat, Ladipo had also had a stint with Scanad Nigeria as Managing Director, leading the growth of the Agency, both in turnaround and profitability for 12 years. This was before he floated his own agency, Agile Communications in 2015, a company reportedly set up with a singular objective of providing an alternative in ‘idea generation, clear strategic thinking and providing marketing services solutions in an integrated manner’. Over the years while Agile has been in existence, Ladipo has ensured that these objectives are not deviated from, but made to see the light of the day. A feat that has brought him celebrations from people from all walks of life, including gracing the front cover of gemWOMAN magazine among many encomiums, and founding of a sister brand, PowerBrand, a digital experiential agency.

An icon in the advertising and marketing communications business sectors of the economy, Rufai Ladipo’s journey to stardom and prominence is far from the regular run-off-the-mill standard. He had exhibited dedication, focus and determination, and it’s no surprise that he is where he is today – at success door. His stewardship at various stop points in his professional career are testaments of a man who knows his onions in his chosen line of endeavour.

In 1980, a year after joining Concord Group of Newspapers, where he functioned as a Senior Reporter covering the National Assembly and later the Nigerian Airports, Ladipo left the country for the United States of America in search of the proverbial greener pastures, and returned some years later, equipped with the requisite academic qualification for growth, which has assisted in him building men and materials. While in the United States of America, he studied Journalism at the Columbia College, Chicago, one of the foremost media and visual arts colleges. While in college, he worked as a Reporter and later, an Editor at Chicago Defender, the largest circulating and most influential African-American daily newspaper, based in Chicago, Illinois. It is worthy of note that he started his career in communications in 1978 at the Federal Radio Corporation of Nigeria (FRCN) Ibadan, and later joined the Broadcasting Corporation of Oyo State (BCOS) as a pioneer staff producer, in the newly created radio station, called Ile Akede.

And today, he has carved a niche for himself, sitting atop one of the nations best advertising and marketing communications company, handling briefs classified as ‘A’ brands. The company came to limelight after emerging as the official communications and creative agency for Mandilas Group Limited, after a keenly contested pitch, and ever since, has not looked back. With the right team in place, guided by a tested and proven leader, the Agile Group has gained global acclaim as a reputable IMC Agency representing the interest of major brands across Sub-Saharan Africa with commendations from clients and the prestigious LAIF Awards won by the agency across three categories in 2020

Known for his down to earth and eye for details standpoint, the ebullient GMD believe in competition and healthy rivalry for business to develop, improve and flourish, saying that there is hardly any economy in the world that can prosper without healthy, competitive and flourishing small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs).

“They form the foundation on which a lot of world economies are built and currently generate a significant percentage of Nigeria’s Gross Domestic Product-GDP,” he said.

Ladipo, for years, has remained in the business of urging both public and private sectors to channel their resources towards educating and facilitating ventures that realise their full potential to the benefit of the general public, with special emphasis to his communication, marketing and branding endeavours.

“The subject of branding has been identified as a key factor in determining the viability of SMEs, as countless surveys and analysis give credence to the speculations that the rapid collapse of many ventures can be attributed to the consistent disregard for brand building,” he was once quoted as saying.

Ladipo is also an alumni of Roosevelt University, also in Chicago, where he graduated with a Master of Arts degree in Political Science. In 1985, he was hired as a marketing executive by Allstate Insurance Company in Northbrook, Illinois, USA. While there, he performed different marketing functions and was elevated three times in a space of eight years to management position.

In 1992, he moved on to the Near North Health Services Corporation (NNHS) a community health facility catering to the healthcare needs of medically disadvantaged African-Americans, Latinos and minority whites, through a U.S. Government grant, private and corporate funding partners, including support by Northwestern University, Evanston, Illinois, USA. While at NNHS, he worked as Director of Development and Public Relations charged with the sole responsibility of raising funds and managing the image of the organisation. In his spare time, he edited a Chicago-based news magazine, AFRICAN NEWSBREED, which he cofounded with another Nigerian journalist.
In 1994, he was recruited from his Chicago base to work with STB & Associates, a foremost advertising agency in Nigeria, with footprints in Ghana and Sierra Leone, as Deputy Account Director on the Coca-Cola business – a big career change that put to test his marketing communications skills.
Two years later, he was promoted to Account Director, a position he held till the turn of the century when he was named Executive Director, the first non-founder executive on the board of a leading advertising agency in West Africa. In May 1, 2003, he was named the first non-founder Managing Director, following a corporate restructuring at the Agency.  And in 2005, he was named Chief Executive Officer of the thriving agency and a member of the McCann WorldGroup with locations in over 130 countries across the world. Ladipo has not failed to show class wherever his services were needed. He is a master strategist.
While at the helm, Rufai and his team improved on the fortunes of STB McCann, making the Agency a leading light in the Nigerian  advertising fraternity. He was instrumental to the Agency’s business expansion and strategic partnerships with relevant companies such as CMC-Connect (Perception Managers) where he served on the Board as non-executive director following a merger that he initiated. In 2011, he was elected the President of the Advertising Agencies of Nigeria (AAAN) and prior to that time, he served on the APCON (Advertisng Practitioners Council of Nigeria) for three consecutive terms and served on the Membership Committee and the Advertising Standards Panel (ASP) of the regulatory body.

A well connected businessman, an advertising guru of great repute, and international citizen, his philanthropic disposition is another plus to his growing professional and social hierarchy, as his social corporate responsibility status is comparable to the best.

Modest to a fault, Ladipo gives thanks to god and colleagues for his successes over the years, adding that Agile Communications Ltd, popularly known as ‘the agency of repute’ has been a product of hard work and the grace of God. The best according to him, “is surely yet to come as Agile continues to blaze the trail in its sector.

“Our competence spans advertising, strategy, design, brand activation, media buying, consultancy, public relations, digital communications, and environmental branding.”

The brand communications and marketing professional, with well-rounded client and agency experience in managing multi-million dollar brands, is married to an equally successful and colourful wife, Mrs. Funmi Ajila-Ladipo, whose success in the turnaround of the fashion industry, as the President of the Fashion Designers Association of Nigeria (FADAN), is legendary. They are blessed with four daughters, Jaiyeola, Yewande, Omoshalewa and Olakiitan.

More Professional Courses and Honours
Ladipo has attended a wide range of advertising and marketing courses both home and abroad; and he’s an alumnus of the prestigious Lagos Business School’s Advanced Management Program (AMP) where he served the Class of 2001 as President between 2001 to 2019.
He currently sits on the Board of Junior Achievement of Nigeria (JAN); a non-profit international organisation that prepares young Nigerians for work readiness, entrepreneurship, digital and financial literacy. He is a founding Executive Director of Concentric Security, and served on the Board of Digital Reality, a printing conglomerate under the auspices of Rose of Sharon.
Ladipo remains a shinning light in the path to restoring the divine masterclass of the nation, and he has given more than his best, and continue to for the assignment.
For your doggedness, tenacity of purpose and carving a future for the younger generation, you are our boss of the week. Congratulations sir!

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Boss Of The Week

Khadija Ibrahim: Amazon Redefining Agriculture, Manufacturing




By Eric Elezuo

One would not be wrong to call her a woman of many enterprising parts: dedicated, focused, and determined. She is Engr. (Dr.) Khadija Kuburat Ibrahim MNSE, COREN, FGAU (CYPRUS), the Chief Executive Officer of KK Farms Limited, Kubib Food and Spices Limited, Kubib Limited, Task Event Planners Limited, Senior Investment Advisor and Business Partner with a global leading real estate firm, Bilaad Realty. She is a businesswoman of repute whose primary objective is to ensure that society basks in the euphoria of abundance, especially in food and agriculture.

In this brief chat, the young entrepreneur, who was born on October 17, shared with The Boss the very essence of humanity and how she intends to create sustainable food chain to ensure the nation remains self sufficient in agricultural products, using her diverse personalities as a farmer, engineer, entrepreneur and fashion icon. And she has stories of happy customers trailing her.


Can you trace your background?

Sure. I was born in Ilorin, from the popular Ileko family in Idi Ape, Ilorin, Kwara State. I am the first daughter and third child of my parents; Alhaji Ibrahim Katsina Isa, a retired Customs officer, and Hajia Fatima, also a Customs officer, who passed on while in active service. I am known as Alhaja, which incidentally is a sobriquet; a name I got at the age of three when I returned from Saudi Arabia with my grandmother, Alhaja Salamatu Akewushola, who was a successful business woman. I must say she had a great impact on me as I practically inherited my business skills from her.

Apart from your business acumen, you are also an engineer by profession. Tell us about it.

Yes, I obtained a Bachelors of Engineering in Civil and Water Resources from the University of Maiduguri, Borno State. Not only that, I am a certified member of the Nigerian Society of Engineers (NSE) and the Council for the Registration of Engineering in Nigeria (COREN). I have undergone various courses which have earned me qualifications in Project Management, Entrepreneurship, Business Model Innovation, and Human Resource from reputable institutions including University of California, University of Virginia, Duke University, Rice University, and University of Minnesota, all in the United States of America. And because learning is a never-ending process, I am presently an MBA student of Business School of Netherlands.

Talking about your vocation or vocations, what can you say is your strong motivating factor that prompted your choice of career?

You see, I’ve always wanted to give back to the society in any way I can. And I am striving to get to the level where I will give without restriction. I have chosen this line of business to give back to the society by selling quality products at affordable rates, and thereby breaking the jinx of high pricing, substandard products and general customer relations apathy. I am prompted by the fact that customers must be treated well and made to assess products without stress, and that’s what I am doing.

How and when did you start your businesses?

I am a firm believer in little beginnings, and though I started from little beginning, it is imperative to note that I took time to do my feasibility studies and research. So when I eventually started, I hit the ground running. For KK Farms and Kubib Food and Spices, I started officially in 2022. This was after I had set up my factory and got the products approved by NAFDAC. You see, there groundwork in the background before we hit the public domain.

As regards farming, I’ve been in it since 2018. And because I did my background checks appropriately, I started with a bang; poultry farming, general farming, animal husbandry, snail farming, among others.

Another reason was because I have had a passion for agriculture since childhood. For Kubib Limited, I started with interior decoration, house renovations, and selling of imported furniture, clothes, and others as far back as 2010. I also took a few years break to learn more about the field.

I started by renovating family and friends’ houses as far back as 2010 because I have a passion for interior decoration. I renovate my house quarterly and put up my old furniture for auction, and I help some of my friends renovate their houses free, or just charge them administration fee.

I also started making spices for friends and families from my house in 2015 because I make them for myself, and whenever they come to visit me, they love them and take some away, so I was advised to monetize them since I make good spices. I prayed about it and started small. And as they say, the rest is history.

Do you have any inspirations?

Yes! In the first place, I am blessed with natural knowledge, Alhamdulilla. I also learned some from my late mum, late maternal grandmum, school, including online classes, family, friends, and even strangers. It is important to mention here that the life of Nana Khadija (wife of Prophet Muhammad S.A.W.) also inspired me.

In addition, I inherited the love for business from my maternal grandmother, including the likes of Aliko Dangote, Folounsho Alakija and Mira Metha. My other inspiration is my belief in prayers and hard work.

How would you describe yourself as a person?

Much as I would love to leave that to people who know me to do, I will humbly say that I am highly courageous and adventurous, very intelligent, a leader worthy of emulation and modest fashionista. I am humble, creative, jovial and well connected. I am also a good ambassador of Islam, women, and Nigeria in general. I love to travel, and have visited many countries in Europe, Asia, Africa, and USA where I obtained most of my certificates. I can confidently say that I am a role model to many.

I have been conferred with an honorary doctorate in entrepreneurship and social development by Iheris University in Lome, Togo as a result of some of my contributions and achievements.

Just recently, on May 20, 2023, to be precise, I was conferred with the fellowship
award of the Girne American University, Cyprus.

If you were not in agro-allied sector, where would you have been?

I’m not sure because I love what I am doing. But Allah knows best. However, I believe that I am cut out for this sector because this is where I was created to be, and I am poised to give it my best shots for the benefit of humanity.

You are into many things. How are your products different from others in the market?

In the first place, I choose quality over quantity, and I invent new strategies to make my services and products unique. I know what the customers crave for, and strive to give it to them.

Where do you see your business in the next five years, and by extension, yourself?

I am more Balanced, Innovative, Better, Stronger, and Successful than the present because I am very open to future opportunities. Change is constant and inevitable, so I pride myself on being flexible and adaptable. I think the best way of planning for the future is to make the most of the present. And having said that, I see my next five years colourful and promising because I am doing my very best presently to make it so.

Of all the challenges you face, which is the most daunting, and how do you propose overcoming it?

Most times, in a bid to be more accommodating and benevolent, we take in every kind of staff, especially lazy and unskilled ones, so managing them becomes a challenge. However, I am in the business of sending some of our staffers out for more training and rewarding the more serious ones so others can take a cue. Another challenge is Market Inflation. This I’m solving by getting more capital to purchase raw materials in large quantities, and put them in storage so our customers won’t face back-to-back increments on our products due to market inflation. And of course, I am moved by humanitarian considerations other than profit in this business. This has made it easy for us to engage more in corporate social responsibility. We are more reasonable in our profit earnings and have also introduced promos to encourage customers. There’s also the issue of producing large quantities of items in a short time. This we are overcoming by upgrading our equipment and expanding our production base.

Do you have fears or regrets?

I fear only Allah, and death, which can come at any time; asides that, I fear nothing because I put my trust in Allah. I try my best, and I leave the rest to destiny. I am wired to believe nothing can stop whatever it is meant to be, so I don’t fear anything or anybody. At the same time, I give my best to achieve what I want. I am not in competition with anyone. I am happy for where I am today, and will continue to work and pray to be a better version of myself and be more successful. So, no regrets.

What leverage would you want to get from the government or individuals to help reduce the food crises?

The government has a lot to do to assist this sector. They must support the farmers by constructing good roads for smooth transportation of farm produce, improve the power sector and support with grants and flexible loans.

Your line of business faces climate change issues. How has it affected your business, and how have you managed it?

That was a major problem we faced when we first started. It was so heartbreaking that I had to close the farm for years. However, the years I took off from farming helped me to re-strategize, study, and learn more, so we came back with a better solution by avoiding to farm or producing what does not fit the season, and if we must, then we already took many precautions and had our backup plans ready in case of emergency.

Do you think environmental sustainability is possible? What are your contributions to the effect?

It is possible if we all cooperate, and are determined to make it work. As you know, I sell organic products. I am more particular about the health and wellbeing of my customers because it is my priority. We have also helped in creating new job opportunities for the people, avoid products that are harmful to the environment, support recycling, and buy energy-efficient appliances, among other indices.

What are your plans for your business?

Because whatever we do has the customers as the centerpiece, we intend going deeper into agriculture, like manufacturing tomato paste, pasta and many more, to help the masses get quality products at cheaper prices.

We are also working towards opening more branches across the globe so our spices can circulate the market quickly. At the same time, we are introducing smaller packages and increasing our production so the masses can easily buy them at low prices and, of course, provide more jobs for people. Like I said, we are precisely people-oriented

How do you combine being a family woman with your professional life?

It takes Allah’s guidance. It’s not been easy, but Alhamdulillah.

At your young age, you have achieved quiet a lot, and still rearing to go, what advice would you want to give fellow women, especially young girls?

You know we have for so long made to believe that we are at the receiving end, not knowing we are programmed to make things happen. So to every women, young firls especially, the sky is large enough for all of us to explore. Hard work pays, and there’s no basis to look for quick money; there is nothing like fast money if you want to do a legitimate business. There is no shortcut to success; it takes built-up effort, experience, persistence, failures, restart, hard work, strategy, commitment, and continuous learning to succeed. Remember that agriculture is not meant for men alone, and it has many advantages.

I was taught that the first Secret to success in business school is KEY, an acronym for KEEP EDUCATING YOURSELF. That helped me to achieve more in life.

Always be easy on yourself, and not indulge in unhealthy competition with anyone. Let everyone be a source of inspiration for you to aim higher.

Have a legitimate multiple source of income. Aside having my spice production companies, Farm, and Interior decoration businesses, I am also a major distributor of many reputable companies like TOMATO JOS, which was founded by a Mira Metha who came from the USA to set a multi-billion naira of Sachet Tomato paste.

Any possibility of going into politics in the near future?

Much as everything about life revolves round politics, we all cannot be politicians. We strive to build the nation from the corner we find ourselves, and aim to do it much better. However, a call to serve my fatherland will always be honored, and that’s a promise.

Let’s talk about your fashion sense, likes and dislikes

Waooo…that’s one area I cherish a lot. I am a fashionista, and a proud one at that. One distinct thing about it all is that I created fashion identity to suit my religious beliefs. It is unique to me.

Years back, I took a decision never to wear any dress I cannot pray in. There was this particular that i forgot my praying at home, and the cloth I was wearing was not suitable for prayers. I was heartbroken because I hate to delay my prayers. There and then, I took a decision to dress only to please my creator (ALLAH).

Well, some friends mocked me at first at the way I dressed, but I was not deterred as I knew I was pleasing my creator. But the same people today admire my dressings, and some have started to dress like me and even better.

It’s obvious your dress sense is a function of your Islamic orientation 

Yes…I am a practicing Muslim, and my religion frowns at indecent dressing. Unfortunately, some women believe exposing their bodies in the name of fashion makes us beautiful. No, it doesn’t. I might not be wearing hijab today as a practicing Muslim, but I’m well-covered, and proud of my achievement.

I effortlessly turn heads with my eclectic ensembles, blending vintage with contemporary pieces. My impeccable taste and daring combination create a style that’s uniquely my own. As a dynamic fashionista and visionary CEO, I effortlessly blend my passion for style, which is why many address me as Queen Khadija. When people ask where the king is, I answer, “Masha Allah, I am a born Queen.

How adaptable are you as a national figure because this country needs men and women, who consider merit as against tribe and religion to succeed

Thats a good one and i must tell you that i am a unifier, a true unbiased Nigerian. I lead a team of 33 workers comprising 45% male and 55% female. If I break it down further, tou will see that 30% are from the South East, 15% from the South-South, 18% from the South West, 6% from the North Central, 21% from the North East, and 9% from the North West.

One last word

I am an embodiment of innovative vision, expertise and modernity. These I have employed to build my companies, to the admiration of staff and clients. I must add that I am a culinary genius.

Thanks for your time Engr. Ibrahim

The pleasure is mine

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