Here is a success story of a painstakingly diligent and hard-working woman who came, saw and conquered big in business to rank as first woman to lead the board of the oldest bank in Nigeria.
Mrs Ibukun Awosika, first woman Board Chairman of First Bank Nigeria Limited believes that attaining such feat as becoming a board member is not something one could pole vault into, neither is it a feat that could be attained through sentiment. To her, being a member of such decision-making body can only be attained through the dint of hard work and ardent determination by doing the unusual. Ibukun Awosika is a leader of many parts. Aside being the Chairman, Board of Directors, First Bank of Nigeria Limited, Nigeria’s premier and most valuable banking brand. She is also the founder and Chief Executive Officer of The Chair Centre Group. The companies within the group include: The Chair Centre Limited, Sokoa Chair Centre Limited, Furniture Manufacturers Mart, TCC Security Systems and Cubes and Boxes Limited. These companies are involved in manufacturing, retail and bank-way security systems services. With high interest in social issues, including women, Ibukun is a co-founder and past chairperson of Women in Business, Management and Public Service (WIMBIZ).
She is a multiple award-winning entrepreneur and the first Nigerian recipient of the prestigious International Women Entrepreneurial Challenge (IWEC) Award as a nominee of the US Department of State in 2008. And giving a hint on how she entered into the board of the pioneer bank, Mrs Awosika said: “as the oldest and largest bank in the country, First Bank is indeed a massive institution. I was on the board for five years before my appointment as the chair In 2015, the board chair was due to retire. About the same time, the bank was also trying to appoint a new MD and DMD. Hence a whole process was going on at First Bank at that point in time. Decisions were made and I emerged as the bank’s first female board chair,” she said. On what could have been responsible for her dogged ride on a terrain where other female counterparts fear to tread to attain the lofty feat, the humble woman who once disclosed she would not give her husband food without being on her kneels, attributed her achievements to parental upbringing: “I have been asked: What does it take to compete in a male-dominated world and how I broke the so-called glass ceiling to hit the top, culminating in my appointment as the first woman chairperson of First Bank?“I was brought up to believe that there is no sexism in achievements at school and in life.
When we talk of performance, gender shouldn’t enter into the calculus. I was raised in a home where we were not conscious of whether we are male or female. My father impressed upon us that we could achieve anything we want to achieve. Even the Bible that teaches that all things are possible doesn’t say that all things are possible to male and not female,” she said.The drive, therefore, she averred, resides in the resolve that: “my thinking does not have in it the notion that ‘I can’t do this because I am a woman. I have in me that what I put my hands to do, I must do that. Therefore, when I get an opportunity to occupy a space or to perform a role, I put in it, everything of me, my value system, my thinking, my ability, in order to deliver. Performance has nothing to do with gender. It is about doing what you are committed to do and doing it right. Doing it excellently right. That is the most important thing. As I said, people watch what you do. Every company wants to succeed. They don’t want to succeed with just male or female,” she stressed.Truly, the journey to stardom was aided by determination, focus and dogged resolve to attain the top she says. she advises: “In doing all these, I made a discovery. As you do what you know how to do, and you do it well, and you exhibit certain characters and qualities, people are watching you, even when you are not aware. That is one of my biggest learning.