Human societies have always attained development through visionary traits of dreamers in leadership positions. Those who dream in the night never get far, but those who dream in the day and wake up to pursue their dreams always go far.
While intelligence remains the bedrock upon which dreams are pursued and realised, the aspiration to walk to the top of a dream rests on the shrewdness of those engaged in the pursuit of dreams.
In a society where a premium is placed on the male child, it takes more than determination for the girl-child to rise above the trappings of forces pitched against her. The road to creating a level-playing ground for both male and female children is fraught with difficulties. As it was in the past, so it is now, even though the road is growing broader for both sexes. It is on account of these disadvantages that once made rising to the top by womenfolk a walk in the space.
When Hajia Bola Shagaya was born on October 10, 1959, the roadblocks were still high for the girl-child. At her birth in Ilorin, the stars never herald her birth. Not many outside her environment were aware that a child had been born that would one day be named in the Forbes List of the world’s wealthiest. As she was enrolled in school, the little child was full of aspiration that would later transform her into a business success and be listed as the 4th Africa’s Wealthiest Female.
The road to Hajia Bola’s success was paved through many years of learning that was made possible by a tenacity of purpose to attain her vision. After primary education, she was admitted to Queen’s College, Ilorin, for her secondary education.
She had her university education at the Ahmadu Bello University Zaria and later headed to the Armstrong College in California in the United States of America for further education where she studied Economics and Accounting. As someone in constant thirst for more knowledge, she also participated in numerous seminars, workshops and symposiums, including some organised by Harvard Business School in the United States, Euro money and KPMG.
Realising that the path to optimal acquisition of knowledge and skills can be realised in seminars and workshops in retooling and enhancing the resourcefulness of human capacity, this consummate entrepreneurial personality never let go any opportunity in broadening her knowledge and skills through local and international seminars and workshops.
She started her working career with the Audit Department of the Central bank of Nigeria (CBN). Few years later, she resigned from her bank job in 1983 and became the sole importer of Konica brand of photographic materials (roll papers, films and chemicals) to the Nigeria market through her company, Bolmus International (Nigeria) Limited. Her company would later become the sole distributor of the Konica products in the West African coast.
In a bid to broaden her business and enhance profitability of her blossoming enterprise, she registered Fotofair (Nigeria) Limited in 1997 and opened a photo laboratory service unit in Lagos, using 100% Japanese technology under the Konica brand name. It is to her credit and resilience that the company now has over 30 photo laboratories located in major cities of Nigeria.
As someone not satisfied with savouring present success in a particular sector, the introducer of Konica products in Nigeria and West Africa expanded her business platform and founded an oil company known as Practoil Limited which commenced the importation and distribution of base oil in meeting the need of local lubricants and blending plants.
Presently, the company has its own state-of-the-art lubricating plant at Kirikiri, Lagos state which produces multi-grade oils and lubricants. Her involvement in various business endeavours, which include a thriving investment in real estate spanning across various major cities in Nigeria, presently employs no fewer than 300 workers.
She also served on the Board of Intercity Bank for eight years in various committees, including heading the bank’s Establishment Committee and the Audit Committee, among others. Apart from serving as a member of the Audit and Credit Committees of the Board of Unity Bank Plc, the Kwara-state born multi-billionaire was also a member of the recently inaugurated New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD) Business Group Nigeria. She also served as the chairman of the Committee on Economy, Trade and Investment during the 2014 National Conference convened by former President Goodluck Jonathan.
As someone in love with social interaction and contributing to goals and worthy causes of many groups, the photo cum oil magnate served as a former patron of the Fashion Designers Association of Nigeria (FADAN). Besides being a fashion enthusiast, Hajia Bola is known to be a sports lover who has continued to sponsor and support polo games in Nigeria over the years.
Unlike some who are wont to forget where they are coming from, one of Africa’s wealthiest females is always engaged in putting smiles on the faces of the less privileged whose poverty makes it impossible for them to reach their dreams in life. Presently, she is engaged in seeing poverty-stricken pupils and students through schools, including picking medical bills of some vulnerable citizens.
The multi-billionaire who was not born with a silver spoon sees education as the indisputable weapon for attaining dreams. She believes that every child, especially the girl child, should be given a chance in life in order to realise their dreams. Life without education, she adds, dims the prospects for a successful life.
The mother of six and now a grandmother married to a Kwara-based transport magnate, Alhaji Ganiyu Shagaya, is never weary of broadening her knowledge in skills and knowledge. She is conscious of the fact that knowledge remains the podium when it comes to business. In order to succeed, she embraces humility in learning new trends to soar above her contenders.
Being a step ahead of her challengers places the socialite beyond the reach of others in business. It is this knowledge that has widened her entrepreneurial skills and made her to diversify her entrepreneurial capability and focus beyond the initial importation of photographic materials to include real estate, oil and gas, among others.
Unlike many industrialists of our time, this lady of immense economic prowess and towering giant in the business world takes inspiration from her belief that sees African women as capable of demonstrating commendable resourcefulness and diligence in building their business enterprises.
Rising from the bootstrap of sheer determination, this business amazon who built her economic domain with skills and devotion from scratch to the peak symbolises the resilient spirit of the African woman. Little wonder, her willpower has attracted commendation from the corporate world and her nation. On July 22, 2010, former President Jonathan honoured her with the award of the Member of the Order of the Niger (MON).
In recognising her leadership qualities and immense contribution to Nigeria’s economic growth, a grateful nation expressed her gratitude to a patriot and an economic success story when she was again awarded with the National Productivity Order of Merit on August 3, 2012.
There is no doubting the fact that the footprints of Hajia Bola on our nation’s economic sands remain indelible. Unlike some wealthy Nigerians, this business amazon with an indisputable zeal for business accomplishments remains one of the few that have provided jobs to our teeming youths for nearly four decades since venturing into business.
In a nation fraught with contenders falling over one another to pull down their challengers, it is not unusual to have some attempting to muddle the business waters. However, a business that was built from foundation to the peak through devotion and perseverance cannot be easily pulled down. Considering the road Hajiya Bola has travelled in growing her economic kingdom, her worthy motives in the service of God and country are strong enough to make her sail against her competitors.
As she turned three scores and two years tomorrow, this is wishing the once sole distributor of Konika photo materials to Nigeria and West Africa, who later diversified her trading acumen to real estate, banking, oil and gas, among others, a happy birthday in advance. May the good Hajia Bola has done for her fellow citizens and country cause divine blessings for many decades of good health for increased service to Nigerians.