“All that I am or ever hope to be, I owe to my angel Mother”.–Abraham Lincoln
Alhaja Mogaji: Life and Times
By Tunde Rahman
She was no doubt a woman of substance. In her terrain-commerce and industry-she was a household name. Alhaja Abibatu Asabi Mogaji, mother of the National Leader of the All Progressives Congress and former governor of Lagos State, Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu, was not only into commerce, she was also into politics. This is not just because she bequeathed a political colossus like the APC National Leader Tinubu, whom she nurtured and guided at every turn, the late Mogaji herself was politically active. She was aware of her environment, but she was just not aware of her environment, she was also active there. She impacted her environment. She was a philanthropist and an activist. Alhaja Mogaji was a staunch follower of the late sage, Chief Obafemi Awolowo. But it was in commerce that she derived her name and it was there that most people knew her. The late Mogaji was one of the most significant figures in trade and commerce in Lagos State and nay Nigeria. And she exemplified or dominated commerce particularly in Lagos for more than five decades. She came to public prominence as the vocal leader of the market-women’s association in the state. She did a great deal to change popular perceptions of market-women as exploitative and ignorant by enunciating the challenges and hopes of her constituency with a clarity.She was the President/ Iyaloja-General, Association of Nigerian Market Women and Men. She was fondly called Iya Oloja.
Lagos State Governor Babatunde Fashola (SAN) spoke about the two sides of the late Mogaji in his tribute. He described her demise as a great national and personal loss. In a condolence statement signed by his Special Adviser on Media, Mr. Hakeem Bello, Fashola had described her as a forthright defender of the people and their right to economic empowerment.
“This trait has been imbibed by anyone, who has had the opportunity or privilege to fall within the ambit of her influence. This peculiar trait is evident in the personality of her illustrious son and former Governor of Lagos State, Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu, a leader with the love of the people at heart,” he said.
“Alhaja Mogaji was a frontline in the commercial development of Lagos State, particularly Lagos Island, which was formerly dominated by the Lebanese and Greek merchants.
“She was one of the pioneer traders, who ventured into the capital intensive and risky business venture of importation of consumer goods, thereby breaking the monopoly previously enjoyed by the foreign tradesmen and her business acumen attracted the attention of multi-national enterprises operating in Nigeria then, who had no option but to register her as a business partner and distributor of their consumer goods in Nigeria.”
Describing the late Iyaloja-General as a great matriarch, Fashola said Alhaja Mogaji did not limit her business and social networking to the confines of Lagos State alone, she always sought the welfare of market men and women and ways of opening up more business opportunities for them.
“This attribute of hers must have informed the unanimous decision of all commercial traders regardless of ethnic, religious or political persuasion to select her as the pioneer Iyaloja/President-General of Nigerian Market Men & Women. A position she handled with utmost responsibility and diligence,” he said.
But no one could capture the essence of her mum like Asiwaju Tinubu did in his speech at her funeral. He recalled one incident: “She did something when I was the governor of Lagos State that really touched me and that was when she asked me to consider three women, who had challenges paying their children’s West African Examination Council (WAEC) fees.
“As a governor then, I began the policy of paying WAEC fee of pupils in Lagos State public schools. Those are the things that will fascinate anyone about my late mother.
“There are many lessons that women can learn from her. And one of the lessons is to be resilient, committed and industrious in order to help banish poverty in the country. She is a committed democrat.
“She believes in the one-man one-vote campaign. She will vote and mobilise others to do so. Women must also be committed to the education of their children, which is the antidote for poverty in the country. Once we come out of this, the nation will make progress.”
Alhaja Mogaji died at her residence on Saturday, June 16, 2013 at the age of 96. Recalling his mother’s last moments, He said: “On Saturday afternoon, she had her lunch. After that, she took her drugs and rested.
“While resting, death came and snatched my mother away. Immediately she died, I felt her void. She taught everyone she came across contentment, love and the act of sharing, especially to the needy.
“I will miss her lunch even when I am full. I am very happy that she is my mother. She is a very successful mother and a good leader. She departed this world peacefully without taking us through pains”. She was born on October 16, 1917.
Her Many Titles
Traditional rulers and interest groups across the length and breadth of the country honoured her with many chieftaincy and honourary titles. Such titles include Iya Adinni of Yaya Abatan Central Mosque, Ogba-Agege, Yeye Oba of Ikirun Land, Yeye Oba of Kweme Kingdom, Badagry, Yeye Oba of Osolu Kingdom and Yeye Oba of Lagos among others. She also received several honours and awards from organisations such as Nigeria Drug Law Enforcement Agency, National Council of Women Society, Eko Award 1991, National Youth Organisation, Law Ladies Forum, University of Lagos among others. She was matrons of organisations like Nigeria Red Cross, Nigeria Youth Organisation, National Union of Lagos Students, Nigerian Society for the Handicapped and Egbe Omo Eko.
Granddaughter Folashade Tinubu-Ojo Trudges on as Iyaloja-General
There were speculations that the late Alhaja Mogaji had singlehandedly decreed that her granddaughter who is also very industrious, Mrs. Folashade Tinubu-Ojo, succeed her as Iyaloja-General of Market Women and Men in Nigeria. Before she eventually assumed the position, Tinubu-Ojo had been working as Iyaloja-General in acting capacity and represented her grand mum on many occasions while she was alive. But her appointment rankled some market women who protested her nomination, saying she was too young for the office. The protest soon fizzled away however, and she is said to be doing well in office as she learnt the robes from Alhaja Mogaji. Her step mum, Senator Oluremi Tinubu, defended her appointment. She said the new Iyaloja was capable of coordinating market activities in Lagos State, as she noted that Tinubu-Ojo was under the tutelage of the late Iyaloja-General. “The position of Iyaloja comes with lots of duties and responsibilities. It is expected that she will succeed with her sense of maturity, respect for elders and diligence,” she said. During her coronation by Oba of Lagos, Oba Rilwan Babatunde Osuolale Akiolu, major markets in Lagos were shut. The coronation was part of the activities marking the 70th birthday of Oba Akiolu 1 at the Iga-iduganran, Lagos Island local government. Oba Akiolu advised the new Iyaloja to be diligent and committed to the service of humanity adding that the position was important to the development of market activities in Lagos State and Nigeria at large.
What Dignitaries Said On Her Demise
The late Mogaji was “a great leader who brought dignity and honour in administration and purposeful management in commerce and industry in Lagos and environs.”
She was a “great woman and a great mobiliser of women and an advocate of people’s rights. Her socio-economic contribution to the nation will definitely be missed. She has left a vacuum in the nation. She was a special gift to this country.”
“Her death is a celebration of life, a woman who lived well and affected all those she came in contact with. No one wants to lose his or her mother, but mama’s legacy will never be forgotten. We will miss her.”
“In my days as a banker over the years, with our headquarters in Lagos and as a postgraduate student in University of Ibadan whose transit point was usually Lagos, I was a consistent person in Lagos and this gave me the opportunity to be conversant with the effective and efficient organisational powers of mama not just as a successful entrepreneur but as a grand mobiliser of Nigerians for good course”.
“While we mourn mama, we must find some comfort in the fact that she lived to a ripe old age, seeing her children rise to prominence in the society. We are also proud of her achievements, the good that she had done and the respect she enjoyed beyond the family, which earned her the worthy title of President-General, Association of Nigerian Market Women and Men”.
“One thing we can do is to pray for the repose of the soul and remember the good things she did while she was alive to her community, the state and to Nigeria in general. We pray Almighty Allah will grant her soul rest.
Alhaja Abibatu Mogaji, the President General of the market men and women would be remembered for her giant stride in the business world. She lived an exemplary life worthy of emulating; a role model to many who contributed immensely to the development and empowerment of market men and women.
“She was a mother per excellence. I knew her from my days at the NTA, and my mother also had a shop and she was under her leadership. I covered her activities as a staff of NTA and I am ever so amazed at her wealth of knowledge and experience and she doesn’t forget.”