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Thursday, 21 April 2016

I know men are afraid of me because of my wealth -Top businesswoman, Biola Olatunji

Biola Olatunji, the famous widow of Late Alhaji Lukman Olatunji Alade, also known in Lagos social scene as Toto Abuga, had been off the society scene for a while. Wealthy Biola Olatunji is contented shuttling different countries in search of businesses, to add unto those left behind by her late husband. Over the years, hard working Biola has remained quiet, even gone abroad, where she took solace in studying Theology in a university in the UK. She spoke to PAUL UKPABIO about life without her husband and the challenges of being a rich widow.

Years after the death of your multi-millionaire businessman husband, you have kept the home-front flag flying, how have you been coping?
As far as I am concerned, he is not gone; I always have my husband on my mind. That is why every year, I ensure that I hold a remembrance prayer for him. Significantly, it is to show that he is here with us, he is here with me. And to me, having a remembrance for him is to show that someone cares about him.
I remember a lot of things about my late husband. I miss him every day, every minute and every second. So I will continue to have remembrance sessions for him. It is the Quran that says that, the best way to remember someone who is dead is to offer prayers and sacrifices for him. And that is my belief. So since he died about seven years ago, we have been having a remembrance for him. I have to thank God, to pray for him wherever he is.
One of the challenges that you must have as a widow who is still young and beautiful with a lot of material resources and a stylish lifestyle, must be how to handle men. How have you been able to ward off men’s advances?
It is true that there is no way that men would not come and make advances at me. But the truth is that I handle men’s advances maturely and diplomatically. This is because I have male friends but nothing more than that. I wouldn’t know if men are intimidated by the wealth I control and I wouldn’t know if some of the people I know are just attracted to me because of the wealth around me but, I know I scare men too. At the same time, I know that if a man is genuine, he will stay but I have my own way of dealing with such male advances.
That is actually why I miss my husband so much because I think he is the only one that could handle me. I know I am a very tough woman too. So, anybody that thinks  he can put on the shoe that my husband left behind must certainly be strong and tough and be Abuga’s replica, which I know is not possible. No man can be like my husband, Toto Abuga.
What has been the challenge of co-ordinating and taking charge of all that your husband left behind?
I give glory to God Almighty because when someone dies and whatever he left around is blossoming, it is a good sign that the person was a good soul when he was alive. If he wasn’t a good person, my husband’s legacy would have died. But he was so good that I had to determine to stay and make sure that I started multiplying what he left behind. There were things he left undone, he was like someone who did a foundation but did not complete the works. So to God be the glory, everything has taken shape. God is helping us to forge ahead.
Can you give us an insight into the kind of business he left behind?
He was a good minded business person who was into construction, estate development, importing and exporting of fabrics, house wear, house utensils and cars. He left no stone unturned. So, with that, he achieved a lot.
But right now, what businesses do you run in Nigeria?
I have a couple a businesses I do in Nigeria right now. I have a hotel business running in Ajao Estate and I have an estate management outfit. I build and sell properties I develop properties for people. That was the business I was doing with my husband before he died. The hotel business is a new thing, I was building it when he died and today I have raised it up. I have interests in tourism, estate development and general business.
Mrs Olatunji  with Seye Kehinde
Mrs Olatunji with Seye Kehinde
I’m also presently into all my husband’s businesses. I’m into construction and I’m going to train my children to come into the business as well and also let them run my hotel business; hospitality business is a good one. And everything is progressing.
Tell us about your fashion sense
I wear what is comfortable and what my designer offers me. I am a designer myself and I love fashion a lot. I am good when in skirt and blouse. I love traditional attires too.
What would you say interests you these days?
Apart from the businesses that I oversee, I am interested in Christian things. If you recall, I went abroad to study Christian Counselling and Theology a few years ago. I was an interesting experience for me. I was taking lectures from Redeemers College, Cambridge. The school is affiliated with Middlesex University.
Would you say that your problem with your husband’s family led you into studying Theology?
Yes, partly so because it occurred to me that if I study this, I would be able to assist women like me who have fallen into my kind of situation. Theology has to do with God’s word and that is why I went into studying it. Today, I can counsel widows like me. We were taught leadership there as well, so I was grooming myself to become a good leader, which by the grace of God, I am today. No knowledge is lost.  When my husband was alive, I was just a nominal Christian. Though I go to church, I read my Bible but not to this extent. You know, it is something that pushes you into certain things in life. I think God used that challenge to bring me out of my comfort zone. It is not that I wasn’t spiritual or deep when my husband was alive but you know, I was a socialite, and my husband was a socialite too, and I always wanted to tag along with him. I always wanted to be on the same lane with him. But when God decides to pull you off that track, there is little you can do to stop Him.
You lost the legal battle over the possession of one of your late husband’s properties to your mother in law
I don’t want to even talk about that right now, what I am saying is that I am not even bothered about what the judgment stated. The judgment raised a lot of issues about our legal system but I guess I have moved on from that point and also the family has moved on from that point. However, I still pray for the ordinary man to get justice in Nigeria through the legal system. The judgment was a bit embarrassing. I never liked the portion that said I was asked to move out of the property I was never living there in the first place. The last time I was there was after my husband’s death. I was really angry about that aspect. I was never sent out of any property by any court of law. I moved out of the property a year after my husband died (2009) because we were both living in a flat in that property. We had nine flats in that property (The Versace House) and rented out eight flats and lived in just one. It was after his demise that I finished the whole of our house at Magodo and then moved in, because it was our plan to move in there before his death. So, I was never thrown out, nobody can throw me out of where I live. I was never thrown out.
Biola 
Have you forgiven your mother in law?
Of course, I have a heart of forgiveness. I have long forgiven her. You know, I love my husband and I can do anything for his sake. Apart from that, I have lovely children for the family, and we are such a big family. We are still one family; so, forgiveness is an understatement. I have forgiven her as a Christian. Like I said earlier, we have moved on from that point. I believe that I did not bring anything to this world and neither would I take anything away with me. I personally have more than what they are fighting for. If anything happens today, we are not taking anything away. This life is very simple and at the same time transient. All we waited for then was for reason to overtake emotion but if the case is the reverse, we should equally thank God because He might have done it for a bigger reason than we know. He says there is a season for everything.
So have you finally relocated to the UK? If no, where do you live more these days?
I did not relocate to the UK permanently. I went there for studies. But then, I live over there too. So, I am partly there and partly here. I have my businesses right here in Nigeria and I have my children’s education going on there. I have been in the United Kingdom in the past 27 years; so, UK is more or less like my home. Not just a second home. In my whole life, the time I have spent in the United Kingdom is more than what I have spent in Nigeria. So, London is my home, Nigeria is my home. So, there is no reason for relocation in the first place.
You have survived as a widow for some years now, what advice do you have for widows like you?
That is a good one (smiles). I have said it and I will keep saying it. You know what? Number one, a widow never lacks. That is what people don’t know. Secondly, you don’t trouble a widow. It is stated in Exodus 22:22. Just go and check it, the word of God says if the widows cry unto me, I will answer them. That is just the key point; you understand what I am saying? Anything I want, God will do it for me. He will always do it for me. Let me give you an example, if I need N20 million by tomorrow, all I need to do is to cry unto Him and I will get it. That is the power of the covenant He had with us widows. That is how perfect the God I worship is, that is how perfect my God is. If I cry unto Him, He will answer me. Anybody that troubles me, I pray and give them Psalm 91; I give them Exodus 22:22 and The Lord God of Host will respond. That one alone keeps me going.
God is always by the side of widows. He is always with us. He is always guiding us widows. It is a covenant that God has already made with widows. I am not talking about wicked widows or widows who killed their husbands to earn the status of a widow. Such widows will see evil. You can’t be a wicked widow and then expect God to intercede on your behalf. And I thank God, though I am not a perfect person, there are still lots of people who can say good things about me.
How do you cope being a businesswoman and mother?
I’m a very busy person and that is why I don’t have time for men. I occupy myself with my business, children and education. My children come first, and then my business. I don’t have anything that bothers me. And when I do, I go into my room, pray and sometimes put my wine beside the bed, drink it and sleep.
What does success mean to you?
Well, I wouldn’t say I’m wealthy because that comes with lots of responsibility and commitment. I’m comfortable; I know I am a successful woman because I work hard.
How about re-marriage?
I am married to my children. I have a long way to go with those children. Do you know my first boy (Mazeed) was two when his father passed away and the first year birthday of the second boy (Mazourq) was the second day of his demise? I wanted him to wait till June 9th but he said the call was very urgent from Lagos and that was how he left us and never returned. So, what marriage would I do again? I am passionately close to my children. I have four children, four happy children, two boys, two girls (Mojadesola and Jolaoluwa from an earlier relationship in England). So, what do I need more than happiness? I am contented with what God has given unto me. I am not ready for any marriage again.
You sound so philosophical and mature about life, is that the new you?
No, I have always been like this. If you are very close to me, you will know that I have always been like this. You know, a lot of people that didn’t know me, once they come closer to me, they do say I am really different from the Biola they often hear about. They tell me that I am nice, that I am generous, spiritual and all that. I counsel young couples now.
Do you see yourself going into politics soon or in the near future?
Ha, I am a business woman, it is better for me to stay where I understand very well and keep to my businesses, but that doesn’t mean that I do not support politics. We have to support politics because we need good leadership. I have a role model in politics; he is Senator Gbenga Ashafa. He is a very credible leader and my role model. He is a leader to watch out for. He has been able to bring democratic practices to his constituency and has showed progressive leadership, a good ambassador of Lagos in Abuja.
In like manner, I support the movement of change that has taken over in the country. It is a good thing. I believe that this change is going to bring positive goodness to the country. With General Muhammadu Buhari, I am sure that his good sense of policy making will be good for the country. I have lived in Britain for decades and I know the importance of good policies for a nation. The General’s coming into government will help in pricing policy. We need a change in the business atmosphere of the country and regulation of pricing policy. It is also my prayer that the in-coming Ambode administration in Lagos will look into the issue of multiple taxation to encourage businesses grow.

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