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Monday, 9 May 2016

I became an instant celebrity when I had a baby after 13 yrs of waiting - Ex-IGI Group Deputy MD Folasade Adetiba

As a Deputy Director at the Federal Ministry of Justice, Folasade Adetiba played the big league in her chosen legal profession. Up on the wall in her Lekki based  office in Lagos is a framed photograph of ex-Military President Ibrahim Badamosi Babangida while inspecting something of note with the ex-Attorney General Chief Bola Ajibola and Folasade Adetiba with him. This particular photograph struggles for space with numerous awards here and there in the spick and span office. Mrs Adetiba, also a former Group Deputy Managing Director of IGI, is a product of her father, a Reverend of the Anglican communion. So much fond memories which she shares with us, including her working days at IGI. She spoke to PAUL UKPABIO.

You retired few years ago madam, what do you do now?
I run a foundation that is dear to my heart, one which I started then with seed support from friends of mine. It’s called Support Bridges Initiative. I practise Law, I am a UK accredited mediator, a solicitor and advocate of the Supreme Court, a teacher and legal consultant. I sit at the family court of Lagos State, a child rights consultant and expert and I am the legal secretary of the diocese of Lagos Anglican Communion.

Tell us about your early days
My early beginning had a good influence on who I am today. I was born into the Olulade family. My late father was a Reverend of The Anglican Communion; he was a Vicar in two Anglican churches both in Abeokuta and Ibadan. My mom was a professional, a Sunday school teacher. We grew up in a close-knit family where children were taught values that God wanted them to imbibe. We grew up knowing that the family is
important and relationship is important. We grew up knowing that you must work to improve the family standard and make contribution.

My father was a quintessential teacher and my mother too. We were made to understand that success does not just happen to you. It is the way you lay your bed that you lay on it. If you don't work on it, pray to God to pour down blessings on your work. If you don't have a focus, and pursue it with resilient fortitude, you are going to end up not doing anything in life. My growing up years were more about mentoring received from my parents, my senior ones, a line that we all toed. We knew prayers were important, so we prayed. And to the glory of God, all that helped me to be who I am today.

Who influenced you most, your mom or your dad?
My father, Reverend Augustus Popoola Olulade, had greater influence in my life. My mother died at a much younger age. She died at the age of 42 when I was 17. That gives the merit to my father, who was a good teacher and an involved parent with all his children and other people that passed through him.

You studied law, was that your decision or that of your dad?
(Laughs) It was purely his decision. I had good grades in both science and arts subjects. My senior brother, Dr Olulade, and my senior sister, Dr Mrs Olusanmi, were already in the medical field. So I thought I should add colour to the profile of our family by studying something different, like Chemical Engineering.

I was attending Queens School which started in Ede and later moved to Ibadan. By the time we were having our school certificate examinations, we were already in Ibadan. I was quite young, so I was advised to go through the Higher School Certificate. I was 15. This was supported by my dad. Government College Ibadan which was just next to my school at times organised the Higher School Certificate for Queens College too. So I was admitted to offer Mathematics, Physics and Chemistry.

But my father said no, that I should go and take arts subjects. I was good in English Literature. So I had to choose subjects that will ensure I study the arts. I took up French which was really tough. I had to do English Literature and Economics which I had never done before. The principal of the school and my father had a very robust argument over this, because as far as the principal was concerned, my father was just wasting my talent, because for a girl to be good in such science subjects was extraordinary.

But my father insisted that he is my dad, that he had studied me, and that he was not saying I will not do well in Chemical Engineering but that I will excel unusually if I do Law because ‘I know what you are capable of doing’.

So you listened to him?
Yes, and thank God I listened to him because, by the time I entered the University of Ife, in my first year 1973-1974, I can't recollect the result but in the second year, I saw the reason that he wanted me to study Law. He was a good father, he had mentored so many other people that I knew that his counsel was good enough for me. That second year, I had the best result; so also year three and by the time I was leaving the University of Ife, I had the best result and won three awards.

Happily, my father was there, he was so happy that when they were calling my name for the best overall student award, best female student award, for each of the three times I had to walk up to shake hands with the Vice-Chancellor, he was there walking with me and laughing, which was quite an interesting sight. He was proud of me. He said it was Law that I was made to do. His Prediction also came true at the Law school because I also got the Best Prize in Conveyance and Legal Drafting. When I left the Law School, I joined the Federal Ministry of Justice and started with public prosecution, civil litigation and then international law. The Lord helped me and gave me a brilliant career.

As a career woman, how were you able to handle the home front?
I had a very happy home with my late husband, Prince Dr Funso Adetiba. He was proud of me; he projected me in a very positive way. He wanted me to be the best, so I was always working, working and working. People said I was working so hard because I had no child at home. I heard that, but it didn't matter to me. That is who I am. I just continued to work harder.

What was working in the public sector like? Were your efforts rewarded?
Like it is in the Bible Book of Jeremiah which says that 'all my life has been patterned out for me,' my mantra has always been that I put my all in whatever I do. Nothing was ever more worthy than my best effort. If it is to work, I put my all into it. If it is to teach, I put my all into it. And if it is relationship, I put my all into it. I configured that I must give whatever I do the best. And that was what I did to raise my career at the Federal Ministry of Justice.

The promotions came as said in the Bible, 'Seeth thou a man diligent in his work, he will stand before kings and not before mean men.' So I remembered that. My bosses even said that I deserved a double promotion. I prosecuted cases that were far above my level and stature. This was at the time when I was on the panel prosecuting those who were economic saboteurs in the country. At the beginning, I was being led but after a while, I was the one handling it. I remember that it involved $30million of Nigerian money.

It was a tough matter. I had very senior colleagues, Senior Advocates of Nigeria, who sometimes filled the whole gallery, while I attended with one young law officer. But to the glory of God, the Lord saw me through and completed the case. Thereafter, recommendations started coming for me.

Again, I was the only female in yet another of such constituted panel. Letters were pouring in from home and abroad about my work. Recommendations therefore came from my ministry that I be given a double promotion. To the glory of God in 1989, I was promoted from level 13 to level 15.

At what point did marriage come in?
I got married as soon as I left the Law School. I was quite young.

Tell us, was it love at first sight?
(Laughs) In a way, yes. He was ready to settle down for marriage and I was just out of school. He was older, a good Catholic, a student leader; so he was very popular. I was rather the most unlikely kind of person for him to marry. He was determined that he was going to marry me. And at the time I wasn't having any relationship with anybody. I was untapped.

For him, it was love at first sight. I had gone to his office to check for my NYSC posting. I believe it was orchestrated by God because when I left the Law School, I was posted to the Board of Customs and Excise but a friend of mine, Bola, who is also a lawyer, said we should go to the NYSC office and see for ourselves what it was all about. When we got there, he was just coming out of an office, when he saw us. It was natural, it was not like we had known each other before. That is where the story of our marriage started.

You mentioned earlier that you didn't have a child early in marriage.
Yes, I was married 13 years without a child. I was in the Lord's waiting room for 13 years before I had a child. But the Lord sooner rewarded me. I had a brilliant career at the Federal Ministry of Justice. I left as a Deputy Director. Thereafter I voluntarily retired at grade level 16 in 1996. The Lord had given me a baby in 1991. After 13 years, the Lord had known my voice. He gave me a son and I remember then that a popular newspaper which is still around now, while writing about my baby delivery, referred to me as the 'Hannah of our time.'

I celebrated that baby victory in my life. People wanted to hear from me, while so many women and men who had been waiting for such victory, were encouraged. He was named Opeoluwa though he had about 30 other names. Everybody had a name for that child. I can say that the entire country rejoiced with me. For about two or three months, we were having naming ceremonies (laughs). It got to a stage that I was just told to come and sit and be present. My husband had lots of Ibo friends, they too said they want to have their naming ceremony. So I was there, just sitting down, they brought their food, drinks, music, rejoiced and named the baby. They named him the mercy of God in Ibo. 10 years later, the Lord gave me another child, a daughter.

Why did you wait for 10 years after?
That was how it turned out. That was how the Lord pattered out life for me. My daughter was named Motunrayo, that is I receive joy again. I was quite happy that I had been an instrument in the hand of God. It was also one of the reasons that I had to voluntarily retire because the Deputy Director's office was moving to Abuja. Our child was just four years old and my husband said he did not want us to live separately. We had waited upon the Lord for such a long time, and now that the child was here with us, he wanted me to bring him up in his presence. So I had no choice than to retire.

Was that when you moved to IGI?
That same year, as that other door was closing, God had already opened another door. It wasn't an easy decision for me to retire from public service, especially since I was already on level 16. I remember my former Attorney General, Late Chief Michael Agbamuche, advising me to wait, that I would soon get to level 17 and I could then retire at the top. His counsel was well intentioned but I had to listen to my husband.

So that same year, I was employed by IGI as Deputy Director Corporate and Legal Services and Company Secretary but when I retired in 2010 from IGI, I was the Group Deputy Managing Director. It was a beautiful period for me. I was not an Insurance professional but the culture of the organisation warranted that I had some background in insurance. So I did the insurance examinations. I had work to do for all the other companies that belonged to IGI, that gave me capacity and helped me to upgrade myself. So by the time I retired in 2010, I was Group Deputy Managing Director.

What do you do for leisure?
I love to impact the lives of others. When I turned 50, I decided to give back to the society because I believe that I have been favoured by God. So my friends and I set up a foundation called Support Bridges Initiative. It caters to the needs of young people within the ages of 13 and 19. The motivation for me was to give to those kind of people who didn't have the type of father that I had, to choose for them what to do in life, to help them determine their passion in life, so that when they are 13, they can know and begin to pursue that dream.

How does it work?
We have an SBI Centre. We choose an educational centre that is usually not given attention. And it started from the proceeds I received from my 50th birthday. I went back to my former primary school, St. Stephen's School, Ibadan, to renovate the block of classrooms where I passed out because it was dilapidated. There were no chairs, so I decided to renovate the place. My brother-in-law, Pastor Segun Adetiba of Standard Interior Decorators, helped us to produce standard modern desks and chairs.

When we went to hand them over to the Chairman of SUBEB at the time, Professor Taoheed Adedoja, he asked me the motivation, considering that I am from Ogun State and live in Lagos. He asked why I chose the school in Oyo. I replied that my focus is not limited to any particular place but to impact people to achieve what they could in life. He was impressed and said that the state government was not aware that the school was in that condition, that what I had done challenged the government and that by the subsequent year when I come back to celebrate the anniversary of the initiative, which I told him I would do in the school, he said three modern block of classrooms would have been built in the school. And that was done.

A time also came when I thought I should do more in Lagos State. Just I as I was thinking in that direction, Dr Leke Pitan, the then Commissioner for Education, came up with public private partnership in respect of renovating schools in Lagos. As it looked at that time, the students needed to be encouraged to complete their education. They were being influenced by all sorts of distractive tendencies. We made them see the value in education. We were handed over to the curriculum department of the Ministry of Education and then, we came up with a scheme to help them develop, believing that they are the only ones that can influence their educational growth because many of these students come from deprived homes. We were given three schools to work on while we had one private school as a benchmark to work on. That was how we started with Lagos State. Now, we work with all the secondary schools. And the students enjoy the attention we give them.

Are you looking at re-marrying again?
The issue of marriage is fundamental and important. The way I am configured, I will never embark upon it on my own. I am in the hands of the Lord, as He has done for me at every stage of my life. I know that if he wants me to do it, I will do it and if He doesn't want me to do it, I am happy where I am. The Lord has been a good husband to me.

How about fashion and style?
I will not say that I am conservative, but I love the classic aspect of fashion. I am a Yoruba woman, I love our African fashion and culture. I love to wear jewellery. I love looking good. But I will never do anything that is outrageous. Even when I was in the corporate world, I dressed decently.
Are you attracted to any particular colour?
Now, I love the subdued colours like brown, purple, but before I used to love bright colours like bright yellow, bright red (laughs). As a lawyer, wearing black is professional and I love it. But when I am not wearing black, I want to wear colours that project me.

1 comment:

  1. Haaaa, my great aunty is gone. Rest in the bosom of the Lord.
    Rest in peace.


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