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Friday, 1 July 2016

Success is nothing if you don't have someone to share it with

-Funmi Goka (DMD/ GM Public Affairs Nig. Agip Oil)


No doubt, Olufunmilayo Goka has had an exotic life. From the corridors of Ikoyi an upper class district in Lagos, where she grew up as the daughter of a Minister in the First Republic, she moved to America and Britain to further her education. On return, Funmi Goka as friends fondly call her, climbed the corporate ladder, to become the first Nigerian woman to be appointed the Deputy Managing Director and General Manager Public Affairs of Nigeria Agip Oil Company Limited, a multi-national business concern.

Funmi Goka shares her lifestyle with us
and tells us about her love life to Frankie Goka, a Ghanaian who met and fell in love with her at first sight. She spoke to Paul Ukpabio. 

As a successful woman, in what ways do you think your early life influenced the person that you are today?

I grew up under the tutelage of disciplined, kind-hearted and generous parents, who thought us the tenets and principles of a good Christian, legacies of humility, etiquette, industry and service. My dad’s watchword was “tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth” coupled with a lot of emphasis laid on education.
Those values, till today, serve as constant reminders and define my focus and guide me in my daily activities. These are the same set of values that I am instilling in my children and those around me who look up to me as a role model.
Tell us a few things you remember about your childhood and a few you remember about your parents.

My early years were in the Sixties, the post Independence years. The memories are mostly pleasant. I was in Corona School, Ikoyi then, playing with my sisters, brothers, cousins and friends. It was fun, with occasional fights over who takes the turn on the swing, slides and bicycles. The ice cream musical van was something to look forward to at home in the afternoons, including the Shell candy shop at Falomo and the doughnuts, sausage rolls and meat pie at Kingsway stores, Marina. Weekends were mostly spent at our chalet in Tarkwa Bay with my parents, siblings and family friends. 
I also remember the Independence Day celebrations at the Tafawa Balewa Square. The neatly dressed police officers on horses were a spectacle to behold. Holiday trips to London, USA, France and Bermuda were very exciting, particularly in the summer if you had passed your exams. I remember many visitors coming to the house because of my Dad’s political and social involvements. The vegetation was a beauty to behold, with the tree branches interlocking providing a canopy of sort shading the streets. Moreover, there were fruits on a lot of the trees, ready to be plucked. The sand was clean and white. Everyone in the neighbourhood in Ikoyi knew each other and interacted very well. These were really the good old days! My parents were awesome, ready to give us the best discipline and treats.
What do you think influenced the choice of you becoming a career lady?

My dad, Late Chief Hezekiah Oladipo Davies was a devout Christian, a Prince of Lagos, a renowned lawyer, politician and a Minister in the First Republic.  Above all, a strict disciplinarian, who brokered no sloppiness: He would drum into our ears that, the only legacy he would leave us with was a sound education. 
I admired him a lot. His attitude to work was stellar and he was such a good-looking man, particularly spartican in his wig and gown. So, becoming a lawyer was a natural choice for me. He was a great influence in my life and with him, you either ‘shaped-up or you shipped-out’. Even in my Law School days, my sister and I were not allowed to keep male friends. He would threaten, saying, “Funmi, if this is what you want to do, then you would have to deep your hands into my pockets to pay your school fees’.  I remember that his best friend, Late Sir, Adetokunbo Ademola would tell him: ‘H.O., these girls have done so well, give them a break!’
My dad was so accommodating, that I woke up every morning to a crowd of people, seeking his assistance in one form or another. He never turned his back on anyone. His large heart influenced me. I must have been in my early teens, when I realized that I needed a platform to be a role model like my dad. He taught us that our lives were not all about us, but about lives we can touch. With the Grace of God and a sound education, upon my return to Nigeria, it was a given that the step to take was hard work.
Tell us about your journey to your present office.
Based on my education, which was primary and secondary education in Nigeria, a BSc in Political Science in the United States and an LLB in the United Kingdom, my aspiration was to work in a conducive environment with a global slant. My conclusion was that, only a multinational company could afford me that opportunity.
I approached Nigerian Agip Oil Company for a job. At first, I was told that there was no opening. Due to my persistence and resilience, which paid off, I was interviewed and offered a position.
I was determined to justify the confidence my employers reposed in me and I made a vow to always make my work a priority. I am proud to say that, two decades plus, I have kept to my strict ethics. In fact, in those early years, due to my dedication to work, my friends would joke that, despite how much I loved to party, the only thing that would jolt me when asleep, was if I am told that I am late for work. 
It is a known fact that your Dad was instrumental to SAFRAB and Elf Aquitaine (now Total) coming to Nigeria. So, why did you not seek employment with the company? 

I wanted to impress my dad, that I could secure employment without his influence. This is a clear reflection of my upbringing: Independence and confidence.
What do you think inspired you to the top position you presently occupy?

God’s grace, dedication to duty and my passion, coupled with the fact that I have a lot of people that look up to me. These drive me to continue to give my very best.
How accommodating is the oil industry to women? Are women finding their feet there?

The opportunity for women has been gradual because of certain peculiarities of the industry. However, women have paid their dues in the industry and they are being recognized and rewarded. There is no better testimonial than the fact that a woman is currently the Minister for Petroleum Resources and a woman has attained the position of the Deputy Managing Director of one of the multinational companies. Moreover, it’s not about being a woman but that the right person for the job is a woman.
In what ways would you say that fashion is relevant to today’s woman? 

It’s simplicity. Today’s fashion is clean and easy. Don’t get me wrong; the fashion of yesteryears was also very interesting, filled with sartorial splendour. But today’s woman has the options of wearing a simple skirt, and a top, a simple dress without the frocks and corset, a pair of trousers and a shirt and will still look feminine and elegant. This is very relevant to the lifestyle of today. Personally, I like clean and simple looks, especially for work and I find it suiting to my personality.

Can you describe yourself?

As simple as this question seems, it is usually an awkward question for most people. I will make an attempt, based on what friends and critics have said. To friends, I am a very humble, passionate and God-fearing person, who loves God and people without reservations, very generous and can give my left eye, if I need to. My critics consider me a very nice and extremely generous person too, but someone who is not pretentious when upset, and could prove to be very tough. They conclude by saying that it makes me real. I would describe myself as someone, who is passionate about God, my husband, children, my family and friends. I speak my mind without fear or favour. I am very assertive. I know what I want and what I do not. I listen to people and will always let good reason prevail and bow to superior argument. I do not like pretence and unnecessary antagonism. I feel for the less privileged that is, the blind, motherless, destitute children and so on. I assist and ensure that everyone around me is pampered, happy and comfortable to the best of my abilities. I cherish my age-long friends.

As a successful lady, do you still find time to do lady’s things like going into the kitchen to cook?

I consider being a career woman, a wife and a mother as part of my humble success. None of these three roles are exclusive of the other. I love to cook. I cook every week. I do that while listening to Bob Dylan or Classic FM. It is very soothing. I actually carved out a part-time foodie career. I make a lot of different dishes (National, Continental, Oriental, Mediterranean and so on) as well as concentrate on catering for my husband, children, mum, siblings and close friends. 

What is your view about fashion and how do you describe fashion?

If you permit, I would like to take the word ‘fashion’ in this context, beyond the general meaning. The word, to me, means a total package of me as a person, which includes my custom, etiquette and my interactions with people. I consider these, before I see fashion as a mere sense of style. I am of the opinion that no matter how well dressed you are, without the aforementioned, you have no fashion sense.

What is your style, what kinds of clothes do you like wearing?

My style is simple. I am not one to really talk about the kinds of clothes I like. However, I dress to suit occasions. My mantra is: ‘Never over-dress or under-dress’. 

What determines the clothes you wear in a day?

The occasion and the environment I am stepping into. I dress appropriately to suit these.
What fashion accessories will you not do without?

Fashion accessories are necessary to complete a lady’s look. My accessories are picked to suit my dressing. However, I can never do without my wristwatch. It tells a lot about a person. It tells that you have respect for your time and others time and as a result, people tend to take you more seriously. Also, I believe that a lady must have her handbag. It gives her a sense of completeness and security, thus enabling her to find her very important paraphernalia when she is on the go.

How do you describe success?

I would describe success as not what I have achieved, but about the Grace of God impacting on my life and using me as a vessel to touch lives positively. My dad used to say that; “success is nothing when you have nobody to share it with. The success of those you have influenced is your success.” So, I do not consider success in terms of accomplishments but the number of people I have made to smile, through the love of God in me.

What do you value most?

My relationship with God, my relationship with my immediate family, my relationship with my extended family, genuineness, peace, tranquility, loyalty, consistency and happiness.
You have had a successful marriage, was yours love at first sight?

Yes, love at first sight on my husband’s part. He is a great and wonderful man. Ours is a marriage ordained from heaven. He tolerates my excesses and believes in me. Trust me, I can be excessive. Like they say, he is the ying to my yang.

What do you consider the secret of marriage success?

The fear of God, prayers, love, patience, trust, tolerance, perseverance, understanding, consistency, mutual respect, sincerity of purpose, and of course the grace of God. 

As a woman, do you think a woman can combine a career with family life successfully? If yes, in what ways do you think she can do it?

Balance! A woman must strive to strike a balance. We are known to multi-task. I believe God has wired us that way. A woman should prioritize, put God at the centre of all her activities and everything will fall into place.

If you were not what you are now, what else, would you have loved to be?

I would probably be running a reputable law firm, dressed in my wig and gown to the law courts, just like my dad.
Are you fulfilled?

The course of my life has been ordered by God and He has been the architect of the journey and in the words of the Hymn ‘Great is Thy Faithfulness’, by Thomas O. Chisholm and music by William M. Runyan, circa 1923, “All I have needed, His Hand has provided”. So to God be the glory! All that is left, is to continue to worship and serve my Lord, Saviour and Guide. He alone will order my footsteps.
What does glamour mean to you? When should a lady be glamorous?
It simply means the quality of fascination, allure or attraction, combined with intelligence, charm and good looks. These are God-given attributes. But I say, as a lady, don’t overdo it. Don’t go over the top. Rather, use your charm and good looks positively. Take actions you will be proud of. Going by my definition of glamour, a lady should be glamorous at all times.
Do you have time for leisure, how do you spend your holiday. Do you have memories of a particular holiday you enjoyed?
The nature of my job does not afford me the luxury of a proper holiday – only short breaks. To be honest, I am so used to having to work from one loop into the next, even during these short breaks, I find myself still working with my phones and laptop. The last time I recall going on a proper holiday was in 2007. It was for three weeks. My husband and my friend ensured that I shut down. My phones were seized and we were lodged in a resort in Monterrey, California, called Marina Dunes, now Sanctuary Resorts. I woke up to dolphins and the blue sea. It was so therapeutic.

What inspires you?

I draw my inspiration from Almighty God, the Lion of the tribe of Judea, the Rose of Sharon, The Awesome Ruler, Gentle Redeemer, Jehovah Jireh, Elohim, Jehovah Nissi, the Alpha and Omega, The Beginning and the End. He is my raison d’être. I am driven by my quest to please him. I celebrate the love of God with thanksgiving and joy daily. His mercies are ever sure, which is not due to anything I do or have left undone, but purely by His special Grace
What does make-up mean to you?

Make-up for me is the total ensemble of cosmetics, hair and of course good carriage and composition. I like subtle and well-applied cosmetic make-up. At the same time, a woman should often times let her skin breathe. As a lady, I try not to lose focus of my value and belief system, which has instilled in me the philosophy, that: A woman’s beauty radiates from within. Happiness and joy makes a woman glow.  

All work and no play make Jill a dull girl, how do you relax or take stress off? 

I like going to the spa. I try to tuck a spa visit somewhere in my busy schedule. I have massage and scrub about thrice a week to distress. I listen to music and dance when praising God. I love to play a word game on my iPad, called ‘Bookworm’.

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