While some women see themselves as ‘weaker vessels’, the first and only (for now) female President of the Nigerian Association of Chambers of Commerce, Industry, Mines and Agriculture, Chief (Mrs.) Alaba Lawson, has proved she does not belong in this category.
Between 1982 and 2017, this Amazon contributed immensely to the growth of commerce in her home state of Ogun and at the national level. The media has been awash with the reports of her giant strides within the group. She does not mince words when it comes to baring her mind on the performance of the Federal Government in the area of the economy every year.
She had the fear that I might be killed. My mother argued that I was too young to carry such a title and that they should give it to an elderly one. The Kabiyesi had to enlighten her that they needed somebody who had integrity and could stand for the integrity of the Egba
Due to her endless passion to ensure Nigerian youths do not go to tertiary institutions to just earn degrees for the purpose of seeking white collar jobs after graduation, the Iyalode of Egbaland says she’s set to launch the NACCIMA youth forum across three major regions of the country.
Lawson says, “From the West, East and North, our executives will mobilise young entrepreneurs and work out how they will be trained. There will be an advocacy on them with a view to partnering with many foreign embassies. They have their ways of thinking and this thinking is what we really need for them to move on and become employers of labour, instead of looking for white collar jobs, which are no longer there.
“Another area is the women group, of which I’m the chairperson. The women group was formed in 2005 and since then, we have been doing very well. We are even on the West Coast of ECOWAS. We have been to Liberia to see the former president, Mrs. Ellen Johnson Sirleaf. We paid her business and courtesy visits to see what we can do. We have so many of our women training in Liberia.
“When I invited Sen. Remi Tinubu to come along with us, she responded with her team. During that visit, she promised to build schools for the grassroots people in Liberia and she did. The school was commissioned on the 18th January 2009 by Madam Sirleaf. She built a junior school and secondary school for them at the grassroots level. I want to make an impact on the women group. If you educate a woman, you educate a nation. If you help a woman, you have already helped a nation because we are better managers as we connect both at our homes and extended families in Africa.”
Where men dare not talk, the Iyalode of Egba and Yorubaland don’t only bark but also bite, not minding whose ox is gored. She describes the recurrent xenophobic attacks against Nigerians in South Africa as criminal.
She says, “I think those South Africans killing Nigerians are crazy. They have forgotten so soon what Nigeria did to help them fight the apartheid regime to a standstill. Nigeria spearheaded the boycott of the 1983 Commonwealth Games because of apartheid. The United Kingdom, which was then hosting, incurred losses due to the boycott, because so many other countries joined Nigeria in boycotting the games.
“In fact, the UK introduced payment for visas for Nigerians after that incident. Before that incident, Nigerians were not paying for visas to travel to the UK. You can see what we are suffering as Nigerians for standing against the apartheid regime. The leaders of that country need to talk to their youths perpetrating the attacks. Our lawmakers going there should not take it lightly; it is a criminal case. Killing and destroying people’s property is unacceptable.”
Iyalode Lawson’s contributions in the area of commerce and industry are no less outstanding. She established a trading/distributing firm known as Capricorn Stores Ltd. She ran the business successfully, and later combined it effectively with the running of the Lawson Group of Schools.
Mama, as she is fondly called by market women and fans, has a chain of distributing outlets for the products of the Nigerian Breweries Plc., Nigerian Bottling Company Plc, and Guinness Nigeria Plc, among others. She’s a major distributor for the products of these companies in Abeokuta, Ogun State, and other cities in the South West of Nigeria.
She became the President of the Abeokuta Chambers of Commerce in 1995. It was during her tenure that the chambers was able to secure a permanent building, known as the Commerce House, from the state government. The building has since been serving as the secretariat for the Abeokuta Chamber Of Commerce.
Between year 2000 and 2002, Lawson was the President of the Ogun Council of Chambers of Commerce. Her robust sense of industry and justice are immeasurable. These sterling qualities also earned her the chairman of the United States of America-Nigeria Trade Council.
According to the council, Lawson is to provide leadership and overall guidance and direction in the programmes, policy and strategic efforts to improve the trade traffic between the United States of America and Nigeria.
No wonder, a former deputy governor of Ogun State, late Alhaji Adeolu Balogun, spoke glowingly of this Amazon, saying, “Iyalode is an embodiment of industry, unalloyed loyalty to a just cause, transparently honest on issues, no double speak, a philanthropist of no mean order, a committed Egba Woman, an unrepentant custodian of Yoruba culture and above all, a great mother. Her unalloyed loyalty to principle and integrity is peerless.”
As a good team player, she championed the approval of Odu’a International Trade Fair. When she became the President of the Odu’a Chambers of Commerce, she secured an independent office for the chamber and resuscitated most of its moribund member-bodies.
Like a cat with nine lives, Iyalode Lawson survived several assassination attempts, incidents which surprisingly added to her fame. She was forced to go on self-exile for four years during the tenure of Governor Gbenga Daniel in Ogun State.
During one of such life-threatening incidents, her guard was slaughtered, for allegedly refusing to show the assassins the way into his boss’ bedroom, while she escaped the assassins’ bullets at her Quarry Road residence in Abeokuta, the Ogun State capital.
She recalls, ‘’I must confess to you that I had to run away for my dear life, and I was in exile for four years. Even after my exit, they tried to destroy my businesses, but Jehovah did not give them the way. That is the reason my mother didn’t want me to become Iyalode.
“She had the fear that I might be killed. My mother argued that I was too young to carry such a title and that they should give it to an elderly one. The Kabiyesi had to enlighten her that they needed somebody who had integrity and could stand for the integrity of the
Lawson, who also founded Abestone Microfinance bank, was decorated as an Ambassador of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goal. A mobiliser of the informal trade sector, she encourages them to form trade associations and be affiliated with the chamber of commerce and also form co-operatives to enhance access to finance.
Regarding her fashion and style, Iyalode says she dresses to please herself only.
“It depends on the function I’m going to. I don’t dress to please people. As a teacher, I dress like a teacher. Even if I want to go out with women, we have our Aso-Ebi and we are all together,” she says.