With the fresh minds of youths, we’ll build this nation together, says Iyalode Alaba Lawson
Iyalode Alaba Oluwaseun Lawson is a woman of many firsts. The first Iyalode of Yorubaland, a prominent daughter of Egba land and the Iyalode of Egba as well, a foremost educationist and selfless philanthropist, she was this week inaugurated as the first female National President of the National Chambers of Commerce, Industry, Mines and Agriculture (NACCIMA) in Abeokuta, Ogun State.
For over three days, the city of Abeokuta rocked and pulled out all the stops to celebrate their own. From all corners of Ogun State, Yewa, Egba, Ijebu, it was an outpouring of love, support and affection for ‘Action Mummy’ as people, especially women thronged the city to witness the investiture of Iyalode Alaba Lawson.
Kicking off activities was a visit to the palace of the Osile of Oke Ona Egba, His Royal Highness, Oba Adedapo Tejuoso Karunwi, a visit that had all the executives of NACCIMA, both past and present as well as Oba Ajirotutu Fadipe from the Republic of Benin present. Lauding her numerous achievements and praising her doggedness and tenacity, Oba Tejuoso advised Lawson to remain faithful to God and continue doing good as much as possible.
The following day saw Iyalode Lawson launching the ABESTONE Microfinance Bank, which she describes as a dream come true. “We are starting this bank to cater to the grassroots and small businesses in the state. We started out as a community bank years ago and fought for years to turn it into a commercial bank, so as to benefit women that want to go into entrepreneurship. We have faced so many hurdles, even from the Central Bank but we didn’t give up and I am happy that today, I can say thank God I didn’t give up.”
She called on government to assist them so that they could improve the economy and boost employment. She added that they preferred giving loans to women than men, because women returned loans faster and as when due compared to men. She urged women to come to the bank for help, promising that no one would be turned away once they met requirements.
Fielding questions, she was asked what could be expected during her tenure as the 19th President of the national body and she promised to exceed expectations. “With the help of my team, I am going to concentrate on SMEs. I would also be launching the NACCIMA youth group because we all know the youths are the future leaders of this country and the way the youths think and do things is very different. With the fresh minds of the youths, we would build this nation together in order to move forward. Very dear to me is the SMEs and with all these programmes and funds from the federal government, we would focus intensively on spurring the growth of SMEs in the country. As we all know, SMEs are the bedrock of any good economy.”
On how she felt being the first female president of the body, she had this to say; “I feel great, fulfilled and I believe that the spirit of Late Chief Adeyemi Lawson, who introduced me to this association, would be happy because it hasn’t been easy but it has paid off at last”.
When asked how she intends to help women key into her programmes particularly in regards to agriculture and easier access to funds, she advised women to be aware and take advantage of several opportunities that exist, some even specially for women. “The federal government has made it possible and very easy for people to access funds from banks especially if one needs it for agriculture. We all know agriculture is very important because once you can feed your nation; half of the problem is solved. We need to stop wasting resources and scarce forex to import food into the country. We need to focus on agriculture, grow what we need to eat and export the rest, just like in the times of Awolowo. He used the cocoa money to build the cocoa house and so many other edifices that we are still enjoying today. We used to have groundnut pyramids, cocoa plantations, cotton and so many other agricultural greatness, why can’t we go back to all these? Oil that we depended on is no longer viable, white-collar jobs are almost non-existent and I would ensure the youth group I launch, they all go into agriculture. My main focus would be on women, youth, agriculture and SMEs and with federal funding, I believe we would succeed”.
When asked if they would be partnering with bodies like NYSC and MDAs to reach a larger number of youths, she said, “There is nothing wrong if we partner with them. If they come out with their manifesto and it is in line with what we want to achieve, why not? Youth organizations are all over the world and we can partner with anybody.”
Encouraging women to get more involved and take up more leadership roles, she said, “The road may be rough but once you believe in yourself, you would get there. Continue to believe in yourself everyday, continue to work hard. Uneasy lies the head that wears the crown. Do not lose your integrity because you want to be in a particular post. If you’re a woman and want to be somebody in life, carry on, despite all odds and I promise that you’ll get there.
A woman is coming after me so it is clear that I have paved the way for more women to come in and take charge and I know for sure that Hajia Saratu Aliyu, who would be the 20th president after me, is a woman. We have three blocks in NACCIMA, the west, east and north and each block would produce a president. The outgoing president is from the East, I am from the West and I am taking over. The next president would be from the North and that is how it goes. Once you’re a first or second deputy, you’re in line to be the national president. Hopefully, more women get elected as block presidents, which would in turn produce more female national presidents which is not a bad thing as far as I am concerned, she said.”