Olutoyin Olusola Olakunri (1937 – 2018)
A woman of awesome attributes, the accomplished accountant and educationist was indeed a figure of global repute who excelled in male-dominated fields in her long, glorious career. Indeed, she was a woman of so many firsts.
Her sterling contributions especially to the Nigerian economy were unparalleled, her pioneering role in women empowerment was legendary while her exceptional managerial acumen and unique diligence stood her out as a shining star among her contemporaries.
The late Mrs. Olakunri, (née Adesigbin) was born in Lagos, Nigeria to Papa Akinola Adio Adesigbin and Madam Esther Ibidunni Adesigbin (née Doherty) on November 4, 1937.
Mrs. Olakunri, Africa’s first female Chartered Accountant, was a stockbroker, entrepreneur and a mother of seven. She passed on June 3, 2018.
She received her primary school education at Government School, Aba and Church Missionary Society Girls School, Lagos. She spent a year at St. Anne’s School, Ibadan.
She left for the United Kingdom when she was barely 13 years old, to complete her post-primary education at Hawthorne School, Frinton-On-Sea.
She had her tertiary education at Bournemouth College of Commerce and the University of Birmingham.
She qualified as a member of the Institute of Chartered Accountants of England & Wales in February 1963, the first woman from Africa to achieve that feat.
Thereafter, she was employed as a Chartered Accountant in Nigeria at the firm of Messrs Peat, Marwick, Casselton Elliot & Co (now part of KPMG) until 1965.
She was a foundation member of the Institute of Chartered Accountants of Nigeria (ICAN) in 1965 and became its first female president in its 1994/1995 year.
Until her death, she was a Council Member and Chairman of the Body of Past Presidents of ICAN.
In 1978, the female members of ICAN established the Society of Women Accountants in Nigeria (SWAN). Chief (Dr.) Mrs. Olakunri was Chairman of SWAN and a Life Patron for over a decade.
Over the years, SWAN has extended to various African countries, and in 1997, in Paris, SWAN launched the World Body for Women Accountants.
In 2018, she launched and chaired the Akintola Williams Foundation, in honour of Chief Akintola Williams, OFR, CBE, the first African to qualify as a Chartered Accountant.
Mrs. Olakunri enrolled as a Fellow of the Institute of Directors (IOD) UK in 1969 and became a foundation member of IOD Nigeria in 1983.
Again, she was IOD Nigeria’s first female president, Doyen of Past Presidents, a member of its Governing Council and Chairman of its Elders Committee.
The woman of substance worked at the Nigeria Industrial Development Bank (NIDB), now Bank of Industry (BOI), for seven years, leaving in 1972 as its managing director.
She became a director at Chase Bank and, at different times, was Executive Director, ICON Stockbrokers and Managing Director, CTB Stockbrokers.
She was the first female member of the Board of the Nigeria Stock Exchange and a Council Member for five years.
As an entrepreneur, she was managing director of Diamond Plastics, a business she owned for close to 20 years until 1994, and during that time, was a member of the Manufacturers Association of Nigeria (MAN) where she served too as National Treasurer of the Chemical and Non-Metallic Employers Federation.
She was also a major shareholder of Famad Plc (formerly Bata Nigeria), where she was Chairman for over 20 years until 2013.
Until her death, she was Chairman, Optimum Trust Insurance Brokers, Vice-Chairman, James Insurance of West Africa and a Non-Executive Director of Premium Health.
She was an active patriot, who served Nigeria in various capacities during her lifetime, particularly during the second phase of her working life.
She contributed to oversight and deliberations for different national and state institutions, including, at different times, as Chairman of the Lagos State Transport Company, Chairman of the Lagos State Ferry Service and the Education Trust Fund (ETF), now Tertiary Education Trust Fund (TETFUND), where she was Chairman for two terms.
A tireless lady, she was also a pioneer director of Nigeria Liquefied Natural Gas (NLNG), where she served for eight years. In addition, she was a member of various national committees, including the Constituent Assembly in 1977 (responsible for drafting the 1979 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria), the Nigeria Consultative Process, Nigerian Vision Foundation and Nigeria’s Vision 2020 Committee.
In 2007, she joined a 22-person Electoral Reform Committee, on the invitation of President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua.
Chief (Dr.) Mrs Olakunri held a number of chieftaincy titles, including Bobaseye of Ijebuland, Adegorike of Ijebu-Owo, Ondo State, Otunba Omoba Ola-Efon, Owu-Ijebu, Otunba Mooge of Gbagura, Abeokuta and Iyalode of Ijero Ekiti. In 1988, she was recognised as a Distinguished Citizen of Ogun State by the Ogun State government, and in 2002, President Olusegun Obasanjo awarded her the national honour of the Order of the Federal Republic, OFR.
She was awarded honorary doctorate degrees by several Nigerian universities including University of Ado Ekiti (2004), Lagos State University (2007) and University of Nigeria, Nsukka (2008).
In 1988, she was recognised by the Yaba College of Technology for distinguished and meritorious service to the nation on the occasion of the College’s 40th anniversary.
In 2005, she became a Fellow of the Oyo State College of Education and a Fellow of the Lagos State Polytechnic.
A strong advocate for women during her lifetime, Mrs. Olakunri was involved with several organisations concerned with women’s professional development and social welfare.
She was, at one time, President of the International Women’s Society (IWS) Nigeria. And until her death, she was the Chairperson of the West Africa Women Association (WAWA). She also chaired the Bloom Cancer Care and Support Centre for over 15 years.
She also spent time working on behalf of children and young people. Mrs Olakunri served on the Governing Councils of Federal University of Ado-Ekiti, Redeemer’s University, Bells University of Technology and Achievers’ University, Owo.
Until her death, she was Chairman of the Board of Trustees of Grange School and Chairman of the Board of Trustees of the Brainy Kid Education Foundation.
A devout Christian, she worshipped at St. Paul’s Church, Breadfruit, Lagos, where she was a member of the Lady Workers League and a matron of various societies. She also served in the Parish Council and in the St. Paul’s Property Development Co.
A very humble woman, until her death, she led the Altar Guild, which saw to the cleanliness and beautification of the church, its surroundings and the church linens.
Within the Anglican denomination, she also served in the Cathedral in Abuja, and was a member of the Diocesan Board for Ekiti West.
She was married to Simeon Moronfolu Olakunri, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria.
Besides many personal and professional achievements in her lifetime, Olakunri was devoted to her family.
She is survived by her husband, seven children and many grandchildren. She was, indeed, a pride to humanity, especially womanhood.
With her indelible accomplishments and life-long service to her country, her death marks for Nigeria the passing of not just a woman of substance but also an unforgettable mother figure.
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