Hajia Bola Shagaya At 60: Imprints of An Amazon

By KEMI AKINYEMI

The powerhouse of the Nigerian social establishment, Hajia Bola Muinat Shagaya (nee Salman) MON, is 60 today.

Sitting with aplomb atop an impressive array of top-notch business concerns, Shagaya looks every inch the successful business magnate. Endowed with an irrepressible presence, beyond the classy dressing and comportment, Shagaya radiates intelligence, charm and confidence. Always eager to increase her stock of knowledge, her widely-acknowledged multi-tasking skills reflect her diverse business interests. And they span banking, property, real estate, photography, blue-chip shares, and a great deal more.  
  Looking back, it had always been easy to discern that Shagaya would turn out to be most remarkable. Though born into modest means, her sparkling intelligence and earnest quest for knowledge combined with politeness and incredible determination to mark her out as special. This was amply demonstrated as early as age 12, when – in accordance with her Islamic roots – she successfully completed recitation of the Holy Quran. And judging by her later accomplishments in the academic sphere, it is clear she never lost touch with those virtues. In fact, she garnered more invaluable lessons: in business, where she proved to be single-minded in her quest to excel. And block by verifiable block, she has built a formidable business empire; an accomplishment that, in 2015, earned her the ranking by the influential Forbes magazine as Africa’s 10th wealthiest woman.
The road to prominence for Shagaya started rather low-key: secondary education at Queen’s School, Ilorin, Kwara State, Nigeria, then Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria, before proceeding to Armstrong College, California, United States of America. Instructively, her choices of study: Economics and Accounting. As fate would have it, on her return to Nigeria, she had the opportunity to gain practical business skills on her very first job.

During her mandatory one-year National Youth Service (NYSC), she was posted to the Audit Department of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN). Noticing that the great preponderance of her bosses were male, Shagaya’s acumen kicked into drive, and she devised a scheme whereby, she imported shirts from overseas to sell to the top bankers. She made a pile. It was her first business success; one of many that would turn out to be literal peanuts on her route to fame and fortune.
In the mean time, her sterling performance in her statutory duties had impressed the CBN authorities and immediately after her service year, she was offered employment as a full-fledged staff. But fate had other plans. Shagaya had barely spent a year on the job when her life’s trajectory changed with a fortuitous encounter with Alhaji Adebola Adegunwa, the founder of Fototec Limited. The meeting was to lead her into the importation of photographic materials. It was her big break in business, and one that led her into floating her first company, Bolmus International Limited. More was to come.
By 1985, with the photographic materials business growing in Nigeria, the Japanese, owners of the Konica brand, were hunting for a reputable company to represent them in the country and the West Africa Coast. They looked no further when they examined her business profile. However, her collaboration with Konica led to her establishing Fotofair, a new company, which launched and nurtured the Konica brand into a top player in the industry, even overtaking Fuji as market leader. Fotofair also opened photo laboratory services across the states, with the unit in Victoria Island one of the largest in Nigeria. The photo laboratory has a net base of over thirty branches located in different parts of the country, employing over 300 workers.
Hajia Shagaya’s clout extends beyond the photographic materials business. She is also the CEO of Practoil Limited, a leading importer and distributor of base oil in Nigeria, serving local lubricant blending plants. Practoil was founded in 1994, and is currently building its own plant at Kirikiri, Lagos State, which is billed to produce multi-grade oils and lubricants. In addition to having huge investments in real estate, Shagaya is also on the board of Unity Bank (Nigeria) Plc (formerly Intercity Bank), as well as a member of the NEPAD Business Group, Nigeria.
The Amazon of industry is renowned for her iron-cast discipline and resolve; and she does not compromise on certain precepts and issues. For example, she goes to bed every day ‪at 9pm‬, after listening to the ‪8 O’clock‬ news, and wakes up daily by ‪5am‬ to pray. And though she is extremely affluent, Shagaya does not believe in overly pampering her children. Significantly, she does not allow them – she has five, all boys – to work in her firms. Discipline, she believes, is key in the development and growth of a child.

A veritable mentor and role model, particularly to women in business, Shagaya’s generosity is boundless. She is a cheerful personality who loves to socialise. But even at that, there is a caveat: ‪Monday to Friday‬ is off-limit for social visits; only weekend is for fun.
Conferred with the national honour of Member of the Order of the Niger (MON) in 2010, Shagaya is known, understandably, to have over the years established warm relationships with women at the highest levels of the Nigerian establishment.

Her exquisite fashion sense is befitting of her exalted status, and she is a patron of the Fashion Designers Association of Nigeria (FADAN). An enthusiastic supporter of the fashion and arts industry, she also loves sports, especially polo.

Obviously, the little girl of yester-year at Queen’s School, Ilorin, has blossomed into a rich symbol of accomplished womanhood; a pride to her country and a credit to humanity.

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