By Onuwa Lucky Joseph
Ibukun Awosika’s story has been one of decidedly massive transformations. So, it’s understandable when she’s all up in the face of today’s young folks to put in the work for the glory they so crave.
She’s not someone I know exactly up close. We’ve never sat down to a conversation. But I used to go to her Chair Place then at Oyin Jolayemi Street, on Victoria Island, Lagos. The place was literally next door to my office back when I worked at Standard Trust Bank as Head of Corporate Communications. I had a childhood friend, now late, who worked for her. So I would, every now and then visit him at the office, particularly when I felt overcome with the unending stress from my own office.
From time to time I also would run into her at Fountain of Life church where my friend attended and where she was a pastor. I was just a few years married then. This was in the early 2000s. Before getting married, I had been a frequent participant at the late Pastor Bimbo Odukoya’s massively attended (by everyone from every denomination) singles programme. After marriage, I still would attend from time to time because I loved Pastor Bimbo and had a few friends not yet married who still attended the programme. I had no inkling that Mrs. Awosika’s trajectory would ‘verticalize’ so dizzyingly radically and that the lady I used to know then, who favoured tight fitting clothes, would become the conservative Chairman of First Bank, Nigeria’s very first bank.
I gave all of that background just to properly situate today’s Mrs. Awosika who is a blazing presence in the motivational talk circuit. She doesn’t do it as a job, clearly, but she does some of the best talks. She speaks from the heart; a mother’s heart, a sister’s heart, an auntie’s heart. Like all the older African women we know who absolutely detest any drop of saccharine in their verbal offerings, you will find a straight talking big sister who makes a big impression on you by not making any effort to impress you. You get what I mean…
Unsurprisingly, she was all geared up with the garb at the 3rd Edition of the First Bank Youth Empowerment series that held on December 27, 2019 at Victoria Island. With a theme like ‘Let’s Talk’, what do you expect? The young men and women were there to talk about their lives and how the bank intersecting their lives can help make it a lot more interesting and infinitely more rewarding. To help give direction for how the audience should approach their enterprising future were role models like Gbemi Olateru Olagbegi, Derin Fabikun, Tubobereni Sandrah, Alexander Sandra Ashimole, VJ Adams, Kelechi Amadi Obi, Vector, and also Reminisce.
The Talk was focused. It was about figuring out the figures. Even though most of the participants were from the artistic end of things they were individuals who had ventured as entrepreneurs and failed and got up and become the respected people they had become in their different areas. And as every entrepreneur knows, figures of speech don’t move business; you got to be conversant with literal figures (pun, intentional).
First Bank did a good job by appointing, for once, a motivational figure as Chairman (or Chairperson, in case some fundamentalist feminists are reading this). She sure can move people. She certainly can move young people. They had forsook music shows, family get together and all the things that attend year end festivities. These focused folks were looking at their lives for the next year and the rest of their lives. And for that, she was grateful, she told them.
She said the reason First Bank is desirous of building a nation of entrepreneurs is because only such people would go ahead to put in the diligent work that helps build a nation. How many jobs can government create? Not that many, as everyone knows. So if the participating young men and women and others of their kind not there present would do the needful, Nigeria would be brimming with jobs and lots of hopeful young men and women invested in the future of the country.
Here’s one long quote: “The youth need to take charge of their lives by making the right decisions at any given time and avoid being vulnerable. Early enough, you must have a sense of ownership of your life. When you fail, it’s not your parents that failed. Everything you do is essentially for you and the sense of ownership is very important. You must fight and protect it. If you do not do well, your parents will be sad, but it your future. Youths should pay attention to the decisions they make for a better future”.
Another nugget she volunteered was for the need to steer clear of arrogance; this, even as she extolled the virtue of networking, as according to her, ‘your network determines your networth’.
Gbenga Shobo, Deputy MD, representing the MD, had earlier tried to right the wrong impression in some people’s minds that First Bank is an old people’s bank. This is ostensibly in view of its being a legacy bank that’s been around for more than a century. She said it would surprise people to know that about 35% of the bank’s customer base is consisted of young people. Which is why according to him, the Youth Empowerment Summit is a well thought through investment to enable young Nigerians to be enterprise minded.
With her ‘extracurricular’ motivational speeches, balanced hopefully by professional discharge of duties by staff at the branches, Mrs. Awosika’s pulling power is sure to bring in even more people to sample the First Bank fare.