Former Africa’s richest woman, Folorunsho Alakija, has been reflecting on her life as she turns 70 today.
The founder of Fanfa Oil, among other business and charity organisations, says she is a product of a polygamous house, though with a story different from what many others from such backgrounds tell.
In an interview with the media, she said:
I grew up in a polygamous home. I am sure you all know my dad had 52 children and eight wives. My mum was his first wife and they both died about 12 years ago – one month after each other. They lived till 92 and 95. I thank God we have longevity in our family.
Regarding my growing up years, I went to England at a tender age of seven with one of my siblings who was six. I was there for four years – no holidays in Nigeria.
Those four years actually shaped a big chunk of my life later on – different set of people, different, culture, different language, different foods, and different lifestyles. I learnt all of that in those four years. It was bitter-sweet; bitter because I didn’t like the weather; sweet because we were learning new things. We were living and growing with people of a totally different culture from the one we were used to, so we found that it was interesting. By the time we came back, we had begun to lose the Yoruba language. I got out of that stage and I began to speak proper Yoruba and I am glad that we were all brought back to Nigeria.
I believed everything anybody told me, but as I was growing up, I learnt not to trust everyone as I used to trust everyone. I now know that it is only God that you can trust; man will deceive you and fail you. As I continued to grow up, my siblings and I about the same age bonded more. Most of us were in boarding schools and when we came back on holidays, we stuck together a lot. We didn’t listen to what our mothers were trying to tell us; not to go to the other woman’s house. Those are some of the things people live with in a polygamous home.
Then we all started getting married and we weren’t seeing each other as we used to. But the love that bound us was still there. Some of us travelled abroad again and I was also part of that before I came back home to get married and start having children. Then the time I felt I needed to quit my banking work to go and pursue another thing came – another season of my life.