Africa’s richest woman who happens to be a Nigerian,
Mrs Folorunsho Alakija, has talked about some vital
In a recent interview with The Punch, the 65-year-old multi-billionaire businesswoman spoke about her. childhood, how she cut her teeth in business, how she has made her marriage work with practical examples and many more. Read excerpts below:
You have been married for close to 40 years. Are you still in love with him the way you were when you met. him many years ago?
If anyone of us is abroad, for instance, the two of us
would make sure that we call each other a minimum of
twice a day. We have spoken three times already today.
If it wasn’t that I was running late for the interview, I
would have picked up the phone again to ask him to buy
me three brushes but I had to give the job to my
assistant to do. So every little thing, we are talking
throughout the day.
You are still friends?
Very much so too. We are lovers, friends, brother and
Where did you meet him?
We met at a party in Surulere, Lagos, two weeks after I
relocated to Nigeria from England. The party was in the
evening. So my brother, his fiancée and I were attending
that event and we were all seated together. Then came
along my husband-to-be; he said to me ‘why are you
following your brother about’? I said ‘what do you
mean’? Then he accosted my brother who he knew well
and said your sister is a big girl, why are you allowing
her to follow you about? Then my brother said, ‘stay
away from my sister. Leave her alone’. Anyway, we got
talking and after the party, he suggested that I should
sit with him in his car rather than sit in my brother’s car
so we could carry on with our conversation and we
would be driving in a convoy back to our abodes. So we
carried on talking and said goodnight. But from that
night, unless one of us is abroad, there has been no day
that we have not seen each other. Ever since that day,
we have seen each other every day unless one person is
away and the other is somewhere else.
Your name is more popular than his. Do you know if
sometimes in his sober moment, he asks himself ‘why is
my wife more popular than I am’?
I believe that is on the contrary. You know why? He is extremely shy. He does not like publicity. I’m an extrovert; I don’t mind publicity. I like to throw parties; he likes to listen to music.
Nowadays, marriages fail a lot but what would you
describe as the secret that has sustained your marriage
for so long?
A lot of things make marriages break. What I have
noticed over the years is that a marriage doesn’t break
suddenly or in a day; it is a gradual process. And the
earlier you nip it in the bud, the better. And it is always
better to know what the dos and don’ts of marriage are
before you get into it so that you don’t get your fingers
burnt and so that you can enjoy rather than endure your
marriage. One of the tenements of marriage is that you
must communicate with one another. If you do not talk
to one another regularly enough, your love can begin to
grow cold. You may begin to drift apart and then other
things begin to set in. The Bible tells us that if one
person offends the other, you need to take care of that
matter immediately and not let it degenerate. Do not let
it degenerate into something that you will still be
sulking about the next day because with every action,
there is reaction and with every reaction, there is a
counter reaction. I counsel partners and one of the
things I tell them is never to make the mistake of having
separate bedrooms from the very start. Make sure you
share one bedroom even if you have 10 bedrooms.
And not only that, if you tell the carpenter to make your
bed to be from one wall to another, you are making the
biggest mistake. It can separate you. When you quarrel,
it won’t help. But when there is nowhere to turn and you
end up kicking one another, you will make up quickly.
One of the things I do to break the ice rather than let
things degenerate is to ask my husband to help do my
zip even when I can do it by myself. I have broken the
You are bound to quarrel because you are two human
beings. If anyone tells you they have a perfect marriage,
it is a lie. Yes, they may be compatible and be having a
good time but that does not mean it is perfect. It doesn’t
exist. Make sure that you set up the values that you will
use to run your home and bring up your children. I greet
my husband good morning with a kiss. There are
different ways of showing submission. It is not that we
are asking you to put your head on the floor so that he
can trample on it. No! We are saying show your husband
respect. It is the will of God. Speak to him nicely. There
is no man that you would treat like that and would not
honour, respect, appreciate and do whatever you ask of
him when you ask for a favour. He would go all out with
pleasure and even go the extra mile to do whatever you
ask of him. That is what a lot of people don’t realise.
Likewise, a man should love his wife; that is what the
Bible says. He should honour and respect his wife and
not bring a girlfriend into the matrimonial home and say
what can she do? Are you supposed to do that? Is it
fair? Is it right? Is it because you are stronger than her
physically? If you decide to give her a slap, she can’t
beat you, but all she has got is her mouth and she will
abuse you very well. One thing will lead to another and
the marriage will degenerate. Once it starts degenerating
and you don’t quickly nip it in the bud, it may lead to
separation and then divorce.
So how do you feel now being known as the richest
woman in Africa?
I’ve never called myself that and I just live my life. I do
whatever I need to do with all joy and pleasure. It has
not changed me; it will not change me and there is no
amount of money that can change me, my husband and
my children. That is the way we have lived our lives; we
will continue being who we are as a family.