By Remmy Diagbare
If there is a way to measure happiness, Shade Okoya would be the happiest woman on earth today. She marks her fortieth birthday in a no-expense-spared party at the sprawling Okoya’ Oluwanisola Estate along Lekki Expressway, Lagos. The grand celebration, which began on the 25th-the day of her birth – with family and close friends culminates in today’s grand reception. She transcends from young girl to the mature woman of 40, wife and mother of four lovely children – two girls and two boys. Shade is at a good place in life and thus has the world at her feet!
Currently, the Deputy Managing Director of Eleganza Industrial City Ltd. By virtue of this position, she is responsible for the day-to-day management of the company. The Eleganza Industrial City is a factory which started operations in 2012. The company is situated on over 35 hectares expanse of land along the Lekki-Epe Expressway. Through her stewardship, Eleganza Industrial City Ltd. has just re-positioned itself in the manufacturing sector.
Congratulations on turning the Big 40. How do you feel turning 40?
Happy, blessed, fulfilled. I thank Allah for everything.
What has changed about you since the last time we met and now that you are 40?
Nothing really; still the same me.
Do you feel threatened in any way that you are getting older?
What lessons has life taught you?
To be patient, tolerant and more loving. Aging comes with maturity and changes one’s perception of life.
What’s the secret of your successful marriage to Chief Akanni Okoya?
I put that to Allah. He has been there all along and I believe am a good, loving wife.
Over the years since you married the chief, there has been all manner of stories and rumours about you and your relationship with the family. How did you feel? And, how did you manage the situation?
There has never been any issues. Allah has always been in control.
So, what’s the situation now more than 17 years after your marriage?
I thank Allah for eighteen successful years of marriage.
What has been most memorable for you as you reminiscence on life at 40?
My family – I thank Allah for that. I believe Allah has been wonderful to me – looking back at all what I have achieved concerning my home, work, and family.
Apart from marriage, what would you say has been the best decision you have ever made?
Working for my husband. I enjoy what I do.
You are the DMD of the Eleganza Industries. That is a huge responsibility. How do you cope?
I have a lot of work at the new Eleganza Industrial City Ltd. – daily management and planning involved to ensure I get desired goals and targets that we (have) set out to achieve.
The new direction of the new Eleganza Industrial City Ltd. is moving towards being a foremost manufacturing concern, spanning over not just West Africa but its products will also be exported all over the world.
What were the challenges you were faced with in your efforts to reposition the company?
The major challenge is the issue of power to run the industries and suppliers bringing in fake and substandard products into the Nigerian market. Also, the current recession in the economy is making the rate of the dollar to rise astronomically. It is, therefore, difficult to purchase our major raw materials. Currently, I’ll say the forex issue facing the economy brings with it difficulty to source and bring in raw materials.
The last time we spoke in 2016, you were planning to add a cosmetics line. Have you launched that? If yes, how successful has it been? If no, what happened?
Yes. We have Eleganza Soap in the market and we have over 21 beauty soaps we intend to throw into the market along with six multipurpose/laundry soaps. I thank God that we set the target and achieved them.
As a female entrepreneur, wife and mother in today’s Nigeria, how has the Nigerian environment added value and made it conducive to play these different roles?
As a female entrepreneur, I enjoy what I do under the able chairmanship of my husband. As a wife, I have a wonderful, loving and supportive husband. And, as a mother, I’m excited seeing my children grow up in a positive way. The joy of being a mother is priceless.
May 27 is Children’s Day. As a mother, do you think the Nigerian society has catered well for them?
Notice, emphasis is on soceity, not the government. I say society because of the incessant cases of rape and abuses on them. No, I believe the Nigerian society can do more. All of us should be involved. Children are the future and tomorrow’s leaders and we have to care, love and direct them so they can be better and useful to the society.
How was growing up like for you? Did you ever hear of things like this? As one with children, what do think is responsible and how can one better protect one’s children?
Yes, it has been all along but not so much like we have now. We all need to enlighten our children more; issues like this shouldn’t be kept and discussed privately. Knowledge is power and once you teach one, you are spreading the word indirectly. Our children must be cautious of where they go to at all times.
How do you manage youth over-exposure, especially to social media and the attendant effects – especially negative effects?
Sincerely, this is one area I was really afraid of – technological advancement of social media so I started educating my children on things that might be inappropriate for their age group and letting them know the importance of what they need to look out for. In everything in life, there is good or bad and once they can differentiate these, a mother would just have to trust and believe in God to help raise the children.
They are exposed to a lot in the society we live in. Parents should instill the fear of God and love in them and leave the rest to them.
Back to your 40th, what more are you looking forward to? How do you see yourself in 5,10 years from now, God sparing your life?
I look forward to getting the best out of my experience and achieving much more than what I have currently achieved, Insha Allah.
Regarding style, what changed as you evolved to who you are now?
Concerning my style, I don’t think much has changed but I believe as you grow, you want to be more comfortable/presentable at all time.
Finally, you are having a big birthday party today. Tell us more about it. What should your guests expect?
It’s a dinner/disco. Everybody should let their hair down and have fun. It’s going to be fun-filled. I thank God for today and everything.