By Alabi Abdulkarim, ESQ
Elegant and successful, Hajia Muinat Bola Shagaya has always radiated the aura of a simple, yet inspiring woman. Having always exuded grace, bravery and thoughtfulness, all qualities of a queen; it is no surprise that she has now been recognized as such by His Highness, Mai Martaba, Emir of Ilorin, Dr. Ibrahim Sulu-Gambari.
It was on Sunday, 25th December, 2022, at the 57th Annual National Conference of the Ilorin Emirate Descendants Progressive Union (IEDPU) where Hajia Bola Shagaya was the Chief Launcher for the union’s ICT Hub that the Emir, on behalf of the community, finally honoured the long years of philantropism and community development efforts of the renowned business woman; unveiling her as the first Sarauniya (Queen) of Ilorin Emirate.
Having held her place in her line of business, which is largely dominated by men, for many years, Hajia Bola Shagaya has been quite an inspiration and a role model to many, particularly the female gender.
Regarded as one of the richest women on the African continent, Hajia Bola Shagaya has used her wealth to better the lots of many families in Ilorin. In the area of job creation, for instance, the new Sarauniya influenced the Unity Bank, owned largely by her family, to expand its operational base in order to increase its capacity to take in many staff, mostly Ilorin indigenes. But the job opportunities she advanced Ilorin sons and daughters in the bank would only be a compelling news because it is still a subsisting business.
However, as far back as the late 1990s and early 2000, Hajia Shagaya, through her now rested Fotofair, a photo printing Company, employed more than 60% of its staff from Kwara State to work in its numerous Photo Laboratories in all the States of the Federation. And when she decided to sell off the Labs, she ensured that many of the buyers, who of course bought the Laboratories at a very huge discount, were from Ilorin. She has since then continued to expand the frontiers of her support to all segments of people within the Emirate.
Sometimes around 2012, the same Hajia Bola Shagaya, under a sort of fertilizer subsidy scheme, partnered the Federal government to assist farmers in Kwara State so that their farm produce could yield better. Under the arrangement, the government agreed to pay only 60% of the total cost of the fertilizer supplied to farmers in Kwara State, while the new Sarauniya paid the balance of 40%. Throughout the lifespan of the project, an estimated one hundred and twenty thousand (120,000) farmers in Kwara State benefited from the subsidized fertilizer scheme. This is in addition to about a hundred and twenty (120) people she employed during the farming season to oversaw the distribution.
As at the time Ilorin Emirate’s struggle to secure Federal Government jobs was at its deepest, Hajia Shagaya was known to use her influence to secure employments for many. At the last count, more than 100 Kwarans, with a sizeable being from Ilorin, had secured appointments into the Nigerian Security and Civil Defence Corps (NSCDC), Nigerian Navy, Customs, Immigration, and other Federal Government Parastatals through the new Sarauniya.
In addition, when Ilorin celebrated the appointment of Alhaji Elelu as the first Assistant Comptroller General of Customs, it was through the intervention of Hajia Bola Shagaya. With the prevailing zoning politics of the Customs High Command, it was certain that the appointment would have eluded Ilorin without the amazon, as the business woman is called, bringing her influence to bear and ensuring the outcome was in favour of a son of the Emirate.
Again, when attempt was made to block the re-appointment of one of the illustrious sons of Ilorin, Professor Oba Abdulraheem, as the Federal Character Commission (FCC) Chairman, it was again the Sarauniya who came to the rescue of the affable prof. She stood by the man to make sure he retained his seat.
Ilorin Emirate is most proud of its Islamic heritage, and Hajia Bola Shagaya is one of the well-to-do in our community who have continued to make significant contributions towards deepening our religious values. During the launch of the remodeled Ilorin Central Mosque, she made a donation of #10million. In addition, she has consistently made a donation of between 5 to 8 million Naira every Ramadan to be shared to people in Ilorin Emirate, particularly the indigents. This is apart from the many from the community who she sponsors on Hajj and Umrah every year.
Beyond her personal financial and philanthropic contributions to Ilorin Emirate, it is gratifying to note the manner in which the new Sarauniya has encouraged her children to give back to their community of birth. Using the platform of the Salman Shagaya Foundation, her sons, particularly Mallam Sheriff Shagaya and Muktar Tolani Shagaya, have continued to undertake consistent empowerment programmes through which they offered support to small scale traders and widows; in addition to the distribution and installation of solar panels in many homes within and outside Ilorin Emirate. They have, no doubt, continued to follow in the footsteps of their mother whose goodness is legendary.
As the first Sarauniya of Ilorin Emirate and one of the richest women in Africa, it is glaring that the title has placed on this woman of substance greater responsibilities, both to our people and the community. It also, no doubt, depicts the Emir’s recognition of the need to continue to honour and reward all sons and daughters of the Emirate who are doing good and making significant contributions to the growth and development of the community. This is why I pray to God to bless the new Queen with more years, good health and the sound mind to fulfill the expectations attached to her new role.