Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Alhaja Abibatu Mogaji (1917-2013), Pioneer in Nigerian Trade

Alhaja Abibatu Mogaji (1917-2013)

Nigerian Guardian

FRONTLINE leader and President-General, Association of Nigerian Market Women and Men, Alhaja Abibatu Mogaji, who died on June 15, at the age of 96 made her name as a political activist before her latter-day renown as mother of the former Governor of Lagos State, Bola Ahmed Tinubu. She was vocal on the side of the truth and resolute in defence of the downtrodden. Her political activism elevated her to the caravan of the privileged but she remained an advocate of the unprivileged from whom she drew her remarkable relevance. There were women of substance even in her era but she stood out. Not privileged by birth, not elevated by marrying up and certainly not lucky with formal education, Mogaji did it her way: hard work, fearlessness and unflinching commitment to her courses.

From humble beginnings, she grew up to become a prominent figure in politics and commerce. She was a political activist at a time when few women ventured into politics under the colonial government. She was a strong supporter of Chief Obafemi Awolowo, the first Premier of the old Western Region and his Action Group. Her political activism must have inspired her son, Bola Ahmed Tinubu, who rose to become Governor of Lagos State and is now a formidable force in Nigerian politics.

A grassroots mobiliser, Abibatu Mogaji was known to have, many times, prevailed on market men and women in Lagos to reduce prices of items in the public interest. Her formidable influence and leadership ability was evident in the obedience and unflinching support she received from the traders. Hers, therefore, was a perfect example of the greater power of influence over raw power; that power is not wielded by intimidation or compulsion but by an exemplary character that endears the leader to the led.

Alhaja Mogaji, the Iya Loja, as she was popularly known, was indeed a nucleus of power in Lagos where she was known as a mother to all.

A forthright and fearless defender of whatever was right, her death leaves a vacuum that would be difficult to fill.

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