Classics, Interviews

‘Palliatives should have been put in place before removal of fuel subsidy’ -Princess Toyin Kolade

PRINCESS Toyin Kolade of Fisolak fame is, no doubt, a very successful business woman, who has her hands in a chain of businesses including oil and gas, maritime, furniture and many more.  But as busy as the Ilesa, Osun State multiple award winner is, she told ENCOMIUM Weekly that she still cooks for her husband and much more in a one-on-one interview with her on Saturday, January 7, 2012.


What’s your candid opinion about fuel subsidy removal?

As far as I am concerned, it is very unfair to our nation, especially at this time that our economy is very bad.  Right now, we don’t have functioning electricity, no good roads, no employment for our graduates, they are just roaming the streets.  I don’t know why the government is in a haste to implement the policy at this very time.  Now, New Year has just started.  Left to me, nothing is wrong in removing the subsidy but people need to be educated, we need to be enlightened about the whole process.  That’s why I also support the masses because the approval and timing is wrong.  Everybody is aware of the fact that we are all Africans, especially we Nigerians.  The country is bad at the moment.  As a person, I like President Goodluck Jonathan.  He is a very nice person but maybe he is surrounded by wrong advisers.  He should have done a lot of public enlightenment on the scheme before its implementation.  He should have weighed its consequences on the masses because all the infrastructure are not functioning at the moment.  Another thing is that the masses are not sure of the integrity of the people that will be managing the funds that may accrue from the removal of fuel subsidy.

In what way do you think the subsidy removal is going to take its toll on your business?

It is already affecting our business.  For instance, those you employed will be expected to get to work early every day but the main excuse now is hike in transport fare.  Everything is doubled.  How much is the salary anyway? And then, there is no stable electricity supply.  You can imagine how much people are spending in running their generators.  One of the reasons I support the removal of oil subsidy is that some people import fuel two times and they will go to the government and collect money for nine times.  That’s why the government decided not to be wasting money on such ill-fated importation.  But the main fear of the masses is that we don’t trust the government on what will be done with the money that will be realized from the removal.

What is your workable suggestion to our government on the issue?

Just like I told you, I am not totally against fuel subsidy removal but the government should give us stable electricity, drinkable water, good roads and all that. I was in Kenya last year, they have good electricity and they don’t have the kind of resources we have.  In Nigeria, we have fuel.  The only thing I think the government is supposed to do is to ensure that our oil is refined in Nigeria instead of refining it elsewhere and bringing it back at expensive prices. There is nothing wrong in contacting foreigners to come to our country and do it for us if we can’t do it rather than taking the crude oil to them and they refine it for us.  We don’t need to waste our time and funds when we know there are cheaper ways of doing it.   If Mr. President puts all the infrastructure in place, things will be working fine and I am sure, Nigerians won’t forget him.  That will also ensure enabling environment for businesses to grow.  Government should please revert to N65 per litre, just for the sake of the suffering masses.  It is only about 10 per cent of the populace that are rich while about 90 per cent are poor.  If some of those in power visit the rural areas in Nigeria, they will see that some areas don’t have electricity, they don’t have pipe borne water and so on.  Most villagers still drink stream water.  That’s why we’re still hearing of outbreak of cholera in some places.  It won’t be helpful and fair if w start condemning Mr. President. I think we should all pray for him so that he can succeed in his administration.

Let’s talk about your career as a businesswoman.  What’s your focus in 2012?

My focus this year is to make sure I expand my building materials business and make sure I extend my business to Ikeja, Lagos, in a big way.  That doesn’t mean I am abandoning my business in Apapa.  Apapa still remains my base.

We learnt you started out as a businesswoman about 20 years ago, how true is it?

I give God all the glory (laughs).

Since then till this moment, what has been the biggest decision you ever took that actually led to the success of your career?

I can’t just say –but I believe it’s God that has been directing me all this while.  Without God, I can’t do anything.  My principle is that if I embark on any business and I discover that it’s not going to be profitable, I drop it.  But if I am into any business and I discover it’s going to pay me, I will continue.  But above all, God has been my backbone.

When exactly was the turning point in your life?

Every day of my life is my turning point.  I never regretted anything.

When was your major break in business?

I can also say because I experience good things every day in my business, it’s a new day, new thing.  That’s how God has been doing it for me.

How would you describe business generally in Nigeria at the moment?

Business is bad generally because when you decide to bring in new things into the country, people don’t have enough money to purchase them.  But left to me, I can’t be discouraged about that.  I will continue to bring in new things believing people will buy them.  The basic problem is that people are suffering, they are only looking for food to eat.  How many businessmen and women can even import goods now?  So, that’s the problem many of us are facing, but I thank God, I am coping very well.

What advice do you have for the government on this?

Government should just allow the people to be free, create an enabling environment for business to grow, make all our infrastructure work.

With the benefit of hindsight, what do you think can make one succeed in business?

Not in business alone, to make you succeed generally, you must be closer to God.  You must be honest and humble.

How supportive is your husband?

Very, very supportive.  I am not regretting that I am married to him.

What is your ambition concerning your business?

I have a plan to extend my business outlets to other states including Oyo, Osun, Ogun, Rivers and others.

Let’s digress to something quite personal, what’s your opinion about marriage?

It’s all about love.  As a woman, you must love your husband, while the husband must love his wife also.  The two of you must be honest with each other.  And as a businesswoman, you must not allow your business to affect your matrimonial responsibilities.  Then as a wife, one must be very humble.  As for me, I cook for my husband.  Cooking is even one of my hobbies.  I take food to my husband in his office.  No matter how busy I am, I still have time for my husband and children.

It’s not an easy thing staying in a marriage as long as you live, what’s the main secret?

Nothing.  But just like I said earlier, as a wife, you just have to be very humble, see your husband as the head, irrespective of whatever you maybe.  If there is any issue between you and your husband, just calm down.  No marriage can last when husband and wife fight every day.

Would you say you really enjoy your marriage?

Very, very well.  I am happy for the peace in my home.

Would you say God has been kind to you?

If there is any other word apart from kind, I will appreciate it. He has been so wonderful in my life, I will thank Him forever.

What more do you want Him to do for you?

I want more blessings in my business.  I want more of God’s guidance and peace in my family.  I also want good health, long life and joy so that I can enjoy the fruit of my labour.  The basic joy are my children and I pray that God should take care of them, make them children of substance in Nigeria and beyond.


This story was first published in ENCOMIUM Weekly on Tuesday, January 10, 2011

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