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That 25-Year Old Furniture Maker is now the First Female Chairman of Nigeria’s Largest Bank

Ibukun Awosika is an inspiration. When you hear her or meet her; her passion shines through. She is an entrepreneur; with deep convictions and a deeper will to act. She is her message and all around the world there are hundreds of admirers, staff and mentees that can attest to this as well.

Ibukun Awosika’s rise to success

When I heard of her appointment as chairman of First Bank Plc, the exciting news for most was that she was the first female chairman of one of Africa’s most powerful banks but what stood out to me the most was how she started; she started by making great furniture.

Integrity. It is not just a human attribute; her leather, wood, cloth, steel and foam also have integrity. She makes such great products; her work can stand the test of time. Today, she is not the Minister for Works and Construction in her home country Nigeria (even though she would obviously make a darn good one!), she is the Chairman of a financial institution; yet she has never worked in a bank before.

Banking skills did not give her this; it was personal skills that did; not great accounting and analytic skills; it was just the fact that many of those who have met her were able to trust her. They trust her for great furniture; so many boards trust her for great vision, the country trusts her to improve national job creation and now she is trusted to chair the First Bank board.

So Mr great guy Business Man, with all your MBAs and special skills; it appears that on this evidence and so many others; trustworthiness is the name of the game. And you know that thing they say about a good name being better than riches; I think they have a solid point!

First Bank of Nigeria Holdings Plc. yesterday announced the appointment of Mrs. Ibukun Abiodun Awosika as the new board chairperson of Nigeria’s second largest lender. She takes over the helm of affairs from Prince Ajibola Afonja who is retiring. This appointment makes Ibukun the first woman to assume this position since the establishment of First Bank of Nigeria in 1894. She was a non-Executive Director of the Bank before her appointment.

Ibukun was born in Ibadan in 1962 to a Nigerian father, Mr. Abdulmashood Adekola and Cameroonian mother Hannah Aduke Adekola nee Ashu.  She graduated with a Bachelor’s degree in Chemistry from the University of Ife (now Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife). Ibukun is an alumna of the Chief Executive Programme of Lagos Business School and the Global Executive MBA Programme of the prestigious IESE Business School, Barcelona, Spain.


Ibukun started her career as an Audit Trainee during her National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) at Akintola William & Co (now Deloitte). After her NYSC she moved to Alibert Nigeria Ltd a furniture company where she worked as a show room Manager for three months. She resigned from Alibert Nigeria Ltd at the age of 25 to begin her entrepreneurship journey. She started her own furniture manufacturing company; Quebees Ltd that later evolved to The Chair Centre Ltd.

The Chair Centre Ltd is now a market leader in office furniture and banking security systems industries with a modern factory and office facility in Lekki, Lagos state. She is also the MD/CEO of a joint-venture company, Sokoa Chair Centre Ltd, created as a result of the ban on importation of furniture by the Federal Government of Nigeria in 2004. Sokia Chair Centre is a joint venture between The Chair Centre Ltd, Sokoa S.A of France and Guaranty Trust Bank Plc. She has also opened branches of The Chair Centre Ltd in Accra Ghana and Tinapa in Calabar Nigeria.

Ibukun Awosika sits at the board of several companies among which are Cadbury Nigeria Plc, Digital Jewels Ltd and Convention on Business Integrity. She is also the Chairman, Board of Trustees of Women in Management and Business (WIMBIZ), as well as the Chairman of Intermac, the organisers of SmartCard Conference in Nigeria.

She is a TV personality and host of a popular television programme, Business His Way, where she shares ethical business values and principles with business communities across Africa. She has written two books with the titles “The Girl Entrepreneur: Our stories so far” and “Business His way.”

She is not only an entrepreneur but also a patriotic Nigerian, which made her serve in various capacities such as member of the National Job Creation Committee (NCJC), member of the Corporate Governance Committee for the NNPC, board member of the Nigerian Sovereign Wealth Fund and member of the National Economic Summit Group (NESG).

According to an official report, she is currently setting up SCC ALGON providing metal-based component for the furniture manufacturing and related industries. She is also setting up The Furniture Village Cluster, a joint venture with the Ogun State Government to provide infrastructure, skills and support to a cluster of SME firms with similar raw material requirements.

Ibukun is a fellow of the Aspen Global Leadership Network and a multiple award-winning entrepreneur. In addition, she is a multiple award winning entrepreneur and the First Nigerian recipient to be nominated for the prestigious International Women Entrepreneurial Challenge (IWEC) Award of the US Department of State in 2008.

Mrs Awosika has helped several entrepreneurs to stand on their feet one of which is Tara Durotoye, Founder, House of Tara. She helped Tara to secure a loan of N500,00o when she was facing some difficulties with funding her start up.


Written by PH

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