The mention or mental image of Ibukun Awosika (popularly called Pastor Blessing in church) elicits a number of emotions ranging from awe – with many other mind affairs thrown in between – to a twinge of envy as to why one person should have it all, whereas countless others are still ‘believing God’ for just one breakthrough. Yet, many others wonder how she copes with all the responsibilities in her own chain of businesses, in the corporate world, on the numerous boards she chairs or sits, in church, and yet is still able to run a successful home, mothering three sons and mentoring so many people.
Considered from afar or close range, the life of Ibukun Awosika throws up a number of puzzles which we must take time to analyse before attempting to piece together, as the dynamics of human existence are not as straightforward as the most complex of jigsaws. The secret things still belong to God, while humans only have to contend with the ones He reveals. Yet, we have another masterpiece of God’s goodness in Ibukun Awosika, and it won’t be a bad idea to try and understand why she is always in the news for all the positive reasons.
At a point, it was announced that she won the IWEC (International Women Entrepreneurial Challenge) award from US Department of State, the first Nigerian to be so honoured. Not long after that, she was appointed on the boards of several prestigious establishments including Cadbury Nigeria, the Nigerian Sovereign Investment Authority, Convention on Business Integrity, Lagos State University, and the International Advisory Board of IESE Business School, Barcelona, Spain.
She was also named a member of Nigerian Economic Summit Group, National Committee on Job Creation, African Leadership Initiative, Aspen Global Leadership Network, whilst she has chaired or presently chairs the boards of Women in Business and Management & Public Service (WIMBIZ), FBN Capital Limited; Kakawa Discount House Limited, Afterschool Graduate Development Centre, and FBN Life Assurance Limited. Now, she is in the news as the first woman to be appointed Chair of the nation’s oldest bank, First Bank Nigeria Plc.
No doubt, hers is a chronicle of God’s blessing, as her adopted name means, but could she have gotten it wrong at some points in her life? As a child who spent a large part of her childhood with her illiterate grandma in Ibadan; or as a frustrated undergraduate who wanted to study Accounting, then Law, and then Architecture, but finally settled for Chemistry (which, according to her, she loathed so much), could she have taken a wrong turn that would have made her story entirely different from the one we know today?
As one born and raised in a home with rich Islamic heritage, who could not stand the sight of Christians on campus, particularly the SUs, could she have lost it at this point? And having lasted in paid employment for just three months before venturing out to start her own business at age 25, then later saying ‘Yes’ to the man she eventually married, without the benefit of the counsels we are now availed at business and singles’ fellowships in making such decisions, could any of these moves have proven life-defining for her?
Similarly, in making choices as to how she wanted to run her business and sticking to her gun of not giving bribes or sleeping with any man for business favour in an environment where such are rife, might she have found herself under the turbulent tides of socio-economic forces rather than on top of them? After all, bad things happen to even people with the best of intentions. And when she finally decided to give her life to Christ, the first in her family, and adopt a more Christianly name, Ibukun (Blessing), over the Bilkisu she was christened, what if her new faith didn’t yield enough to convince other members of her family, the last of whom was her Alhaji father, to follow suit?
Life comes with a myriad of ifs. Whilst only God can accurately answer all the questions of our lives, He has nonetheless placed around us people whose life journey we can reference to make sense of our own and whose examples we can follow (1 Corinthians 10:11) – not necessarily replicate, as no two lives are the same – to chart the course of our own greatness. In Ibukun Awosika, our generation is blessed with one of those human lighthouses God uses to provide inspiration, direction and gumption to many. Running through her odyssey from childhood till date is a theme of sound decisions, devoid of sentimental clouding, and gut to follow through on such decisions even when the odds are stacked high against them.
It was the reason she chose to stay true to herself rather than capitalise on her grandmother’s limited education to indulge in puerile excesses. It was the reason she decided not to become a misfit but rather see the course she was offered at the university through, despite having her mind somewhere else. It was the reason she chose to resign her job after three months when she didn’t like the values of her employers and start her own business instead so she could do things as she considered best. It was the same reason she chose to marry her husband instead of a diplomat who would have offered her a name and not much else afterward. That same pattern is evidenced in the way she chose to give her life to Jesus after He delivered her sister from the throes of death when no one or nothing else could do it. And having settled for Jesus, she blazes His gospel everywhere she goes not minding whose ox is gored.
The testimony of Ibukun Awosika is about a woman who chooses her commitment, makes her decision, and follows through until her choice produces the kind of result she had always known it would yield. From what we can see, it is obvious she got them right more times than wrong.