An era ended on Saturday evening when the revered president of the market men and women and a strong pillar of progressive grassroots politics in Lagos State, Alhaja Abibatu Mogaji, breathed her last. She was aged 96.
The quest for an eco-friendly, economically viable, humanly habitable and hygienically welcoming market place has been the life battles of Alhaja Ashabi Abibatu Mogaji – the Amazon of the market place. Until her death on Saturday, she had dedicated a larger part of her adult life to protecting the rights of market men and women, mobilising them for greatness and innovation, and giving every market person a brand to associate with.
After taking tutelage and learning the ropes before taking the mantle of leadership from her mentor, late Madam Pelewura, Alhaja Mogaji threw her great weight into the battle to have a saner market place, where the rights of the market people are not trampled upon, and at the same time not in conflict with the rules of the state.
Under her leadership, Thursdays of every week was made compulsory sanitation day for market men and women. This is aside the daily advocacy campaign of her administration to enlighten the market folks on government policies like census, voting, climate change, immunization and other economically beneficial initiatives by the private sector.
Lagos market is a mixture of an elitist class who prefer the malls and the petty traders who prefer to haggle over price. It was no tough choice in 2009 when Lagos State government picked Mogaji to chair the state’s market board in its bid to efficiently administer the market system and bridge the elite-market women divide.
Various traditional rulers and interest groups honoured Mogaji in her lifetime with more than 10 titles across the nation. Some of such titles include President General, Association of Nigerian market women and men, Iya Adinni of Yaya Abatan Central Mosque, Ogba-Agege, Yeye Oba of Ikirun Land, Yeye Oba of Kweme Kingdom, Badagry, Yeye Oba of Osolu Kingdom, and Yeye Oba of Lagos among others.
In 2011, the late Iya Oloja of Nigeria was listed in 50@50, a catalogue of celebrated female achievers, ranging from professionals to business owners, community advocates, home-makers, political and everyday women, who in the course of their careers, charted worthy paths for others to follow.
Others in the exclusive list of 50 to mark Nigeria’s 50 years of independence include Grace Awani Alele-Williams, first Nigerian woman to earn a doctorate degree and first female Vice Chancellor of a Nigerian university; Agbani Darego, first black woman from an African country to be crowned the Miss World and Chimamanda Ngozi Adiche.
Smarting from massive loss of goods, properties and means of livelihood due to market fires, Mogaji led a campaign in recent years challenging insurance companies to bring their services closer to market women as part of the enlightenment campaign to popularise insurance among traders.
At a recent event, she advised insurers to toe the line of banks that in the wake of stiff competition opened shops in various markets across the country, which helped to inculcate banking habits in traders, who before then were storing their money in their homes.
Extolling her leadership virtues, chairman of Ejigbo Local Council Development Area, Kehinde Bamigbetan, said: “Alhaja Mogaji made her mark as a deft manager of leadership in the market, which is one of the most complex arena of power struggle, particularly among guilds and the governmental regulators. She was not only the mother but also the coach of Asiwaju Bola Tinubu in his foray into politics.”
‘Fond memories of my mother,’ Tinubu
Speaking to newsmen shortly after the interment, the former governor of Lagos State recalled some of the fond moments he spent with Alhaja Mogaji, saying that she inspired him greatly during his eight years reign as Governor of Lagos State
“I miss her lunch even when I am full. I am very happy that she is my mother. She is a very successful mother. She is a good leader. She didn’t put anyone in suffering before she departed from this world. She is so kind and the God was also kind to her. She is a good thinker, passionate and compassionate. She has left a very good legacy for everyone”.
He said he took solace in the fact that she impacted in all those she came across during her 96 glorious years on earth.
“She was the one who asked me to look at the face of three women who had the challenge of paying their children’s West African Examination Council (WAEC) fee, which touched me. It isn’t the amount of money I pulled out of my pocket but as a Governor then, I began to the policy of paying WAEC fee of pupils in Lagos state public schools. Those are the things that will fascinate anyone about my late mother”.
“She taught everyone she came across contentment, love and the act of sharing especially to the needy.
The former governor said there were many lessons women could learn from the life of Mogaji, saying that “as women leaders of the society, they have to continue to plan together, share issues, share discussions and look at the right direction. Commitment to the education of their children is the best weapon against poverty and ignorance. Once you get out of that, definitely the nation will benefit and progress.”