Tribute to a True African Matriarch: Iyalode Alaba Lawson

On October 28, 2023. Iyalode Alaba Oluwaseun Lawson, a name synonymous with leadership, philanthropy, and community impact, departed this world leaving behind a legacy that will continue to touch generations yet to come. Today, we pay tribute to a real-life “Akinkanju” of Yorubaland, a true African matriarch, a global business magnate, who meant so much more in the hearts of millions of others across the globe.

The Early Years: A “Child of Load Carriers”

Born on January 18, 1951, to Papa and Mrs. Emmanuel Abiona Jiboku in Abeokuta, Iyalode Alaba Lawson’s remarkable journey commenced against a backdrop of rich family history. Her paternal grandfather, Pa Abraham Jiboku, known as Edun, traded in European goods, while her maternal grandfather, Pa Coker, was a cocoa merchant. Given their stocky build, Iyalode Alaba and her siblings earned the endearing nickname, “Omo Aderu Lona Meji,” meaning “children of load carriers,” from their merchant grandparents.

Early in life, Iyalode Alaba was introduced to a life of faith as her parents joined the Jehovah’s Witness sect, embarking on itinerant evangelism, a journey young Alaba accompanied them on.

Education and Profession

Alaba’s pursuit of education began with open classes in front of St. John’s Church, Igbehin, Abeokuta, before she joined St. James’ African Primary School in Idi-Ape, Abeokuta, between 1957 and 1962. She completed her West African School Certificate at the Abeokuta Girls’ Grammar School (Anglican Girls’ Grammar School) before venturing to England to pursue further studies.

In England, Alaba attended St. Nicholas Montessori Teachers’ Training College, where she distinguished herself by achieving a First-Class Diploma in Education with honors, becoming the first African student to attain this distinction from the institution. While in England, she worked as a teacher in prestigious nurseries, including Mill Hill Nursery and Junior School and the renowned Queen’s Gate Montessori Nursery School.

Upon returning to Nigeria, Alaba Lawson briefly continued her teaching career before venturing into entrepreneurship. She founded Lawson’s Childcare Nursery and Primary School with just three students. What started as a small seed has since blossomed into the Lawson Group of Schools, which underscores her resolute devotion to education. This group comprises Lawson’s International Private School (1977), Lawson’s Continuing Education Centre (1992), Alaba Lawson Royal College Abeokuta (1995), and Alaba Lawson School of Advanced Studies (2003).

Her involvement extended to the world of commerce and industry with the establishment of Capricorn Stores Ltd., a trading and distribution business, which she managed from 1968 to 1996 while simultaneously overseeing the management of the Lawson Group of Schools.

Leadership and Advocacy

Iyalode Alaba Lawson’s leadership was characterized by unwavering dedication and a strong sense of justice. She was elected President of the Abeokuta Chambers of Commerce in 1995, during her leadership, the Ogun State government granted permission to use “Commerce House” as the secretariat for the Abeokuta Chamber of Commerce (ABEOCCIMA). Her leadership was instrumental in uniting Ogun State’s private sector to advocate for business development. She later served as the President of the Ogun Council of Chambers of Commerce from 1995 to 2000 and was elected President of Odu’a Chambers of Commerce from 2000 to 2002.

Iyalode Alaba Lawson was a philanthropist of great stature, and she constantly contributed to the development of the grassroots and underprivileged communities. Her scholarship program, aimed at deserving but impoverished students, epitomized her commitment to academic excellence.

A Woman of Many Titles

Throughout her life, Iyalode Alaba Lawson was honored with various chieftaincy titles, including the Otun of Oko, Asiwaju Iyalode of Egbaland, Otun Iyalode of Egba Christians, Iyalode of Egbaland, and the prestigious Iyalode of Yorubaland, an honor conferred upon her by H.R.M. Oba Lamidi Adeyemi, Iku Baba Yeye, the Alaafin of Oyo Kingdom.

She also served as the matron of various societies, including butchers, blacksmiths, welders and iron benders, palm oil sellers, fresh fish sellers, herbs and roots sellers, and the Ogun State Union of Journalists, among others.

A Champion of Empowerment and Philanthropy

Iyalode Alaba Lawson’s philanthropic efforts extended to the grassroots and underprivileged communities. She established the Iyalode Egba Foundation, a nonprofit organization dedicated to advancing the moral, social, and economic status of women. She provided locally made machines to women’s organizations in Ogun State to empower female traders, using her personal resources and influence to promote cooperative lending among rural women and the less fortunate.

International Recognition

In recognition of her contributions to the organized private sector and the growth of quality education in Nigeria, the State of Georgia, in the United States of America, honored Iyalode Alaba Lawson with honorary citizenship in November 2017.

She Set Her Own Goal-Post in Leadership

Iyalode Alaba Lawson’s leadership extended to the national and international level. She served as the 1st Deputy National President of Nigeria, Association of Chambers of Commerce, Industry, Mines & Agriculture (NACCIMA) since 2013. She was also Chairman of the Board of Governing Council, Moshood Abiola Polytechnic, Ogun State, from 2013 until her passing in 2023.

Iyalode Alaba Lawson leaves behind a legacy that inspires us all to lead with dedication, empathy, and a sense of justice. Her contributions to education, philanthropy, and community leadership have touched the lives of many and continue to make a positive impact on society.

We will continue to remember and honor her legacy. Iyalode Alaba Lawson’s spirit and influence will live on, for generations to come. Rest on, Akinkanju!