Sunday, May 2, 2021 9:00 am
By Nehru Odeh
Chief Mrs Taiwo Taiwo comes across not just as a woman of substance but also of steel. And she has proved that she is not only a woman of immense talent, creativity, entrepreneurial ability and energy but also as the British novelist Virginia Woolf would say, one who has created a room of her own by sheer dint of hard work, in spite of her privileged background.
Indeed, that was the view of everyone who converged on Lagos Motor Boat Club at Ikoyi, Lagos on Sunday 25 April, 2021 to celebrate this woman, who though lost her father, a successful politician and industrialist, when she was 13, but went on in spite of that unnerving tragedy to make her mark not just as a woman but one who holds her own at the local and international levels.
Taiwo’s story is that of an incredible woman who at 29 was saddled with a huge responsibility of managing her family’s business and building the high-rise building called Elephant House and never shirked that responsibility. Taiwo’s story is that of a woman who at 19, as an undergraduate at the University of Lagos, showed her entrepreneurial spirit when she sold jewelry to her fellow students. Taiwo’s story is that of a woman, who at a very young age showed her never-say-die spirit when she always made sure she accomplished whatever her mother asked to do, for instance, drawing debts from her mother’s debtors and making sure that they are paid. And she went on to achieve many other things in life.
It was an evening of reminiscences, of music, testimonies and tributes. It was an evening spiced up with merriment and the cool refreshing breeze from the lagoon. It was also, indeed, an evening of the unveiling of Taiwo Tawo’s newly published autobiography, My Mother’s Daughter and the rich, exciting and indefatigable life, though tinged with some tragedies, the author has led in her three scores and ten years of earth.
Still, the remarkable thing about the presentation of the book is that it coincided with the 70th birthday of the author whose rich and eventful life tells the story of a period in Nigeria’s history, that encompasses its politics, culture and business, and that makes it an “unputdownable” read.
Distinguished guests present at the event included multiple award-winning Nollywood actress, Joke Silva, Executive Publisher Quramo Publishing, Gbemi Sashore; former Attorney General and Commissioner for Justice in Lagos State and author, Supo Sashore; Group Head, Marketing and Corporate Communications, First Bank , Folake Ani-Mumuney; and distinguished legal practitioner, Adedolapo Akerele, SAN.
There was also a vibrant conversation around the book from which guests not only read several excepts they find fascinating but also what is it that thrills them about the book. The conversation indeed made the evening one to remember, as it was eye-opening and shed light on what made Taiwo the achiever, the go-getter, that she is and the invaluable role her mother played in making that happen.
Gbemi Sashore, whose Quramo Publishing, published Taiwo’s book, My Mother’s Daughter, set the ball rolling with a short speech. She expressed her delight and sense of fulfillment at seeing what she described not just as an art work but also a super piece of work come to fruition. “This is such a delightful evening for me when you see works of projects come to fruition. It’s wonderful. And when it’s a super piece of work, you get totally ecstatic like I am about Aunty’s book, My Mother’s Daughter,” she said.
Sashore also spoke about how Joke Silva, whom she described as an angel and a friend of the house, introduced the celebrant to her and her publishing team fell in love with the book project. “We took one look at the manuscript, had some discussions with the author and fell in love with the project because we knew that the content of the book would do a lot. We knew that the contents of the book tells a story that spans through a couple of decades and we knew that it would inspire a lot of people. So it was a project that we wanted to take on because it fits all our boxes. She didn’t hold anything back. It was easy to work with her because she talked about her highs and her lows with ease and with style.
“The wit and the humour throughout this book is just totally commendable and it gives you an insight into the personality of Chief Mrs Taiwo Taiwo. I think throughout everything, it’s her personality that strikes you the most. And as Dolapo (Akerele) said, if you think you know her, then read this book, then you will know her again.”
Ani-Mumuney described Taiwo as someone who has lived the life of impact. She said My Mother’s Daughter tells the story of the life of impact the author has lived as well as the story of her mother, both of whom she described as very strong women. She is, dare I say, a leader without a title, an advocate and she just packed so much into her 70 years.”
She also said the book is unputdownable because of its broad sweep and it gives one a historical account of Lagos as well as a view of the culture of Lagos of the day – of the Nigerian and Yoruba culture. “But more importantly I thought she told the story of opportunity, seizing opportunity and having the courage to seize opportunity, to stand up for what you believe in.”
“Throughout the book one thing you will find about Chief Mrs Taiwo Taiwo is her attention to detail, her ability to observe many different things.
“There is so much about the building of Elephant House itself that shows the strength, the courage, the tenacity, the resilience of Chief Mrs Taiwo Taiwo. But it also showed the mother who thoroughly trusted her young daughter, knowing what she has instilled in her. I think it is also testimony to what we can all achieve if we really put our minds to achieve it.”
Ani-Mumuney also said Taiwo is a study in determination and accomplishment, of how much difference one individual can make in the society. “I think it is really important that, going down memory lane, we look at this precocious child that she must have been at the time. And reading through the book we understand how she become and how she grew up to become a formidable woman.
“The author says small victories lead to bigger victories. I think that is what I will pick from this and that is what I will enjoin all of us to remember, that small victories lead to biger victories. And I think she lived her life really ensuring that with every victory she went on to bigger victory.”
Akerele said not only did he enjoy the broad sweep of the book, the author’s expansive knowledge – the length and breadth of her knowledge of many things – but also that the book is unputdownable and makes for a compelling read. “I think it was just incredible how this book unveiled for me supportive parents, a talented father who we all know was Awo’s right hand man and of course a determined mother.”
He described the author as a force of nature, who is strong-willed, visionary and has eyes for details. He also said the author is indefatigable and obviously well- travelled and has a never-say-die, never-give-up spirit. “So in terms of the formative years I think there was some form of rebellion. I am astounded by the fact that the author walked out of school in Yaba and headed to Maryland, to her home. I think it just showed the kind of strong-willed nature of the author.”
Joke Silva spoke about how she finds the book so interesting, captivating and filmic. She praised the author’s power of description which, according to her, is so vivid and filled in the gaps. She also spoke about the historical perspectives that the author gives to concepts. “I guess what also interested me was the political, your interest in politics from a very early age,” the actress said, as she read extensively an excerpt from the book that deals with politics
The popular Nollywood actress talked about the author’s honesty to her story, her bluntness, her speaking the truth, no matter whose ox is gored. “That is one thing you find throughout the book, no holds barred, even when she is talking about those she loves. She says it as she sees it.
“This is certainly a book that teaches us about citizen’s engagement. The country belongs to us, not just for politicians. And all of us have to work together to salvage it. That really is the central core and message of this book.
“That sense of duty. That sense of making sure that things had to be done. Just because there was a challenge, getting in there and fix the challenge. You find thst right throughout the book. She just had that sense of building an empire and never let it go to rot ,.. I totally agree with you, the fact that wanting to get something done, knowing that something needed to be one and coming together with the right set of people.”
The celebrant, who was palpably appreciative of those who graced the occasion, thanked them for honouring the invitation. And while responding to Akerele’s submission that she never knew Taiwo was a Shonibare until he read the book, said she was proud of being a Shonibare and of being the brand Taiwo Taiwo had become. “I am very proud because I am my own brand, Taiwo Taiwo. I am very proud of it. I am very proud of being a Shonibare. But I am proud of being Taiwo Taiwo. I am just being anonymous but doing what I need to do,” she submitted.