BY OYINDAMOLA LAWAL
CHANGE is Olajumoke Olufunmilola Adenowo’s passion. The Ibadan, Oyo State-born architect is committed to making change in the society, especially as it affects the womenfolk. It is this passion that led her to establish Awesome Treasures Foundation (ATF) in 1999. And over the years, her faith based non-governmental organisation has identified, developed and deployed transformational leaders to affect the lives of Nigerians in line with the Millennium Developmental Goals (MDGs) declared by the United Nations.
What does ATF aims at?
She chuckles amid a long breath. “National transformation.”
As ambitious as that may seem, “it is our aim to raise transformational leaders who will birth a national renaissance — to see a new Nigeria emerge in our lifetime.”
And the response?
Adenowo laughs, “I have always been unusually passionate about Nigeria, even as a child. I abhorred waste of potential. When I was in the university, I was actively involved in a group praying for Nigeria every month. Faith without works is dead, so, the next logical step was to give expression to my passion by mobilising women and youth with a clear and strong sense of purpose for the desired change,” she says. “Every position we find ourselves in is expressly willed or permitted by God, therefore every access to human, material and whatever resources must be pressed into the service of God and humanity.”
She says, “it is obvious that any intervention, no matter how huge and spectacular, is long overdue.”
ADENOWO has over the years used her NGO to empower women and the youth through the provision of: entrepreneurial and skills acquisition to over 6, 000 women; basic primary education to inner-city children; primary health care facilities to over 2000 people; rescue over 150 young girls from being sexual abused and others.
Aside from all this, her NGO holds several outreach programmes and events such as the National Women’s Prayer Summit — an interdenominational meeting of prophetic prayer for all Nigerian women.
The prayer summit has attracted dignitaries including the wife of Lagos State governor Dame Emmanuella Abimbola Fashola and her Ekiti State counterpart Chief Bisi Fayemi.
She says, “ both women were honoured with the ‘Mother In The Nation’ award for their contributions to ATF and the nation. This year’s prayer summit holds on March 17 at the Indoors Sports Hall, National Stadium, Surulere, Lagos.”
What does she aim to achieve with the Summit?
Adenowo says, “this is the third yearly National Women's Prayer Summit we are holding. Last year, our theme was Women Against Kidnapping. And this was because of the rage of kidnappers, which made many women to live in perpetual fear. We prayed and we saw a definite change. This year, we are coming against violence and the theme is Women Against Violence. It’s time for women to register their total opposition against violence — from that of the terrorist groups to domestic violence, which has become a silent killer. We are going straight to God, who said the government would be on our shoulders and enforcing spiritually what we desire to see physically. All Nigerian women who have faith in God are welcome. Last year, we had even men of various faith in attendance.”
According to her, “no matter how many women we have in leadership positions today, the fundamental problems of the Nigerian women are yet to be addressed. Nigerian women are not even safe; we are not secure in a country where a young girl is bathed with acid for daring to say ‘no’ to a man's advances and the government does not see it for what it is — a crime against the state.”
The architect adds, “the perpetrator walks free in the streets while the victim lives in daily mental and physical anguish. It’s worse than slavery! No woman, no matter how personally comfortable she is, should be apathetic about such outrageous incidents. What happens to one sister can happen to another. In essence, we are being told, even, our bodies do not belong to us and random ‘admirers’ can lay claim to it? They can even upload their crimes on Youtube while law enforcement officials tell the victim that ‘she caused it?’ This is the worst sort of human rights abuse possible!”
FOR Adenowo, Nigeria is at that point where the cords of nationhood are more fragile than a spider’s web. To this end, the people need to define their national identity, “and everyone can state clearly what it means to be a Nigerian.”
According to Adenowo, it goes beyond the tangibles of a poor educational system and unemployment. The main problem, especially with the youth is hopelessness and disillusionment. “The youth need to have fate in the nation, love the nation and see themselves as stakeholders in Nigeria.”
She continues, “until we have a corporate national vision we don't have a true nation. The problems we bemoan such as corruption; lack of focus, waste, lack of meritocracy and others are mere symptoms of a deep-rooted malaise — lack of vision.
“The country is too endowed, especially with human capital to fail. “We should be the sun of the black race, the role model for every black nation.”
Adenowo says, “there have been many situations Nigeria has stepped in to assist other countries and I am proud of the role we have played in those instance, which I cannot go into detail right now. Nigeria as a nation can't go begging other countries to help us; what problems do we have that we don't have the intellectual capacity to solve? What we lack is the will to solve them because of our compromised interests and goal incongruence.”
THOUGH the UN has for years documented that faith-based NGOs are the most effective type of organisations, “we found that the Nigeria populace are not familiar with the paradigm of faith-based NGOs. Some religious people were not comfortable with our overt Christian faith, but the paradigm shift is happening even as we speak. Nigerian Christians are getting to know that Christian outreaches to humanity must be carried out by denominational establishments.”
AS a student of the Federal Government Girls’ College and Obafemi Awolowo University (OAU), Adenowo received several awards for academic excellence and design skills.
Upon completion of her master’s degree, she was included in the Who Will Be Who in the 21st Century (Young Achievers’ section) by the International Biography Centre (IBC) Cambridge, England (1991).
As a chartered architect, she had a stint with Towry Coker and Associates as well as with Femi Majekodunmi Associates before establishing AD Consulting, an architecture and interior designing firm in 1994.
What is unique about AD?
“We are brand enhancers and we enhance our clients' investment portfolios. We have deployed architecture to enhance brands for our corporate clients such as Coca Cola, Stanbic IBTC, GTBank and others. We developed GTBank e branches and they immediately became the standard to beat that area. We made competing banks to study what we did for GTBank, so you can say we set trends.”
She adds, “we enhance your personal brand in a way no luxury accessory, private jet or yacht can. While the other luxury brand enhancers such as private jets and yachts lose their value with time, the building investments our designs represent appreciate rapidly. We guarantee that on completing the construction of any design. Our designs return value on every penny spent on them.”
“There is a definite synergy. AD Consulting actively supports Awesome Treasures Foundation (ATF). It is the sole corporate sponsor. It’s the main sponsor of some of ATF outreach programmes such as Voice of Change (VOC), which focuses on leadership. AD is not just an architectural firm; it is also a centre for personal development as we are focused on the developments of individuals working with us with an aim to raise leaders. We give young people a chance to show their skills and talents.
For Adenowo, her firm has a peculiar culture for raising leaders on the job at a micro level. Architecture has always been a vehicle for national transformation. Looking at Nigeria for example, both the Federal and state governments are clearly making efforts to deploy architecture as a tool of transformation.”
Can ATF successfully run without you?
“There is no success without succession, so, not only do we have key people in key positions to run the organisation, we have plans to ensure that ATF is self-sustaining. We have members of board of trustees such as Sam Adeyemi, Wale Adefarasin, Funke Felix-Adejumo, Yetunde Holloway and other public-spirited individuals,” she says.
The Advisory Board is chaired by Idy Enang (MD Samsung West Africa) and supported by other individuals of proven integrity like Yinka Sanni (DMD Stanbic IBTC), Justice Sola Williams (Lagos State Judiciary), Mary Akpobome, Tara Fela-Durotoye and others. The Strategy Team has bright young minds like Lanre Da Silva -Ajayi, Chiadi Ndu, TY Bello, Funke Bucknor-Obruthe and Conrad Adigwe.
Different women and youths lead the various groups. ATF also has three judges on its legal resource group.
BEYOND architecture and designs, Adenowo founded and heads Advantage Energy, a company that provides manpower solutions in the oil and gas sector and has worked on several oil and gas projects with Exxon Mobil, Esso and their subsidiaries.
The property subsidiary of the company known as Advantage Properties has developed estate properties in the Lekki Peninsula area of Lagos State.
Adenowo is an alumnus of a number of institutions including of the Lagos Business School, IESE Business School, University of Navarra, Barcelona, Spain, and a member of some professional bodies like the Nigerian Institute of Architects (NIA), Interior Designers Association of Nigeria (IDAN) and The European Coaching Institute, and International Mentoring Association.
Adenowo also anchors a weekly radio programme Voice of Change’ (VOC) on Classic FM. She uses this medium to raise transformational leaders in the society. She is also known as an inspirational and motivational speaker and has spoken at different conferences and summits within and outside Nigeria including the London Business School, and Harvard Business School (Africa Business Conference).
In 2007, she was recognised for her work with women empowerment and was honoured with the Rare Gems Award by the Women’s Optimum Development Foundation (WODEF) in collaborations with the United Nations Information Centre (UNIFEM).
How does she find time to do all these?
“I am still striving for excellence and depend on God's grace. I have a supportive husband, trouble-free loving sons and excellent team at AD and ATF! That is what holds it all together,” she says.