By Ishola Balogun
Abdullateef Lawal is the CEO of L.A & Sons, a Lagos based construction company. Having lost his mother at the age of three without the opportunity of being under the care of his father, he managed through the thick and thin of life, recording a good measure of success at the age of 30.
His good looking endeared him to many including the late TOS Benson who was also known for his charming looks; on that note, they became friends. Besides, Lawal says the lesson he has learnt in life is that “Life is about stages. You don’t do first what you ought to do last.” adding honesty, handwork and humility will lead any aspiring young man to greatness. He is our role model this week.
How did you start out in life?
It was a bit difficult because I lost my mother at the age of three. So, I left the village, Ijebu-Igbo, to my mother’s village, Ago-Iwoye under the care of my maternal aunt. I started my early education there at Muslim Primary School and thereafter moved to Ago-Iwoye Methodist Modern School. I immediately left for Lagos in search of Golden Fleece.
I began as a typist and a telephone operator in a firm in Lagos. It was really difficult trying to find my feet in life but I thank God that today it is a success story. In spite of my contributions, I was surreptitiously relieved of my job.
My immediate boss asked me to train his brother on the job which I did without any ill-feeling. Unfortunately, I was sacked immediately he was able to do the job, without any reason. But that became a step forward for me. I decided not to work for anyone and started my own business. Although, it was tough at the beginning, but I persevered and it became a success story thereafter.
How did you do it?
I honestly did not know how, but all I know is that I never relented, I never gave up. I took every challenge as a step to solve my problem. Again, I tried to leverage on the contact I had built when I was working with the firm. I built on it and it helped me partly because of the trust they had in me. In no time I became a building contractor with clients spread across the state including the government of the day.
Again, I was not lavish in my way of life. The culture of saving money was inculcated in me right from my teenage years. I never allowed the fury of social life particularly during my 20s to overrun me. That is a lesson for the younger ones. Life is about stages. You don’t do first what you ought to do last.
My believe is that if you can’t achieve something at the age of 40, the rest is probability. It comes by chance. There is a lot of wisdom in the saying that a fool at forty is a fool forever. Everything depends solely on God but it is better to make hay while the sun shines. What I do at the age of 40, I certainly cannot do now. My advice for the youths is that they must be honest, hardworking and humble.
So, are you retired now?
I am preparing for that, I am 68 now and at 70, I shall retire. But you know there should be a transition toward that. I am preparing for that.
Your look would have caused some stirs among girls those days, how did you meet your wife?
(Laughs) I thank God. We first met at a competition when we were in primary school. I contested for the most handsome boy while she contested for the most beautiful girl. We both won the contest, I emerged the most handsome boy while she won as the most beautiful girl. That was what first brought us together.
I later got a double-promotion which put me ahead of her in school. We did not meet again until after several years. Meanwhile, I never had time for ladies; in fact I looked at them as distractions which could mar your ambition. Based on that impression, people used to call me carpenter, which meant a man who can’t play with a lady. In spite of their advances, I didn’t give in because I knew it would distract me and most probably affect my plans.
But several years after, when I was ready to get married, the lady that became the most beautiful girl while we were in school came to my mind and I wrote a love letter to her, she replied. We communicated for some time before we met and finally sealed the relationship with marriage vows.
The only stir I remember I caused was when we visited their home for marriage talks, her siblings and friends came around me and praising her for choosing an handsome man. We got married during the period of wet e in 1966. I thank God the marriage is blessed with children who are doing very well too.
What do you enjoy doing at home?
I play with my children. I enjoy cooking, even before I got married, I like cooking my meals. Although my wife would not allow me, but when I find available opportunity, I cook my meals. Anytime my wife was away, I cook for the children. As a Muslim, during Rajab, I do not bother my wife, I wake up, cook my meals, pray before they rise from bed.
I also remember in Mecca when I went for holy pilgrimage, in a room where we have about four to six people, I cook for them even as an old man, they will sometimes resist, but I enjoy doing it.
What is your commitment to the society?
I tried as much as I can to assist the next person in need. Besides, my commitment is more in the expression of my faith. I was turbaned the Somori-Adini of Ijebu-land, Somori-Adini of Ilisan, Asiwaju Adini of Palm-Groove, Alakoso-Adini of Ago-Iwoye, Arowo sadini of Ijebu-Igbo and many other Islamic titles. It is all about being honest, hardworking and humble and of course being dedicated to your faith. I thank God for all that and a fulfilled life.
Who is your role model?
The late Pa T.O.S Benson was my role model. I admired him because of his handsomeness and brilliance. The day I met him was remarkable. I was at filling station re-fuelling my car, a (Mercedes Benz) when he drove in. By the standard of my car then, it was among the first class. After refuelling, he came to me and said: “young man I’ll pick your bill. Please don’t pay, you are very handsome.”
He introduced himself to me. I knew him but was very surprised. He also did not know that I liked because he was handsome.” The much, I know about him, he was a completely gentleman and up till the time he died, he was my role model.