By Funmi Ajumobi
FOR Chief (Mrs) Leila Fowler, it is true that the roots of true achievement lie in the will to become the best that you can become. Many people may know her as an educationist who owns private educational institutions like many others. Vanguard, however, looked beyond her establishment of educational institutions to select her for the Personality Of the Year Award. The choice of this silent achiever that can be best described as a virtuous woman, is best explained in the Bible book of Proverbs 31:29, which states that “many women have done excellently, but you surpass them all.”
This indeed is the success story of a humble but noble woman who had trod many paths before becoming an educationist. Chief Leila was first a nurse, then a lawyer, a leader and moved on to become an educationist.
Promotion of womanhood
Her many parts are woven around integrity, selflessness, hard work and a desire to leave a legacy behind for the younger generations of women and children in particular and Nigerians in general.
In her vision to integrate and promote womanhood into the topmost heights in all aspects of human endeavour, Leila popularly called Mama, established Vivian Fowler Memorial College for girls in 1991 with the vision to foster a high standard of education. The school also sought to inculcate in the girls the spirit of excellence and perfection in their academic pursuit, equip the girls for leadership roles, have respect for the dignity of womanhood and labour and to function as unique and respectable wives and mothers in the society.
A woman of many parts
- Chief Mrs Leila was for many years an executive member of the Nigerian Bar Association, Executive member of Nigeria Red Cross.
- Member, Board of Trustees of the National Young Women Christian Association.
- Member of FIFA Organising Committee for Lagos and Ogun states.
- Member of the Social Democratic Party’s Presidential Elections Petition Panel.
- Member of the Eminent Persons Group for the June 12 Presidential Elections and aftermath.
Leila, born in Lagos on March 23, 1933 started school at CMS Girls School in Lagos, but later completed her education at Queen of the Rosary College, Onitsha. Armed with a Senior Cambridge Certificate, she headed for Ibadan where she taught briefly at St Teresa’s College, one of the choice careers of those days. She was a pioneer student of the School of Nursing under the aegis of St Thomas University Teaching Hospital, London. Unfortunately, soft-hearted Leila could not handle the emotional pressure of the medical environment.
She quit, got married to her husband, Dr.Wenslay Vidal Fowler who was a medical consultant at the General Hospital, Lagos, in 1953 and had three children in succession.
As every door is a door of opportunity for the optimist mind, Leila took advantage of her husband’s travel to England to study law at the Middle Temple. She qualified in 1961 and was called to the English Bar in 1962. In the same year, she obtained a Diploma in International Affairs from the University of London and returned to Nigeria in 1963 to enroll at the Supreme Court of Nigeria.
Chief Mrs. Leila Fowler joined the Chambers of the popular socialist lawyer, Messrs J.O.B. Omotosho and Co, who initially did not believe in the ability of women to excel in law.
But her impressive output changed his perception about female lawyers as she received several accolades from her employers. Leila also worked briefly in the chambers of John Bentley & Co in Lagos before she decided to establish her own chamber at 150, Broad Street, Central Lagos. She engaged in general practice, particularly in insurance claims and was later retained as an executive consultant to the Lion of Africa Insurance.
Chief Mrs. Leila Fowler also served as a solicitor to the Lagos State Development and Property Corporation. Between 1978 and 1980, she was a Councillor in the Lagos City Council where she served with such personalities as Alhaji H.A.B. Fasinro and Madam Abibatu Mogaji.
She was conferred with the traditional title of Yeye Mofin of Lagos by His Royal Highness, Oba Adeyinka Oyekan II, the late Oba of Lagos.
As a lover of youth and education, Leila was invited to serve in the Corona Schools Trust Council where she put in a total of 25 years. Eight of those years as the Chairman of Education, and seven as the Chairman of the council.
There she raised the school’s educational standard and ensured that examination standards in all Corona schools were uniform. Her experiences of the Corona years reinforced her interest in education and encouraged her determination to make her own school a model.
We present to you, Chief Leila Fowler as Vanguard’s Personality of the Year in the Lifetime Achievement Award category.