By Yetunde Arebi, Deputy Woman Editor
HRH Erelu (Dr.) Chevalier Abiola Dosunmu needs very little introduction, especially in Nigeria’s social circles. Her stylish, brilliant white attires and the famous title, Erelu Kuti of Lagos, speaks volumes of her pedigree and status as top notch crème de la crème of the Lagos ruling class and social circles. Many simply describe her as a socialite. But there is quite more to this woman of high breed and integrity personified which has earned her a place in the prestigious roll call of the Vanguard Personality of the Year Awards 2018 in the Lifetime Achievement category.
Born in Kano on July 29, 1947, into the royal family of Prince Adewunmi and Adejoke Dosunmu of Lagos Island, Abiola Dosunmu is the fourth Erelu Kuti of Lagos. She serves as the ceremonial queen mother, and reigns as regent of Lagos upon the death of an incumbent monarch until a substantive successor is chosen by the college of kingmakers. She has reigned for over 45 years and holds a position that only princesses from the ruling houses can attain.
An astute and accomplished business woman with interests in oil and gas, real estate, and agricultural industries among others, she studied business administration in London.
In the petroleum industry, Erelu, as one of the few early Nigerians in the business, achieved some significant feats to the benefit of the nation. In the same vein, she revolutionized the traditional aso oke business to become a multi-billion dollar industry it is today.
She was the first to introduce the weaving of the Aso-Oke in brilliant colours which quickly became a trend back in the 60s and 70s, selling as far as the Middle East. With a shop on the famous Bond Street in London, Abiola Dosunmu promoted the culture of the Yoruba race and indeed Nigeria, through the Aso-Oke.
Her beautiful designs and exotic taste for perfection earned her the contract of decorating the Nigerian Embassy in London. The Erelu, a fashion trend comprising a skirt and short agbada worn by women in the 80s and early 90s, is also credited to Abiola Dosunmu.
A strong advocate for the recognition, restoration and reward for the indigenous people of Lagos, young Abiola facilitated the upward review of salaries of white cap chiefs in Lagos and helped raise their bar from N6,000 to N20,000. To further her contribution to the society, Erelu Abiola Dosunmu set up a foundation, Erele Abiola Foundation, ERAF, which is specially designed for promoting commerce, art, science, sport, culture, education, research, charity, poverty alleviation and other similar goals.
Through ERAF, the queen mother is actively involved in the rehabilitation of street children and school dropouts, a disturbing phenomenon in urban development of Lagos. She also offers free skills training and vocational education projects as well as rehabilitation of drug addicts. Her emerging project, The Valley of the Kings, is a monumental museum to warehouse the history of Lagos and the kings who have ruled her to date. It is Erelu‘s belief that this project will further help to preserve the rich culture and history of Lagos and a guide to future generations.
A great visioner, Erelu Abiola Dosunmu authored and proposed to the Federal Government the project ‘National Pride Cohesion Commission’ which metamorphosed into project ‘HEART OF AFRICA’ later, ‘REBRANDING’ which is currently domiciled under National Orientation under the Ministry of Information and Culture.
Erelu belongs to several socio-economic organisations which include African Business Roundtable, ABR, where she serves as the Cultural Ambassador for the African Continent. A founding member of NEPAD Business Group Nigeria, NBGN, Erelu was in fact, selected at inauguration in 2004 by former President Olusegun Obasanjo.
She has equally served as member of various committees both at state and national levels. She is a member and coordinating chairman, Council of Traditional Rulers and Eminent Persons for Good Governance in Nigeria.
For her achievements in the diplomatic arena spanning almost 30 years, she was bestowed with the national honour of the Royal Kingdom of Belgium. She equally received the Apostolic Blessing on the occasion of her 70th birthday in 2017 from The Holy Father, Pope Francis. Vanguard is proud to present to you, HRH Erelu (Dr.) Chevalier Abiola Dosunmu for the 2018 Lifetime Achievement Awards.