Goodnight Flo, by Yomi Soyinka
Good night to a most indefatigable woman! An Amazon, my boss, my friend and my sister, Florence Omatule Seriki, your words were your bond, you were bold and fearless. You broke barriers. ‘No’ was not an answer, there was nothing like a shut door, just like nothing was impossible to achieve. You were a pioneer and a path finder. You were indeed a warrior, a colossus! You were a dynamite, small in stature but of great influence, ability and capability. You were an institution and so many people learnt from you. I did.
You were a blessing to Nigeria and Africa; you were at the forefront of the propagation of IT (especially hardware) not only in Nigeria, but Africa. We went all over Africa together; from Tunisia to South Africa, from Kenya to Ghana, looking to catch on great opportunities in the industry. In Nigeria, we went round the country, all the states and all tertiary institutions. We had dealings with all the federal and state governments.
You were a forerunner! While paperless office was yet alien to the Nigerian business environment, our Group had started running on that platform. I could be in Asia and access files, work on them and approve where necessary, right on my phone.
I am very sure the factories of Asia will not forget you so soon, you were constantly challenging them. As I write this tribute, many of your associates in Singapore, China and Hong Kong are in a state of shock.
You once asked me to see how we could lower the cost of our parts for the desktops. So three of us left for China. We had asked the Chinese if we could convert desktop speaker power source from A/C to USB and were told that was not possible at that time. Driven by your never-say-nay spirit, our engineers said we could achieve it. They went to work. Bingo! We achieved it and thereby reduced the cost of our parts. I will never forget how elated you were when I called you on phone and most importantly the words of appreciation, reward and praises for the engineers.
You were tireless! We would fly into Asia for almost 48 hours, and head straight into meetings from the airport. Tiredness or fatigue never stopped you. That got the company to great heights. Our brand was celebrated!
You were a maverick. I will never forget the day we were walking to a meeting on Admiralty Road, Lekki, Lagos and you suddenly pulled me back and you said: “Yomi, let’s go to the market!” Was I not taken aback? I asked you if you felt we were ready for that. In your usual confident way, you said yes, and it was the best time for us to do so. The rest became history.
You were a highly regarded entrepreneur and industrialist, who pioneered the manufacturing and assembling of computers and other devices, not only in Nigeria but across West Africa. Out of a few other OEMs in Nigeria, you were the only woman and it remained so till you departed.
I vividly recollect when you decided it was time to venture into Ghana. We went into Ghana to survey the market; you had set up meetings with the relevant Ministers. After listening to you, it was no surprise that the Ghanaian government gave a nod to your plan to put up a computer factory in that country.
You had a knack for excellence; you were diligent, determined and highly focused. Once you set your goals and priorities, there was no looking back. Often I wondered where you got the energy from. You were able to manage the home front as well as the business front, despite the enormous challenges of both.
After one of those high-level meetings in Abuja, you had announced to a Minister that you were pregnant. He offered his congratulation and then asked you jokingly if despite all your tight business schedule, you still had time to play in the “other room”! You belonged not only to the room at the office, but also to the “other room” at home and that only attested to your ability to manage both rooms very effectively.
You were so passionate about computers and the brand Omatek that you defied every odd to establish factories in and out of Nigeria. Through so many of your original initiatives, we were able to make computers available to civil servants, educational institutions, homes and other individuals. A lot of these beneficiaries did not have to pay once as we were able to amortise for them.
You exuded abundant joy the day we computerised Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria. Because of our other schedules in Lagos, we arrived the university at about 6pm, the whole auditorium was filled to the brim with the community waiting for the delivery of their computers. The highpoint of that outing for me was that, when you were asked to deliver a speech, you bluntly refused and asked that I be given the microphone. You never saw yourself as “the Boss”.
I thank you for the opportunities you gave me to represent you at so many fora. I sat in your place on the National Identity Card Committee, right from the first minute till we submitted our report to Mr. President. The result of the work we did is what gave birth to the National Identity Card Commission.
I will never forget a day at the International Airport, Lagos. We were to travel to India, and your husband said to me: “Yomi, am happy you are going. I have confidence in you. Take care of my wife and slow Florence down. She works too hard!” But how do I slow down a woman who climbed the stairs to the 14th floor of the WAEC office for us to seal a deal, two days to when she had a baby?
We were to have a meeting a few weeks ago on a new project, but you shifted the appointment and I became a bit busy too. When I saw your text message some weeks back, I became unusually lackadaisical about replying, little did I know it would be the last contact from you.
You lived a very short but impact full life, so much that am yet to come to terms with the reality of your demise.
You were a Fellow of the Nigeria Computer Society, a Fellow of the Institute of Directors and also a Fellow of the Nigeria Society of Chemical Engineers. You had countless local and international awards. You were a developer of women and the youths in ICT. Nigeria appreciated you, you were an MFR.
You left your foot print and legacies, and they will be indelible.
May the Lord console your aged mother, your husband and children, your siblings and the entire family.
. Soyinka was Group General Manager of Omatek Computers.