40 years after she set up ABC Nurseryland which evolved into Lekki British School (LBS), Dr. Abiodun Laja has remarkably distinguished herself in her chosen career. She recently celebrated the anniversary of the school and had the crème de la crème of the society grace the occasion. Ferdinand Ekechukwu writes
Save for the invite and imposing banners that partly read ‘Celebrating Dr. Abiodun Laja’s 40 Years Contribution to Educational Excellence in Nigeria’, one would have passed the setting at the conference and theater event center for a carnival. But then, it still would not have been out of place should that be that the exquisitely decorated hall of D-Venue, Water Corporation Drive had been mistaken for any such fete, befitting a woman who has successfully trodden the path of excellence in the education sector.
Driven by passion and love for children, she became the first youngest person to found a private school in Nigeria at the age of 27 in 1977. Like a mustard seed and what it had become today, the private school she started 40 years ago has evolved into Lekki British School (LBS) from ABC Nurseryland, a Montessori nursery and primary school.
To be sure, the celebration was unique and deserving in some way that, at the time when private schools were dominated by old retired teachers, Laja beat the odds. “Her story and journey are an inspiration to many. At a time when private schools were not an easy achievement to establish, she fought against the odds to set up ABC Nurseryland in 1977 as the youngest private school owner and has never looked back since.”
And so it was, therefore, worthwhile on this remarkable occasion of the anniversary on November 19, as guests from all walks of life as a mark of gratitude for her noble contribution to education, turned out to celebrate the astute educationist and administrator. Laja, who donned a glittering white dress pleated with gold embroidery, was visibly elated all through the evening.
Glamorous in their resplendent outfits, the guests were quite appreciative and cautious of the day’s plan trickling in at exactly 3pm the scheduled time to honour a trailblazer. The dignitaries were successful men and women from various sectors: banking to judiciary; politics, culture, arts, etc.
Among her many relatives, distinguished friends and guests that graced the occasion were Arc. Femi Majekodunmi; Ms. Augusta Chibutu; Princess Vickie Haastrup; Chief Mrs. Morayo Fadipe; Mrs. Ann Modupe Akindele; Hon. Mrs. Onikepo Akande; Mrs. Laila St. Mathew Daniel; Mrs. Lande Adeshina; Mrs. Modupe Sagoe; Mrs. Jojola Odukojo; Senator Daisy Danjuma; Erelu Biodun Ojutalayo; and the chairman of the occasion, Chief Mrs. Nike Akande (CON), former Minister of Industry, just to mention a few.
Overwhelmed with joy “big mummy”, as most people called her, was pretty much at hand to receive the personalities from far and wide as they glided through the red carpet on to her warm embrace. She was showered with praises, prayers and testimonies. The host was described in glowing words as iconic, kind, loving, caring, unassuming, disciplinarian, trailblazer, courageous, visionary, achiever, role model, hardworking, dogged, titan, and mentor.
The congratulatory message to the celebrant aptly captures the sentiments that flowed from the testimonies given by family members, friends and ex-students in acknowledgement of her impact through the school: “We watched your schools grow from strength to strength, to the strong international institutions that exist today in three countries. Over the 40 years, you have moulded intelligent, disciplined and sensitive professionals with admirable characters. You have fulfilled your dreams. We are so proud of you,” one of them said.
There was music from the famous Akin Shuga Band to the melodious harmony of saxophonist, BJ Sax. As Laja danced to the rhythm her friends joined her on the floor to make up the beautiful scene. The merry would then trip over as classics of the past wafted through the speakers, momentarily reminiscing the host’s and her friends’ youthful days. Finger foods and exotic drinks complemented with local and intercontinental dishes were on offer.
And then a toast to the birthday ‘girl’ followed by picture sessions. Thrilled and overwhelmed, Laja was left speechless when asked to say a few words to the gathering. At the end, it was a time well shared together celebrating a woman who has distinguished herself over the years in educating Nigerian youths.