Chalya Shagaya: The Princess of Hearts at 50 

By Seun Awogbenle

There are only few people, who at the age of 50, can say without equivocation, that they have lived a life so full and rich. One of such people is the inimitable Ms. Chalya Shagaya.

At 50, Ms. Shagaya has realised the dream of her younger 15-year-old self, to be everything and even more.  Over the last 5 decades, she has successfully established herself as a ubiquitous, constantly evolving force of nature. From the arts to entertainment, fashion, oil and gas, communication, maritime and most recently the capital markets, she has made her mark and a telling difference that resonates beyond these shores!

One of the most instructive is the work she did alongside others, to pioneer the African fashion industry as a major export. At a time when it was not fashionable to project African, she led the renaissance, with her unbeatable talent, passion, skills, duty and devotion. During her time in United States, in the early 2000s, Ms. Shagaya worked with the popular Nigerian fashion designer, Deola Sagoe, to establish and deepen what is today known as African fashion, their creation and masterpieces attracted big names including mega pop star, Rihanna. The story of African fashion would be incomplete without her inexhaustible mention.

In addition to her work in the fashion and arts both as an entrepreneur and model, Ms. Shagaya has moved from a career in oil and gas, starting with the multinational Oando, to the Energy sector as Regional Business lead for Setana Energy. She has also at different times worked in PR  and brand strategy both on her own and as the former Head of New Media at Nigeria maritime Administration and safety Agency, (NIMASA) and most recently as the Head, Government Relations at the Nigerian Exchange Limited, NGX.

I reckon that one of the things that has kept Ms. Shagaya ahead of the curve, is her consistent devotion to regeneration, change, news ideas and the excitement to chart new territories, these qualities have seen her made indelible mark as both a photographer and chef at different times.  Recently, she also made a foray into journalism as Editor at Large of the Will Newspaper. Indeed a woman of many parts!

All her life, Ms. Shagaya has remained devoted to public good, one of the qualities she imbibed from her  father the illustrious Sen. John Shagaya (God rest his soul). She has oft repeated that a combination of kindness, compassion and empathy are the trilogy that make us human. For this reason, she commits herself to every noble cause even if it comes at great personal sacrifice. It is also not surprising that her greatest fulfilment in life comes from the impact and innumerable lives she has touched by her sheer benevolence and generosity of spirit!

Moreover, as her prodigy, I should know, from her countless support for vulnerable people, students, children and young people, most of whom, she will probably never meet, to deploying her network to help other people achieve their dreams, she is the Yoruba enigma for “ooninuure”, meaning a kindhearted person. Some may even cherish her as “remilekun” for her unique ability to wipe the tears of others, while bringing them succor and solace in return!

Every day she reminds me of what it means to be truly human, I have always said that she is the emblem of “God with us”; typifying the much talked about goodness and kindness of God.  Those qualities in addition to her grace, poise, grit, strength and fierce loyalty have earned her the real “Princess of Hearts”!

Like many, I am one of the people that have been incredibly lucky, to enjoy her unquantifiable grace and support. That is not the full story, the full story is that anyone who can count her on their side, already has a head start even before kick-off. I especially saw this during my book presentation, in June 2021. She moved the metaphorical mountain to ensure the success. She was both my reassurance and the answer to my prayers when all else appeared bleak. A woman for all seasons!

I have learnt many things from her, but at least three are most instructive, the first is the fierce defense of her conviction, the second is her unique ability to get things done which is rooted in determination, and finally her kindness, which knows no bounds!

Today, I am grateful for many things, but even more for Ms. Shagaya, who has been one of God’s most beautiful gifts to humankind.  I join others in celebrating this quintessential woman, of many parts. I wish her a happy birthday, the grace to do more and the strength of God for the good times.

In celebrating her, I am adapting one of the most beloved prayers of our lifetime written by Dillet Freeman in 1940 during World War II. May the Light of God surround her, May the Love of God enfold her, May the Power of God protect her, May the presence of God watch over her, wherever she is, God is and all is well is with her!

*Seun Awogbenle, a prodigy of Ms. Shagaya, is an Author and Communications Professional

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