By Oluwadamilare Emmanuel
Behind the glorious career fulfillment of some people lie tattered beginnings harsh enough to devour even the strongest of men. While many have shared their grass to grace stories, however, some deliberately left the stories to waste away in memory because of the emotional trauma recalling almost to the present, the forgotten ugly past experiences before success came smiling on them.
Truly as they say in this part of the world, ‘Life no balance’. However, it is amazing to know that some people would rather re-arrange the unfavourable condition life throws at them to their favour instead of wallowing in self-pity or blaming others for their misfortune.
The foregoing encapsulates the multidimensional and inspiring story of the immediate past Regional Terminal Manager, (South West), Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria (FAAN), Mrs. Victoria Bamidele Shin-Aba, the first female to be so honoured with such position. Her entry and subsequent growth through the ranks in FAAN to the peak, is almost one of a divine arrangement and uncommon courage as she explained in her soon to be launched book ‘My Resilience’. The book launch and her retirement party holds today June 2, 2022 in Lagos
Born 31st of August, 1962, Shin-Aba who is due for retirement this week and would be clocking 60 in few months time, was barely six months old when she lost her father while they sojourn in far away Ghana. Apparently, she neither knew nor felt what her father was before he passed. Thanks to the magnanimous love and efforts of a ‘never say never’ mother who despite all the odds, kept to her husband’s words of ‘even if it remains a trouser in my wardrobe, my children must get quality education’ to keep her six children (including Shin-Aba) on track and ensure their access to quality education with no support system.
However, life did not stop dealing her a big blow despite the loss of her father. From the earlier blunt rejection of her husband, Nasiru Kolawole Shin-Aba by her mum and other family members due to religious differences to his subsequent sickness, loss of sight, depression and death after just an eight-year marital journey that lasted from 1985 to 1993, Shin-Aba has experienced it all. To add to the already piled up horrible situation, she lost her last child, Segun whom she had with her husband during his lowest ebb in life at age 10; days after being diagnosed of cerebral malaria. However, in all of these vicissitudes of life, she remained steadfast and focused despite heated entreaties from friends and families to abandon her sick husband. When she was getting overwhelmed by the myriad of challenges thrown at her at just 37 years of age, her loving mother who later welcomed her husband with open arms encouraged her not to heed evil advice, but rather stick with her husband whom she met a complete man.
In the words of his HRM, Oba (Prof) Akintola John Akintola, who doubles as Professor of Entomology, Biology Department, Ladoke Akintola University of Technology (LAUTECH) and the Alapa of Okinapa who wrote the foreword of her book: “The demise of her father at her tender age, which denied her fatherly care, did not deter her from achieving greatness. She was single-handedly trained by her uneducated mother who had passion for education; and with the help of God, she did not derail on track as many of her peers, who found themselves in such circumstances would have done. There was a repeat of ugly occurrence in her life; she lost her beloved husband along the journey of life. She had to singlehandedly train her children too, due to some challenges in her family. She didn’t allow religion to create a gorge in her immediate family; she managed the challenges with elasticity. When opportunities presented itself in her favour, she was there for everyone, to raise them up within her limited capacity. What a show of love! Mrs. Victoria Shin-Aba is a woman of uncommon love and humility. She extended love to all, immediate and distant relations. Her humble beginning came to play in many histories and stories too numerous to mention. This is what many failed to do and had turned up as regret for them after retirement,” Kabiyesi wrote elatedly of the accomplished woman of substance.
*Journey to FAAN*
While many would have accepted fate and end it all career wise, Shin-Aba was rather focused all through the challenges. She did not hang her boots or drift to the classroom as many would have expected of her upon completion of a College of Education studies and receipt of certificate in 1984. She proceeded to obtaining her first degrees, local and international trainings/certifications while also combining a number of side hustles especially during the early days of her career in the Agency.
Her journey into FAAN (formerly, Nigeria Airports Authority, NAA) dated back to 1987 as Assistant House Manageress. She joined her husband who was then the Head of Civil Engineering at the Ibadan Airport.
*Steady growths through the ranks at FAAN*
As typical of any hardworking person, Shin-Aba soon became the cynosure of all eyes in FAAN. She held several positions in the operations department of Authority including; Airfield Operations Officer Murtala Muhammed Airport (MMA); Apron Control Officer MMA; Airport Duty Officer ITZ MMA; and Terminal Operations Officer; General Aviation Terminal (GAT); Hajj and Cargo Terminal (HCT) and International Terminal MMA.
She was promoted Manager of the Akure Airport in 2011, a post she held till 2014 when she was redeployed to MMA as Head of Operations.
In September, Shin-Aba scored another first. The FAAN management appointed her as first female Regional General Manager (South West)/Airport Manager, Murtala Muhammed International Airport and subsequently attaining the rank of a General Manager, Airfield Operations.
As HOD operations, she led the team that prepared MMA for pioneer certification in Nigeria and organised the review and unbundling of MMA technical manuals and related Standard Operating Procedures (SOP)in collaboration with Nigeria Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA). The much coveted Aerodrome Certification to MMA, issued by NCAA on 15th September 2017 is to the credit of her team. Her experience also came to play during the coronavirus pandemic that grounded flight activities worldwide for months.
*Multiple Awards and Recognitions*
In recognition of her hard work and selflessness to fatherland despite the initial setbacks, the Nigerian Aviation Award (NIGAV) in 2018 honoured her with ‘The Airport Personality of the Year 2018’; in same year she also went on to win the National Black Coalition of Federal Aviation Employees (NBCFAE) Award 2018. Most recently she won the ‘Airport Operations of the Year 2021 and Operational Resilience Airport of the Year 2021 Award.
*Solving generational problems*
Having giving a better part of her life to standing up to challenges against her and others around her, one would have expected her to roll down the sleeves and possibly go on vacation to enjoy her retirement. But Shin-Aba has other plans. As retirement beckons, Shin-Aba hopes to use her time and resources for solving generational problems/challenges. .
“This is the more reason why I have a growing interest in attempting to solve the generational problem through a yet-to-be-unveiled scheme which aims to address human capital empowerment and entrepreneurship development in the community upon my retirement,’ she said in her book.
It is therefore, the right thing to, in the bobbling spirit of oneness, to roll out the drums and celebrate with a rare woman of courage and virtues, Mrs Victoria Bamidele Shin-Aba as she mark her retirement from service, launch her book today and also mark her 60th birthday in advance.
_Oluwadamilare is a Lagos-based journalist_