BY FUNSO OLOJO
She could easily be mistaken for an international model.
She is of average height, rotund figure with an angelic face that is
always lit with an infectious smile which reveals sparkling even white
This is complemented with a soft, caressing and musical voice which is scarcely above a whisper. Her carriage is majestic and walking gait angelic.
But Hajia Lami Tumaka is not a model but a Civil Servant per excellence who plies her skills at the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA).
Her passion for people, which flows from her motherly caring attitude and gentle mien, replicated by her soft, golden heart, has endeared her to most of the operators in the maritime industry, even outside the sector, especially both her superior and subordinate staff at NIMASA.
The maritime press corps, despite its scathing and critical posture, especially against public workers, is also enraptured by her glamour, wit and motherly attributes which normally soothe the most aggressive nerves.
These uncommon character traits however single her out as one of the most outstanding Public Relations personnel to have ever manned a government agency in the maritime industry.
For several years before she was elevated to her current position as a Director of Special Duties in the Director- General office, Hajia, as she is fondly called by her teeming admirers, used her charm, warmth, charisma and wit to build, nurture and sustain a robust public image
of NIMASA as its Deputy Director, Public Relations (DDPR).
Her human-faced Public Relations practice even earned her an international recognition when she won an award as one of the most outstanding Public Relations Practitioners in Africa.
Out of curiosity, the crew of nigeriamaritime.360.com tracked down the Queen of the Maritime Industry to her Lagos home to get an insight into her uncommon passion for humanity.
Her love for people made her to give us an unrestricted access to “intrude” into her privacy, where she let us into her scintillating and fascinating world of glamour, beauty, fashion and humanity outside the madness playing out on the Lagos port access road for which she has not allowed to ruin her inner peace.
We welcome you to the exhilarating world of Lami Tumaka
Who is Hajia Lami Tumaka?
My name is Lami Tumaka. I am a Director of Special Duties, DG office, NIMASA. I am a Nigerian from Niger State. I am a mother of three beautiful daughters and a grandmother. I lost
my husband few years ago. I have sisters and brothers. I am 59 years old.
My Journey through the public service
I was born in Kaduna. I started my carrier at Army Day Secondary School after my NYSC at Kaduna Polytechnic where I was a Lecturer and I taught English Language and Literature.
I studied English with a bias for Literature at Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria some years ago.
In between this period, I got married to a military officer who rose to the rank of a Major- General and became GOC, 3rd Armoured Division, Jos before he died few years ago.
He didn’t really wanted me to work, typical of some of our men, but was comfortable with me working as a teacher in Army Day Secondary School, Jaji where we were living at that time.
From there, I worked at NTA, Minna as a News Editor and Presenter. I produced and presented a weekly programme then called Event of the Week.
I recalled Late Ahmed and Peter Igho who were Executive Producers at NTA Lagos then demanded that I be redeployed to Lagos.
Like I said, my husband did not want me to work talk less of working in a public place like NTA , Lagos.So the move was aborted.
From NTA Minna, I proceeded to Peugeot in Kaduna where I was the Manager of Public Relations for some years. That was the place where I cut my teeth in the Public Relations practice.
Working at Peugeot exposed me to the best of the world that could be. Peugeot was an international organization jointly owned by the Federal government of Nigeria with 50 percent and the French with 50 per cent. So we have a mix of both Nigerian and French personnel working there which make the place devoid of politics which we find in most of government organizations. There, you are allowed to grow at your own pace, you are encouraged to
excel and shine, so to speak.
From Peugeot, I moved over to NMA as NIMASA was then called where I was posted to the Research department. We were still in Abuja then.
It was a year after I joined the then NMA in Abuja that the then President, Chief Olusegun Obasanjo, directed that all agencies of Ministry of Transportation should relocate to Lagos. I will tell you an interesting story.
I had my eyes on NLG even before I worked at NMA as NIMASA was then called. But NLG was in Lagos and that discouraged me because I was still young and just lost my husband and decided to remain in the North close to my people, especially my mother who sadly passed on few years ago. Ironically, after one year I started working at the then NMA at Abuja, Obasanjo directed we move to Lagos. That was in 1999.
At any rate, it has been a fulfilling time for me at the then NMA and NIMASA today.
How I combine the roles of being a mother and public administrator
It’s not by my ability but the grace of God is what is sustaining me.To be a successful mother and excel in your career needs focus and ability to carry out one role and giving it adequate time and concentration without affecting the other. The ability to maintain that delicate balance between the two roles will determine your success in the two worlds.
Both your family and job are important aspect of your life. You can’t allow one to suffer for the other, so the ability to successfully manage the two is crucial to your success.
The driving force behind my successful career as a likable public relations person
I will attribute it to the grace of God. God is central to everything I do. As a successful mother, grandmother and career administrator, God plays a leading role.
Also, without being immodest, my personality also plays a role in this regard. I am a born public relations person, to say the least. It is innate, an inborn thing, it runs in my blood. I stick with people. I learnt a secret which I often share with people who ask me this type of question you just asked.
Basically, every human being likes to be recognized and respected, especially in the media world. I found out that just a smile, a hello, ‘how are you’, not just in a media world but to human beings generally, goes a long way. Showing concern, showing love, caring for people, especially in the media world, goes a long way. Without indulging in self-praise, I have personal contact with everybody that comes my way. I have a personal relationship with people anywhere, be it in my office, the media and outside the office.
I try to cultivate and nurture interpersonal relationship with people that I have met in the course of my job. Nonetheless, everything is by the grace of God.
How does she maintain her graceful look, charisma, charm and glamour despite the tedious and chaotic terrains of Apapa ports she finds herself
It is the grace of God.(flashes her characteristic sunny smiles).Having said that, another secret of life I have learnt is that in spite of the challenges we may come across in our life, try and
have inner peace. Be kind, be good to people you meet in your life, by the grace of God, no harm will come your way. Even if you are faced with any challenges as human being, God in His infinite mercies will give you the power and ability to conquer any challenge which life throws at you.
How do I cope with the Apapa access road gridlock?
Well, I have accepted it as a challenge and I don’t allow it to bother me. I have taken it in my stride as my driver has found way of maneuvering through the gridlock to the office everyday. It doesn’t bother me anymore.
How did she cope with the expected ‘’rush’’ of men when she was younger and given her level of beauty then which is still more evident at her present age
(flashes her trade mark smiles again).
I may not be able to remember my relationship with boys when I was growing up. But let me tell you a story.
When I finished my secondary school education, a military guy from my village proposed marriage to me. I felt it was ridiculous at that time because I just finished my secondary school and I had my eyes on ABU, Zaria. But my late Aunty (my father’s younger sister) thought it was the best thing that could have happened to me at that time.
The funny thing was that this military chap who proposed to me has a cousin who was also in the military. He too proposed to marry me. But I told my Mum (I had lost my Dad then) that I did not want to marry a military officer.
Funny enough, it turned out that, on my graduation, the serious relationship I went into was with a military officer who I eventually married. The two military men who are cousins that proposed to me, one later became the Governor of Katsina state while the other became the
Governor of Kano state.
They served simultaneously at the same time during the IBB administration. I did not marry any of them but ironically, I married my husband. (an uproarious laughter)
‘’How did I survive the men’s rush then till now?’’
Tumaka asked the interviewers with a glint of smile in her eyes. ‘’You know the answer, what is it?’’ she asked, to which we all chorused with a laughter, ‘’the grace of God’’.
My attitude as a detribalised Nigerian. Even my enemies, because as human beings you have both friends and foes, will say one thing that is typical of me and that is I don’t care where you come from. I work with people who add value to me and my life, I work with people who will make my job easier, no matter where you come from.
My domestic staff come from different parts of the country. One of my drivers is Ibo from Enugu state, my cook is from Calabar, my house help who lived with me for almost 15 years was Ibo, she got married and left but I still have a good relationship with her.
In the office, those people who work with me, especially in the PR department, are not strictly from the North.
The same thing applies to my friends who cut across all spheres of the world.
How does she relax?
I am a social animal. I enjoy parties, I go to movies, I like Owambes. I enjoy life and live it to the maximum. It is part of the therapy of living in this life. It is not just work, work, work. I work very hard, I can say that of myself. I don’t joke with my job. God first, my family second and my job third. I take my job very, very, very seriously.
Whenever am not out socially, I stay and relax at home and watch TV, especially African Magic which I find hilarious. I also love music. I dance alone in my house to good music.
Does she club?
No, I don’t go to club. When I was younger, I clubbed. Now, I will soon clock 60.That is not to say there is anything wrong with clubbing. If I have a good company that I can go with, believe you me, I will go, even now. It is a source of entertainment and relaxation, to enjoy yourself.
You need to enjoy yourself while alive, we have paid our dues, so we should also reap the benefits of enjoying our lives.
My favourite colour
It is very difficult for me to mention my favourite colour because I go through phases. There was a phase when I love white, another phase when I fell in love with black, I went through another phase when I love blue. I love gold. I love what sits well on me, anything that makes me comfortable. Even though people ask me of my fashion sense and I told them I don’t have any. I don’t follow the crowd, I don’t follow the trend in fashion but wear what sits well on me. I wear whatever flatters me.
My favourite meal
My interest in food varies, depending on my mood. I like salad, I love fruits, vegetable. I drink a lot of water to rehydrate my skin because Lagos weather is humid. So I take lots of water to rehydrate my skin. I am giving you the secret of my looks (general laugher).
Challenges are part of life. As human, our ways are strewn with challenges, but when they come, you take them to God. My biggest challenge is, as a PR manager, how to portray the image of my organization in the best of light possible and in the process, how to cope with negative publicity from the critical national and international press.
The job becomes easier if you have a Chief Executive who performs very well and carries out the functions of the organization creditably well but it becomes pretty difficult if the reverse is the case.
It becomes even more challenging if you are accused of conniving with the press to plant negative stories against your organization in the press.
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