As the 60th birthday and retirement parties for Hajia Lami Tumaka, Director of Special Duties and External Relations of the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA) continue to trend in the Nigerian maritime space, Face Of Maritime International (FOMI) feels a compelling need to write this piece about this Amazing Maritime Amazon and how she has impacted FOMI in the past four years of FOMI’s existence.
After the maiden edition of FOMI in 2016, and the successful execution of FOMI pet-project, Girls-Go-To-Sea Campaign by the pioneer queens during their reign, by August of 2017 when we started preparations for the 2nd edition of FOMI, the purpose and intent of FOMI was already clear in the minds of suspicious stakeholders who were initially apprehensive or skeptical about what FOMI, a beauty pageant aims to achieve in a highly specialised maritime industry.
I still remember in 2016 when I went to see Capt Iheanacho Ebubeogu, then General Manager, Public Affairs of NPA under Habib Abdullahi as MD, to discuss my FOMI vision with him and how NPA can be part of it. The moment I mentioned ‘Face Of Maritime, and beauty pageant’, Capt Ebubeogu dismissed me and my vision summarily with these words:
“Obasi, do you think we are producing cosmetics here. We are talking about port operations and shipping, and you are here talking about beauty pageant. Please go to cosmetics companies and ask them for sponsorship support “. Thus, Capt Ebubeogu dismissed me and my FOMI vision from his office, even his subordinates burst into serious laughter hearing the way he put it to me.
Calm and confident, I left NPA Headquarters, but I must confess that the rejection I felt at Capt Ebubeogu’s office that day, I had never felt such blunt rejection in my entire life even in my days as insurance sales man at African Alliance Insurance Plc. If I were the type that easily gives up on things, the experience of that day was strong enough to make me give up on FOMI, but I moved on.
I will say more on this and my other similar experiences in my up-coming article and book detailing my Personal Experiences On Gender Advocacy in Maritime Sector. But the above scenario was what FOMI encountered in most of the agencies, companies and maritime organisations during its maiden edition in 2016.
But when the FOMI Queens/winners began their pet-project in 2017, the narrative changed as stakeholders saw the Girls-Go-To-Sea Campaign (GGOTSEC) being championed by these queens as a noble idea and a worthy course.
It was against this backdrop that we wrote to NIMASA DG in 2017 about FOMI and the letter was minuted to Hajia Lami Tumaka for appraisal. I then went to see her for further discussions, and Hajia told me that she has seen the excellent work we are doing with FOMI. She told me not to worry that she is already convinced that FOMI is championing a noble course through the Girls Go-To-Sea Campaign program, and that she would do her best to make DG see reasons to support the initiative and make a commitment to it.
I left her office feeling well motivated and with high hopes and readiness to do more for the industry through the brand. During the audition of FOMI that year, we made the contestants to do short promotional videos for NIMASA and other maritime agencies and organisations, and we shared these videos in our WhatsApp and other social media platforms. Each time Hajia gets the video in her WhatsApp, she would commend it, give me thumb up and tell me she has forwarded it to the DG.
With Tumaka’s commendations and positive attitude towards FOMI activities that year, myself and the entire FOMI team drew strength and zeal to push on.
As the camping and Grand Finale was drawing closer, I went back to see Hajia over the letter to see if we have gotten a positive commitment from the DG. On getting to her office, I noticed an unusual coldness in her voice as we exchanged pleasantries.
Then, she said to me, “Sylvanus, am sorry to disappoint you, DG did not approve your request. I did a wonderful appraisal of your request, and made a recommendation, but the DG told me he won’t commit to it. And he said that in the midst of others. And that leaves me no chance of going back to him personally to talk about it.
“I’m sorry about that, but like I told you before, I believe in your vision about FOMI. It’s just that am not in a position to give approvals, but don’t give up, it’s just a matter of time, people will come to appreciate that you are championing a worthy and noble course”.
As Hajia was saying that, I could notice the sadness and pain in her voice, a feeling of unhappiness over the outcome of the letter, but I told her it’s okay, that her encouragement alone was enough vitamin for myself and the entire FOMI team not to give up.
Then she told me that if there was any way she could help in her personal capacity, that I shouldn’t hesitate to let her know. It was then I told her that the contestant representing NIMASA in the contest is a graduate of Nigerian Seafarers Development Programme (NSDP), and that for her to stand a chance of winning the FOMI Crown for the agency, NIMASA staff need to vote for her and also buy tickets from her because both count as marks for her and also increases her chances of winning.
She then asked me to tell the NIMASA candidate to see her with the tickets and the voting procedures. As I left her office, I did as discussed, and that marked the turning point for Joyce Saviour, Miss NIMASA.
When Joyce Saviour came to see her, the dynamic Tumaka already had her game plan on how to secure maximum votes for Miss NIMASA and equally sell off her tickets. As Joyce came wearing her sash boldly written Miss NIMASA, Hajia led her by the hand and moved from office to office canvassing for votes for Miss NIMASA and asking staff members to buy tickets according their levels. With Hajia’s grace and goodwill, NIMASA staff were able to buy off Joyce Saviour’s tickets and also gave her the required maximum votes that enabled her win the Crown during FOMI 2017 Grand Finale.
That was how magical, how powerful, and how amazing Hajia Tumaka’s influence was on FOMI 2017. And that was what I called the ‘Tumaka’s Way’ of winning FOMI crown.
When Joyce Saviour told me the efforts Hajia Tumaka made for her during the contest, I contemplated it and discovered that Hajia must have been moved by two things: first her belief in FOMI vision, and two, her passion for Public Relations.
Her belief in FOMI vision of gender advocacy, gender equality and women empowerment made her feel that if she couldn’t get DG to approve the agency’s support for the initiative, at least she could get her fellow staff to support FOMI by supporting NIMASA candidate who also happened to be one of their own by virtue of being an NSDP graduate.
Secondly, her natural passion for Public Relations made her not to mind her elevated position as a Director, but humbly undertake to do the task of PR Unit by taking Miss NIMASA round offices to canvass support for her, knowing fully well that if Miss NIMASA wins the Crown, it would attract good Publicity mileage for NIMASA as an agency of government. Who would refuse Hajia’s request under such circumstances of humility and passion? I guess no one. And that was the magic. Doing it the ‘Tumaka’s Way’.
Thus, it’s on record today that in 2017, Miss NIMASA emerged as Face Of Maritime International (FOMI) Queen through the singular efforts of Hajia Lami Tumaka.
A year after that, in 2018, the Customs National PRO adopted the Hajia Tumaka’s Way to mobilise support for Miss Customs and Miss Customs won the FOMI Crown. And just last year, the President General of Maritime Workers Union Of Nigeria (MWUN) adopted the same, Tumaka’s Way by setting up a sub committee that mobilised support for Miss MWUN, thus winning the FOMI 2019 Crown with an unprecedented wide margin.
To us at FOMI and to the maritime industry in general, Hajia has bequeathed us with a tested and trusted strategy of winning the FOMI Crown. We call it the “Tumaka’s Way”. If NIMASA candidate will ever come close to winning the FOMI Crown again, someone in the PR Unit must play the role of Hajia, and do it, the Tumaka’s Way.
The Management of FOMI and former Queen Joyce Saviour cannot forget the effort of Hajia Lami Tumaka in making FOMI an acceptable brand in the maritime sector. Hajia is passionate, humble, diligent and queenly. She is very supportive, motivating and always ready to listen.
Through Hajia, I learnt it’s good to always encourage and pass a complimentary remarks on someone’s else projects, ideas or initiative because you never can tell, your good remarks could be the only tonic the person needs to push through and achieve his or her dreams.
Hajia, to us at FOMI, we owe you a lot, we can only pray the Almighty God to keep you alive for a long time in good health of mind and body for the banner over us is love, and we have a lot to do together with you.
Wishing you a fulfilled retirement after a superb career at NIMASA!
Face Of Maritime International (FOMI).