The Root Of My Passion & My Faith, And The Connection Between The Two.

‘Nothing is more common than unsuccessful people with talent’

In the wake of some unpleasant national situations, neglect and injustice being faced by helpless Nigerians in recent times, I can not avoid adding  my  voice to cast some weight behind the helpless, and  to advocate for their defense and the honour of their rights. Such has been my case over the years. Call me an activist or whatever, the truth remains that I have devoted myself to advocating against societal injustice and pleading in defense of the helpless. It may interest you to discover the roots of my passion, my faith and the connection between the two.

Early in life, I had wanted to be a nun. My father was then in the UK. I had even gone ahead to obtain the Registration Form. When my mother saw the form with me, she immediately called my father on the phone and they both decided that my academic pursuit was paramount before I could follow my  ambition. Later, my father threatened that if I insisted on being a nun, he was going to print my obituary. I was devastated as this was my life-long dream but my younger brother encouraged me. My father later returned and took me for A-Levels.

One day in 1982, I saw a poster for a meeting of Rethink Nigeria, an NGO at the School of Basic Studies, Kwara state College of Technology, lIorin. I attended the meeting, and made an observation regarding the omission of opening and closing prayers on the agenda, but I was shouted down and I left the meeting. It took the soothing words of one of the organizers and the promise that my concerns would be addressed before I attended the subsequent meeting.  I got to the meeting only to discover that opening and closing prayers were still left out of the agenda, to which I once again protested. This time, I was threatened to be thrown out of the meeting hall through the window. That was the last time I attended the meeting 1.

While at the University of lIorin I still wanted to be a nun. One day, one of my lecturers asked me to see him in his office.  When I went, he told me that I scored the highest in his course in the test. The lecturer advised that I was a brilliant girl and wondered why I was interested in becoming a reverend sister. I replied him that I wanted to be married to Jesus Christ, but the lecturer asked me to look at-his book shelf which was filled with all kinds of books. He asked if I had heard or read about Reverend Martin Luther King, Nelson Mandela, and many others and my reply was  negative.  He gave me some books to read and followed me up on them. The lecturer prophetically told me that I was going to be married to the struggle. Even when I was growing up in primary and secondary schools, each time I saw any student being molested by any teacher or senior students, I always felt bad and most times intervened. My mother’s life style was also a huge influence. She was a disciplinarian. As such she taught us the necessity for hard work. Having once been the President of Anioma Women Association, different people brought cases for my mother to settle. I watched and listened to how she addressed issues and always stood up for the oppressed.

In 1985 when I became born again in the struggle, I had written my will based on my possession of just a mattress and some books. In the will, I instructed that my mattress should be given to the motherless babies’ home; while my books should be given to the University of Ilorin library should anything happen to me in the struggle. Consequently, the struggle has really been a thing I made up my mind to be involved in. And that has been my life till date.

Over the years, I have remained consistent without minding the hazards to my person in a society where critical voices are loathed by the unjust system which rewards the crook and punishes the just. I simply see myself as a woman fulfilling her destiny; defending the oppressed and the voiceless is my passion and I will go to Kirikiri for them if I have to!
Nothing in this world can take the place of persistence. Talent will not; nothing is more common than unsuccessful people with talent. Genius will not; unrewarded genius is almost a proverb. Education will not; the world is full of educated derelicts. Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent. The slogan “press on” has solved and always will solve the problems of the human race. This assertion has been a propelling force in my life with which I have a resolve to show the world the strength of a woman.

As a woman, life has thought me so much which includes;

  • The person who cuts you in line has no such intention. They just want to get to the front. When you stop taking things personally, you’ll feel better and your relationships will improve dramatically. Even in cases when it is personal, your life will be better if you treat it as if it wasn’t. If you don’t believe me, I won’t take it personally.
  • Not giving up doesn’t mean holding on when you’re wrong.
  • When you know what you’re doing is right, but you’re not sure if you’re going to make it or want to give up because it’s too difficult, that’s the time to persevere. When you know you are wrong, but you want to hold on because you don’t want others to think of you as a quitter, it’s time to pivot.

We’ve heard this many times, but how many of us are proactive about it? What were your last five projects and how successful were you? If you achieved most of them, you’re not stepping enough out of your comfort zone. Go bigger so you can fail and learn.  Action is the only thing that counts.

Don’t tell me, show me! I’ve found in my life that the best and only way to achieve my dreams is by taking action. Planning and talking about it has its place, but they are a complete waste of time if you don’t take action. Everyone’s life is difficult. Especially that of a woman. So be kind to yourself and others.

Josephine Okei-Odumakin is a women’s right activist and social crusader. She is the president of the rights groups Women Arise for Change Initiative and the Campaign for Democracy. She was one of the recipients of the 2013 Women of Courage award in the United States.

 

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