Fate and destiny
Two fascinating reports were published in this newspaper last week. One was about a young girl who had a challenging and uncertain childhood blissful development. She was born by a couple that went their different ways because of irreconcilable differences and domestic violence. The split occurred when she was only nine months. From her account, she was raised by her grandmother, uncles and aunties and by neighbours through our cultural belief that our neighbour’s child is our child. The mother remarried and eventually she joined her in the new home, at the age of 10. She now had naturally a stepfather in her mother’s new husband.
From that tender age, pushed by challenges of her difficult childhood, her view of life began to take shape; she began to think of how she would give form and content to her path. She started to support her mother and her siblings—as the eldest child of the home.It is the story of Jennifer Umeh.
“My background,” she said, “may have been messy, dirty; whatever we want to call it, but it provided the best environment for the seed within me to grow and produce more seeds to encourage others! I learnt never to allow my circumstances inhibit my growth as a person at all! If I have a goal, I will go for it.”
Now Jennifer Umeh is 23, she has just finished from Federal Polytechnic, Offa, in Kwara State, brandishing a Higher Diploma certificate in Mass Communication. She is doing her National Youth Service in Imo State. Indeed, while in school, all manner of ideas flooded her mind. Not only was she a campus correspondent for a national newspaper, she got involved in high-minded programmes. She was connected with a programme called “Mentor A Girl Fellow, Educate A Girl Scholar.” She was a Fellow of Nigeria Students Leaders programme. In 2016, her work was adjudged the best community project of the year by SLAM Initiative. She was not done yet.
Recently, she was given the African Youth Academy Award for selfless service and contribution towards the development of young African leaders. She consequently became a Fellow of African Youth Academy. She founded a clothing brand called Blinky Creative Collections. This arose from her bullying experiences in school.
She established a non-profit organisation called Hope for African Girls Initiative again in 2016 when she was barely 20. The object of the Girl’s Initiative is to transform the lives of marginalised community girls through quality education and empowerment. It is a vehicle to promote creative learning “by providing platforms for girls and young women to explore and nurture their creative ideas.” So far, the initiative has succeeded in grooming young women to be responsible citizens and get them to unfold their spirit and release its waves of compassion to the world.
In her words: “My vision is to foster an educated and compassionate new generation of young African girls who will use their education to improve their lives, help their country, and contribute to the world peace and prosperity for all. My focus is on educating the girls and also educating their families and communities and improve their support system.”
Anyone reading her account, the picture that would float before his inner gaze would be like watching a film. The world can certainly not wait for her to get done with her youth service. What manner of girl is Jennifer Umeh that she is so full of promise? That is likely to be the question on our lips. She evinces much promise already. Is her case that of ‘He who dares wins,’ the bravery tonic Margaret Thatcher administered to the British troops going to fight a dangerous Falklands war? Jennifer is an incredible phenomenon. What is driving her that she has packed so much into her barely 20 years of existence?
The story of Olabode Adetoyi is slightly different from Jennifer’s, but is no less inspirational. While Jennifer got inwardly open through searing adversity and she found herself driven by unwavering determination to achieve, Adetoyi followed his inner stirring to follow a particular path. He had a poor material background. His parents were peasant farmers who had difficulty keeping two ends meet. Unknown to him along his path, fortune lay in wait. After his university education at the University of Ilorin where he studied agriculture and his Youth Service at Calabar, working at Cocoa Board, he lived briefly with his sister in Warri in the quest for work. When his search for employment was unavailing, Adetoyi relocated to Lagos. The first job he secured was as a tea hawker to school children at Palm Grove. The fortune lying in wait for him was sliced open when one day, someone who had observed him serve with warmth and humility, called him aside and said he would like to offer him employment. The benefactor was impressed that someone with a university degree could stoop to serve tea to school children at a bus stop. He accepted the offer. He was diligent and in no time, he was promoted and posted to the Ibadan branch of the company. He was given a car. His life got transformed. He seized the opportunity of his new status to do his masters in biochemistry.
Listening to an inner stirring within him, he decided to set up his own company. His decision to leave shocked his colleagues at work. They feared he was taking a gamble, too much risk to jump into an uncertain future. Adetoyi had made up his mind. He left and set up a company called Hi-Nutrients which was to be a member of Neovia Group).
In his word: “I was hawking tea at Palm Groove Bus Stop in Lagos. Somebody spotted me and admired the way I was hawking and serving school children. The then stranger offered me an employment.” Today, a tea vendor of some years back has become a millionaire. He said: “Today at the age of 50, I am a fulfilled man.” His company, Hi-Nutrients, being a specialist in an animal nutrition, has attracted the attention of Neovia of France which has acquired some stake in it.
Adetoyi is also serving the country through mentoring, setting up a foundation, what he calls giving back to the society.The two cases have demonstrated once again how people have overcome their challenging circumstances, and risen from grass to grace. Such cases are not new, nor uncommon; they have been so for all time, from decade to decade. Each time they occur, they are inspirational. They serve as push tonic for the multitude who groan under the burden of life’s struggles. The question must arise: Who is this young lady and who is this young man—one is full of promise and the other who has dramatically transformed from a tea hawker at a Lagos bus stop to a corporate suite millionaire?
One of our veteran and celebrated columnists, Dan Agbese, writing the preface to the Newswatch cover report in November in 1992 raised thought- provoking questions about what are generally called the mysteries of life. He reflected on possible influences which are incomprehensible to man, which are beyond him, yet they shape his life. Agbese made the late Tai Solarin the peg of his reflections. For those who may not have heard much about Tai Solarin, he was an educationist, a frontline nationalist, a social critic and activist, a school proprietor and an indefatigable social reformer. Dan Agbese wrote: “The man is a living proof that man gets exactly what he wants from life. He achieved everything he set out to—good education, a good wife, children in the exact number and sex he wanted. He set up his own secondary school. All without one day reading the Bible or the Koran. All without one day going down on his knees in the privacy of his house to pray to the Supreme Being.”
He continued: “You surely have heard this argument before. Man is the architect of his fortune—or misfortune. If man is the architect of his own fortunes, shaping his life and destiny, then what role does the Supreme Being play in his life, his success and failure? If man’s life is predetermined, Tai Solarin might have a point. It is up to man to go to wherever he chooses, to achieve what he sets out to achieve. Or, to fail, if he is so inclined. Choices in life are never simple. Failure is not a choice anyone makes consciously. Everyone craves for success and fights for it. So how come some succeed and others fail? Is it simply that those who fail did not try enough? Or maybe they tried too hard in the wrong direction?” He asked: Why does the wicked prosper and why does the good man suffer?
These are issues and questions that have agitated minds for centuries and will continue to do so. The question that has not been asked is: Is there no principle that regulates and guides the affairs of man and all creatures, living and non-living things—principle that is unassailable, that is changeless, perfect and unyielding; principle that is not affected by revolution, tidal waves of human opinions or their machinations? If the principle has not been found does it mean it does not exist? If found, but not understood, will the lack of understanding hinder its outworking? Can it not be it is the obstinacy of we human beings to follow the path shown in the principle and by the principle that has accounted for fate and perplexities that have assailed our world and we the inhabitants therein?
Tai Solarin may have been very successful socially and in material endowments to give him contentment. But there are far more people, numerically speaking, who believe in the existence of the Most High and who are by far more successful and who attribute their endowments and attainment in life to no other but to Him and His Grace. Says Olabode Adetoyi: “I owe my success to God as a member of The Redeemed Christian Church of God (RCCG).” This then means there is more about life and existence which are still foggy. By the same token, it is not everyone who believes in the existence of the Almighty Creator who is successful by whatever measure. It should go without saying that there is indeed more about life which only enlightenment with light beamed by higher knowledge can resolve.
That enlightenment is the manual of creation, of life and existence. For a pilot and the flight captain of an aircraft to fly their aircraft successfully and safely, they must be conversant with the manual of that particular aircraft and abide by it, its content and the direction it gives. The manual is by the manufacturer. It is the same with automobiles. The manual for the car tells us about tire gauge, oil gauge, speedometer, and when to change accessories. The car guarantees safety and gives pleasure and joy to him who is familiar with the manual.
The manual of Creation and life and existence which multitude seem not aware of is the Natural Laws which are the same as Divine Laws. They are the expression of the Will of God. Legislators express the will of their constituents through laws. For harmony and love in the family, the departed leaves his will and there are trustees to administer the will. It is the Will of the Creator that governs the entire Creation and the Divine Realm for all eternity, ensuring orderliness, peace and harmony and beauty. It can therefore not be any wonder why Paradise is called the Realm of Peace and the Lord Christ said doing the Will of His Father is the precondition for gaining admittance into Paradise, His Father’s Kingdom. From the understanding of working of life’s principles, it becomes clear that the Almighty Creator does not need to directly intervene in the cares of men and world conditions. These are left to the living incorruptible mechanisms of life, the outworking of the Holy Spirit, the Creative Will and Justice of God personified, the eternal Mediator, with the Rays of His Power permeating the entire Creation, the living and the non-living, plants, animals and all. In the exercise of our free will to decide, whatever we decide, however, carries consequences. Why does the wicked prosper and why does the good man suffer? They are topics for a full dressing for some other day.
It suffices to state that Jennifer Umeh’s phenomenon and great promise is a carry-over of abilities from a previous earth life. She is like the wizkids, the prodigies that are more easily found in the arts and science and technology. Have we forgotten Tom, the slave boy? Jennifer’s childhood challenges can be seen as help for her awakening for unfolding of talents and abilities. The same may be read into the challenges Adetoyi faced in his childhood days. There is no arbitrariness in the ways of God, but absolute justice that gives to each of us what we deserve—suffering or joy; prosperity or lack and penury; good health or ill health. No one is a victim of circumstances. Our stations are consequences of our sowing. How can we conceive of people killing their fellow men and there would be no consequences, here or hereafter?
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