Adenike Oyetunde: I’ve continued to push and live intentionally…
I’ve Continued To Push And Live Intentionally, Without Having To Allow Disability Impede Me
After receiving a devastating and life-changing cancer diagnosis at 20, and subsequently having one of her legs amputated, Adenike Oyetunde determined in her heart to not only survive, but to thrive despite tragic circumstances. She’s gone on to become a lawyer, On-Air-Personality, Influencer and Founder of Amputees United – an advocacy platform for amputees. Adenike has also recently published her self-titled Memoir, which sheds light on various aspects of her inspiring journey, and what the future holds for her. She spoke exclusively to Leading Ladies Africa on her journey to becoming a phenomenal woman. Excerpts…
It’s great to have you on LLA. Congratulations on the book. I am a bit curious though, why the eponymous title?
Nothing grand, safe that it is my story and I needed to own my narrative. I am the one who is to be cherished and I needed the world to read that. It’s My story, Your Movie (because people feel they know me already) and His Glory (all to God).
Great! So, what is your story and how has your story morphed into what you do right now as an activist and as a broadcaster?
My story is like the millions of Nigerians living ‘acquired’ disability in Nigeria. However, unlike many, I have intentionally continued to push and live intentionally, without having to allow the disability to impede me, and that has seen me cross from being called to the Nigeria Bar, and getting started as a media personality in Nigeria. I have in turn used that platform to share extensively on the plight of PWDs in Nigeria among the several other causes that are dear to me.
Speaking of broadcasting, how did you set out in that field?
I got an internship slot for two days weekly, asked that it be increased, and it was. I was learning the technical part of the job, and the moment an opening was available, I was offered the job, with the opportunity to learn on the job.
Are there peculiar challenges you faced in the industry, first as a woman and next as an amputee?
Thankfully none. I’m grateful I was allowed the opportunity to get the job and not be denied that because of the disability. I believe because I was able to “deliver”, the disability wasn’t a hindrance.
Can you share experience(s) you would say has been the highlight of your journey as a broadcaster so far?
Maybe not a highlight, but I remember so clearly. Towards the 2015 elections, we had to run a “Towards 2015” daily show. I had reached out to a certain female Lagos State House of Assembly representative on coming on the show. She had given word she would make it and I simply made a routine call to remind her about her appearance on the show. She was so flippant to mention the fuel scarcity as the reason she could not make it and asked how I expected her to come, without allowing me to share the alternative of having the chat via phone call. She was outrightly rude, and I wasn’t taking any of that. I went on air and explained to the listeners why she wasn’t on the show and told them to let me know what she may have done as a legislator in that constituency. I got little or no response. I was sad, but did not feel pressured into not sharing extensively on why, as legislators, they were accountable to us. I was ready to lose my job that day.
And the downsides? The days you do not want to get out of bed much less speak to your listeners. What keeps you going on such days?
The thoughts and plans of a better tomorrow keep me going. Occasionally, I’ll listen to music that keep me going – Hillsong, Folabi Nuel, Florocka, Bethel Music, Kwesi Oteng all have songs that speak to my every moment.
Away from career, retrospectively speaking, what would you tell your 25-year-old self?
Start learning. Discover yourself faster. Travel across Nigeria.
Let’s talk about activism and Amputees United. What led to its creation and how has the reception been? Can you list some indignities amputees are faced with that a lot of people are not privy to?
It was birthed from a place of need and pain. When I realised how I hadn’t met people like me, who understood what I was feeling, when I probably attempted to get into a public building, without access because of the disability. There was a need to create a safe place for us to talk about the worries we had and fears we were experiencing.
The reception has been great. We sometimes fail to realise how many Nigerians currently live with disability and waiting for a voice to champion our cause. It’s usually from the simple things of life. Lack of access to public transportation, even where in Lagos for instance we have the BRT buses with earmarked seatings, question is, how do these PWDs get to the parks from their homes? Access into public facilities – hospitals, banking halls, event concerts. Access to preferential parking at places. Denial of employment opportunities, yes, indeed, people are still refused job opportunities, where they can deliver because of disability.
We sometimes fail to realise how many Nigerians currently live with disability and waiting for a voice to champion our cause. It’s usually from the simple things of life. Lack of access to public transportation, even where in Lagos for instance we have the BRT buses with earmarked seatings, question is, how do these PWDs get to the parks from their homes?
Do you have impact stories from the initiative you would love to share? Absolutely, just recently someone reached out that his mother was refusing to use her prosthetic limb. I asked how old she was, when the amputation occurred and the cause. We found out she was over 60, had never spoken to a psychologist on this journey and may be needing one. That again affirmed our belief that caregivers quite often wrongly expect that every amputee automatically moves into needing and must get a prosthetic limb. It’s always a process. Always!!!
You seem unconventional, different and a little quirky – have you always been like this, and how do you maintain your authenticity in a world that wants you to blend in?
I’m authentic (dancing). What’s the point in faking anything? At the cost of my peace? Nah. NOTHING is worth it. NOTHING!!! I am daily evolving and I realise that the moments of my seeming authenticity have brought me the most calm. I’d rather be the counter culture and be FREE!!! Blending in can be so stress, jeez. No energy for such.
You’re a published author, Founder of Amputees United, amongst other things – what’s next on the horizon for Adenike?
Honest truth is disability advocacy. I feel it so strongly. The next phase is to pressure for more. The government, religious societies and all of us. The book is definitely going farther than it already has, and I’m even more excited about where it is headed.
In your book, you speak a lot about your faith – in what specific ways does it shape and define your life?
In keeping my cool. My faith has helped me understand (and even where I reluctantly accept sometimes) the journey of my life. The highs, lows and difficult moments. My faith helps shape my calm, my world, people I interact with, sometimes where I go.
You seem to like to travel – what are your favourite destination spots, and what places would you like to visit this year?
For some unknown reasons now- Rwanda, Israel, Singapore.
What would you say to women who are facing specific struggles or challenges similar to the ones you went through?
One day at a time does it. Do NOT hassle to understand the full picture as a whole. Keep pushing, everyone you see who seems all put together has only decided to keep pushing. Trust the journey. Trust the captain of your life.
If you could sit down and have a two-hour conversation with anyone in the world -living or dead-who would it be, and why?
Bill and Melinda Gates. I want to know why they’re so big on what their Foundation does of helping the world. I want to listen to their hearts as they speak. I want to understand the push to create a pool of amazing people interpreting this dream.
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