By JOSEPHINE IGBINOVIA
She believes there will be no change unless individuals begin to see themselves as agents of change. Oyo State-born Mrs.Adebola Awokoya, a registered nurse who practiced in New York until two years ago when she decided to return to Nigeria, is passionate about selfless and mutual love. She shared her experience with Vista Woman recently. Enjoy:
I relocated to Nigeria with the intention of introducing disposables such as plates, cups, table covers, etc. But that idea was frustrated because the Nigerian society seems so bent on class. I mean, people are not just comfortable with themselves! When you go to parties, before the party ends, you find caterers already removing their plates, table covers, cups, etc.
But if these were disposables, they won’t have to come remove anything! Disposables are aesthetically beautiful in the sense that if you have a green aso-ebi or colour code for instance, you could decide to go for green disposables! Funny enough, when abroad, these Nigerians make use of disposables! I really think we have a huge problem with being real.
One thing I also love doing as an individual is working with children. I love children and apart from promoting the use of disposables, I came down to Nigeria with the intention of setting up fun places like amusement parks for them. When I was growing up, I I had so much fun. But nowadays, you see children lacking in such lives. Even the traditional values are gone! You see them so engrossed with their BlackBerries, doing social networking.
Nobody is seeing this, but the truth is that it’s making our children anti-social! Even in the western world, some well-educated people do not allow their child stay on play stations, BB, etc. But even at parties, we find ours and even some adults, concentrating on social networking with their phones. When you block yourself from people and begin to lose social interaction, how would you learn how to behave correctly?
To correct this, I felt I should have an amusement park where people could come have fun, share information and learn from one another. But by the time I got here, I couldn’t afford that idea because of electricity supply which has become a huge problem in this country. But last Christmas, I was however able to do something somewhat similar; but in a smaller way. I set up a place which I called ‘Adventure Land’ at Dolphin Estate in Lagos.
It was a place filled with wonderful experiences. It had inflatable swimming pools, bouncing castles, etc. You could say it was like old Lagos because it was a place where everybody had the opportunity to be themselves. It was an atmosphere to behold because people came from far and wide to experience it. The credit for realising this goes to Mrs.Ngere, the Proprietress of Treasureland Schools at Dolphin.
Again, I also took a cue from how grotto’s are set in the middle of malls in America. So, I was fortunate to get a space at the City Mall in Lagos where I set up a grotto for children to take photographs with Santa and cart away some gifts. It was lovely because they also had a Santa moment which gave them opportunities to talk to Santa, ask questions, etc.
They all loved it! In New York, I was actually working with children with special needs, so when I started the grotto on December 7th, I invited the Centre for Developmental Challenges, CDC, to open it for me. The Deputy Governor of Lagos State, Her Excellency, Mrs. Joke Orelope Adefulire, also honoured us with her presence because she too loves children as well.
I invited CDC in particular because when I met Dr.AKindayomi upon returning to Nigeria, I was stunned by the western standards being operated at the centre. I love special children. In fact, in the US, I spent my New Year and Christmas with them. I bond with them because I know they depend on us for life and joy. We have to make time to show them love and care. Some people see them as a burden and undesirable.
Can you imagine? But that’s the reality of how many people see them! Some throw them away, keep them behinds locks, see them as dunces, kill them, etc. But on the day I opened the grotto at the City Mall, even a blind person could see that they were happy because they had fun! To enable me do more for them, I’m presently working on setting up a foundation.
I’m a happy person, and I believe people around me should be happy as well. I do not base my happiness on anybody; not even on my husband or child. I make myself happy because I love myself. People blame others for their lack of self-esteem, saying they were beaten and insulted while growing up.
But this is a part of the lives of many people! One of my elder sisters who is now in England used to call me ugly, ugly, ugly, but has that defined me? No! Because it’s not written on my skin! So, I believe people should learn to love themselves and be proud of who they are.
My advice to Nigerians is to learn to love one another. The lack of mutual love is the root of Nigeria’s problems. Everybody seems to be competing with everyone, and nobody seems determined to help lift up anybody. All we know is “Me, Myself and I”, and we claim we want a change. Change cannot happen without you and I.
Some people cannot afford a meal a day in this country, and some are heaping up cars in their compounds even in the same street where people are dying of poverty. The rich people in this country are just not helping anyone. I believe God blesses one so that we too can be a blessing to others.’