By Osa Amadi
Hardship, struggles, deprivations and failures are usually integral parts of most success stories. Bayode, who recently broke the Guinness World Record on Read Aloud contest has had sufficient dose of such afflictions.
In this interview with OSA AMADI, Arts Editor and Chris Onuoha, the world’s best reader shares his wilderness experiences to encourage other people who trudge the path that leads to greatness.
You have become famous. How rich or poor are you? Hmmm! Rich or poor? Well, by my understanding, wealth is of the mind and not by bank account balance. If by your question you mean my bank account, I don’t have money.
I may not be financially buoyant but I am very rich within and by the reason of the position I have found myself now. Going by this attainment, which I hope will attract money through offers of endorsement deals and other means, I am rich.
Otherwise, I am still the old Bayode in my usual financial status. But imagine how good and pleasant it will be before God and man for the likes of Paypoint to endow me with the kind of cash they splash on the winners of Big Brother Naija.
We hope corporate bodies will come in and sponsor this type of educational achievement. So, I may not have the money but spiritually and psychologically, I am rich. Many people believe that this achievement has elevated me to a celebrity status, you know. It’s a thing of joy to be a role model and a motivational speaker in the society.
My aspiration is to encourage and motivate young people to come out of the box and do extraordinary things with their lives. Money is important but image value is a legacy worth keeping.
We hear you are planning another reading bout. Is that true?
Yes, in about five months’ time, there will be another Guinness World Record Contest with a large number of people in reading relay. This will involve music super stars, top movie celebrities, entertainers and other important personalities in Nigeria. If possible, governors, legal luminaries, politicians, academicians and the general public will all feature, to show the world that Africans are excellent readers.
You may ask why we are involving all these personalities. This is to tell the children and youths that they too can read. Before now, all eyes have been on music stars like Wizkid, Davido, Olamide, Phyno and the rest of them because they make big money. For example, Davido has popularised $30 billion music slogan for the youths to adopt as anthem for money-making, but they need to understand that education is a necessity.
By bringing all those important people on board, I want to tell the children that their role models can also read. Dangote can read, Otedola and Peterside can read. They didn’t make their money through shortcuts but through education.
Who is initiating this second contest this time?
It is my initiative, although it is in accordance with Guinness World Record guideline. The aim is to rekindle interest in reading like I said, and to encourage the young people to embrace education as a way of life. This is also to put Africa in the world map as a reading continent away from the way the perception has been.
Is this going to be your next project after breaking the world read aloud record?
Not really. It is going to be the second because right now I am making arrangements to visit schools starting from March 23 with Ladoke Akintola University of Technology. This first project is called “Lead to Read; Read to Lead.” The whole idea is to get leaders in their own rights to show the students how to read, while the students in return read for the leaders to show how to lead. We will take some of the top influential people to the primary schools they attended and get them to read to the pupils as models. The pupils will also read to the leaders as their role models. It is going to be healthy and inspiring exercises. With this, children will be inspired to read so that they can become leaders of tomorrow. Readers are leaders, you know.
Who will sponsors it?
For now, I am doing it alone. This is where sponsors are highly needed. I am looking for sponsors because it is huge, educative and beneficial. Corporate organisations, philanthropists and the general public are welcomed to be part of this to make Africa proud. I can’t do it alone. Although it is my vision sponsors must be involved to realize the objectives. It is for the sake of promoting education and reading culture among youths.
This contest will involve about 10,000 people. It is a large number that will attract different types of people. Participants will have the opportunity to showcase their brand, products and enhance their images. Celebrities and politicians will also give mileage to their personalities. They will all read aloud and their voices will be heard and recorded by Guinness world record office.
Are participants going to read for the fun of it or are there going to be incentives?
According to Guinness world record guide, there will be no monetary reward. It is a free readers’ exercise. But every participant will get a certificate from Guinness world record office. It’s an internationally recognized certificate to be issued from Guinness world record office. Besides, there will be some souvenirs of Guinness world record and stamps that will be given to participants.
What will be the duration of this group read aloud exercise?
It will be lesser in time count than the former. Everybody will read from one particular book that has about 10,000 sentences. When you look at the 10,000 people reading 10,000 sentences continuously to end in a space 10 seconds, it will total to about 48 hours without break. So, it is going to be a 2-day affair, day and night. All the participating readers will assembly in one place large enough to accommodate them. It is called relay reading. There will be no stop till the end. This arrangement is in accordance with Guinness world record guidelines. Every activity will be recorded.
Did you ever feel deprivations, hardship and failures? Tell us how you suffered in life.
Well, I was a happy growing up, because I didn’t know then that a better world existed. I didn’t know anything about this type of success as a child. In the community where I grew up, people saw one another as equals, sharing things in common. Life was simple and it was in a low class setting. For almost 25 years of my life, I lived with my parents in one room apartment till I got married and had to move to my own rented house. I did not have any luxury you can think of but I was happy and had no regrets.
It may interest you to know that I did menial jobs as a child to support my family. I hawked fufu, groundnuts, cocoyam and even ‘Tokunbo’ (used) shoes to support myself in school and my mother who was a petty trader. While doing all these, I didn’t feel any regret or pains because my father had taught me to be a hard worker from childhood.
Who are your parents?
My late father’s name is Michael Ayodele Olawunmi. He died about five years ago. He was a carpenter by occupation. My mum is a petty trader. My father had only primary school certificate while my mum stopped school at primary three. They were all from humble backgrounds with modest lifestyles. We had a wonderful family where love and affection for one another held us together.
My father was an easy going and contented person. I learned the virtues of contentment from my father. He took everything with ease and did not worry about what he did not have. He maintained some sort of dignity in the midst of his humbleness. His humility often earned him favours from people and it is sad he is not here today to see the result of his efforts. He also taught me to be independent. In his simplicity, he was my hero.
How does your mum feel about your achievement?
She is a very happy woman now, very proud of what I’ve done. “Thank God I am alive to see this success come to you,” she said. She feels sad that my father is not alive today to celebrate this success with her.
Who is your wife, and how did you meet her?
My wife is Tosin Tresure-Olawunmi (Nee Kolawole) from Ogun State. Meeting her is a blessing to me. We studied in the same school, Osun State Polytechnics. We both lived in hostels adjacent to each other outside the school premises. We knew each other well but not intimately. And I never made any advance or picked interest in her.
At some point, we had some altercations as students, not knowing that one day, the story will change. Not until we returned to do HND in the same school that something different happened. As soon as I sighted her coming back to register, a new spirit took hold of me. I opted to help her with certain things and from there I saw the other side of her. We became closer. I became her mentor, helping her with her class works. This continued till we left school and got married. We have three children of 9, 7 and 5-year olds.
Did you ever aspire to fame in your life, and did it ever cross your mind that it would come through breaking of world reading record?
I have always been a big dreamer but not an outgoing person. I am a quiet person. I like to stay in the background and make things happen from there. I never planned to achieve fame through breaking of Guinness World Record.
You once said that Norman Vincent is your role model. What did you learn from him and what is your philosophy of life?
My philosophy in life is that all things are possible. With God, nothing is impossible. Once you can conceive it, you can achieve it. Norman Vincent is a wonderful writer and teacher. He thought me to be resilient. When I am weak, his teachings, ideology and philosophy keep me going. You know, when you are like ten seconds away from your breakthrough, that extra push can make a lot of difference. If you quit, it would mean starting all over again or never. The values I picked from Norman are integrity, tenacity, perseverance, kindness, friendliness and selflessness.
What message do you have for humanity?
Love. When you love people unconditionally, you can do anything for them. Love conquers all things. Let us love one another so that we can achieve a lot in life.
How do you relax as a person?
I won’t lie to you, for now, it is reading. Reading is my hobby and my way of relaxing. I also watch football. I am a Chelsea fan. Chelsea has demonstrated a die-hard spirit in the game of football even when they are losing. I love music too just as I like sports. Like I said before, music is good and the young ones who are doing music are doing it well but not right.
I would encourage young people to study, read books first before playing music. Education has no substitute. It helps you to manage your life better as a person. Jay Z, for instance, is an American artist who is very rich. He is into many other things apart from music. Jay Z is well-read. He has a masters’ degree to his credit.
Where do you want to go from here?
My desire in life is to establish an academic institution where people can come and have quality free education. I don’t know how, but I strongly believe it is possible. I want to encourage people to study and gain knowledge in life.
As a Positive Thinker, do you believe you are already rich?
Very rich in every sense. With God, all things are possible.