Research has shown that the inability of majority of Nigerians to speak foreign languages such as French has resulted in their loss of inter-regional as well as international jobs, including ones statutorily allocated to Nigerians.
By KATE HALIM
Tokunbo Giwa-Amu had her whole life planned perfectly, until she survived a fatal accident, which claimed the life of her friend and unborn baby.
A graduate of Economics, Tokunbo turned 40 this year, and it was a time for celebration, reflection and thanksgiving.
In an interview with Daily Sun, Giwa-Amu shared her near-death experience and what it was like growing up among four boys. Excerpts:
Was turning 40 recently scary or thrilling?
It was neither scary nor thrilling. I just loved it. But when I turned 30, it was so scary. I was looking forward to turning 40 because I have gotten to the point where I have accepted to be me. I am now content with myself, life itself and everything around me. I am grateful to God for my life and the rest I now have around me. When I turned 30, I was apprehensive about the things I didn’t have and all the things I have not achieved. I am so grateful for life now because I have come this far and I look forward to adding more years to my life.
What experience have you learnt a valuable lesson from?
I lost my friend and my unborn baby in an accident years back while traveling back from the university. A young lady who was with us in the car also survived the crash and I kept asking God why her and not my friend?
It was a turning point in my life. Whenever I think about it, I shudder. At that time, all my plans, good deeds and aspirations didn’t matter, what mattered was how God spared my life in an accident that claimed that of my friend. It taught me what really mattered in life and not all the transient issues we pursue daily. It taught me to accept and love people for who they are because life is so short. It also taught me to be grateful for what I had and quit complaining about those things, which I thought I was lacking.
If I had died, what would have become of all my dreams, plans and family? Was my walk with God okay at that point? I just realized after that accident that all our striving, struggling and planning just to get things done are not worth it without God’s help. I was 8 months pregnant then and had plans to forgo NYSC. I had planned for the birth of my baby, how to get a job and how to go for my Masters degree afterwards, but those plans were shattered in a twinkle of an eye. That accident changed my whole perception about life and the uncertainty of tomorrow with regards to our life’s plans and desires. All my plans took a downward turn and I was forced to rethink my life’s purpose and why God spared me. I have decided to take life one day at a time, as well as commit my plans into God’s hands.
Was it this experience that prompted the writing of your books?
No. I wrote those books out of my love for God and humanity. I love encouraging people and I pray a lot for people too. I was organizing different prayer meetings where I joined others in praying for their challenges. I host a monthly fellowship at home called ‘Lifting Hands’. During those services, the Holy Spirit ministered to me to always write down things I shared at the meetings. So, my books are a collection of short stories and some of the messages I have shared during my meetings. I wrote those books to encourage people to believe in themselves. It is also aimed at enlightening my readers about the important place of God in all their life’s plans and pursuits. It takes God to make one’s plans a reality. The books are Uki: The brightest star-Fame and Uki: the brightest star- stand out. Fame builds your confidence, as you read about three bold women who gained fame as they dared to step into terrains many lily-livered women won’t dare. While in Stand Out, you will learn that men will always fail you but a stand with and for Jesus, will ultimately guarantee blessings beyond your expectations.
How did you deal with the psychological trauma of losing your unborn child and friend, How did you ease the pains?
My immediate family and in-laws were very supportive. Initially, I didn’t want to accept I had lost my baby. I just noticed I was being over-pampered and given advice all the time. Phrases like” This baby came to spare your life and died for you live”, was the shocking news I received after learning of my friend’s demise. The love and care I received from loved ones helped me get out of the emotional trauma fast.
My loved ones, and friends built me up emotionally. I had to deal with the denial phase too as well, questioning God why He allowed all my plans to sink. It was a very difficult period for me. I realized that God spared me for a reason. People were always around me, praying with me and encouraging me. But time heals all wounds. I had to let go eventually, but I still remember and miss my friend. It makes me sad that our dreams together were shattered as we studied the same course and were very close.
Has your style changed at 40?
My style has definitely changed, but it has nothing to do with my age. My style has evolved over the years. I love dressing well. I am the first and only daughter of my parents,among four boys. I was a tomboy who loved wearing shorts and trousers a lot when growing up. I didn’t really pay attention to dressing differently from my brothers and I didn’t even care about what people said about my dress sense then. People always wondered aloud why I don’t dress and carry myself like my mom. I just love being at peace with myself even to my dressing. At 40, I am no longer as carefree in my dressing the way I was years back.
Who inspires you in terms of how they perceive and live life?
My parents have been a great source of inspiration to me. My mom is a strong-willed person who doesn’t take no for an answer. She is very fashionable with her unique sense of style. She is disciplined and always business-minded. She is the one who always thinks of how things will get better and how to make more money. My dad on the other hand is a very calm, even as a military man. He has always been the calm and blunt one. He always tells us to be the best of who we are.
My parents stretched us to do better no matter how good we were then. They always challenged us to strive to be the best. They taught us the importance of maintaining a good name over riches, the importance of family and how to look out for each other. They always looked ahead and were not bothered about the now or what they didn’t have. To them, the future matters and the past must be forgotten. We also learnt the virtue of contentment from them.
Did you find it easy growing up among four boys?
It was very easy for me because I wasn’t spoilt as the only girl in the house. My Dad ensured that I was respected and protected by my younger brothers. I was allowed to punish them too if they did wrong, so it was fun growing up with my brothers. We are very close-knit family because we learnt early in life to have fun and respect each other. We played football together, did things for each other and were always there for each other. It was great being the only girl in their midst.
How do you juggle your personal interests and family commitments?
I get bored easily doing a particular thing for long. So, I have learnt to plan my time well. I have been fortunate to get jobs that are not time-consuming. I always work with a target and make sure I meet my target without sacrificing my family in the process. I make sure things are in order at home and also create adequate time to be with my family. At my own time, I do what I love by the side. I am not one who loves sleep a lot, so at night, I do my thinking and writing while others are asleep.
What do you love most about life and being alive?
I love family and they come first before anything else. I am a family person. That’s the most important thing in life. Making sure my husband, kids, parents, siblings and everyone around me is happy, makes me happy and fulfilled. I have a passion for the church and the less privileged as well.
What advice do you have for women who have suffered a loss, maybe the loss of a spouse or a child?
Get closer to God first. Talk with God about how and what you are feeling, never hold back your feelings. If you gone through a loss, make sure you have trustworthy people you can talk to and share your pains with. You can’t bottle in your feelings, they will eat you up and make you a bitter person. You need to calm your mind with positive things. You have to read, pray and get your mind off what happened. It’s not going to be easy but you have to do it for the sake of your future.
The truth is that whatever it is has happened and there is really nothing you can do about it other than to be bold, strong and face it squarely. God has a way of making better no matter how long it takes; you just have to focus on what good can come out of that situation because when the good comes, you will know. Look up to God and look forward to a bright future. You should picture a greater future and work towards it. Live a life of gratitude, it builds you up and keeps you alive. Pick yourself up; it is not the end of the world. Think of tomorrow, be happy for today and live one day at a time.