Excerpts from my autobiography: Once ERASED…Now RAISED…
I am in love with the idea of mission to society, which is the foundation of a true service to humanity. I live by this principle: ‘the world is a marketplace, sacrifices are its rewards.’ By an unalloyed commitment to a conviction to serve humanity in peculiar ways, I fell in love with small businesses.
This is one part of me that people do not know today. I kept a weekly columns for Business Day and Daily Independent newspapers for over four years, writing about the inseparable relationship between law and small business (entrepreneurship).
Small businesses and their interaction with the law have an unusual way of unlocking my passion. But I am a product of influence. Everybody is a product of influence.
I think mum, who introduced me to business very early in life, sowed the first seeds of my passion for small businesses. Mum was a small businesswoman. She dealt in women clothing including the popular ‘aso oke.’ I remember she would travel to Ondo from Ado-Ekiti, where the family resided to buy her wares, twice a month (I hope I still have my facts together).
Later, she tried her hands on timber business in an effort to expand the scope of her business and investment. I think mum was thinking about multiple streams of income. But she was swindled by a relation of ours, who we referred to as Baba James. Mum trusted him and invested a large chunk of her proceeds into the business, which never took off.
That was mum, she believed in the good of every human being. Another attribute of mum was that she was a lover and promoter of peace. She would not lift a finger against Baba James. She would say, ‘I leave it to God.’ Mum continued with her clothing business until she moved into other things later in life.
I was to mum, from primary school, a General Manager, Sales Rep and an accountant. She trusted me enough to entrust to my little and budding hands those awesome responsibilities. I took up the challenge and did my best not to let mum down. Mum did not have formal education. She understood enough figures and Pidgin English not to get into trouble and to get out of trouble if she found herself in any. She taught me elementary accounting, peculiar to her small trade. Her books were always intact. It was as if we were preparing to meet external auditors and no-nonsense investors.
Mum and I devised many marketing strategies to get our products to the final consumers. Many times when demands were low in Erekesan market, Ado Ekiti, (old Ondo State, Nigeria) where mum’s shop was located, I would help her hawk her wares in popular streets like Orere-owu, Okesha, Okela, Idolofin, Ajilosun, just to mention a few. Every sale brought joy and fulfilment, as it would spur mum’s commendation. Thus the scorching sun and torrential rain were not always strong enough to deter my weekends and holiday hawking for mum.
We equally visited major markets in the Ado Ekiti province. I remember how we would leave home very early, when the morning dew was still wet on the grass, for us to catch up with the bus at the motor park. Being one-minute late could ruin the week. Mum and I never missed the bus though. The truth is mum was diligent with time.
Iye Lido or Auntie Muti, as we fondly called her was a jolly good fellow. With her there was no dull moment. She loved life and had her fair share of it. She rejoiced with those who rejoiced and made herself available in their company. She was frank almost to a fault. She would speak her mind against popular opinions. She would not condone oppression. She hardly fought her own battle. She spoke for others or encouraged them to speak for themselves. Mum could not and did not hurt anybody. She served everyone that came her way. She was a generous soul. Though she did not have much, she was clothed in contentment.
Iye Lido also loved and defended her children. I remember when I was in the University, and shortly after I graduated, she would see me off to the motor park when I travelled home. She would buy gari lucky, a popular gari in Ondo and smoked cat fish to go with it, without soliciting. She preferred to surprise me with them. She would pray fervently for me and my siblings. She found unquantifiable pleasure in the fact that we were making progress in life. In 1993, I was arrested during the June 12 struggle. Pronto, mum was at Alagbon, where I was being detained, ready to stand as surety. She stood surety and whisked me off to Ondo after I was released for a compulsory sabbatical from ‘the struggle.’
2004, while in a relative’s burial ceremony, she slumped. She was later diagnosed with a stroke. She battled this debilitating ailment with all her strength. We gave her all the support we could, with all the resources at our disposal. We were in prayers and fasting often. Her will to live was very strong and palpable. She would say to us that she would not die. She would insist that she was convinced that she would walk out of her sick bed and see many more years. I was with her till her last Sunday on earth and she did not abandon her confession for a second. 2.00 AM on Tuesday, January 20, 2009, she was struck by another stroke. She went into a coma and did not come out until she passed away on Friday, January 23, 2009.
Mum was an Alhaja, a devout Muslim, but in the course of her ailment she surrendered her life to Christ. I remember when she was asked to pray at my wedding, to the amazement of her siblings, she prayed in the name of Jesus. My greatest joy is that she is resting at the spacious bosom of our Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ. She is in a better place, where there is no sorrow, tears and suffering.
Friends, the seed she planted keep growing with bountiful fruits. Like Ernesto Che Guevara, who went from one country to the other as an initiator and catalyst of political revolutions, I have moved from one small business to the other not only as a pioneer but as a trainer on law and allied mattes as they relate to Small Business. Beyond this, I am a crusader for the social and economic renaissance of the Third World.
I believe that poverty is the number one threat to the well-being of the precious African children and therefore if we are keen about a hope and a future for them, we must as a matter of supreme necessity be interested in Social Protection. Here is the link between my commitment to economic emancipation of our people and Securing A Friendly and Protective Environment for the precious African child and my mum sowed that seed. To her, I am eternally grateful.
To Mutiatu Ayoka Akinlami, I say adieu! To my siblings, I say rejoice, mum has gone to a better place. To you, dear friends, I say rejoice with us, our mum is resting in the bosom of her Master.
…Generational Impact Propelled by Love for Humanity