All over the world, Nigerian women have been blazing the trails in different fields of endeavour, raising the country’s flag high and challenging those behind to aspire to the stars. Kunle Ajayi from Punch News paper presents some of the women who attracted attention for their great feats in 2017.African team to participate in the Winter Olympics.
The trio of Seun Adigun (30), Ngozi Onwumere (25) and Akuoma Omeoga (25) shone like stars after successfully completing five races in the 2018 Winter Olympics. Before them, bobsleigh was as alien to Nigeria as snow on which it takes place is.
It was never an easy feat for these ladies. Adigun, who is the driver of the team, had to launch a Go Fund Me campaign to raise funds which would make their dream of competing in the tournament possible. It was a $75,000 target which she achieved in 11 months. And with this, they entered the history books in Nigeria and Africa.
They will now compete in Pyeongchang, South Korea in February 2018.
Another Interesting Nigerian women stories
Multiple media reports have described them as both beauty and brains. The reason is not so far-fetched. Adigun, who represents Surulere, Lagos, combines her love for the sport with a combined academic study for a Doctorate of Chiropractic from Texas Chiropractic College and a Master of Science in Exercise & Health Science from the University of Houston-Clear Lake.
Onwumere, representing Imo State, is an established athlete with a gold medal to her credit from the 2015 All African Games. She is also a PhD student.
Omeoga , on the other hand, is a collegiate track and field athlete and a graduate of the University of Minnesota. She is representing Umuahia, Abia State on the team.
The ‘Pepper seller’ PhD record breaker
The story of Adeola Olubamiji stole the hearts of many when it hit the news a few months ago. It’s one of the most inspiring stories to come out of the year.
Olubamiji, who become the first black person to obtain a PhD in Biomedical Engineering from the University of Saskatchewan, Canada, drew nationwide accolades when the achievement made headlines in the country. The academic feat alone was not what drew admiration but her grass-to-grace story.
In her own account which she shared on her graduation, she said that as the fifth and last child of a mother who “was a farmer and a father who had little”, she hawked pepper on the streets of Ibadan, Oyo State as early as 10 to help her mother. “I always had to wait for my turn. I was the last, a girl child and raised by a mother who’s a farmer.”
Olubamiji said, “Because I had a 2.1 (in Physics at the Olabisi Onabanjo University, Ogun State), it opened doors for me to proceed to Finland for a Master’s degree in Biomedical Engineering. During this Master’s degree, I worked part-time as a cleaner and I continued the job after my Master’s degree as well.
Out of determination, I applied to over 100 schools for my PhD and finally got a full three-year scholarship (later extended to four years) at the University of Saskatchewan, Canada, to pursue a PhD in Biomedical Engineering.
“While in that PhD programme, I worked part-time as a makeup artist, teaching assistant. I also braided hair and fixed weaves to make extra money.”
The Para Champion
A few weeks ago, Alice Oluwafemiayo lifted a weight of 145kg and smashed the women’s +86kg world record in Mexico on the first day of the World Para Powerlifting Championships. With that achievement, she writes her name in the sands of time.
It was a record previously held by compatriot, Loveline Obiji, who lifted 144kg in 2014. The fact that Oluwafemiayo achieved the feat in her fourth attempt did nothing to dampen the enormity of the achievement. “I feel very happy, it was not something I was expecting,” she had said.
Trailing her were China´s Feifei Zheng, who lifted 130kg, and Egypt´s Geehan Hassan who took the third place with a weight of 125kg.
The lawyer who won Queen Elizabeth’s heart
A multiple-award-winning solicitor, Olufunke Abimbola-Akindolie, put a prestigious feather in her cap a few weeks ago when she was awarded the Member of the Order of the British Empire by Her Majesty, Queen Elizabeth II.
The lawyer joined a short list of Nigerians who have been so honoured when she became an honouree of the British Queen for “her contribution to the diversification of the legal profession.”
Abimbola-Akindolie is said to be the most senior black lawyer working within the UK pharmaceutical industry and one of the most senior globally. She dedicates a part of her time fighting for diversity in the UK and beyond, an endeavour that has attracted a number of awards and honours from different parts of the world.
She is the general counsel and head of financial compliance at Roche UK, a company she joined in 2012.
The ‘Perfect score’ lady
In 2013, the news broke that a 17-year-old girl from Osogbo, Osun State, Folafoluwa Oginni, had emerged number one out of thousands of other students who sat the 2012 May/June West African Senior School Certificate Examination.
Oginni, who beat two other girls by having a perfect score in all her eight subjects that year, was not done.
She proved that that feat four years ago, was not a fluke when she hit the headline once again in August that she had broken the University of Hertfordshire, UK record for the perfect score of 5.0.
At 21, Oginni aced her law degree with A’s in all the courses and went on to be the first Nigerian valedictorian in the university.
Questions have arisen about whether some of these women, who are lifting the flag of Nigeria high abroad deserve a similar recognition in their country.
But a public analyst, Mr. Dega Akeem, said they do, but that the step was unlikely considering the fact the country is more concerned about “villain-worshipping than hero-worshipping”.
According to him, for every good deed that is honoured, a generation coming behind “graduates” from a materialistic one to a service-focused one.”
He said, “The truth is that there are a lot of Nigerians doing extraordinary things abroad. When you honour some of them, you not only make them proud of their country, you also show people looking up to them that their feats are honourable.
“I followed Nigeria’s bobsleigh team and realised that they even raised money by themselves to get into the competition. What has happened since they did the country proud ? A country is only as good as how it treats its heroes.”
A sociologist, Dr. Jibril Adeniyi, also corroborated Akeem’s opinion.
According to him, when a country takes extra-ordinary achievements seriously without recourse to the pedigree of the individual, it is ripe for the development.
“You cannot stop the age-long brain-drain in the country by overlooking people who have made the country proud abroad. I believe that the state governments these individuals belong to owe the younger generation the service of honouring people like these,” he said.