AMAM ONYERINMA, author, ‘Successes Don’t Fail’ is returning home after 40 years abroad to empower women and children through her new book. In this interview she shares her plans with JUSTICE GODFREY OKAMGBA
The current situation in Nigeria is bad, why are you returning to the country now that most people are relocating abroad?
Certainly, anywhere you go in the world today, there are lots of issues, so you have to put that in perspective. All over the world, there are issues, but the point is, there is work to be done in Nigeria and it is time for Nigerians to do the works for themselves.
You can’t have foreigners work for you all the time; they are not obliged to look out for the well-being of the country. I am a Nigerian, I may not have grown here, I may not have lived here for over 40 years, but I am a Nigerian. So, I have work to do in Nigeria and that is why I won’t stay back abroad.
Nigerians are very religious people and there are huge numbers of pastors and prophets they listen to, do you think they’d listen to you as you have no pulpit to mount?
I believe so, there’s room for multitude of professions, as I said, I am a coach and I am also an educationist and an author. My path is not one of going on the pulpit to preach to people, it’s my work, it’s my actions, by my actions, you should know what I stand for and what my goals are as a person.
You know there are different types of coaches; my type of coaching is more transitional, personal and business coaching, that’s where my niche is. I like to work with the youth, women and business people, so, there is room for all types of coach coaches.
You have been away for 40 years, how much do you know the problems of the youth, adults and the country?
I know because I read and I do come to Nigeria, so I do know what is going on.
In what way do you intend to pass your message across to people?
First of all, I have written a book that was released this year; it’s a book that is available for everyone and anyone to read. Secondly, I like to speak at functions that empower women, men and children. I do more than motivational, I’m very realistic to what is going on, the truth is, we need to find solutions, achievable solutions and reasonable solutions, it’s more than just the rat race, it’s taking action.
I am a philanthropist to support curses and my curses now are women and children, specifically, children with special needs. They are very dear to my heart.
Do you intend to take your message to the rural areas?
Yes I do, it’s all work in progress.
Areas like some creeks in Niger Delta where the youth have taken to arms and you say you want to work with the demography, how do you intend to do that?
Well, first I have to get into dialogue with them, but I have to start with the youth in the areas that I know. So, I am starting in Lagos, that is the place I am familiar with, but hopefully, we can have a movement that is going forward.
How do you get to the rural places when most of these programs are to run in Lagos, Abuja and other big cities?
It is a team work, we will do it together.
All these require financial muscle, how do you intend to get the funds?
You just asked me a very personal question and I want you to understand that I have a mission and a goal in life and I will get it done.
What ignited your passion for helping women and children, how did it all start?
I’m an educationist and my PhD is in education, I have bagged a PhD for over 20years. I have always been passionate about women, as a child, I spent a few years in Nigeria and I could see the disparity between men and women. I was very fortunate to have a father that believes that everyone has the potential to be whoever they want to be.
So, we were encouraged to be ourselves and to receive the best of education, you can imagine, so I grew up in the time that girls were not educated to the level that I was. But my father thought it was an investment and it has paid off. So that is the little story about myself.
I have been incredibly passionate about women, particularly ‘the abused ones’, I don’t stand for any form of abuse or disregard of women, we are equals and I know that some men don’t believe that, but I know that we are created equally in this world and each of us has a role. I’m passionate about the women having a place at the table, a place where there male counterpart make things happen. So, domestic violence is a ‘no-no’ for me.
African culture creates some inhibition against women already, how do you think gender parity can be achieved?
Having a voice, I want women to have a voice, African women have a voice and have always had a voice. And it’s the colonials that took away that voice and the men just carried on what the colonials did, we’ve always had a voice. There was a war in 1929, the Igbo women war, what was that war about? It was the women standing up to say they wouldn’t pay taxes. We have always had a voice, we just allowed it to be silence.
How do you handle male admirers?
Well, I appreciate people recognizing the gift I have been given, but I always give credit to my parents. And in terms of handling admires, I treat them as equals.
How about your beauty routine?
I drink a lot of water. I drink probably 10 to 12 bottles of water a day. I try to sleep as much as possible, I cannot tell you that I sleep eight hours a day, that could be a lie, but I do rest as much as I can. I consume Aloe Vera juice, I use native black soap, I use ‘ori’ (shear butter) like everyone.
Although I mix my ‘ori’ with lavender and peppermint, lavender helps me sleep well and the peppermint is for the aches and pains in my joints. And I try to stay positive, really and truly, I try to live mindfully. I am very aware of my thoughts and actions, so I wish everyone the very best. I try not to get upset, I really just like to live a healthy life and again and I can survive on hot water and lemon.
But the ‘holy books’ establish the position of men as the leaders of homes to whom women should be submissive…
And I tell you, if you have a family where the father is not around, where the father is not capable of doing things,does that mean the woman cannot be the leader of the family?
What if one is talking about a nuclear family?
I beg to differ. Both mothers and fathers have a right to speak, recognize and participate in the raising of the children and all other domestic affairs.
Could you please tell us about your growing up?
I was born in England, lived there for a while and then returned to Nigeria, I was in Nigeria for a few years, attended Holy Child Secondary School until we went back to school in England, and from there, I moved to America to pursue my university studies. I grew up with my parents, but I was in boarding school and I travelled a lot.
Which of your parents influenced you the most?
Both of them have influenced my life and other people as well, my father encouraged my love for education, so he encouraged and supported that. My mother taught me to be a strong woman and to stand up for myself, and for others who cannot stand up for themselves.
My late uncle inspired my love and desire to achieve the best for myself, and then, I have had some wonderful teachers, high school teachers and university teachers who helped me learn not to question knowledge and help to understand what you look for when somebody gives you some information.
You don’t have to accept everything that’s given to you as right, you can question it, and you can pick what works for you, and you take it from there, so I am influenced by many people.
Have you ever encountered some of the people you grew up who weren’t to have formal education?
Yeah sure, there are some places I go, the level of success my friends of old have varies and it all depends on what people do with their lives from that moment. So some people are more successful than the others, but when you talk about financial success or other fulfillment, that also varies. I know people with unhappy marriages who are not fulfilled.
If they don’t have a way out or they don’t feel they have a way out, that is some setback on its own and there are other emotional and spiritual successes.
So the path for everyone is different, it’s about knowing your path, and what it is you are here to do.
Since you came back from the U.S., have you met some of your old friends who are not happy?
I know some people who are not as accomplished as others, yes!
Have you been a life coach all your life?
No, I actually became a life coach 12 years ago. I went into the coaching academy, went into the process and got certified. There’s a process for becoming a life coach, I know many people use the word “Life Coach” but truly, there is an international organisation that was ascribed to set boundaries on how we interact with people and work with our clients and others. It’s almost like psychologists; they have the association and the guidelines that they follow.
We meet regularly and we have conferences and seminars, where we talk, so there is a body for life coaches.
Before you became a life coach, what were you doing?
I am an educationist, and I still am. I never gave up on it, because even in life coaching, you are still teaching people, you are still educating people, whenever you get the chance to read my book, you will see that it is educationally built on the framework of coaching.
What was your first degree?
My first degree is in anthropology at the University of Rochester, New York, my second degree was also in anthropology, but my doctorate degree is in education from the University of Southern California, and many more.
Do you practice as a school teacher?
No, I don’t teach, I made a conscious decision not to be in a classroom.
Why did you make such decision?
It’s because I like my works to be done at a greater level, so I am always into curriculum; and coming up with the right framework for children and teachers, so I am on the other side of the fight.
Would you like to partner individuals and some corporate bodies in offering life coaching?
Most likely, I can’t do it all by myself, I am a strong woman, an African woman, but I can’t do it all by myself.
Do you also have a life coach?
I have a life coach, and I can call on her and as life coaches, we are allowed to reach out to other life coaches when we sense we also need help.