Thursday, February 25, 2016 5:24 pm
By Bola Bolawole
Everyone appears to have followed the from-grass-to-grace, rags-to-riches metamorphosis of mother-of-two bread-hawker, Olajumoke Orisaguna, who has been characterised as the Cinderella of our time; the conversion of fiction to non-fiction before our very eyes. What used to be tale by the moonlight had, to quote the scriptures, taken on blood and flesh and now walks amongst us, and we behold its splendour in the latest model-to-be, Olajumoke Orisaguna. To others, she is evidence that God is not only alive but also that He still works miracles. She is the evidence of answered prayers – if she prayed! – and even if she did not, of the groaning of the heart and the suffering of people, like the Israelites under servitude in Egypt, finding a way to access God’s throne of grace and mercy where prayers are answered.
Many of the critics have descended heavily on the corporate organisations thriving on the Olajumoke sensational story to launder their image, advertise their products or pad their corporate social responsibility profile, labelling their activities as crass opportunism. It may well be! They have also, justifiably, pilloried the State as having failed in its obligations to its citizens for cases such as Olajumoke Orisaguna’s to still exist in our midst. Here, again, they are dead right. At her level of abject poverty, however, the fact of the case must be that Olujumoke would certainly have been better than millions of other Nigerian suffer-heads. This is not to excuse her plight but to paint the picture of grinding poverty in the polity in its truest, naked form. And this injustice did not start yesterday.
But none of the above excuses the fact that a good thing had happened to a Nigerian lady and her family. Whatever we choose to call it – luck, miracle, providence, happenstance, crass opportunism, exploitation – and whoever we credit with this good turn of event – God, man, TY Bello, even Orisa, which the lady’s name depicts! – or is pilloried – Capitalism, the Nigerian state, its heartless wealthy class – the fact of the case is that this is a story of a good turn of events. It is fairy tale kind of; it does not always happen but thank goodness this one happened and it did before our very eyes. My focus is not on the extraneous factors that have hugged the headlines but on the dramatic transformation that one family now has. This is a family that could never, in its widest and most wild imagination, had expected what struck it. Were anyone to have prophesied this to them, the likelihood is that, like the biblical Abraham’s wife, Sarah, they would have laughed.
But now they must have started to settle down to their new reality – Olajumoke, the husband, their children as well as the extended family members. Critics and discussants can spend a lifetime blowing grammar; what this family know and what interests them is that their level and status have changed for better, like the biblical man born blind but whose sight was restored by Jesus. The Pharisees and Sadducees of this world can blow their tops if they so choose! Critics of the Olajumoke non-fictional fairy tale are, however, agreed on some very critical points. One is that the event is not a common occurrence; it does not happen every day and everywhere. Two: Olajumoke is not the only desperately poor lady in Nigeria. Three: She is not the only bread-hawker. Four: She is not the only one with the Agbani Dorego poise or the most beautiful poor lady in town. There is, therefore, an element of the unusual in her case.
This case that led her to fame and stardom could as well have been her undoing. Had TY Bello and Company taken offence at the effrontery or careless mistake of bumping into their multi-million dollar shooting, they could have done anything that caught their fancy with the hapless lady – from rebuke to a spell in the dungeon. Even if they did not, why did they not just delete the infraction? Knowing Lagos for what it is, the Olajumoke case could not have been the first and only instance when unwelcome guests intrude into film-shooting. It is a constant occurrence but do they all get as lucky as this lady? While the “English”, in narrating events ask “what”, “when”, “where”, and “how”, the traditional African setting proceeds farther to ask the very instructive question of “why”. This is the spicing of the cooking or icing on the cake, as they say. Why did Olajumoke decide to hawk her wares at that point in time? Perhaps there had been a delay at the bakery that timed her appearance at the time she did; perhaps her child had taken ill and had been taken to the hospital and she was now rushing to make up time; which now appeared as poise. And why did TY Bello decide on Yaba at that point in time and not elsewhere? What struck the heart of those interrogating the shooting such that rather than hiss and delete the intruder without blinking, they stopped to give her consideration? So many whys which the critics and analysts could never answer!
I dare to say that there was a hidden hand somewhere directing the whole affairs. Call it whatever you like; it is for sure a force beyond human understanding and or interception. It was not purposed a priori by TY Bello or Olajumoke; but a force greater than them was at work all the same. I make bold to call it miracle. That one family has made the exit from grinding poverty in a miraculous manner deserves celebration. We should not, on this occasion, bellyache on the fact that there is abject poverty in the land and allow this detract from the joy of the Orishagunas. Scriptures, while pleading the cause of the poor, is emphatic that the poor will not cease from our midst (Deuteronomy 15: 11). And the fact that the good fortunes of Olajumoke may not go round is no reason to trivialise it. It was so before Christ (Luke 4; 25-27); it was so during his life-time (John 5: 1-9); and it has been so ever since.
I dare to say that there was a hidden hand somewhere directing the whole affairs. Call it whatever you like; it is for sure a force beyond human understanding and or interception. It was not purposed a priori by TY Bello or Olajumoke; but a force greater than them was at work all the same. I make bold to call it miracle. That one family has made the exit from grinding poverty in a miraculous manner deserves celebration. We should not, on this occasion, bellyache on the fact that there is abject poverty in the land and allow this detract from the joy of the Orishagunas.
The best government in this world has not succeeded in eradicating poverty; even in the most affluent of nations, there still exists, by their own standard, abject poverty. The only difference – and I must admit that this is very big – is that here, even the most basic of needs are beyond the reach of the vast majority of the people. While in many nations more people are systematically taken out of poverty; here in Nigeria, more and more people sink deeper daily into the poverty quagmire. Greed and selfish interests drive inequality in society; the on-going anti-corruption war of the Buhari administration bears ample testimony. Sabotage is also said to be at the root of the ruthless assault on the Naira, which has further pauperised the nation. Man’s inhumanity to man is not only appalling but also legendary; the solution is selflessness and contentment. Efforts by the Apostolic Fathers to enthrone equity floundered because of the greed of Ananias and Saphira.