News & Updates
BY SAM OTTI-December 30, 2014
High Chief Ademola Oladaiye suffered harrowing experiences during his undergraduate days at the University of Nigeria, Nsukka (UNN). Poverty gave him a cold kiss, sparing him only N50 for 13 weeks that make up a semester. He went to the cafeteria on the charity of kind friends. Despite the hardship he faced, he stood his ground and graduated with a First Class degree in Mathematics.
Oladaiye literally passed through the eye of the storm. He never had beverages for the four years he spent on campus. Rather, he survived on a poor widow’s mite (his mother being a widow of little means) and a big bag of garri he routinely carried to the university. To say the least, he was refined in the furnace of affliction.
Although he always fell short of his need, he was contented with the little his mother could afford. Graduating with a First Class degree in Mathematics was a reward for his diligence. Shortly after graduation, he went for an MBA at the University of Lagos. By the sweat of his brow, he earned his bread. Success smiled on his path, and granted him a fulfilling career in the banking sector where he worked his steps to the top before bowing out graciously. He is presently the Chief Executive Officer, Initiative Finance Limited and founder of Joseph and Eunice Oladaiye Foundation (JEOF) that offers lifeline to less privileged children and vulnerable families.
In an encounter with Campus Sun recently, High Chief Oladaiye recalled his humble days at the university, recounting how poverty whipped him and nearly robbed him the opportunity of getting a degree. It took the persistence of his widowed mum, who sold moimoi and worked her hands to the bone in the farm to raise N100 for his studies every semester.
He told Campus Sun that he founded the Joseph and Eunice Oladaiye Foundation (JOEF) to immortalize the ideals of his heroic parents and also save other children from losing the opportunity of going to school.
Oladaiye’s grass-to-grace story is presented below as a tribute to courage, and a bread of hope to millions of youths struggling below poverty line.
My mum is still alive. My dad died in 1978, about 36 years ago. I was 14 when my dad died. The few years we stayed together, I saw his passion for education. He was always willing to support people. He was so kind, and my mum too. Based on his life and what happened after he departed, I struggled through life, such that I almost dropped out of school. I was in my second year in secondary school when I lost my dad. I struggled to be able to get to where I am today. I had to go to different schools: from secondary school to teachers’ college, College of Education and later to the University of Nigeria, Nsukka.
Things were difficult that I had to work after school to gather a little money before I could go back. After my secondary school, I couldn’t go straight on to the university, even though I had my results. There was nobody to support except my mother. She was cooking moimoi to send me to school. We were three children.
I resolved that once I can have something, I will continue to support needy people around me, most especially in helping children to acquire formal education.
Struggling on a rough lane
I had strong determination and focus. I was also an obedient child. I listened to my mum a lot. My mother promised me that as long as she lived, she would continue to support me in my education. The only thing required from me was to be contented with the little she gave me. I never bought a textbook in the university. I rely on friends to even eat. I never went to the cafeteria on my own because there was no money to spend. My friends took me to the cafeteria. The only thing that accompanied me to the school was my bag of garri. So, when my friends asked me out to eat, I will advise them to buy and bring it into the hostel, so that we can make more garri. I was contented with the little my mother could do.
From such poor background, I was determined that I must not fail. Even though the school allowed re-sitting a paper, I never at once took any paper twice till I graduated. I always had responsibilities waiting for me at home. During long vacation, I must prepare for the next session. I must prepare our farmland for cultivation. My mum would till the land while I was at school. So, there was no time to waste re-sitting any exam. I took every paper as if it was my last chance.
Contentment on campus
I never looked at people who were rich. I lived in a hostel where children from rich families ate Geisha, bread and tea in the morning. I never had the opportunity of that. I don’t even look at that. Most of the time, it took me two weeks after the school had resumed to return to campus. My mum would be running around for money. My mother gave me N100 whenever I went back to school. My village in Ekiti to Nsukka cost N25. So, to and fro was N50 then. So, I had to keep the N25 for my transport back. I had only N50 to survive the 13 weeks in a semester. A plate of food in Nsukka then was N1. It was really difficult for me.
Providence opened a door
A close relative suggested to my mum that I should learn printing and forget about going to the university. But I never gave up. I went to Teachers’ College with the little money I saved. I thought that with the certificate, I would get a better job. I graduated from the Teachers’ College with distinction and emerged as the best graduating student. When I graduated, I came back to Ibadan and started working in 1984 as a Grade 2 teacher in a private nursery and primary school. In 1986, I got admission to study Maths/Physics at the College of Education, Okene. It was also that same year that I wrote JAMB but the College of Education result came out first. I was at Okene for about six weeks before my admission letter came from UNN. It was actually 12/12/86 that I got my admission into UNN.
The situation at that time was not the case of today when people get scholarship. I was the best student from my first year till I graduated but I never got scholarship. There was a professor in the school, who heard about my performance, and invited me to teach his children m mathematics. He asked me how much I would collect but I told him that I didn’t need money.
After some time, he said that since he was not paying me, I should move into his boy’s quarter. I was in my final year then. While I was in his apartment, I ate whatever they cooked. I was disciplined. I was obedient. I was contented. I never had a girlfriend when I was in the university. Immediately after my service year, I decided to go for my MBA at UNILAG.
Programmes of JEOF
Most of our programmes are focused on education, support for widows, youth empowerment and we also support people with micro credit. What I went through, not many people today will go through it and survive. Life has become more difficult and challenging. I did not set up the foundation because I have too much to give out. I am not that rich. It is out of my passion and compassion for the less privileged. I look back to my struggling days and I believe it is only the grace of God that helped me. You don’t wait until you become super rich until you start helping others. My objective is that whatever little I can afford will go a long way in helping people.
In 2010, the Foundation distributed over 8000 exercise books to students of various schools in Ekiti State. Our team went to a school one day, a school the foundation had been supporting, and saw one student who didn’t have a school bag and books. When we asked him about his books, he brought one exercise book from his back pocket, may be 40 or 60 leaves and he used it for eight subjects.
One of my resolutions after we set up the foundation in April 2008 was to support children at school. I approached some of my friends and we printed close to 20,000 exercise books. We also set up libraries in schools and equip some of these schools with computers. We provided water in under-served communities and schools. Government alone cannot do everything.
Last week, the Foundation was at the Heart of Gold Hospice, Surulere, to give gifts to the children. It is not everybody that has the heart to give. You must have learnt it. I have never worked for the government before. I have never worked contract before. It is not as if I have so much money to throw around. All I do is from my lean salary and the support of kind individuals.
There are quite a lot of people the Foundation has supported their education. I have to particularly mention one student, EmekaUde, an Igbo guy, who was at Federal College of Education (Special) Oyo. He is hearing impaired. The Foundation granted him scholarship. He has graduated and he is working now in Enugu. I don’t know his father or his mother. He is not from my village. The foundation has done quite a number of things for indigent students. The Foundation has more than 22 people it has supported through this initiative. Our team also supports widows to help them continue their lives and provide for their families. I know what my mum went through.
Future of hope
We carry out youth empowerment programmes. We have the dream that in future, we would establish Skills Acquisition Centre, where we can train and retrain even graduates who want to learn vocational jobs. We look forward that as we expand, the foundation would own a vocational training centre. I have acquired a land of about six acres. Gradually, we are moving towards it.
Since its establishment in 2008, this foundation has impacted the lives of over 5,000 less privileged and under-served members of the community through life changing programmes. Some of these programmes include: donation of educational materials to public schools, scholarship awards to deserving and intelligent children and youths, provision of medical support to the aged and financially handicapped in the society.
The only limiting factor to what we can do today is funding. We need people who are generous enough and can partner with us. Only my efforts and those of my few friends would not achieve the desired result. With more support, we can do more. People who know me from my youth can attest to the fact that I have remained a credible individual. My integrity is paramount to me than anything in this world. I know how much I struggled to bring out the name of my parents to this level. So, I won’t do anything to tarnish it. I have personally committed my fund, millions of naira to this project and I will continue to do so. I really want to support people. If I could account for my own money, definitely, I would account for people’s money. I am very accountable.
This foundation has a board of trustee of seven people, who are credible and work with international and reputable organisations. These people won’t put their names in anything that is not trustworthy. I am accountable in everything I do. If any kobo comes into the account of this foundation, if the donor doesn’t mind, I can publish his or her name and the exact amount donated.