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Friday, January 21, 2011

I cry over the plight of poor women — Temitope Ajayi

NAME: Temitope Ajayi
AGE:     Late 50s
Project: Capacity building
SCOPE: Empowering unemployed persons (young-adults) in agriculture and food production programmes using mechanised system. 
BENEFICIARIES: Younger people and professional farmers.

Chief Temitope Ajayi is the founder and CEO of Nigerian American Agricultural Empowerment Programme, (NAAEP), an agricultural empowerment programme for the young-adults aimed at creating employment and self sufficiency in food production; and founder of NCF Investment Inc, which serves to build on individual cultural capacity and diversity, a  community development and business projects in the Nigeria and the United States.
An accountant by profession, Ajayi was actively involved in several community affairs and capacity development programme.  She was known to have held the first Nigerian Valentine Dinner Party, which, in addition to breaking bread and fraternizing with fellow Nigerians, students ranging from 12 to 25 benefited from her initiative.  Right now she is focussing on her agricultural empowerment programme for the young-adults in Nigeria, she was very emotional dissecting the plight of the poor in Nigeria.  She is our role model of the week.

What is the secret of your radiant looks?
To God be the glory. In everything and days of our life let us give thanks to Him. According to the Bible "let your light so shine amongst men that they may see the good works in us and glorify our Father who is in heaven." So, anytime we are glowing, it is the glory of God in us. One with God is a million. That is the secret.

Can you let us into your background?

I have a very humble background which I am proud of any day. I am the fourth generation of a war hero, my great grand-father; Pa Kuju Olabinjo was a war hero. He led the Kiriji war. I am very proud of is that, he used his money and affluence to help his people.  For my father also served the Lord for 23 years as an organist at the Saint John's Church, he was amongst the first Nigerians to graduate from the prestigious Kings College at the age of 16. He was known for his service to humanity. What I am doing now is a trait of my family, and this is what is pulling me through.

How did your up-bringing influence your achievements in life?

I always remember the saying of my father that ‘always remember the son or daughter of whom you are’ This helps in shaping our decisions to the point that when we get to leadership positions, before we do the wrong thing, we must have first thought of the right one. This is the fear of God.
I need to thank God, because if a human being like me can go through what I passed through and still record some achievements,  it requires thanking God. I went through hell in America, the cold, the struggle to feed and to send my children to school and as a single parent, it was hell.  Today I found my self being celebrated as one of the seven women of distinction in the US. I am fortunate enough to be given the Presidential Pin of America by former President George Bush.
The former Mayor of California, Jerry Brown who is now the Governor, gave me an award and said that my life is an example to all Nigerians and Americans in that city.  There are many other congressional and senatorial awards which I cannot mention. It touched my heart so well that I sat down and examined my life again and I said to my self that there must be something about me that I do not know.

Have you got any in Nigeria?

I am yet to receive any one. You know in America, you win award by merit, and through community service. I remember when CNN published a report that 45 percent of Nigerians in the Diaspora were corrupt; the negative report was so bad that calls were coming from everywhere. I was obliged to call the producer of the report, after speaking with him at length, justifying that no all Nigerians are bad just as not all Americans are good.  I posited that they can rather help to reform to few that are bad instead of casting aspersion on the generality of Nigerians in the Diaspora.  And he  said ‘you are really a role model.’ CNN apologized and said that they would never run such a report again about Nigerians again

What have been doing here in Nigeria for your community and humanity?

I reflected on the situation of women in this abject poverty raving the land, and I went to the villages and I came to terms with the reality of what it means to be poor.  Most of us in leadership positions even if we don’t know the pain these people are going through, we lived in this kind of situation before rising to where we are today but we quickly forget it. I felt, my reflection of this is an indication that God wanted me to do something.  That is why I have chosen this path.
That is my goal here; there is a stage you would get to in life where you will know that you are a blessing and you use that for the betterment of all. For me, everybody is blessed, but the difference is that all fingers are not equal.
Back to your question, this was why I decided to start and  name my company Nigerian American Agricultural Empowerment Programme because we have people who are talented.  The programme will train and empower participants in mechanized system of farming to bring about food surplus as well as improving their economic well-being.
When I see or read about the situation of Nigerian youths, it makes me cry, because there is a saying that a hungry man is an angry man and an idle hand is the devil’s workshop. So instead of idling away and getting involved in vices, including militancy, I encourage them to use their brains in more productive ways. For instance, they can practise high-tech agriculture or mechanised farming, and we can help them to build silos. America is now focussing on ethanol fuel and bio-diesel. This comes from agriculture, and Nigeria has vast land resources to take advantage of this opportunity. America is ready to buy any of the by-products of ethanol fuel such as corn, cassava, soya bean, cotton seed and a whole lot more.
We have a large expanse of land in Epe and we have started to produce.  We believe in God that one day our produce will get to the table of the President and the Governor of Lagos. I believe God that government will; support the initiative. I am hoping that very soon we will have funds to go higher. We are focussed and determined.

How has the project impacted on Nigerians?
The greatest impact is the enablement of God who strengthens us. We can’t start measuring the impact now because it is just about two years now, and you know agriculture programme is more ore less a long term thing.  But suffice to say many have shown interest and are ready to go along with the programme.  We need support so as to make Nigeria the food basket of Africa.

So far now, how many people are on the programme?

You see when we started this programme, it was supposed to be free because I thought the government will embrace it and support it.  So we have to drive it all alone.  Although we made them pay one percent equity contribution in other to show their determination, but there are lots to be done.  Many people are on board.

What necessitated your long stay in the United States?

I wish I could talk about it because I am one of those fortunate people on earth. I joined politics like every other people but lost all during June 12 crises. I was the Personal Assistant to the then Deputy Governor of Lagos State, Alhaja Sinatu Aderoju Ojukutu during Otedola's regime. I had the best of life a woman can have, but all of them went into the thin air during the June 12 crises. I had to run for my life to America with my children. I had to choose between my children and politics.
I started from the scratch as an emigrant in America. We were welcomed and embraced because we were on political asylum.
It did not cross my mind that I would be what I am today in America as I had to start from the bottom. Who ever you are will always show wherever you go.

What are your philosophies of life?

To me I do not think one can finish any race in this life. When you are through with one, another one comes. When you can say ok I am old, that of children comes because you have to support them in their race.  You can achieve your goals only when you are focussed.
Chief Temitope Ajayi, a.k.a Mama Diaspora

What is your concept of Role Model?

There is this woman, Maya Angelis; she is a poet and seen as a phenomenal woman, not necessarily in terms of affluence, but ultimately in terms of character.  She sees herself as an ambassador of God, offering to help and giving assistance in her best capacity. That is a role model.  If the light of God shines through Nigeria, we will have so many role models. Sensitivity to the plight of others, selflessness,  giving back to the society, showing love to all are all the requisites of role model.

What did you go through as a single parent?

You know there is a difference between a city and a village single parent. For a single parent, your priority is your children because you have to forget every pleasures of life and focus on them (children) as they are your hope for tomorrow. Single parents have to be grateful to God everyday. In my bible, it says that 'a righteous woman shall never be forsaken nor her seed begging for bread.' So if you live your life righteously, your children will not beg for bread. All I have known in life is hard work and I never allowed any thing to distract me or make me to lose focus. It was not easy but like they always say nothing good comes easy.

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