…She dumped plum job ‘cos she won’t tell a lie
…Her miraculous lifting
The story of Doyin Ogunbiyi is pulsating. It is the story of resilience. It is the story of grace. It is the story of a woman God picked from obscurity and placed in the limelight.
Listening to her recount the story of her life at the 10th anniversary of All Ladies Affairs Business Career Forum was worth all the time. The event which held at the Sheraton Hotels, Lagos on March 30 had in attention a number of career women.
The convener, Pastor Mrs. Sade Toyin Kehinde took time to introduce Ogunbiyi. She said she was seeing her for the first time at close range though she had been following her trajectory for many years.
But the bond exhibited between the two of them that Saturday did not show they were meeting for the first time. By the time Ogunbiyi took over the microphone to address the ladies, it was clear from the beginning that her story would inspire lives.
A three-time commissioner in Ogun State, she recalled her growing up years with glee. Her mother had 11 children, seven survived for a long time but two of them are presently alive.
The story of her growing up left many wondering what manner of parents she had. She began, “My father was Inspector of education in the old Western Region, while my mother who studied Home Economics was the head teacher of the primary school I attended. It was tough growing up.
“My mother was not gender bias. She did not see the difference between the man and woman and would saddle us with tough responsibilities. We were all adept at household chores and we understood her quite well that she did not need to utter a word before we knew what she wanted.
“If my classmates were given five strokes of the cane for an offense she would insist I be given 10 for the same offense. I was born with dreadlocks. But my mother never told them in school that my hair was naturally rough. Each time I got to school I was beaten for an unkempt hair. That went on for five years before my mother finally told the school not to beat me again for an unkempt hair that my natural hair was dreadlock.”
That was how tough it was in the early years. But she passed through that process with hope that one day she would be free. By the time she finished her School Certificate she had the offer to come study education in the university. But because she never wanted to follow the family tradition of educationist she stayed at home and was waiting for another opportunity for a course of her choice. But that year turned out to be the beginning of her career adventure.
“I was at home when one of my aunties came visiting and she heard me talk. She was so excited about my voice that she chose to take me along to Ibadan for an audition at the then Western Nigeria Television. I got to Ibadan, passed the audition and was given employment at the television station.
She recalled, “Because of the diligence that I had learnt from my parents I was doing my job conscientiously not knowing that the General Manager of WNTV was watching. There were days I would be the only one left in the compound of the WNTV working till late in the day”
The GM was so fascinated by her sense of work that he offered to help her secure admission in a UK media school. That was how Ogunbiyi found herself in the UK where she studied mass communication and also worked for a while before coming back to Nigeria to yet another era of surprises and intrigues.
By the time she came back from London. NTA Abeokuta was just starting. She was moved to head a department in the station. While working she got a call that the state government was starting Ogun State Property Investment Corporation and that she had been appointed to head the public relations unit of the corporation. By then she had already put in 12 years in broadcasting.
But the story of Ogunbiyi who is presently the chairman of Ogun State Board of Technical and Vocational Education is far beyond the juicy positions she had occupied in life. It is the story of a woman who experienced the extreme of deprivation as a sacrifice for her doggedness and penchant for the truth.
She moved from abundance to poverty and then from poverty to abundance. She was caught in the web of boardroom politics while working in the public relations unit of the Ogun State Property Investment Company and was soon stripped of her official car.
Her experience at the OPIC was not particularly palatable. “I was effective and dedicated within my capacity. At the management meeting I was the only female management staff. I began work at the OPIC at the time they were developing Isheri.”
It was however the development of that axis that made her resign from her job eventually. “We were filling up areas where eyes could see so that people would think the entire area is dry ground. But we knew it was water log area. Since I was the head of the public relations unit, I was asked to announce to the public that the whole place was dry. But I knew the whole place was water logged.”
That was a defining moment for her. She told her boss, “Sir I can’t lie. “We need to sell this land and make more money.” Her boss fired back. But she insisted, “I won’t be able to lie to the public for three reasons. One, my mother had taught me not to lie. She had trained me to say the truth even at gun point. She would say a place for everything, everything in its place. What is white must be white, what is black must be black.
“I said number two reason is because, my profession’s slogan is: say it as it is. Number three is: I am a Christian. My faith would not permit me to lie.”
That was the beginning of frustration for her at the organization. Her official car was withdrawn and it became so glaring that she was no longer enjoying the job. Her husband noticed and had to write her resignation letter. “My husband had to write my letter of resignation and handed over to me to give it to the organization. I had already spent 20 years in the civil service. He said he could feed me with his income. I listened to him and resigned.”
But that was the beginning of poverty for the family. It soon became obvious that her husband’s earnings could not hold the family. Not long after her resignation things began to go from bad to worse. The family could no longer eat what they would have loved to eat. And it became pretty difficult to catch up with domestic expenses.
She plowed the little savings she got from the cooperative society to do petty trading. She sold groceries. But then the income from that and that of her husband could no longer sustain the home.
She recalled, “Things were really bad. My last born was in primary school then. He got so used to taking garri that he said to me one day that there is vitamin in garri. Things were so hard that I could not even afford sanitary towel.”
That was when her service in God’s vineyard increased. “I was diligent in serving God. I did not know God was recording all my labour. That experience reminded me of David in the wilderness with the sheep. I had become used to trekking because of the paucity of funds. I would go for meetings and trek back home. I remember I went for prayer meeting one day. I was coming home and it rained so well that I had to run home. I got home tired and fell on the cushion and slept off. There was nothing for us to eat. My children had already slept.”
But the unexpected happened that day. “One of my neighbours came to knock our door with excitement and said my name had just been announced as commissioner in Ogun State. I did not believe. I said it could not have been my own Doyin Ogunbiyi. Nobody came to say they had nominated me. Nobody came to ask for my CV.
“The woman now said it would soon be 8pm and the news would be read. So when it was 8p.m the woman and I turned on her car radio to listen to news. I heard my name in the news and I said it could not have been my name. I said it could be another Doyin Ogunbiyi. The first week after the announcement passed and the second week was running out, no action, no swearing in. I just concluded I was not the one.
“Exactly after two weeks of the announcement a soldier man came and asked for my local government. Later, another soldier came asking for my CV. They had already announced my name. I was wondering how they picked me without my CV. It was after they got my CV that I was assigned to the ministry of information, youth sports and culture.”
During the swearing in she had to borrow the suit she wore. She began work in the ministry and the wife of the governor was so fascinated by her performance that she had to request that her husband transfer her to the ministry of women affairs when it was newly created. The wife of the military governor insisted she wanted me in the ministry of women affairs. Her request was against the wish of her husband. That was how she became the first commissioner of the ministry of women affairs.
The beauty about her first appointment as commissioner was that Sam Ewang, military governor of Ogun State who gave her the job did not have a clue about her pedigree. He had only met her as the chairman of the Ogun State Chapter of Nigeria Institute of Public Relations at a function and they never saw after that event. But it was at that event Ewang claimed to have heard a voice that told him, “this woman is one of your commissioners’
The governor told me, “He said he heard a voice as soon as I welcomed him to one of the functions of the NIPR. The voice said to him that is one of your commissioners. He had just been appointed the military governor of Ogun State. So he sent my name along with the list she sent to Abuja and nobody queried it. He said it is the God that I served that made the appointment possible.”
That appointment was the beginning of her lifting. The next governor of the State after Ewang who learnt of her diligence and commitment to excellence did not hesitate to make her the commissioner for works and housing despite the fact that she had no engineering background. She proved her worth in the ministry and has since been a reference point in the State.”
She charged the women at the forum to be diligent and committed to service stating that with God they have the capacity to do all things. “When I was appointed to serve as Commissioner for works and housing I was really scared because I thought it was a male dominated zone. But the Holy Spirit said to me I can do all things through Christ Jesus that strengthened me. That was the saving grace for me. I got to the ministry and God used me to bring positive changes to the place.”
She noted further, “I am not in competition with any man. I hate the phrase what a man can do, a woman can do better. It is not right because both men and women wrote the same exams and studied the same thing in the university. So we are not competitors we are supposed to complement one another. I am standing on the truth. I think the question should be: Are you living the life of integrity? Do you have that niche for yourself? If you’re always in the secret place nobody can harm you.” She concluded amidst thunderous applause while singing, you are Lord from the beginning to the end, there is no room for argument…”