At the peak of her happiness, Late Dr. Olabisi Igbalajobi, a lecturer at Joseph Ayo Babalola University lost the treasure that gave her joy. The gifted educationist lost her dear husband barely after three years of marriage and also lost her job. This devastated her and made her almost give up on life. She shared her survivor story in this interview with Esther Ijewere on the 13th of August 2016.
In her words; “Yes there were times I was at cross roads and felt like giving up but could not bring myself to doing it. I love my kids so much and they are my driving hence the strong will and determination to keep pushing, striving and smiling.”
My mum told me as a child that I love to write that many times I would scribble on the floor and ask her to read out what I had written. I also loved to gather my friends together and teach them sometimes it could be in form of a church service (childish plays). I loved group discussions and most times I used to be the initiator and the lead discussant. My dad also wanted me to be in the academics and propelled me towards it. Unfortunately, he died before I bagged my Ph.D. degree. My mum usually tells me in those days that she saw me as a teacher. So I would say all these contributed to what I am doing now.
My Foray Into Teaching
I am Olabisi Igbalajobi, born and bred in Lagos on October 2nd in the late sixties. I am a proud indigene of Efon Alaaye Ekiti state. My secondary school was at Federal Government Girls’ College Owinni Hills Oyo, Oyo State. Memories of Oyo days still flood my memories. I thank God that I was able to graduate from owinni. After secondary school, JAMB was not so friendly as I could not meet the cut off mark for my preferred course of study and in my daddy’s voice. “I cannot beg anyone for your admission, go, prepare and do it next year”.
I got an admission to study Forestry in the then University of Agriculture, Abeokuta, Ogun State but before resumption when most people asked me what course I was admitted for majority would say “Ha! Asogbo (Forest guard) I was devastated and wondered what they meant by such, as God would have it not quite long I got another admission letter to study Farm Management and Agricultural Extension at the Federal University of Technology, Akure. In my first year I told my dad I did not like the name and would prefer to seek admission at Ife to study Agricultural Economics. As God would have it not quite long, the nomenclature was changed.
I benefited from the scholars stipend from management as I was a University Scholar from my second year. Incessant strikes kept us in school more than necessary, I eventually graduated as the best graduating student in my class. No wonder I was advised to come back to the academics by the then Head of Department late Professor P.B. Imoudu, my daddy wanted it but my husband whom I had married some few months before the final examination could not withstand a long distant marriage.
Coping With losing My Husband And Job Loss
October 5 1996 was the beautiful day I married my sweetheart, John Omotoso Ojo, a God-fearing, devoted, husband and father. However, after marriage, I could not get a job all through, despite appearing at several interviews. I remember being told at an interview that people like me would always go back to the academics, yet I wasn’t employed. I had my son in October 1997 yet I had no job .
My husband was very supportive and ensured we lacked nothing as far as his purse could take us. In January 1999, I got pregnant with my daughter still there was no job.
By 9th July 1999, with an almost 2 years old boy, a six-month-old pregnancy and still jobless, sweet John bade the world farewell. Till now, I still cannot understand the circumstances of his death but one thing it did was to devastate me. I almost went into depression thank God I was pregnant God used that to help me out, because I was eager to see the face of the baby conceived in love.
It was not an easy journey when John died but I thank God for my family who stood by me. On October 5th 1999, my supposed 3rd year wedding anniversary, I gave birth to my beautiful daughter (her daddy’s look alike). I began thereafter to do petty business travelled to Abeokuta, Cotonou, Togo etc. anywhere I could get things to buy and sell.
I remember very early on my very first trip to Cotonou, my mum came to my house to pick my daughter and took me to the woman who was taking me down. It was a very emotional morning; tears filled my eyes this was 6 months after my daughter’s birth.
I did not get back to my parent’s home till 11: 00pm despite leaving Nigeria at dawn. My baby was still sucking, my breast were swollen and painful, I got to my parent’s house to see my dad (God bless his soul) carrying my daughter singing and dancing to pacify the wailing child.
That night we agreed that I would not embark on such journeys again. Easier said than done, I have lost count of how many trips I took thereafter.
Taking Up Another Job
Later, I took up a teaching appointment organized by the PTA of a secondary school not too far from my house. The salary was small (N3500), but it was better than me sulking at home and wallowing in self-pity as I had kids to look after. In 200l, I dusted my certificate, rejected self -pity and depression and went back to school to pursue my master’s degree.
While at this help came through one of the WAEC marking team heads who informed me of an impending interview in the Ekiti State Ministry of Education.
I was favoured and I taught at the government Science College Iyin -Ekiti from 2002-2006. While there, I took the opportunity of enrolling at University of Ado Ekiti (now Ekiti State Univeristy) for a Post Graduate Diploma course in Education (PGDE).
I resolved to train myself and the children along the way, while I went back to study, my daughter was with my parents while my son was with my brother-in-law any opportunity to be together I quickly grabbed, their long holidays were spent with me. Meanwhile I was still selling clothes and materials by the side to meet whatever I was earning to sustain the family.
Enrolling For Ph.D.
After my masters class, I enrolled for my Ph.D. at FUTA and it was the year 2006 that Joseph Ayo Babalola University started. I bless God for the role He allowed the deputy chairman of council and his wife to play in my life. I got employed brought back my kids and since then I’ve been enjoying the grace of God in JABU and have also completed my Ph.D. degree in Agricultural Economics.
Yes there were times I was at cross roads and felt like giving up but could not bring myself to doing it. I love my kids so much and they are my driving hence the strong will and determination to keep pushing, striving and smiling. No one would ever believe I was going through all these because for long, I talk about my late husband, John in the present tense. When women talk about their marital experiences, I contribute to the conversation as if my marriage was still on. I said to myself, “After God, the only one who could ever make me happy is me”. The statement has been working for me because I use it to spurge myself on.
Challenges of being a lecturer
The major challenge I face in my line of work is the unruly attitude of students to their studies. I love serious-minded and focused students and most of the students who had undergone tutelage under me will attest to that fact. I am a principled and highly disciplined teacher when it comes to my work; I love to impart. It is a passion borne out of my love for education. I try as much as possible to encourage and counsel such students. It gives me great pleasure to see them respond truly to such counsel.
“Stop wailing in self-pity”
My advice to every woman out there who might be facing similar challenge is this ‘Stop wailing in self-pity’. Stop blaming others for whatever has happened. One of my favourite mantra is this: When something is done and you cannot undo it, move ahead”.
Some years back I made a striking statement on a radio show. I said: ‘Your determination to succeed rests on you. Your kids need you; do not abandon them. Be resolute, be determined, be prayerful, find something doing and keep keeping on. Surely there is going to be light at the end of the dark tunnel.
Being a woman of rubies
What makes me a woman of rubies is that I have gone through great challenges as a widow and I did not engage in self-pity. With God, I rose above such challenges and tried as much as possible to survive despite all odds. I am still pushing on, I am not yet there but I am better than what I used to be. I thank God I don’t look like what I have been through. I pray my story challenges, inspire and bless you.
We celebrate the life and times of Sis Olabisi Igbalajobi.