21st October 2021
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Power of Testimony

I read a post on LinkedIn by the Ex commissioner of Budget and Planning of Ogun state. In it, she talked about how she didn’t really “know” anyone in Nigeria either through working or schooling with them at the secondary school or university level. Despite this setback, she had the desire to work in the Nigerian public sector. She then went on to highlight her achievements while in public office. 

Now, that’s where I have a problem with Nigerians when they share their testimonies or inspiring stories. They refuse to tell us the “how they got there.” This woman’s story seems like the typical testimonies you hear in Nigerian churches, “I didn’t read at all for this exam o, but eventually got an ‘A’,” please how did it happen? Miraculously or mysteriously? In this woman’s case, did she apply for the job, was it through referrals or by sheer professional excellence where she had to be handpicked or should I say “poached” by the Governor? She also encouraged women to get into public offices. In this male dominated society, could you please expatiate and tell us “how to get there” given that you have excelled in it? 

You see, most people, men and women inclusive, still believe that women climb to the top through “bottom power” and that without a man, a woman can’t climb up the professional ladder. For example, Remi Tinubu, wife of APC Chieftain, cannot tell us that she became a senator through her dynamism, na man give her power. Still, there is nothing wrong with that. I will explain. In my opinion, if you are sharing your story and you know you got that career break through “connection”, please state it, there’s nothing wrong with that. The saying “your network is your net worth” still rings true. It was in the news recently that Senator Kamala Harris, the female Democratic Candidate in the USA dated former San Francisco Mayor Willie Brown. The man who may have influenced her career by appointing her to two state commissions when he was Assembly speaker.  No be lie, na true. She no deny am, the man self no deny am. BUT, she was also very qualified and performed excellently during her tenure. She went on to become a Senator and is contesting for US Presidency.

Read more from this author: Opinion|Why I Am Angry With Feminists

If I am going to share such a story in Nigeria, I would own it. There is nothing wrong with it but make sure you don’t deceive us by saying “I don’t know how it happened, na God do am.” Research has proven that the greatest predictor of success is who you choose to marry or partner with. The lesson there is that make sure you fall in “love” with someone who has “sense” and is responsible. We don’t find love in hopeless places, please. That’s why with Desert Bloom Initiative, I ask those I interview to share the “how” behind the success. Examples abound such as “I applied to more than 60 schools before eventually getting a scholarship” or “funding of our NGO is very difficult, it’s not been easy to stay afloat” etc. This is to ensure that while sharing the success, you are also teaching a life lesson. In such cases, you are telling the candidate applying for a scholarship to be determined and tenacious. You are telling the owner of an NGO that “you are not alone in the funding challenge NGOs face.” 

When I was coming back to Nigeria after working abroad, I knew I needed a job fast before my savings ran out. I arrived Nigeria on 27 December and got a job on 4 February. If I were to go by the post of the ex-commissioner, the typical Nigerian testimony goes thus: I don’t know how God did it o, I was so afraid I wouldn’t get a job given that I don’t know anyone but I did within days.” But I would have denied people the power of my testimony. The how is that, I signed up to LinkedIn and sent more than 50 messages to top professionals in my field detailing my skill and experience. About three of them responded and I got a job with one of them. I did this three months before coming to Nigeria. If I don’t share this crucial part, I would be denying someone the knowledge that you could actually use LinkedIn to get a job. I would be denying another the lesson that rejection does not matter when looking for a job after all, na only one you need, not 50. I would be denying the lesson that when looking for a job, applying to just 5 jobs for example is not enough. You have to stay strong and keep applying even if it means applying 100 times. You see what I am saying. 

So my fellow Nigerians, please don’t deny us the power of your testimony. Please bless us with the “how” else it would just be self-aggrandizement. 

Thank you. 

Ides Ofune

Ides Ofune is currently a PhD Student at the University of Leeds. Her research focuses on civil society and accountability in improving the quality of education. She is the founder of Desert Bloom Initiative and editor of Desert Bloom Advisory. Ides is very passionate about education and creating an inclusive society. She speaks French and English fluently. She can be reached at info@desertbloomadvisory.com