Despite all our shortcomings and ills as a nation and as a people, Nigeria, believe it or not are respected all over the world for many reasons. I do not need to go over all these positive things that have enhanced our image. We ourselves, as a people, bury our heads in the sands and are forever looking at, and dwelling on the negative aspects of our life and existence. Hence we concentrate on our corruption, our mismanagement, our murderous politics and ethnic rivalries thereby refusing to acknowledge that Nigerians as a people are not the bad people we ourselves and the whole world always make us out to be.
Nigerians, inside and outside Nigeria are much noted for their excellence in all areas of human endeavour, and this is undisputable. This reputation transcends tribal or religious sentiments or delineation. It is transcends our reputation for corruption. One Nigerian or the other is always receiving plaudits, accolades, international prizes, recognitions of all sorts all over the world on an almost weekly basis. This has got nothing to do with corruption, tribal or religious undertones. We know what we are capable of doing and yet, we refuse to either recognise it or bring it to the fore in all stages of our development.
It was therefore a source of personal joy and vindication to me, and for many Nigerians in the United Kingdom, when in the last weeks of August 2008, seventeen UK newspapers and five television stations, including the great BBC TV and ITV, carried the news of one Mrs Julianah Balogun-Oke, a London resident, Nigerian single mother, whose quadruplets, 18-year old Tobi, Tosin, Tayo and Tolu had all achieved A and B grades in their A Level results at St Francis Xavier Sixth Form College in Clapham, South West London, and as a result, had all been admitted to various Ivy League universities in the UK – Manchester University, Goldsmiths College, St Mary’s University of London and Cambridge University.
Mrs Julianah Balogun-Oke (pix left): Certainly something to smile about.
Furthermore, these five television stations were all over themselves to interview Mrs Balogun-Oke for this achievement and were broadcast all over the country. And this remarkable woman, who lives on a council estate in one of the most deprived areas of London, if not the UK, said simply “It is not where you live, it is how you live”. What humility, what graciousness? She has had to cope with too many social and economic disadvantages over the years in raising up her quadruplets, who are just four of a total of seven children, all of who are doing well.
What is remarkable in this feat, is not so much that the lady had seven children in total, (the quadruplet are the last and the older ones are a Doctor, a Nurse and a Lawyer) that she raised alone, but the fact that she did this in a society currently embroiled in youth crimes and a culture of gangs, knives and guns; a society which has done little or nothing to combat deprivation, especially in the black community, and where it has been said that black children are failing because 59 percent of them are raised by lone parents. These are children raised in London, where, so far in 2008, over eighteen youths, mostly blacks and including a few Nigerians, have been killed in gang-related or other fatalities on the capital’s streets, and the number is still growing.
Mrs Balogun Oke said “It really does depend on how you bring up your child. How they see you live your life and the values you instill in them from an early age. Too many single parents, of all colours and creeds, are content to collect state benefits and let their children run wild. I have been a single mum since the quads were born. I was 34 and on my own but I was determined I would open up as many opportunities for them as possible. They have seen how hard I work. I have never relied on Government handouts. They have learned by example that commitment and dedication will get you a long way”.
This achievement by itself highlights what not only Nigerian children can achieve, but the black community, and indeed, minorities all over the world, can achieve. In fact, this is not the first, and neither will it be the last. There are many Nigerians, young and adult, achieving numerous things all over the world, including in Nigeria itself. It is continuous, and we will always welcome and cherish such news. When we hear and read depressing stories about the underachievement of black and African children, their criminality, it is perhaps good for us to remember that thousands of these same people are quietly achieving great things, without government (whether UK, Nigeria or others) interference or contribution.
Unfortunately, despite the wide coverage given this achievement of the Balogun-Oke by the UK media, no Nigerian organisation or media, or even our Nigeria High Commission, has deemed it fit to recognise and congratulate her. I should know, I spoke to Mrs Balogun-Oke personally, and she was beside herself with joy, that a Nigeria organisation has finally made contact with her.
The CHAMPIONS FOR NIGERIA have therefore identified that these outstanding academic success cannot be isolated from Mrs Balogun-Oke’s hard work, sacrifice, dedication, encouragement, support, training, prayers and drive that she has given her children, both individually and severally, as a mother, against all the odds. The CHAMPIONS FOR NIGERIA see this as a great, positive thing for the Nigerians in the Diaspora, a source of great joy and exemplary milestones coming from a family of Nigeria origin, and as such, deserves all accolades and celebration.
This is a direct result of this lady and mother’s maternal skills and discipline that she has given those children in bringing them up to be focused, studious and purposeful in life despite the vices that are rife in today’s London and indeed the UK, amongst youngsters of their age and background. She has raised 4 STARS, level headed and balanced children, simultaneously and this has brought great pride to her and indeed to all Nigerians worldwide.
Mrs Balogun-Oke and her quads have been recognised as CHAMPIONS and she deserves to be rewarded for this no mean achievement, particularly, by everyone within our community. It is realised that in as much as she wants to be modest and quietly thank God for helping her and her family thus far, we believe that, she should be given the opportunity to talk to others, particularly mothers of African and other children, who for one reason or another, are thinking that it is an impossible task to raise children successfully in this country, given all the obvious difficulties and distractions that abound.
I, and many other Nigerians, especially in the UK believe that her experience in doing this successfully in the prevailing situation and personal circumstances would be a great encouragement for other mothers and families, particularly, people of African origin. It will also go a long way to psychologically, directly or indirectly, help those children who would want to see her Quadruplets as role models for their own life endeavours.
This is certainly a call for the quads themselves to a challenge as they enter another phase in their adult lives, as all eyes are now on them, and they should strive, with everybody’s support, to keep and improve on the discipline, excellence and success that their has started. Certainly, their achievements could not have been earned by children who speak up to their mothers, or parents; or those who are rude and uncultured; or those who join all kinds of gangs and carry knives and guns, or use and sell drugs on the streets of Lewisham, London.
It should be recognised that these remarkable children also helped themselves by helping their mother. They have not been involved in gangs, drugs or other bad behaviour afflicting our children these days. According to Mrs Balogun-Oke herself, they have all been brought up as good Christians.
Said Julianah Balogun-Oke “People think being a single parent means your children have to fail. I live by my own code and my own notions. I tell my children they are individuals that they do not have to be like everyone else. What has held a lot of black families back are that they have accepted the stereotype. They do not realize they can achieve anything they want; that the sky is the limit, that class or colour should not classify who they are. People have said I shouldn’t blow my own trumpet. But I know I’ve done everything possible to give my children a good start in life. It has taken commitment, time and care but it has been so rewarding for me to see them growing and achieving. And I confess, I’m privately amazed by how well they have done. My message to other single parents is that they should not let the system determine their lives. I say, always push yourself. Pray, work hard, respect yourself and your children. I don’t think I’m unique or alone and only wish the good work of other lone parents with children doing well could be heard as loudly as those crying about the effects of guns and violence”
This is a lesson and message for all parents, not only single parents of black or African heritage. It is not only the quads themselves who should be seen as role models, but also their remarkable, hard-working, God-fearing, loving, disciplined and dedicated mother. Certainly, I, and many other Nigerians and other black people in the world, can easily identify with her. We know the way we are bringing up our children, but we still need to learn from Mrs Balogun-Oke. She was not too busy trying to make money in a foreign land that she neglected the discipline, education and behaviour of her children. She saw to it that they achieved as much as they could under individual and societal circumstances.
L –R: Tobi, Tayo, Tolu and Tosin
For more of her interview, please click here:
We at Champions For Nigeria certainly rejoice with the Balogun-Okes, and recognise their achievements as I am sure all Nigerians of like-mind do too. They deserve to be encouraged, to be supported and be publicised. Mrs Julianah Balogun-Oke, Tope, Tosin, Tobi and Tayo, Kudos to you all.