Is luck in the loaf?

Olajumoke-OrisagunaMake no mistake about it. What has happened to Olajumoke Orisaguna is a fluke, an unexpected providential largess. It is not evidence that there is a Nigerian Dream. There is an American Dream but no Nigerian Dream and Olajumoke is not a fulfillment of it.

Olajumoke is a beautiful girl, 27, married, has two kids and sells bread for a living. She carries the basin of bread on her head and walks from place to place to where people who might want bread live or work. As luck would have it she strayed into a photoshoot of which Tinie Tempah, a hip hop artist, was the subject. A young photographer called T. Y. Bello who has established a solid reputation for her craftsmanship, found the bread seller worthy of her professional attention. She clicked away and made the photographs the property of the public. And now the manufacturers of consumer goods, fashion houses, modeling agencies and a bank are falling over each other to make her the face of their products and services.

A property developer has already offered her a furnished apartment; another has established a fund for the training of her children up to the university level. There are several other endorsement deals which have changed her life of anonymity. She is now a celebrity, ready for the red carpet and champagne parties. Her husband, Sunday, who is a fitter of aluminum doors and window frames must be pleasantly wondering what is happening all of a sudden. That is the hypnotic power of the media.

Olajumoke has been around for all of 27 years, has been beautiful for all of these 27 years but no one seemed to know she existed until someone with a keen eye for beauty, raw beauty, unpolished beauty just like unpolished diamond spotted her. With the dexterity of a master craftsman she brought her to the world the way a woman brings a baby to the world and the baby announces its arrival with its first cry. In the Olajumoke incident it was the world which on seeing her photographs howled, “O what a beauty! And she is a bread seller.” If we wish to be generous we may give a little credit to Olajumoke for being beautiful but she contributed nothing to being beautiful. We can give a bigger slice of the credit to T. Y. Bello for bringing her to our attention and our attention to her. That triangle between beauty, fortune and us is where we are now.

There are many raw beauties all over the place selling different kinds of bread; Ghana, Agege, butter, cassava, wheat – as well as groundnuts, sachet water, garden eggs, bananas or nothing at all. In God’s own arrangement it was Olajumoke’s time to shine. She was at the right place at the right time. Now Olajumoke’s face is her fortune.

Olajumoke is not a product of the Nigerian Dream. She is just one lucky girl in a country where the ladders for upward movement are few and far between.

Young bread sellers may now be painting their mouths blood red and their faces shiny silver in the hope that they will receive the Olajumoke treatment. Very soon, many young girls will be selling bread hoping that if luck is stuck in a loaf of bread they will find it. But life is not exactly like that. That is why thunder hardly strikes twice in one place. Olajumoke’s luck was not in the loaf of bread she was selling. It was simply a providential favour and T.Y. Bello was the vehicle for the delivery of that favour.

God’s gifts are not often evenly distributed. A tall person can join the Armed Forces and can play professional basketball because he is tall. A short person will not be recruited into any of the Armed Forces or in any basketball league. But by the law of compensation he or she may have a quick wit, a sharp brain or admirable manners and these attributes may contribute to his success in life just as the tall person’s height can help him to achieve success in basketball.

Beautiful women bring pleasure to the eyes. That is why advertisers use them for product or service endorsement, movie producers choose actresses from this group, fashion designers use them to showcase their products and musicians feature them on their music videos. Overall, most beautiful women receive unmerited favours from men whether you believe it or not. In the same breadth, they are “toasted” or troubled by men every day. It is not their fault that they are pretty and it is not the men’s fault that they are attracted to their beauty. That is just the way these things are arranged.

When a woman is young her beauty is the work of nature. When she is old her beauty is the work of nurture otherwise called technology. Olajumoke must use her beauty now to achieve what she can achieve. It is good she says she wants to go to school and become a lawyer. That is sensible because in a few years time her beauty will fade and there will be new beauties on the block. At that time, the hunters for ambassadors for their products will no longer look in her direction. They will look elsewhere because there is a high degree of obsolescence attached to beauty. Luckily for her, at that time she will not be walking about in the scorching sun hawking bread. She will be sitting in her cozy apartment while young bread sellers beat a path to her door. If she wants she can establish a bread factory and employ people to work for her. That would be her revenge for her erstwhile humdrum existence. The god of poverty that thought it could put her down for ever has been shamed.

Why didn’t Olajumoke become Most Beautiful Girl in Nigeria or the Face of Africa? It is because these pageants need much more than a beautiful face, a long neck like a giraffe, long legs like an antelope, and a body like figure eight. Those pageants are a combination of beauty of the body and beauty of the brain.

The reason Olajumoke is much celebrated today is because in Nigeria almost everything is arranged for your failure. You cannot send a letter out and be sure it will get to its destination except you use an expensive courier service. You cannot get your pension or gratuity until you are ready to die on the queue. Your child may not be able to get into the university until you go with him to meet someone. You pay for mortgage for many years but you are not yet ripe to get money for your house. You pay through your nose for electricity but you also need a generator, an inverter, a kerosene lantern or a solar lantern if you are to be sure of some kind of power.

In America, you can go to the bank with a bright idea and get funding without any collateral. This is venture capital. In Nigeria no matter how brilliant your idea is the bank will tell you to deposit as collateral your most prized property: your mother. If you tell them your mother died many years ago, they will tell you to bring her grave. Since you have neither mother nor grave to give them your brilliant idea will be buried by the bank’s lack of foresight.

What Americans call the American Dream is rooted in the Declaration of Independence which proclaims that all men are created equal “with the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.” In 1931 a historian, James Truslow Adams, defined in his book, Epic of America, the American Dream. He said: “Life should be better and richer and fuller for everyone, with opportunity for each according to ability or achievement regardless of social class or circumstances of birth.” In other words, everyone can succeed with hard work and determination.

Bill Gates, the co-founder of Microsoft and one of the world’s richest men is a Harvard University drop-out. Today Harvard Professors clamour to eat out of his hand. Steve Jobs, a young man with a passion for perfection started his APPLE business from his car garage. His drive has revolutionised six industries: Personal computers, animated movies, music, phones, tablet computing and digital publishing.

When Barak Obama started his campaign for the American presidency in 2008 not many people in America gave him even a fighting chance. Outside America, people generally pooh-poohed the idea because the blacks are in the minority and race is still a big issue in America. Obama has done two terms as the President of the world’s only super power. That is the American Dream at work.
Please don’t say to me Goodluck Jonathan, from a minority tribe also got there and that that is evidence of the Nigerian Dream. Jonathan was just handpicked by President Olusegun Obasanjo as Vice Presidential candidate and he became President through no effort of his but by some providential decree. By the way our politics is arranged people of ability can hardly get to the very top except religion and region work in their favour.

In the private sector, some people can succeed by dint of hardwork and determination but these must be garnished by government. How many very successful businessmen and women are available in Nigeria today that did not benefit from government patronage, support, waivers or insider information? If they have succeeded that would not be the spelling of Nigerian Dream.
Olajumoke is not a product of the Nigerian Dream. She is just one lucky girl in a country where the ladders for upward movement are few and far between.


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1 Comment
  • Kingsley

    is Ray Ekpu now with Guardian…just asking