Should I tell the Aliko Dangote story? Or the Enoch Adeboye story? The Segun Agbaje story? Or the Goodluck Jonathan story? Has any of them inspired you? Who inspires you most? These are men that no pinnacle has been too high for them to aspire and attain. Some, legally; some, not so legally. They have been relentless in pursuit of their ambitions for power, wealth and success. They control notable portions of Nigeria’s economy. But, let’s leave out the “made-men” from this episode, let’s discuss how difficult it is to succeed via a pure, ethical way of achieving more, every day.

Let’s discuss someone who has struggled through extreme poverty and lives daily to achieve more not just financially but through impact. Every human is blessed with at least something and most humans are blessed with many things. Some of us are blessed with good looks, some with creative talents and some with the ability to influence and lead. Let’s discuss Lola’s story from grass to grace to greater, and to (in my eyes and heart) greatest.

My earliest memory of Lola, as childhood friends and classmates, was the period she lost her dad. We were no older than 7 years old then. She missed a whole week of school and when she returned to class, she was leaner, we all could tell she had been through hell. I couldn’t wait for classes to be over to give her a hug and ask her what happened. Lola told me she would do anything to make sure her mum never suffers. She said her biggest sadness was seeing her mum worried about the future with no support from anyone.

Lola’s mum had been a housewife and depended 100% on Lola’s dad. Lola’s dad didn’t leave much behind for his wife and 4 children. They struggled. With Lola’s mum able to afford only school fees and minimal food, Lola’s mum went into debt for her children. Lola excelled in her studies. Attaining even better grades than other kids like myself in all our comfort. Through all the hell and sufferings at home, Lola graduated top of the class. What an achievement.

Fast-forward to a decade later, Lola and I end up in the same foreign city for university. We had both blossomed into very beautiful, young and fun women. We stayed focused in school, but we also made time out to enjoy our independence and freedom. We met lots of people every day. We were exposed to the other sex. A new world of welcomed attention. But we vowed to protect our hearts and bodies. We shared everything including secrets.

We knew we had to work hard to get the top grades but little did Lola know she would have to work triple hard to stay alive. Lola’s mum was only able to assist with the first semester fees. By 2nd semester, it was impossible for her to fund her daughter’s fees or provide any financial support whatsoever. Not even for food. I tried to help as much as I could from the little my parents gave me but it was no way close to being enough. Lola was needy. She sought alternative ways to survive. She had no plans to derail. She was smart, high-achieving and very capable to attain the best grades but in the absence of the financial support she needed, suicide became her only other alternative. It was hard seeing her struggle while I was able to keep moving.

Lola applied for scholarships and part-time jobs. Some came through but overall, it was an extremely difficult period for her. Then came Derin, an older man who fell in love with her beauty. His money came in handy and made her blossom. She fell for him and vice versa. I rarely saw Lola during that period. She became a new person and had everything she ever wanted or needed. One thing I respect about her is that she didn’t stop there. Derin wasn’t a distraction from her life’s ambitions. Derin was an addition to her life’s fulfillment. Derin was a married man, their love was extremely strong and passionate. Lola gave him everything he needed sexually and emotionally. He gave her everything she wanted sexually, emotionally and financially. They parted ways. Lola cried. She moved on.

From that point on, she never went back to poverty. She learnt the ropes to being financially free. She graduated with first class honors. She landed a job in Silicon Valley. Relocated to South Africa. Now managing one of the biggest startup companies in South Africa at age 30. Her startup has well over 3,000,000 registered users, contributing to financial inclusion across the continent. Lola is a multi-millionaire today. Well on her way to becoming a billionaire if her heart desires. Her mother is well-off and so are her siblings. But Lola isn’t stopping. Based on my last conversation with her, I know her heart desires to be a billionare. She’s smart, beautiful, relentless and hardworking. She would make it.

-Olatorera Oniru

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