Dr (Mrs) Olusola Ayo-Obiremi is a reverend and the Director of Christian Education, Nigerian Baptist Convention. She speaks on her job, the challenges and family life in this interview by TOLUWANI OLAMITOKE.
How long have you held your post?
Two years and a few weeks. I assumed office precisely on July 1, 2014.
From your experience, what does it take a woman to be successful in her carrier?
The Bible tells us of a number of things that lead to success: commitment to God, hard work, humility, obedience to God, etc. When you have a worthwhile relationship with God through Christ and love Him, He guides you on what to do. There should also be a sense of commitment to work. Some people have the potential but lack good character. Hard work is essential as one must never attempt to cut corners. The Book of Proverbs chapter 6 verse 6 instructs that we should learn from the ant. If you study these insects you will realise that they are organised. Organisation and hard work are important tools for success. So also is humility. To rise in your career, you have to be humble, willing to learn and take correction. You have to be enthusiastic about what you are doing. You bring out your best in this state and influence others positively.
Where were you born and raised?
I was born and raised in Ogbomoso, but my parents are from Fiditi. I lived in the United States from four years old till I turned nine.
Can you compare parenting while you were growing up with what holds today?
In the past parents disciplined their children more, but now a number of parents don’t really have time for their children. Parenting is now done in a laissez faire manner by many. While it’s true that we often have tight schedules, I believe we can always find a way round it. I don’t take that which relates to my family with levity because I owe it to them and God. There’s still the remnant, both Christians and Muslims who are committed to bringing up their children in the right way. I remember when we were young, mum would prepare us hot amala and ensure we took it even when we requested for something else. She was particular that we ate a balanced diet. Now we have a lot of ‘fast food parents’ who raise obese children. In the past, parents kept sealed lips on sex education and shut the child up if he or she asked questions in that regard in the past but now more parents enlighten our children on it. Another problem is that of alienation. Many children these days don’t know their culture. They cannot speak or communicate, read or greet properly in their local languages. Some parents are proud of it but I am not. Our culture is our root. In my family, we hold our morning devotion in Yoruba Language and evening devotion in English Language.
In choosing your marriage partner, what were your considerations?
God’s will and the person who will continue to grow in Him and help me also to continue to grow in Christ.
How can a couple guide against communication gap in their relationship?
You prayerfully let the other know when he or she has gone wrong. You don’t pass the message across when you are angry. If you want your spouse to do something, do same and articulate that expectation. Some women are angry when their husbands forget their birthdates or some other occasions. Rather than being angry, communicate the details and give reminders. There’s a problem when communication becomes a nag. There’s the need to be more explicit in our communication. If there’s a change in plan communicate it – call your spouse or send him a text message. Don’t jump to conclusions, communicate. Communication should be made plain, open and without any bitterness. Also, communication is misunderstood when there’s lack of trust. Keep trust by being open and transparent.
From your experience, what time is best for couples to discuss issues?
I will say it depends on the couple. Likewise, it depends on the issue. It can be private or open. We do different jobs and so time commitments differ. A couple should study each other and come up with their own best time and not be rigid. My husband does something I admire. Because he knows I’m always very busy, whenever he wants to discuss something urgent with me while at work, he calls and asks if the time he’s calling is okay to discuss. I always appreciate it.
How do you ensure your official activities don’t clash with your responsibilities at home?
If there is going to be a clash I will sit down and ask ‘what’s my priority?’ When family programmes clash with my official duties, I consider my involvement in the programme and prioritise. If I need to be there, I put in extra hours to meet the target on my job. My husband is also involved in the ministry and he is very understanding. Our children are also very understanding and cooperative.
Some women marry just to bear the title ‘MRS’, what do you have to say to this?
It’s a wrong motive for getting married and that is why many marriages hit the rocks early. You marry because you want to bless someone’s life, for companionship, mutual affection, chastity and care and not only for what you can get. Marriage is give and take. It’s important to marry in order to be together to fulfil God’s purpose. Marrying just for love is not enough because people fall in and out of love. You should marry for godly reasons and marry a companion you can pour your life into and vice versa.
What do the activities of your department entail and in what ways have they impacted lives, especially the youth?
We have five divisions. We have the Discipleship Training Ministry; Sunday School, Literacy, Stewardship and Family Life Education divisions. We write, edit, train, equip, teach, empower and mobilise. We produce books annually under the divisions which are a blessing to the different target groups, impacting them to be faithful Christians and patriotic citizens. The books are produced in Yoruba and English languages, and some in Hausa language. Discipleship Training helps youth to be more tolerant, patient and offers the right standard for living and measuring their personal lives. Family Life Education Division covers the whole family. Here, we counsel couples, about-to-weds, parents and even pregnant women – on godly things to expose their babies to when in the womb and after delivery. We have programmes for children and teenagers and these include Sunday worship, Sunday School lessons and Holiday Bible school programmes which are Bible-based, Christ-centred and life-applied. The lessons invariably influence their choice making. We also reach all members of the family through Family Life magazine. Activities under Literacy Division include learning reading and writing skills for a mixture of different ages. We believe people are illiterate in whatever they don’t know; so we organise special programmes annually, referred to as Literacy Mission week. This year’s emphasis is on information and communication technology and fishery. Stewardship Education teaches children, youths and adults that all we have is given by God and He expects us to be useful and prudent in their use. It further teaches Christians to be good stewards of their time, relationships, talents, environment and activities among others. Every age has a Sunday School class where lessons are taught. The different age groups meet on Sunday to discuss. We have a devotional book and a Sunday School book which doubles as a teacher’s guide and workbook. The key thing is bringing the Bible to everyone. We have writers from all over the country. We edit and pass on what we have done to the Publications Department for more editing and publishing.
What are the challenges of your job?
The main challenge is coping to meet deadlines for publications. We work annually with a deadline and we are expected to meet up. We give writers what to write while we edit content. We sometimes rewrite while professional editors do the grammatical editing before we go to the press. The fact remains that when you are happy with your job, you develop an inner strength to cope with the challenges and keep going.
What does relaxation mean to you?
Taking a break from everyday hustle and bustle. A time to have a change of activity, renew and pick up more vigour. When relaxing, I can watch Christian films, read Christian books, listen to Christian music, take a walk, visit friends or go through my WhatsApp messages. I sometimes bake, have dinner with friends either in their homes or mine or stay alone with my family.