A visit to Makoko, a slum in Yaba, Lagos births many stories, many of which are from varying perspectives. That community is one riddled with so much decay that you wonder if the area is actually a part of the ‘megacity’ of Lagos. As against the norm, this article is not about the dismal state of affairs in the community, rather, it is about a young man whose attributes I find interesting and inspiring. Stories from Makoko, no matter how multi-faceted, are never complete without the mention of Mr. Otto Orondaam, Founder/Executive Director of Slum2School Africa – a volunteer-based organization which is focused primarily with empowering vulnerable and less-privileged children with the most important tool for their development – Education. The organization was born out of Otto’s passion to make change happen in a community that has even lost faith itself and potentials. A date with destiny had taken him all the way to Makoko for his Youth Service and from there the rest has been blissful history. Call him a revolutionist, epoch-maker, change-agent or child advocate, I just prefer to address him as the ‘Slum King’.
I got the priceless privilege of meeting him recently and got to share a day out on duty with this passionate individual and it was amazing to see for myself how much goodwill he has been able to garner in only about 2 years. Immediately he entered the community, the children went wild, running after him singing: Education! Education! Education is my friend. “Yusuf, this is my home-zone o”, he said, as he grabbed a biscuit from one of the local petty stalls saying to the stall keeper: “How Market na?” meeting a big smile on her face. As he walked along, the children would not stop chorusing, he’d often smile subtly in return, high-fiving the ones he can. He’d also walk past the elders in the community much to their adoration.
He’d greet them respectfully showing positive gesticulations. A man of the people, he had even more goodwill than most politicians would beg for. His rapport with the entire community was undeniable, even the Baale is his pal. In Otto, I saw a lot of sincerity of purpose and drive to do all it takes to achieve goals we all only dream about. He personifies the ideal Nigerian spirit – relentless, dogged, and tenacious to the very core.
Walking behind him, I couldn’t be more inspired, inspired to take those courageous, giant steps to DO something about such a dastardly situation. A situation many have said lots about but easily given up on, a situation even eluding government intervention. His story is one having a lesson for us all – courage, determination, humility, sincerity of purpose, hope, ambition, name it! What’s even more interesting is, the young man is not looking back. He has this unquenchable thirst to do more and more despite his remarkable achievements in so little time. Although, the road to the ‘Universal Primary Education for all by 2015 Millenium Development Goal (MDG)’ is a really long one, the ‘Slum King’ is prepared to lead the chase each step of the way until the finish line.
Check http://www.slum2school.wordpress.com for more info