I was born on 9 March 2006, one month earlier than my Expected Due Date.
My mum also told me that she had a choice of two names for me – Mariam and Aisha. The imam advised that I be named Mariam, which in Arabic means the Mother of Prophet ‘Isa.
My full name is Mariam Boluwatife Ojo. My mom said that she dreamt that I was coming as a boy but when I came as a female, they accepted that it is God’s wish, which is why I am Boluwatife – in Yoruba language, it is ‘how God wants it.’ I am the second of four girls born to my parents, Alhaji Waheed and Mrs Latifat Oluwakemi Ojo. My dad is from the Daudu Family of Apongbon, Lagos Island.
I attended the Muslim Association of Nigeria Primary School, Amosu Street, off Bode Thomas, Surulere, for my nursery and primary school, and Ansarudeen Girls’ High School, 71/77 Onitire Road, Itire for my secondary education. We live at Bank Olemoh, Surulere. (On Bank Olemoh, there is the famous Designer’s Rice spot. When asked if she eats designer’s rice, her mum interjects, “no, we don’t buy food outside, we create our own designer food.” Mrs. Ojo sells pastries such as puff-puff, buns, egg roll, doughnut, and meat-pie at 26 Adebola Street, Surulere, where this interview was held).
I was Class Captain in Primary Four and got a double promotion to Primary Six.
I won several scholarships in secondary school from JSS 2 till SSS 3.
When the idea of sitting for the scholarship examination was first mentioned by my dad, while I was in JSS 2, I was scared that if I did not pass it, I would be on his wrong side. I did it anyhow and I failed. The following year, I became more serious. I was also admonished by our then principal, Mrs R. O. Yusuf – may God bless her. She was a good woman; she retired when I was in SSS1, late 2018. She told me that I must be serious about it. So, I studied for it and passed. In the previous one, my dad even got me a private teacher. This one, I worked on it myself. The award was fifty-four thousand Naira, covering tuition per term, and the benefactor was Alhaji Femi Okunnu. (Alhaji Okunnu, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria, was one-time Nigeria’s federal commissioner for works. .
I also won the Assanat Abebi scholarship in SSS1 and SSS 2. That was one hundred thousand Naira per session.
In 2018, I also was one of the ten students granted the Younis Olatunji Bashorun Foundation (YOBEF) scholarship (established by the children of late Alhaji Y O Bashorun, OFR, ‘to assist qualified indigent students to have access to qualitative education’) which was fifty thousand Naira per year.
During our Valedictory Day, prizes were awarded for outstanding pupils in various subjects. I won the ten-thousand-naira prize for mathematics in JSS1 and JSS2. Thanks to our teacher, Mrs. Kudirat Owoyemi. I did not win in JSS 3 because we had another teacher, a youth corps member, who was not as good as Mrs. Owoyemi, who was pregnant and had gone on maternity leave. (I did not feel this new teacher).
I won again in SSS1. Covid-19 came, and there was no Valedictory Day for SS2. I do not know whether there would be anyone this December.
I always gave my dad the prize money. And he would simply congratulate me. When I sort of complain to my mum that daddy has not given me out of the money, she would ask me if it was not my dad paying the school fees (giggles). She never tires in telling her customers about my attainments. She is always happy. I guess both are proud of me.
(Speaking of COVID-19), our principal decided that we should be made prefects in SSS3, which ordinarily would have been in SSS2. SSS3 is for preparation for our school certificate examinations. But, he said it would not be nice if our set did not experience (leadership at that level). I was the laboratory prefect, responsible for the upkeep of our laboratories and ensuring that there was no damage. It was challenging to combine being a prefect and studying for examinations. (I coped somehow).
The subjects I sat for in the West African Examination Council examinations are: English Language, mathematics, additional mathematics, physics, chemistry, biology, civics, geography, and catering craft.
In primary school, I had said that I would want to become a doctor. It was my innocent mind (at work).
But, when I grew older, I realised that I had zero interest or passion for that.
I love unique work. In fact, (let me put it differently), I kind of love to do jobs that are considered for men only. That is how different I always want to be. Not for me nursing or the like.
If we had technical drawing as a subject in secondary school, I would have opted for civil engineering.
I chose aviation, I think in SSS1 or 2, and I have stuck to it.
I thought to myself that there must be only a few Muslim women in Africa who are pilots. I want to be one of them. I also loved to see the women in their uniforms. I love that. Our Guidance Counsellors at school are in support of my choice. But, not my father, he would rather I studied medicine. Mum, however, had admonished him that he should allow me to do what I love. So, she would tell some of her customers who she knew would also tell my dad. So, my dad believed that he was being “reported about” for his preference. Oh well. It seems that he finally got the message. He has sort of accepted the reality and he is prepared to support as best as he can. Both (parents) are also bothered about the risks of flying. I do not. (That is why) there are parachutes.
The wife of the man who lives next door to my mum’s shop is a helicopter pilot. No, she is not the one who inspired me to choose aviation. That had been my choice (much earlier before I knew her occupation). I think she trained in South Africa.
One thing of concern to me is that pilots do not have a family life. I have seen this from our neighbour’s example.
It is why I really would love to do the training early, do the work for about ten years before retiring to marry, and probably set up a school.
I consider myself a (fiercely) independent person. If it means doing some work to save money to send myself to school, I will do that. But my dad does not want me to work.
If aviation does not come through, then it is engineering.
I hope that I can get some financial support or/and advisory (from well-meaning individuals or organisations). My dad can be contacted at +234 803 833 0726. Thank you, Sir.