You are a Bus Conductor!
For those of us familiar with the city of Lagos in Nigeria, life is tough enough as it is, even more so, when you are a ‘Danfo Bus Conductor’. A group stereotyped by many as ‘society’s down-trodden’.
A BBC News report document reads: “it is common for bus conductors, hanging out from the doors, to use one hand to help lift a running passenger onto a moving Molue or Danfo. They always take on board more than the recommended 44 passengers for Molue or 12 for the Danfo………Most buses, with the accelerator pedal at the mercy of alcohol-fuelled or madness-filled drivers, are not roadworthy. The bodywork is battered; tyres are as bald as the pate of a 90-year old; plumes of thick, black smoke are emitted from silencers as the buses chug on with barely functioning brakes.” 1
We seek not to glorify the foreign media’s bashing of all things Nigeria, but the reality is what they documented above. It was more so, many years ago. In recent times however, the quality and roadworthiness of the buses have improved with better-enforced regulations. Nonetheless, it is not an easy job being a ‘Danfo Bus Conductor’.
You are a ‘Danfo Bus Conductor’, yet you know that this is one of the steps in your life ladder. It is not the end point in your life. You are surrounded by Danfo Buses but all you see are skyscrapers. You are in a practical situation that challenges your very existence. Despite this, you decide to choose your reality… not minding that the reality options are limited by these ‘Danfo Buses’ that are beclouding your vision.
So what do you do? You simply create your reality in your mind! It does not matter what the BBC or anyone else for that matter, think about your kind. You are determined to act your own script and not that written by anyone else.
Team Loretta Reveals have found you this man who made the choice to write and direct his own script. A man who chose to and still chooses to let his experiences make him and not break him. A man who did not give up even when failure looked like the only option. Meet this man who worked his way from Oshodi in Lagos, Nigeria to New England, in Australia. Moving from the crowded and battered Danfo Buses to the borderless world of the Academia. From ‘Danfo Bus Conductor or Ductor’ to becoming a ‘Doctor and Lecturer in Criminology’.
I have always been a dreamer.
Even when life’s circumstances around me dictated otherwise, I always believed in the beauty of my dreams. I learned early in life that even if I lacked the basic needs or may not have matched up with my equals, I can still build my own sky scrappers. The reason is simple; I do not require Government, Town Planning approval or the resources of a ‘Bill Gates’ to build a skyscraper in my imagination.
Trust me, I built a lot of skyscrapers and I started building them from early on in life. I imagined a better life than what my parents could offer. Each day, like someone high on opioids, I fantasized about the beauty of a great future. I realised very early that I was academically gifted. So, I invested a great deal of my time studying. I grew a voracious appetite for information. I remember vividly that I could read and write before I started primary school. I was a very precocious academic.
I was lucky to have parents who taught me the values of integrity and honesty. My dad was a police officer who believed in living within one’s income. He was well-decorated with many awards and recognition for his honesty and integrity. He was my first true hero. My mum, on the other hand, was an epitome of the ‘hardworking woman’. She was very enterprising. She grew her business selling Roselle (ishapa) leaves into a successful enterprise. While my dad was out there solving criminal cases, she was the ‘officer-in-charge’ at the home front.
Like most people, I had a normal childhood. We did not live in affluence, but my parents were able to meet our basic needs. We (I and my siblings) grew up surrounded by love and affection. Though my parents are from Ondo State in Nigeria, we were born and had our early up-bringing in the South-southern part of the country. This was Calabar, to be precise. However, due to the nature of my dad’s job, we found ourselves constantly on the road. We often lived less than one year in some places before he was transferred and we would be on the move again. As such, we often had transient friendships. I hated those experiences but I am grateful for how they have shaped my life.
Some few years down the line, life happened. My mum passed away. Life became tough because she left a big gap that no one could fill. After this experience, my dad began to supplement his income with farming. We began to do farming on a big scale. It was only logical that we were the labourers. During holidays and weekends, we were always at our father’s farm. We were often cut off from city life throughout school vacations and holidays. He made us work in the farm from morning till late at night. The weather elements of nature did not stop our toiling. Come rain or sunshine, we were on the farm. My academic performance began to falter.
Then the deterioration gradually began. I became absentminded at school. We had no one to support us as my dad had other wives who did not quite consider my siblings and myself their priorities at the time. So although we lived with our dad, we gradually became lonely and felt abandoned.
It was during this period that I decided to leave my hometown for a better life in Lagos. My coming to Lagos was nothing much different from being at home, in terms of the hardship I faced- but I had resolved not to return home irrespective of the challenges life might throw at me.
Some 22 odd years ago, the only thing I had was a dream; a dream to have a better future, to break the cycle of poverty, and to study in one of the best universities in the world. Though I had beautiful dreams, the physical resources to meet my heart desires were beyond my reach. None the less, I chose not to give up.
At a particular period, I was homeless and had to work as a ‘Danfo Bus Conductor’ in Oshodi Lagos (Nigerians will understand this). I also went on to work a 12 hours daily shift in a factory line without personal protective equipment. I did a lot of horrible jobs to survive in those days……….
Despite all these challenges, I dedicated at least 2 hours each day to develop myself. I was committed strictly to studying, reading biographies and trekking miles to attend church conferences in Lagos. In the church, I would spend hours in the study of the Bible, praying, fasting and in vigils….I worked like I was not praying about my big dreams and prayed like I was not working at my big dreams!
When I look back, I remember how I was told several times to quit trying. Many who loved me even told me out of pity for me to stop dreaming – the dreams were making me do things that were too stressful and not compactible with living. I was often misjudged by many without them listening to my story. Through all of these, I refused to quit. I had two options. They were one; either I succeed or two; I succeed.
To keep the story short, in 2006 I had my first degree and I graduated top in my class. In 2010, I had my first master’s degree and also graduated top in my class. In the same year, I had a full scholarship to study at the University of Cambridge and I graduated in 2011 with the second master’s degree in Criminology.
In October 2016, I was awarded a PhD in Criminology and Criminal Justice from Griffith University Australia.
To the glory of God, today, I’m a multi-award winning scholar, criminologist, consultant, minister of the gospel and a motivational speaker who travels around the world teaching God’s inspired wisdom to government leaders, policymakers, businessmen and women, students and church congregations.
I am an example of possibility and determination, having succeeded from nothing to a global leader. Through the grace of God and sheer determination, I have successfully attracted more than 17 scholarships, grants, recognition and awards in Nigeria, United Kingdom and Australia; including the prestigious British Commonwealth Scholarships, Australian Postgraduate Awards and Australian Endeavour Executive Fellowship.
I have also authored a few peer-reviewed journal articles and book chapters on policing, corruption and interpersonal violence.
Now you have read him, you can also hear him via the link below. Ever the humble unassuming man, Oluwagbenga Micheal Akinlabi PhD (Griffith) | MPhil (Cambridge) | MSc (UI) | B.Ed. (UI), is described on his on-line profile as a comparative and interdisciplinary researcher. As a researcher with strong background in understanding human behaviour, he has been particularly interested in exploring how social norms, perceptions of justice and fairness, corruption, emotions and motivations, feelings of trust, and predatory policing can go a long way to influence cynicism towards the law as well as the levels of resistance and defiance among individuals or groups in the community. His area of research interests and supervision include:- Corruption and accountability in postcolonial African societies – Policing youths and ethnic minorities in Australia – Procedural justice and police legitimacy – Policing and (in) security in post-conflict societies – Online fraud and romance scam – Media and crime.
Before we get too engrossed in what this man is contributing to humanity now, Team LR advises us not to forget where this man is coming from – a ‘Danfo Bus Conductor’. Now dear readers, let us in on those skyscrapers you are building and what Dr. Akinlabi’s story means to you in the comments section.
For consultation and public engagement, he can be reached through:
Facebook page: Mike Olu Akinlabi, PhD
*All photographs and video therein are used with the exclusive permission of Dr. MO Akinlabi*
**Many thanks to Omoyemwen Agbonwanegbe-Okogwu for leading the team of LR editors that worked hard to bring you this motivational recipe**