Her journey to where she is today started from Mount Carmel Convent School, Ebute Meta, then to Nigeria People’s High School, also in Ebute-Meta. August 1980, she was nominated to represent Benin City at the National Sports Festival in 1981. Later on, she began attending classes at Benin Technical College preparatory to attending University of Benin.
In the summer of 1984, she had the opportunity to join her sister in the United State of America. Getting to the US, she joined a junior college called Maryland Community College, Catonsville Campus. She later transferred her completed credits to Community College of Philadelphia where she was able to earn an associate degree in Science/Accounting within a year, something that would usually take a period of two years. She later attended LaSalle University, Philadelphia, Pennylvania where she obtained Bachelor/Master of Science in Business Administration, concentrating in Accounting. In-between her first and second degree, she started working as loan accountant/auditor at a local bank that took the burden of tuitions off her. Her place of employment offered her tuition reimbursement as long as she maintained good grades.
“I jumped at the opportunity,” she says. “I knew that attaining good grades would not be a problem for me. That was the end of the part-time weekend job that I obtained to supplement my tuition. I was able to concentrate more on my studies rather than working two jobs and going to school concurrently. In 1992, I started shifting my interest from paper to people, yearning for a job that would allow me to interact with people; it was then that the medical field came to mind. I have been married to an American trained physician and this influenced my decision. Without much ado, I enrolled at University of Texas where I obtained another Bachelor of Science, concentration – Nursing.”
She continues: “I continued my education journey to Drexel University to obtain Masters Degree in Nursing. I attended UT Southwestern Medical School in Dallas, Texas to study Advanced Nurse Practice education to allow me to practice independently from a physician. Knowing that ‘no knowledge is ever lost’, I am currently working on another degree at doctoral
level at University of Texas Health Science in Houston, Texas.”
An interesting profile, you would say. How best can you describe a woman who is an accountant, business administrator, auditor, and advanced nurse practitioner currently working on her doctorate degree? An ‘ardent multitasking woman’, I guess. Toyin Okenla-Ojeaga is my Leading Woman for this week.
Aside from all the flags she wears, Toyin also runs several businesses, plus a contract assignment with the Department of Justice-Office of the Marshall, and a medical practice. But in addition to all these, she says, “I do ensure that my home front is in good order. Combining raising a family with my career is not an easy task. However, I have succeeded knowing that absolutely no goal is impossible to achieve if one’s mind is fully made up and if one follows through with determination. I am one of those who believe everything in life is within reach if you work hard and stay focused. I am blessed with a fantastic pillar behind me who supports my every move and never undermines my capabilities. My husband is my rock.”
If there is one thing Toyin is passionate about, it is sports. She narrates how it all began. “My older brother introduced and taught me how to play table tennis, coupled with other so-called male sports like boxing and football. I started playing table tennis at a very young age where I represented Lagos State in National School Sports Festival in Owerri (Arugo ‘79). There I captured three medals in three different categories. That was a big experience and motivational beginning for me. I was able to convince my parents to permit me to participate in sports and also promised them that participating in sports would not have any negative impact on my education and it didn’t.”
Toyin recently sponsored a table tennis tournament in Lagos. Why did she do that? “My objective was to give back to my beloved country,” she answers. “With my background in mind, I decided to encourage the youth that are interested in playing the game of table tennis. If they are able to both play the game well and perform very well in school, they will be compensated with scholarship awards while in high school. The tournament will be an annual event, by God’s grace.”
Speaking on how sports can be improved effectively in Nigeria, Toyin advises: “During my sports days, different sporting events emerged from the grassroots, starting with inter-house sports. As far as I can remember, Stephen Keshi, Henry Nwosu, and many others were discovered during the high school league when St. Finnbar’s, St. Gregory’s dominated soccer. If inter-house sports can be brought back to half of what it was back then, I think the country will once again be noted around the world in sports.”
Asked what her plans within five years would be, she says, “In five years, I plan to move back to Nigeria and establish a private medical practice and a school of nursing. One of the problems that Nigeria is facing as a country is the health care system. I cannot comprehend why Nigerians would travel to India for health reasons. Nigerians are known worldwide to be the most intelligent group of people, yet we lack the infrastructure to help our own. It is disheartening. We lack proper diagnostic tools for differential diagnosis to pinpoint the clinical findings, thereby patients are treated for wrong ailments.”
Toyin, speaking passionately about women, admonishes them thus: “Women are special beings with so much potential if they realise it. First, you have to love yourself in order to love others. By loving yourself, you are able to realise your potential, set goals, and work towards achieving those goals. Womenfolk, love yourselves first, stay focused, and remain
close to God.”