It was his encounter with Dr. Strive Masiyiwa that gave him a lifetime opportunity to scale his social impact venture. It was the narration of this encounter on LinkedIn that attracted the interviewer to seek him out for an interview. He is Bashiru Oyakhilome Adam. He is the founder of Dream Again Prison and Youth Foundation in Kaduna, Nigeria. Here are the excerpts of his chat with Rasheed Adebiyi.
Tekedia: Could you tell us about yourself?
Bashiru Adamu: I am Bashiru Oyahkilome Adamu and I am from Edo State. I was born in Kaduna, North Central part of Nigeria. I grew up with low self-esteem, I was passionate about playing football. I was excited about talking, administrator, and I mobilise people easily. I remembered at ten or eleven years, I already had a football team where I was coaching other kids down the block. Like a teabag in ice-cold water, I was gifted these alongside growing with a lurking low-self-esteemed. And in my estimations, my low self-esteem was chronic. It was a growing façade. Judged with the pass mark of being very ‘social’, the way it is termed here for anyone who interacts well with others. But within me, I knew I was just shell- couldn’t truly express myself as it were. And I strongly believe this was a result of not getting to express myself fully within the nucleus of the family. Unfortunately, it reflected in my poor performance at school and that also played a part like a domino effect- in bruising further my self-esteem.
Like a fish trapped in the confined beauties of an aquarium- but an aquarium is an aquarium no matter how beautiful it is, it is not home. It is not the natural habitat of fish. Fishes live in the streams, rivers, seas, and oceans and therefore to put a fish in an aquarium, no matter how beautiful it makes our homes look, the aquarium limits the swimming potential of any fish trapped in it. It is imprisonment. Though the fish can still swim in the aquarium, it cannot fully maximize its swimming potential to its fullness and enjoy the freedom of living life in its natural habitat without any human restriction. I was that fish. A lot of us are! Situational inhibitions, self-imposed inhibitions, and all. For instance, we grew in a society where we are told unless we are fluent in the language of our colonial masters (Great Britain in Nigeria case), one is judged as a daft! The imprisonment furthered with the acquaintance with a foreign language. I guess to counter this imprisonment few advanced countries that are not English speaking ensured their textbooks were written in their local languages. I couldn’t speak good English. So, I was doomed. My friends in high school or secondary school as the case may be derided my inadequacies- stitching all tenses to express. The tall order of seeing others as my yardstick robbed me living me.
I couldn’t live my life based on my skill and gift. My comfort was to be others as ‘me’ stinks in my deepest imagination. The turning point came in the year 2001 when my conscious quest reached out in curiosity and inquisition on my origin, my creator; that path led me believing Christ to date without prejudice to anyone’s beliefs. The experience was paradoxical: satisfying and not satisfied. You are fulfilled at the same time hungry for more light. I started buying and reading spiritual/motivational books for the first time in my life. My low self-esteem didn’t disappear overnight- you don’t just switch camps without procedures- gradually I saw myself in the mirror of a larger self, the God-self. Believing in myself became natural, the graph of self-confidence went up! Books as those written by Dr. Zig Zigglar “See You at The Top” had a great influence on me. Among several things I learned was that Dr. Zig said, “You can have enough of what you want in life, if you will assist enough other people to have what they want”- it’s like the golden rule of living.
Tekedia: On your LinkedIn profile, you have descriptions such as Break Your Prison Coach and others. Could you let us more into what you do and the vision behind it?
Bashiru Adamu: I haven’t been incarcerated before, but growing up, I was trapped in the prison of my mind, my fears, self doubt and holding unto the opinions of others held me bound. Through interaction and observation I realised that many people are also held hostage as prisoners in their minds, while in the physical prison we have walls and bars and in the mental prison we have fears, education or lack of it, religion, career, relationships, living based on people’s opinions, fears, for many these and more are their prisons instead of being free to live our dreams we are limited and restricted to live life to the fullness. This is the reason why as a certified coach with Open Door Coaching and Catalyst Coaching Certification Australia, I came up with my own model of coach as break your own prison. My responsibility as a break your prison coach is serve my client through coaching techniques to be empowered from within them, so as to break free from whatever is holding them hostage or denying them the freedom of living their life like a fish in the river not as a fish in the aquarium.
Tekedia: Recently, you embarked on a project within one of the Nigerian prisons, what motivated you?
Bashiru Adamu: When you see the videos and pictures of some prisons in some countries you will be shocked if compared to ours here in Nigeria. Poised with the vision of making the prisons here in Nigeria as an effective correctional facility as an organisation, we decided to set up libraries in prisons, medium security custodian centre Kaduna inclusive but taking our operations to the next level with funds available we work hard to set up the best classroom for inmates (Our students) learning in Kaduna State north central Nigeria. The project is titled ” Yes, this is inside Nigeria Prison” as you can see in the pictures attached. With this project we are hoping to set a standard and template for government and other organisations in the correctional space to work inline with this quote by Khalil Osiris he said “Turn the cell into a classroom and the prison into a university”
Tekedia: What has your experience been leading a non-profit in Nigeria?
Bashiru. Adamu: Starting an NGO in a blue ocean in Nigeria wasn’t that easy because there was no template for what I dreamt to achieve in the prison space around me, but through training at kanthari, interaction with friends on ideas on how some western countries make their prisons function as correctional facilities, I gained more insight on how to run our non-profit. We had the challenge of structure and report writing at the beginning. We had no office, no staff or team members, all of these are challenges that come at various stages but they aren’t strange. After eight years of working within the Nigeria Correctional space through our organisation called Dream Again Prison and Youth Foundation, with vision of transforming prisons in Nigeria from punitive to effective correction facilities, today we have been able to achieve some milestones and conquered some of our challenges. We started with a pilot project in 2012 of setting up a pilot project in the prison as my community development service during my one year National Youth Service scheme, currently we are now operating in Igah, Gboko, Otukpo, Kaduna and Kiri Kiri medium Security Custodian Centre. We believe when we educate and train a prisoner, we are making the society safer and better for all.
Tekedia: I learnt you once had an encounter with the great Strive Masiyiwa,could you let us into that encounter and what you think are the key takeaways from it?
Bashiru Adamu: Meeting with the billionaire and chairman of Econet Wireless International Dr. Strive Masiyiwa a Zimbabwean wouldn’t have been possible using my academic qualification because my result wasn’t that good. It wouldn’t have been possible because of my family name neither was it because I was a Nigerian. Ultimately, Dr. Strive who is crusader when comes entrepreneurship and social enterprise felt somehow connected to support me after my pitch to him, he saw my passion of working and empowering human beings from within the wall of the prison. That singular chance that life gave to me to pitch my idea opened for me the door of an opportunity to stand before a great man, this has helped me to grow and become better in serving humanity using my platform.
I had no prior idea that that Friday, 8th September 2017, had anything as huge as that for me in the offing. I did not have an inkling that a crucial event was going to hold somewhere in Lagos beside the conference I went for, much less an invitation to be heard and even hooked Dr. Strive attenton! That day looked like every other day and never gave me a glimpse or an inkling that our organization Dream Again Foundation — then struggling with finance to meet some of her pet projects — was going to be awarded with a grant and an opportunity for five weeks all expenses paid internship at Econet Zimbabwe from a pitch.
I was taught more on my pitching skill at kanthari International Institute for Social Change Entrepreneurs. This whole story will be coming out very soon in my book titled “Escape From Prison”: The Build Up to Opportunities. By the time I was done pitching for one minute fifty-eight seconds among an audience of about three hundred persons who had assembled in a town hall meeting in Lagos, Nigeria organized by Dr. Strive Masiyiwa, and his team, starting with the compelling introduction that said “I help prisoners escape from prison”, I was shocked to have received a standing ovation from members of the audience, plus Dr. Strive saying “wow” four times after I dropped the microphone. Don’t forget this “It’s better to be prepared and not meet an opportunity, than meet an opportunity when you aren’t prepared says Less Brown, I added If you are prepared and don’t meet an opportunity, your preparation will create an opportunity for you. I never knew that one day I will meet Dr. Strive Masiyiwa one on one, but as a social change maker I have practised my pitch over and over again several times. I have practised alone countless times, before colleagues in the office and even before my wife. So, when the D-day came to pitch before a great man I was able to cease the opportunity to give a compelling pitch that lasted for one minute fifty-eight seconds. The rest, like they say, is now history. I have four key take aways from the encounter. One, people should learn to take one problem at a time and proffer simple, innovative and sustainable solution it. Two, that preparation is necessary before an opportunity presents itself. Third, always have a vision for your cause and be sold out into that vision.
Tekedia: Thank you for your time
Bashiru Adamu: It is my pleasure