The Supremacy Of Gift


Rev. Sam Adeyemi said, ‘’ you will only shine in the area of your gifting.’’ Education can never take the place of your gift; our individual gift is an indicator of our purpose and calling in life. Any education that does not teach us to discover, nurture and develop our gifting and uniqueness is a waste! Education will never make you wealthy; it will only provide a platform to express your gifts. Real wealth lies not in your educational qualifications; real wealth lies in your gift.
‘’Wealth does not come from your job; it comes from your personal gifting.’’ –Myles Munroe

This piece was not written to relegate education to the background but rather to put it in the proper perspective. Education cannot substitute for your gift and vice versa. Others might be responsible for your education but the discovery of your gift is your responsibility. Education is expedient but the discovery of your gift is mandatory. The main purpose of education is to take us on a journey of self-discovery and to unravel our hidden potentials and gifts but the kind of education we practice here in Nigeria stifles our initiatives and ‘blankets’ our gifts!

One of the most creative minds that ever lived proved the fact that the greatest form of education is that which unleashes our latent potentials and gifts. Leonardo da Vinci (1452-1519) was an Italian Poly math, one of the most creative men that ever lived! He was a painter, a sculptor, architect, musician, inventor, and writer. Leonardo was a man of unquenchable curiosity and limitless inventive imagination. He was considered one of the greatest painters of all time and the most diversely talented person ever to have lived.

His pursuit of knowledge was relentless and his discoveries left lasting changes in the fields of art and science. His natural genius crossed so many disciplines that he epitomized the term “Renaissance”. Though he was gifted in so many ways but he had a special gift for arts, he is best remembered for his two famous paintings: Mona Lisa and the Last Supper.

Artists believed that da Vinci paintings were done for generations yet unborn. They may be paintings of great antiquity yet they are flawless. Da Vinci received no formal education beyond basic reading and writing, but his father appreciated his artistic talent and apprenticed him at around age 15 to the noted sculptor and painter, Andrea Del Verrocchio, of Florence. His gift was noised abroad and his dexterity in painting brought him to King Palaces, even French King Francis 1 could not but summon him to live in France. Da Vinci did not only bring life to painting but he changed the world through his paintings and inventions.

The awe inspiring story of Nike Davies Okundaye the living legend behind the Nike Arts Gallery in Lagos, Oshogbo and Abuja has validated the supremacy of self-discovery and human gifts. A woman that has redefined the purpose of education by leading the Nigerian renaissance. Nike, though poorly educated was amazingly gifted in Arts and Crafts, born on May 23 1951 in her native village of Ogidi, Ijumu local council of Kogi state. Nike evolved from an obscure village in kogi state to become an international figure and expert veteran in the Art of Adire design.

The fame and glory achieved by Nike Okundaye can be rarely traced to her education but a dedication to a gift that she nurtured from the cradle. Nike’s gift has succeeded in carrying her far, where no formal education can reach! Before her advent, Adire -a traditional Nigerian Yoruba hand-painted cloth design was just an ordinary brand, but she brought it to global limelight with her magical touch and dexterity.
‘’Your talent is God’s gift to you. What you do with it is your gift back to God.’’ –Leo Bascaglia

Her amazing story of grace and gift ‘lumped’ together has projected her beyond the shores of Nigeria into global and international limelight, with her designs exhibited in countries like USA, Belgium, Germany, Japan, and Italy, among others. Nike’s sojourn into international limelight began in 1968 when she had an exhibition at the Goethe institute in Lagos and has since metamorphosed over the years to become an iconic and remarkable figure in international arts. Nike Okundaye’s unique approach of fusing traditional styles with modern techniques has established her as a household name in textile design. Her art work has won several accolades and has sold for thousands of dollars at international art auctions.

Her Adire painting was accepted at The Smithsonian, the world’s largest museum, located in Washington DC, USA. Some of her art works have found their way also into the white house; with barely any formal education, she has taught in several universities all around the world, including highly revered institution like Harvard. She was once reputed to be the only woman who did not attend university that lectures in Harvard University! She has organised several workshops at several foreign universities like Harvard, Columbus, Edmonton, Ohio and in Los Angeles among others.

In 1983, she established the Nike Centre for Art and Culture in Oshogbo, Osun state, where trainings are offered free of charge to Nigerians in various forms of arts. The centre also admits undergraduate students from universities in Nigeria for their industrial training programmes in textile design and now admits international students from Europe, Canada and the United States of America.

Nike was not only significant to preserving the African culture but also used her gift and vocation to mould and reform lives. She was invited to Italy by the Italian government in year 2000 to help revive the virtues and dignity in the young Nigerians sex workers that were ignorantly lured into the immoral trade of prostitution.

Through her gift, she has helped to reach out to Nigerian girls that were living wayward lives in Italy. After six years of training and hard work, three thousand Nigerian girls were reformed and had since become a great source of asset to the Italian government. She has so many awards and laurels to her credit, including one of the highest Italian national awards, which she was given in 2006 in appreciation and in honour of her efforts in using her vocational training programmes in solving the problem of Nigerian commercial sex workers in Italy.

Chief Mrs. Nike Okundaye, without any formal educational background has grown to become an Art Icon who has impacted the lives of many in a positive way. She was driven by her inner passion for arts accompanied by dint of hard work and the vocational training from her great grandmother. Though her education was cut-short because of lack of fund but not her destiny! She scaled all the herculean hurdles to become a woman of substance and an expert in Adire making, dyeing, weaving, painting and embroidery.

Though she received early training from her grandmother but acquired mastery through self-experimentation and discovery. Through her gift and self-discovery, she has continued to teach and impart knowledge into people with doctoral degrees and masters in fine arts. Life is such an irony; what would professors and doctors be learning from a woman with no formal education? Her gift has brought her before two former presidents of the United States of America; Bill Clinton and George Bush sought audience with this legendary woman when they came visiting Nigeria and was given the rare privilege of decorating the bedroom where George Bush stayed during his visit. A book about Nike was written by Kim Marie Vaz, The woman with the Artistic Brush: A life History of Yoruba Batik Artist Nike Davies.
‘’Formal education will make you a living; self-education will make you a fortune.’’ -Jim Rohn

At this juncture, I want to emphasize the ‘disease’ in the Nigerian system of education. The Nigerian education has no place for vocational training and the nurturing of individual gifts. Vocational Education Training (VET) program will provide a unique kind of education that directly relates to getting a job. The Nigerian institution curriculum must be redesign to integrate VET courses which are typically shorter and more practical than higher education courses and have industry and trade focus. VET will produce an alternative employment arrangement for graduates and will definitely reduce the staggering unemployment rate in the nation.

Acting permanent sectary of the Ministry of education, Hajia Hindatu Abdullahi had at several times affirmed the importance of vocational education. In order for the Nigerian government to evolve a form of ‘complete’ education, the issue of vocational education must be institutionalized by law. As part of efforts to strengthen and promote technical and vocational education; gladiators and supporters of the vocational education scheme have forwarded a draft bill to the National Assembly for establishment of a National Council for Vocational Education (NCVE).

We need to redesign our educational sector in such a way that it allows for the nurturing of individual gifts. Each year, the Nigerian educational sector keeps churning out ‘graduates with certificates’ but with no intrinsic valu and are internally disconnected with their gifts and potentials! Most of the Nigerian graduates today are liabilities to the Nigerian system. They’ve been equipped with facts and figures but not equipped to solve problems! Our educational system is not well designed to practically solve problems. There are so many questions worth pondering on till the next edition of ‘’Supremacy of Gift’’:
How can we redefine education to solve problems?
How can we find the connection between our education and our gifts?
How can we properly integrate vocational training into our education system?
Why is it that most ‘educated’ people are not wealthy?
Watch out for the concluding part of SUPREMACY OF GIFT in the next edition of the Saturday Guardian!

Gbenga Adebambo is the dean of schools at the Educational Advancement Centre (EAC), an author, youth specialist, international coach and the Editor-In-Chief of MAXIMUM IMPACT MAGAZINE. He is also the founder of the youth ministry called STOP ‘T’(Seeing Tomorrow’s Opportunities and Potentials Today), a ministry that is involved in discovering and nurturing hidden potentials in youths in order to equip them for tomorrow’s challenges, opportunities and responsibilities.

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