United We Stand
An African proverb says “there’s strength in numbers”. This statement rings true in every aspect of life, stressing the fact that we can achieve more together as a community than as individuals.
Our history as a nation is full of stories that support this fact. One of such stories is the Abeokuta Women Protest also known as the Egba Women Riot which occurred between 1947 and 1948. Described as “The Great Upheaval” by Professor Wole Soyinka in his memoir Ake: The Years of Childhood, the protest was a movement organised by the Abeokuta Women’s Union (AWU) to oppose the unfair taxation by the colonial government. The government was badly affected by the 1st and 2nd world war which led to a steep decline in revenue and increased cost of governance. In order to alleviate the decline in income, local officials began imposing taxes and fines on citizens; like sanitary fines, which largely affected farmers and market women.
The women of Abeokuta who were more economically independent before the colonisation of Abeokuta believed that, under colonialism, their economic roles were declining but their taxes were increasing. They also complained women were not represented in the local government administration, demanding that until they were granted a place in the local council, they should not be required to pay taxes separately from men. As a result of their protests, four women received seats on the local council, and the taxation of women was stopped in January 1949.
Among other factors, the Egba women achieved their goal because they were united. Though led by two prominent figures – namely Funmilayo Ransome-Kuti and Grace Eniola Soyinka, the women collectively boycotted the payment of taxes. Many of them were jailed but the Union did not relent in their efforts. In mid-October 1946, Funmilayo Ransome-Kuti led nearly a thousand women in a march to the palace of the Alake of Abeokuta to protest the increased taxes. When their agitation wasn’t met, they held another demonstration outside the Alake’s palace with over ten thousand women in attendance. They were unanimous in their resolve, which contributed to their success.
I believe you would have heard the saying: “If you want to go fast go alone; if you want to go far, go with someone”. Life is not a 100-metre sprint, it is more like a marathon race and you need like-minded buddies to make the journey a success. So it is important to build the right community around you. Here are 3 reasons why it is important:
1. It Improves Our Chances of Survival
Let me use this graphic illustration of breaking a bunch of brooms. You see, a broomstick by itself is so easy to break. With very little or no effort, it snaps. However, when you attempt to break a bunch of brooms, though it’s made up of individual fragile sticks, you cannot break it with your hands. When we stand together, we become a formidable force that can’t be easily broken. That why these words by John Dickinson, one of America’s founding fathers remain relevant to date, He said “United we stand, divided we fall”
2. It Creates an Environment for Growth and Impact
Nothing can grow alone. If you want to grow your business you need team members. If you want to grow your family, you need a partner. Also, if we stick together, we can pool our resources together to make an impact, solve problems and change our world. I am convinced Funmilayo Ransome-Kuti couldn’t have compelled the colonial government to reverse the taxation law without the active involvement of the Abeokuta Women Union. Success is indeed easier together.
3. You Can Achieve Beyond Your Personal Capacity
I recall an employability initiative I spearheaded during my time in Lagos State Government – ReadySetWork, which impacted the lives of over 37,500 students in Lagos State by preparing them for the world of work. I have no doubt in my mind that we were able to accomplish as much as we did because of the community we built around the programme. This community includes over 1000 volunteer faculty members who joined to make my dream come true. We achieved way beyond our individual capacities when we worked as a community.
I’ll leave you with another African proverb, which says “Unity is strength, division is weakness.” Throughout your journey in life, there’ll be ups and downs but walking that journey with people who support you makes it easier.
Remember, You Have Only One Life to Live. MAKE IT COUNT.