For Dr. Biodun Laja, Founder of Lekki British High School, in Lagos, what initially looked like a major error turned out to be the launching pad into her God-ordained path. She had actually planned to train as an accountant but having a child soon after secondary school redirected her steps into caring for children. And she has turned that passion into what has become a model school in Nigeria where she helps to mold destinies of many young people. Laja has some inspiring life lessons to share. Enjoy them.
Lesson 1 CAREER
Let go; Let God.
When I was moving to the Lagos Island, I wanted to sell the school in Ikeja, but I couldn’t I could not summon enough courage to pull it through. I had a meeting with Pastor E. A. Adeboye, the General Overseer (G.O.) of The Redeemed Christian Church of God, and he advised that I consider starting the school in Ikeja. As we were still discussing, I heard from God with clear instructions that I should go to Lekki. I told the G.O., and he just prayed for me. He gave me a go-ahead advice and pronounced blessings on the project. As I couldn’t sell the Ikeja property, I decided to walk out of the property. I just gave it to a bank and said take, God has promised me bigger things. What the Lord told me then was, ‘go to Lekki, this school you are thinking is big that you don’t want to let go, will be like a kitchen inside what I will give you at Lekki.’ So, I let go and allowed God to take over.
Fortunately, at the next Holy Ghost Night, Pastor Adeboye gave a word of prophecy saying, “there is a woman in the auditorium who had just let go something big; people would think she is stupid; the Lord asked me to tell you, that you should go where you said you were going, and don’t look back.” I knew it was me because I let go that building. And as God hinted, my former school was like a kitchen inside the Lekki School. Sometimes you may have to trust God, your instincts, and take on projects that look too big to handle. When you step out on the instructions of God, he will back you with everything to make it work if you don’t doubt him. At times when you are struggling for something, you find out that it is not worth your effort. Let go; let God.
No sometimes means keep pushing.
A lot of people give up too soon. When you want to drive your own vision and accomplish God’s plans for your life, you must be ready to keep pushing. Giving up when you face obstacles means you don’t trust God. I have faced many obstacles on my way to this place God has taken me to now. It has not been easy; it has been very tough especially for a young person to break through the barrier of the elderly people running private schools. When I wanted to start ABC Nursery Land, I needed Government approval to start, but the people at the Ministry of Education mounted walls of opposition that were initially very difficult to scale. But one morning I was at the ministry as usual to beg them to give me the licence for the school. Of course, I was greeted with the same refusal. But suddenly, I just got an inspiration and walked up to the office of the Commissioner for Education then, Dr. Akin Abisogun-Leigh and told him my ordeals. I got the permit that day to the glory of God. So, I encourage people not to give up when they encounter obstacles. God used that man to stop the ABC Nursery Land from a stillbirth because I had given up completely. I had been turned down three times; it was the third time I went to him and he saw that they didn’t have any reason to stop me. So, he stepped in and saved me from the embarrassment of facing parents for the third time and saying sorry, we are not approved.
Lesson 2: RELATIONSHIP
Every woman needs to be financially independent.
I grew up in an environment where I was taught never to depend on what I could get from my husband to express myself and fulfill God’s vision for my life. You need to work to earn money for yourself. It’s all about hard work. Early in life I learnt not to depend on men for anything. Of course, I met my mother like that. She was a strong woman alone, very hard working, and she brought us up to be hard working, too. The father of my children was very rich; he had Rolls Royce and other choice cars. But he created a situation where I did not have my own financial stability; I did not have my own money to be able to do the things I wanted to do by myself without asking. I didn’t like that.
So, if you have a man that will say you can ride the Rolls Royce, when people see you outside they will say oh, she rides a Rolls Royce; she rides a Mercedes; she rides a Jagua; she rides all the best cars in town. But you do not have a N100,000 of you own in your bag. That’s not it.
My children’s father was very rich, but he wasn’t ready to educate the children, and I wanted the best for them. I wanted to give them British Education. So, I had to work very hard. I have learnt two lessons from being a single parent: one of them being that you have to work very hard to cater for your needs. Two, you have to be so disciplined that you do not expose your children to see things they are not supposed to see.
Again, I had another experience when I was a child. I sat in front of my mother’s shop when I saw a truck packing a woman’s belongings and I asked my mother, why are they packing Mrs. XYZ things? She said the woman had separated with the man that bought those things. When they were together, it was the man that furnished the house for her, and when there was a quarrel, the man came to pack his things from her house.
Ever since that day, I vowed I would never have such an experience. I decided to go for financial independence as early as I could because I wanted to express myself without limit and I knew I wouldn’t be able to do that if I had to depend on my husband’s support alone. So, I was able to live the life of a man and a woman in one because I don’t look up to any man for anything.
It all boils down to one being financially independent. Every woman should work to achieve that, otherwise the experience of that woman will be your lot.
Share with your husband.
You work very hard; you earn your own money. If you are married of course, you have to share with your husband. The Word of God is clear: the man is the head of the family, but also the woman is not supposed to sit back and not help the man. It may turn around that your business is more flourishing than that of your husband and you know that your husband is a dedicated man, you join everything together. Simultaneously, tomorrow is in the hands of God. You never can tell. Suppose he dies, or something happens to him and he can no longer work normal? You must be able to make your own money.
Lesson 3: PRINCIPLES/VALUES
Do not cheat anyone.
I think the most important lesson I have learnt is that one should not cheat in order to get by. If you cheat, it is only a question of time – you will be found out. Why do parents trust their children to me? It is because they believe what we have promised is what we are giving them. Again, I am a perfectionist; I like things to be orderly. I got teachers that were very good and I am the kind of person that unless I am really down, I must be at work. I work every day, except Wednesdays. I don’t go to school on Wednesdays because I have dedicated the day to fellowship in my house. I just have to give up a day out of the five working days to fellowship.
Lesson 4: Business
Get personally involved in your business.
At a point, we needed to change the toilets for the high school and I asked a contractor to give me a quotation. He gave me a cost of N29million to pull down the toilets on all the floors. That was outrageous. Suddenly, I discovered that I used to help my mother with some building projects, and I had handled some myself.
I decided to use direct labour. I moved my things from the house into my flat in school, and I did it direct labour. Guess how much it cost me? N4 million! If you enter the toilet, it is like a five-star hotel toilet. From that experience, I was able to coordinate that of the junior school very well and I got it done.
The head of the junior school thought the time was short. She said, do just the ground floor. I said no, I will do all. I had to get personally involved because that’s my mother’s work. My mother was a contractor; so I do direct labour to reduce the cost. Where is the money? We are talking about N29 million. I said let me use direct labour. I have my team, the tillers, the ones breaking the tiles, the ones laying pipes and so on, all of them are people I am familiar with. They have been with us for about 10 years. So, I just said I would get it done and I would supervise it. It was cheaper for me.
You earn money and spend it, but you don’t waste money. To achieve that, you’ve got to get involved in your project personally. If I were to be sending people they would be cheating me left, right and centre.
LESSON 5: INVESTMENT/WEALTH
I don’t invest in shares.
In the area of investment, I don’t invest in housing; I don’t invest in shares. Generally, I don’t invest in anything I don’t understand. So, I restrict myself to investing only in educational businesses especially starting new schools. This has given me wealth and satisfaction. I have a dream to start a school in Mozambique and another one in Botswana very soon.
Success is not just having money.
Money is good, but the source of it has to be right. Money is also not everything. I prefer relationship to money. For success, how did the person get to that top position? If it is in a crooked way, it doesn’t last. For me, success is accomplishing your heart’s desire and what God wants you to do. You can’t be really successful without God. These are some of the values we are imparting to our children at the school. There is no shortcut to success. It’s either you work for it, depending on God, or you are deceiving yourself that you are successful. Anything that is acquired through crooked means does not give inner joy.
LESSON 7: SPIRITUALITY
Let God Lead you.
I discovered that especially when I was building Lekki British High School. I slept with a jotter and a biro; and each time I got up to ease myself, God would speak to me what to do when I got to the site in the morning. So, I scribbled down everything, and by morning half of the book was gone. I remember there was a day I nearly fainted at Lekki British when we were building it. I had a vision, I do have open visions sometimes. In the vision, I saw the architect rebuking the contractor saying, ‘it is just because Biodun is in a hurry, if Biodun is not in a hurry, I will never have taken this line from you. It’s not straight. It was a clear open vision. A few days later when we were going round inspecting the project, we got to a point, my architect actually rebuked the contractor with exactly the same words I had heard in the vision. I was shocked and I screamed. I told them I saw it clearly in a vision.
In everything when God is in it, it will succeed. So, it is hard work first, and then, total dependence on God for his direction.
Spiritual gift is a gift that the Lord gives. He said he would bless whosoever he chooses to bless. I have the gift of hearing from God, and that has increased my faith that with God, all things are possible. It is not that I don’t have challenges. Of course I do, but I always overcome. The fellowship in the house has even brought me closer to God. When the Ark of God is in your house, you don’t need to be afraid of anything. I do not only hear from God, but he gives me the grace to obey his Word and that is the grace that a lot of people don’t have. When the grace to obey is added to it, it makes it easier because once you obey, God will always back you up to do his will.
You need good health, so maintain it.
I believe doctors treat, God heals. You need good health to be able to do whatever you set out to do. Therefore, you should pay attention to your health and avoid those practices that can harm you. For me I do not fast, not because I don’t believe in it, but why should I subject myself to fasting which will eventually affect my health, when there are other observances that I can make and still be close to God. In any case, if you want to reach God, you need to worship Him. I am very careful what I eat and how I stress myself.
BONUS LESSON 2
Oh, I love travelling even though I hate flying, and I also love travelling with people for that helps to keep you straight. I don’t like travelling and start meeting strangers. I like dressing well, too. Most importantly, I love to share.
The Holy Bible
The Stages of The Holy Spirit, by Enoch Adeboye
I fear owing banks because of the complications and problems it brings. But must borrow to get the school going. So that keeps me awake sometimes