Life always throws challenges at the human race and usually, we do not have the luxury of deciding which challenge we would like to face. That we would encounter ‘stones’ on our path to making ends meet makes it necessary for us to decide how best to handle these stones. We can choose to see them as stumbling blocks or stepping stones. Ultimately, they have to be rolled away to give us the success we desire, says Ejiro Gray, Lawyer and Company Secretary at leading energy conglomerate, Sahara Group in her maiden book titled “Roll Away the Stone”. In this interview, Ejiro shares some insights about the book, her life philosophy, her favourite authors and the unique way Sahara Group encourages its employees to embody its commitment of energising aspirations by developing and sharing their time, talent and resources with the world. Excerpts;
Q. How did you come about ‘Roll Away the Stone’ as the title of the book and how long did it take you to write it?
A. The journey started roughly 7 years ago, but it didn’t take an aggressive turn until the last quarter of 2019. I got the title through a revelation around a particular chapter of the book, what is now chapter 7. It underscores the difficulty of standing in faith in the face of undisputed facts.
Q. Why did you think it was important to write this book?
A. At the time I started writing, I had just discovered Isaiah 54. I had spent time reading it and I felt a burning desire to share these promises with others by bringing it home to them in a simple and relatable manner.
Q. How would you describe your writing style?
A. Descriptive and poignant
Q. Speaking metaphorically, is there a best period for one to encounter ‘stones’ in life?
A. Is there really a “best time”? I am not sure, however there is an African proverb that says “whenever a man wakes up is his morning”. In this context, that basically means, we should focus on developing the courage to roll away the stones holding us back and the timing should not be the focus. What is most important is getting it done.
Q. Which of the chapters of the book have you found yourself reading again and again?
A. That would have to be Chapters 5 and 7. I personally learnt quite a bit from them and in the course of the year, I found myself going back to read excerpts over and over again to remind myself of the nuggets of wisdom.
Q. Faith is usually considered as an interesting phenomenon. Does it involve ditching commonsense or acting with common sense?
A. I like to think of faith as believing and trusting God against the odds as opposed to just “ditching commonsense”. Yes, our expressions of faith may not seem to align with the norm. The odds may come in the form of facts and logic. Faith is a choice to believe and trust God and the power of His word regardless of these opposing circumstances. The key phrase here is, “believing and trusting God over all else”.
Q. How best can people handle delays and disappointments in life?
A. I think it boils down to Trust. The ancient hymn trust and obey says it all. It is the only way to get through to the other side. Believing against all odds that God loves us and wants what is best for us. But we must understand that the path He chooses for us may not be according to our ideal script, especially because we exist in a fallen world, but that is where trust and yielding to Him comes in. Trusting that though it makes no sense to you at that point in time, possibly because you feel crippled by the situation, there is a purpose to everything that happens to and for us, because He loves us. It is written that “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose” (Romans 8:28). We have to believe that, and release the pain and confusion to Him when life doesn’t make sense. It’s never easy when you are walking through fire, but He reassures us that we have the victory, if we yield to and trust in Him.
Q. How has your professional career contributed to your writing?
A. I am a lawyer and one thing lawyers and writers have in common is the love of language. Both professions thrive on playing with words and giving life to them to achieve a particular purpose. My training as a lawyer naturally translates into my writing skills.
Q. We find from media profiles and volunteering initiatives that Sahara Group employees are delighted to engage in several activities outside work. Is there a deliberate policy in the organization that encourages this?
A. The Sahara Group does have a volunteer policy that encourages employees to give their time and resources to charitable and social causes. Beyond that, as an organization, creativity is a core part of our DNA and so it is not surprising that the people who make up the entity called Sahara, have diverse skills and expressions of creativity which the organization and humanity, benefits from. As such, we are encouraged to express and celebrate our uniqueness through our gifts in order to explore and attain our highest potential, individually and as a cohesive Group.
Q. Sahara Group is renowned for its prestigious Graduate Trainee programme that you were privileged to be among the first set. What makes the programme so unique and highly sought-after?
A. The graduate trainee programme offers you a unique platform on which to define your destiny. You are given a blank canvas (the training platform) an easel, some brushes and paint (practical work and life skills) crowned with experiences that can best be described as avant garde) with which to start out on an interesting journey of self-discovery, development and unusual opportunities in a rapidly expanding energy conglomerate.
Q. What books have shaped your life and why?
A. Too numerous, but to mention a few, the Bible as it helped shape my values and my faith, Enid Blyton Books opened up my imagination and love for reading, African Writers Series made me fall in love with African proverbs and my heritage, Reader’s Digest from the age of nine, opened up my mind to diverse areas of interest such as medical research and general knowledge, Tim La Haye’s “Why you act the way you do” helped me understand my personality and idiosyncrasies.
Q. Who would you consider to be your favourite African authors and why?
A. Chinua Achebe, Chimamanda Adichie, Cyprian Ekwensi, Wole Soyinka, Ngugi wa thiongo, and Mabel Segun. All for their storytelling skills, use of language and ability to immerse the reader in the story. There is a saying that “a good book makes you want to live in the story, a great book leaves you with no choice”. The latter mirrors the effect that their books have on me. They leave me with no choice but to live in the stories.
Q. There are several efforts geared towards galvanizing millennials to read more. What in your opinion can help address the situation?
A. The existence of ebooks is a step in the right direction. The present generation is driven by technology and so in order to make reading attractive to them, the material must be available in the context of their world. The availability of news on social media is another step in that direction and access to authors via the same medium, brings it home to them and aids engagement.
Q. Are you already writing the sequel to your first book or will your second work take a different direction entirely?
A. I think the beauty of being a writer is there is always a project or concurrent projects in the pipeline, so I’d say “watch the space” and let’s see how it all unfolds.
Q. How easy is it to get a copy of Roll Away the Stone?
A. Very easy, locally and internationally. It is available at Laterna Bookstore, Roving Heights, Vog&Wod bookstore and Amazon.