It is a common saying that the world would make way for a man whose words and actions shows that he knows where he is going. The very inspiring story of Captain Ademilola Oyewale Odujinrin; a Nigerian pilot who began his expedition to fly round this terraqueous globe we call earth in nine months is a quintessential example of a dreamer bringing his dreams to fruition “against all odds”.
He is the first pilot of African descent to fly solo round the world in a relatively small plane. His achievement is a great beacon light of hope to this generation; one that has totally changed the narrative for good about the African people, especially – Nigeria.
Captain Odujinrin ‘Lola’ as he is fondly called held a press briefing on Thursday, 13th of April, 2017 at the press conference with newsmen held at the Murtala Muhammad Airport in Lagos. ‘Lola’ dedicated his achievement to the Nigerian people; especially to the younger generation of dreamers. He urged the youths to embrace hard work and persistence, and to believe that they only can make or create their luck.
According to him, his overwhelming passion for Aviation started when he was yay high – between 7 to 10 years of age. His greatest inspiration was his late Uncle who was a pilot who sometimes take him inside the cockpit of the aircraft: That was the beginning of his unflinching zest for Aviation. “I can remember one night I was flying a kite and I noticed aeroplanes flying across the sky. Then I asked my dad where the planes were going. He replied me saying ‘they are going to Lagos – Murtala Mohammed Airport’,” he said. That was also a seminal moment for his aviation foray.
Talking about some of the challenges that he and his team had to grapple with, Lola explained saying, “The challenges were numerous, however, the major one was the finance. However, one that was closely associated to securing finance was self-believe. If we believe enough in ourselves and our dreams, financial challenges can always be surmounted.
The second most challenging part of the journey was the weather. In most parts of the world it was rainy season. Although in Nigeria the season for rain is usually in June, but it was different for other places. We (I and my plane) were stuck in south-eastern Asia for two months,” he said.
His remarkable journey which began in June 2016 in Washington DC, U.S.A, was launched by the Ooni of Ife, Oba Adeyeye Enitan Ogunwusi, who blessed the voyage and described Nigeria as a fortunate country with great people capable of changing Africa for better as there is one Nigerian out of every four black people on earth.
The World Tour saw Lola fly over 25 countries, had 35 stops, and for 300 odd hours in his small plane which hardly provided him the opportunity to stretch his body during his time in the air for a duration of 9 months. He began his journey from Washington DC, U.S.A, to Iceland, then Europe, and into Africa via United Arab Emirates (UAE), India, and Asian sub-continent. He flew over some islands before undertaking the longest legs of the journey across the Pacific Ocean between Hawaii and California, and back to Washington DC where he ended the journey.
Lola in some spates of emotions and words recounted his experiences while seeking sponsorship and endorsement, especially from Nigerian organizations. According to him, it is very regrettable that no Nigeria Company was willing to offer support and endorsement for the project. It took visionary and benevolent companies like Transcend, Air Djibouti, and Tolaram Group which are foreign companies to see the importance of the project, and the sundry benefits it has; not just to the companies, but to changing the narrative of the African people for good.
With respect to creating an enabling and congenial environment for dreamers like Lola to thrive and not just survive, he said “I appreciate and understand that I was privileged to travel, however, I know we also have some Nigerians who travel and wasted the opportunity; so the argument is on both sides. What we are advocating is for the government in whose hands the destinies of these many and ubiquitous dreamers are, should create an enabling environment for them to achieve their dreams.
“The Ooni of Ife spent sometime in the United States talking about creating an enabling environment for talent, skills, and brainchildren to find expression, application, and fulfillment.
“Our policy wonks in the senate and the federal government need to begin to create more policies and put more concrete structure on ground that will enable you and I fulfill our Nigerian dream.
“Also talking about the enabling environment, I was pleasantly surprised when I saw the level of infrastructures – roads, street lights etc., in Lagos. Lagos has change; now that is a positive step in the right direction.
Lola restated that the reason for him embarking on such a long, arduous, and sometimes dangerous journey was to be a joyous daybreak to end the long nights of psychological debacles and manacles placed upon the Nigerian youths by their environment. Everyone is a star, and should be given the right environment to blossom, boom, and not gloom.
‘Lola’ as he is fondly called by his friends and associates, hails from Ijebu Remo, he was given birth to in England, before his parent relocated to Lagos, and like every other Lagos child he grew up and spent his childhood in Lagos.
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