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Sunday, February 25, 2024

MUTE OLORI: TV Personality and Parenting Coach

MY LIFE’S JOURNEY

By Mute Olori

I was born in the 1970s, towards the end of the Nigeria-Biafra War. At the time of my conception, my father was a young soldier who went to the battlefield and left his wife behind. During the war, many lives were lost, and my mother was full of anxiety about the safety of her husband. Also, at that time, there was a wide spread belief that a certain chemical in the air caused deformity in newborns. So, my mother prayed to God to protect both her husband and her unborn child.

I’m a very unique person because I stayed in my mother’s womb for more than nine months. Everyone became anxious after the expected date of delivery had passed. They didn’t know “I was awaiting the return of my dad!”

Towards the end of the war, my father returned from the battlefield and everyone was happy to see him. While they were jubilating, the long-awaited labour contractions started. I was born on the same day that my dad returned, and I guess that was why I had a very strong emotional bond with him. My mother examined me thoroughly after I was born, and thankfully, I had no deformity. I was named Okiemute, which means “There is a time for everything.”

I was born and bred in Warri in Nigeria’s Niger Delta. I’m the first child, and I have three siblings. My parents were average-income earners. At the time of my birth, my father was working as a soldier, but he later became a customs officer.

Due to the nature of his job, he was always away from home. Meanwhile, we needed a parent that would always be available. So, my mother had to resign from the Ministry of Agriculture to become a housewife. But she wasn’t idle while at home. She learnt how to sew clothes and later opened a big fashion and design business.

I grew up in a town that had a high rate of juvenile delinquency, so it was very easy for a growing child to be influenced negatively. However, my parents raised us to be respectful, loyal, and godly. My dad was a very quiet and patient man, while my mother was the family disciplinarian. They loved education and gave us the best. Being the first child, my father encouraged me to work very hard to be successful. According to him, it is inappropriate for elderly siblings to depend on their younger ones for financial assistance. His words motivated me to take my studies seriously.

My parents also taught me how to save money. My father created my first bank account when I was in Year one at high school. I started saving my school fees, transportation fare, and pocket money in it. The culture of financial discipline has been in me till this day.

I still remember an incident that happened back then. A visitor came to our house, and before leaving, he gave monetary gifts to the children. So, while my dad was seeing him off, I went to buy sweets with my own money. When I returned, my father saw me and asked where I went. I excitedly showed him the sweets I bought, and guess what? He was very angry, and he beat me so hard. My mum tried to plead for mercy, but he didn’t listen to her until he had flogged me to his satisfaction. I will never forget that incident because I saw a different version of my dad. However, after that day, I learned never to spend money given by visitors without my parents’ consent.

I attended different primary schools, and one of them was Ighogbadu Primary School, Okumagba layout, Warri. My parents didn’t cut my hair after I was born for a reason. So, when it was time to go to school, the teachers insisted that I cut my hair, but my parents were not willing to do that. They kept transferring me from one school to another. It got to the point when I felt the teachers were jealous of my long hair. There was no private school and all the government schools had a similar rule. So, one day, when I got tired of moving from one school to another, I just took the scissors and cut my hair without my parents’ consent.

After graduating from primary school, I attended the prestigious Our Lady’s High School Effurun. I must confess that life in secondary school was interesting and fun-filled. I was a very brilliant student and a member of the Yoruba dance group and debate club. I was also assigned the position of a Labour Prefect.

I was influenced positively by my school and church teachers. They taught me to be obedient, kind-hearted and focused on achieving all my ambitions. There was a day when one of my teachers asked me what I wanted to be in the future. I told her that my father wanted me to be a doctor and my mother wanted me to be an accountant. So, she advised me to search within myself to know what I wanted to be.

That conversation had a profound effect on me. It was after that, that I discovered my talent and passion. I also found out that I’m a very creative person. So, when it was time to choose a course to study, I picked a course that I was passionate about. Some people tried to discourage me, but I followed my heart and stood my ground.

After I got admission to study Theatre Arts at the University of Jos, I started building my acting career immediately. The journey to becoming a popular actress was thorny, and I had to work very hard to get to the top. On several occasions, I burned the midnight candle to read and rehearse scripts. I was also travelling from one state to another for training and auditions. After a while, I received roles in different soap operas that were aired on National Television Authority (NTA) and my fame spread very quickly.

I lived a very comfortable life as a child, but everything changed when my father died in 1991. After his death, my mother was accused of killing him. So, her in-laws maltreated her and took away all her husband’s possessions. Those were very difficult days.

Close your eyes for a second and imagine being a landlady for twenty-five years. Then, suddenly, you are thrown out of your house. We had to start from scratch, and it wasn’t easy at all. The burden of raising four children was very heavy, but my mother bore it because she is a very strong woman. She made many sacrifices and fought spiritual battles just to give her children a comfortable life. The truth is that God has been faithful in answering all our prayers. During our times of lack, He touched the hearts of strangers to help us.

Life doesn’t end after achieving one’s dreams; instead, new dreams are born every day. After gaining global recognition as an actress, I had the desire to switch to broadcasting because I wanted to influence the lives of people positively. I attended the School of Communications Dubai and NTA Television College Jos, to acquire the necessary skills. Then, after completing my NYSC, I was miraculously recommended to get a job at African Independent Television (AIT).

In the beginning, I was trained to work as a TV Presenter. At that time, I was hosting different TV talk shows like The Breakfast Show on Saturdays and Sundays. I moved from presenting to directing and producing different programmes. I am the producer of the first woman’s talk show in AIT, titled The African Woman and the youth talk programme called Our Time. I thank God for granting me the opportunity to work as an Executive Assistant to Chief Raymond Dokpesi, the founder of DAAR Communications. I’m also grateful to Ladi Lawal and Kainebi Oburo, (both late) who allowed me to showcase my skills to the world, and I’m glad that I did not disappoint them.

My family and friends have been very supportive since I started pursuing my career. I always remember what my dad said to me while he was still alive. Two weeks after I had filled and submitted my University Entrance (JAMB) form, he asked me the course that I had chosen, and after I told him, he said to me:

“Do you want to be a celebrity? Okay, there is no problem. So, whenever I see you on TV, I will proudly say, “That’s my daughter.”

My dad supported me greatly while I was still in school. He used to bring food items to me. What broke my heart was that he died five months before I became a popular face on television. It has been over thirty years since his death, but whenever I remember that he never saw me on TV, I feel so sad.

Passion is one great force that unleashes creativity in us. When you are passionate about something, you’ll give your best and even take risks until your goal is achieved. While I was working as a broadcaster, I felt a strong passion to increase my outreach to young people. So, in 2012, I registered a company called Kiddies Heritage. The objective of this platform is to organize fun activities and competitions for children and young adults. Every Christmas season, we organize carols for children.

At Kiddies Heritage, I got the opportunity to interact directly with young people. I’m someone who loves spending time with children, and so far, it has been an interesting and fulfilling journey. I also teach teenagers in my church, and over the years, I have learned about their weaknesses and struggles. So, I always motivate them to be the best, both academically and spiritually.

Many parents complain that child training has become very challenging. I guess that’s because they don’t seem to understand the needs of their children. We are living in modern times, and child upbringing requires an approach different from the one our forefathers used.

In 2017, I discovered John Maxwell’s Leadership Team and registered. After undergoing the training, I became a certified life coach for teenagers and their parents as well. All of these led to the birth of the Transformational Parenteen Network (TPTN) in 2018. Founding TPTN has been one of my most fulfilling accomplishments.

As a parent, you need to understand that you must not always use the rod to correct your child. Our goal at TPTN is to educate parents on proper child training methods. We organize different TV and radio shows where we discuss the needs of teenagers. We also discourage parents from using derogatory words because every word spoken to your child has a great power of influence. The knowledge I have today regarding parenting and child upbringing is a gift from God. I didn’t learn it from anywhere. Passion and vision brought me to where I am today, and I’m grateful for that.

Transformational Parenteen Network first had the opportunity to air a one-hour programme simultaneously on Liberty TV and Radio. The major challenge is lack of sufficient funds. Otherwise, the programme would have been aired in different states. People often contact TPTN to come and host physical outreach programmes in their states. Most of the time we do it free, but sometimes we are constrained to decline for lack of sponsorship.

One of my long-term goals is to build a Youth Center where we will train young people to become responsible leaders of tomorrow. The centre will be very big and have accommodation for the homeless, a skill acquisition department, and even a sports centre. We will organize counselling and rehabilitation sessions. I want it to be a place where a depressed child can walk in and find someone to talk to. Someone who won’t judge them for the wrong choices they have made in life. Someone who will embrace them and tell them that there’s a shiny light at the end of the dark tunnel. I believe that this initiative will help to reduce the rate of juvenile delinquency in this generation. I also know that we need substantial funding to achieve this goal, and that is why I’m praying and working towards it.

It is a stark reality that in many parts of the world today, women are treated as second-class citizens. Even in most families, the girl child is raised with a mindset that restricts her from flying like an eagle. They tell her that instead of bagging those certificates and medals, what she truly needs is a rich husband to take care of her. For example, if a woman is very ambitious, people will criticize her; if she is independent and successful, they will assume that she is proud and disrespectful.

I am a feminist who believes that every woman has unique talents that can make her successful. Unfortunately, most of them are unaware of these gifts, and that is why I host an online TV show titled Total Woman. The programme aims to encourage women to chase their dreams and be bold enough to tell their stories without any fear of condemnation.

Over the years, I have received different awards and compliments from people who appreciate the work that I’m doing. Also, I always laugh whenever people ask me if I’m getting any monetary benefits from what I do. The truth is that I’m doing all these things because it is my spiritual calling and I have to fulfil it. I love helping people, mentoring them, putting smiles on their faces and generally adding value to their lives. Everything I have done so far was influenced by my God-given vision.

I believe that transforming someone’s life from bad to good is worth more than all the money in the world. If I had the opportunity to choose a different career, I would have loved to be a doctor or nurse.

I’m very selective when choosing friends. While growing up, I had a few friends and maintained a cordial relationship with the opposite sex. There must be something unique about you that would attract you to me, and one of those things is intelligence. However, the moment I notice you are trying to take advantage of me because we are friends, I will end the relationship immediately.

I’m a married woman with three biological children. However, my ministry has made me a mother to many children. I work very hard, but I don’t let my work interfere with my role as a wife and a mother. I relax by watching movies and listening to gospel music during my free time. I also love to go out and discover new places like hotels, restaurants, and amusement parks.

When I was a young girl, I enjoyed reading books on love and romance, but today, my favorite books are on self-development, motivation, and leadership. I have two mentors in my life, and they are John C. Maxwell and Bishop David Oyedepo. I always read their books and practice what they teach. If I had the opportunity to meet with a well-known figure, I would like to meet the Queen of Talk Shows–Oprah Winfrey.

But I met with Mariam Makeba (Mama Africa) in November 1991 when she came to Nigeria for the Children of Africa concert. It was a wonderful moment for me. I will never forget the feeling when she hugged and gave her baton to me to continue the race to change the world!

If you’ve read my story to this point, then I want to remind you that no matter who you are or where you’re from, YOUR DREAMS ARE STILL VALID. Right now, it may seem impossible, but just keep believing, and one day it will become a reality. Although I lost my earthly dad at an early age, my Heavenly Father stood by me and brought me this far. So, hold on to your faith and everything will be alright.

 

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