Dr Amam Onyerinma a.k.a. Dr. Ama, a life coach and educationist is a Nigerian who has been living abroad for 40 years. She studied Anthropology at the University of Rochester, New York and had her doctorate degree in Education from the University of Southern California. Back in the country after many years overseas, her dream is to impart her training as a life coach to Nigerians. She is the author of Successes Don’t Fail and she believes many Nigerians need help but still pretend to be alright. She spoke with Sunday Sun recently.
HAVE you been a life coach all your life?
No, I actually became a life coach 12 years ago. I went into the coaching academy, went through the processes and got certified. I know many people use the word “life coach” loosely but truly, there is an international organization that regulates the profession, giving us guidelines on how we work with our clients and others just like psychologists and other professionals. We meet regularly and we have conferences and seminars.
I am an educationist and I never gave up on it, because even in life coaching, I’m still teaching people, still educating people. Whenever you get the chance to read my book, you will see that it’s based on the framework of coaching.
Why are you returning to the country now that most people are relocating abroad?
The reality is, wherever you go in the world, there are issues, so you have to put that in perspective. The point is, there is work to be done in Nigeria and it’s time for Nigerians to do the work for themselves. You can’t have foreigners work for you all the time, they are not obliged to look out for the wellbeing of the country. I am a Nigerian, I may not have grown up here, I may not have lived here for over 40 years, but I am a Nigerian. So, I have work to do in Nigeria and that is why I won’t stay put abroad.
You have been away for 40 years, how much do you know about the problems of the Nigerian youth, adults and the country?
Substantially, because I read and I do come to Nigeria regularly, so I do know what is going on.
Could you please tell us about your childhood?
I was born in England, lived there for a while and then returned to Nigeria. I was in Nigeria for a few years, attended Holy Child Secondary School until we went back to school in England, and from there, I moved to America to pursue my tertiary education. I grew up with my parents, but I was in boarding school and I travelled a lot.
Which of your parents influenced you the most?
Both of them have influenced my life and other people did as well. My father encouraged my love for education as he encouraged and supported me. My mother taught me to be a strong woman and to stand up for myself and for others who cannot stand up for themselves. My late uncle inspired my love and desire to achieve the best for myself and then I have had some wonderful teachers i.e high school teachers and university lecturers who helped me learn to question knowledge and understand what to look for when somebody gives me some information. You don’t have to accept everything that’s given to you as right, you can question it and you can pick what works for you and take it from there. So, I was influenced by many people.
What ignited your passion for helping women and children, how did it all start?
I’m an educationist and I did my PhD in Education over 20 years ago. I have always been passionate about women and as a child, I spent a few years in Nigeria and I could see the disparity between men and women. I was very fortunate to have a father that believes everyone has the potential to be whatever they want to be. So, we were encouraged to be ourselves and to receive the best of education. You can imagine, I grew up at a time when girls were not educated to the level that I was, but my father thought it was an investment and it has paid off. So, that’s the little story about myself. I have been incredibly passionate about women, particularly ‘the abused ones’. I don’t encourage any form of abuse or disregard of women, we are equals and I know that some men don’t believe that, but I know that we are created equal and each of us has a role. I’m passionate about women having a place at the table, a place where their male counterparts make things happen. Domestic violence is a ‘no-no’ for me.
Nigerians are very religious people and inevitably there are plenty of clerics they listen to. Do you think they’d listen to you as you have no pulpit?
I believe so, there’s room for multitude of professions. As I said, I’m a coach, an educationist and author. My path is not one of going on the pulpit to preach to people, it’s my work, it’s my actions and by my actions, you should know what I stand for and what my goals are. You know there are different types of coaches and my type of coaching is more transitional and business-oriented. That’s my niche. I like to work with the youth, women and businessmen/women.
In what way do you intend to pass your message across to people?
First of all, I have written a book that was released this year and it’s for everyone and anyone to read. Secondly, I like to speak at functions that empower women, men and children. I do more than motivational stuff, I’m very realistic about what’s going on. The truth is, we need to find solutions, achievable solutions and reasonable solutions, it’s more than just the rat race, it’s taking action. I am also a philanthropist and I support causes, women and children causes, specifically and especially children with special needs. They are very dear to me.
Do you intend to take your message to the rural areas?
Yes I do, it’s all work-in-progress.
In African culture there are some socio-cultural inhibitions against women. How do you think gender parity can be achieved despite these?
I want women to have a voice, African women have a voice and have always had a voice. And it’s the colonial masters that took away that voice and the men just carried on what they did. We’ve always had a voice. There was a women’s riot in 1929 by Igbo women. It was against taxation. Igbo women stood up to say they wouldn’t pay taxes. We have always had a voice, we just allowed ourselves to be silenced.
How do you handle male admirers?
Well, I appreciate people recognizing my talents, but I always give credit to my parents and in terms of handling admirers, I treat them as equals and with respect.
How about your beauty routine?
I drink a lot of water. I drink probably 10 to 12 bottles of water daily. I try to sleep as much as possible, I cannot tell you that I sleep eight hours a day, that could be a lie, but I rest as much as I can. I drink aloe vera juice, I use native black soap and ori (shear butter) like everyone. Although I mix my ori with lavender and peppermint as lavender helps me sleep well and the peppermint is for the aches and pains in my joints. I try to stay positive. I am very aware of my thoughts and actions, so I wish everyone the very best. I try not to get upset, I really just like to live a healthy life and again I can survive on hot water and lemon.
I actually wear more of the headgear when I’m abroad than when I am here. I do love shoes and I enjoy wearing dresses but I’m not married to any designer, they are not paying me to wear their outfit. I can wear a $5 outfit, I can wear 200 pounds outfit. It depends on how I feel about it. I’m not looking for labels. I’m an African woman.
What’s your disposition to the nuclear family?
I beg to differ. Both mother and father have a right to speak and duty to raise the children and participate in other domestic affairs of the family.
Do you teach school children?
No, I don’t teach, I made a conscious decision not to be in the classroom.
Why did you make such decision?
It’s because I like my works to be done at a greater level, so I am always into curriculums and coming up with the right framework for children and teachers, so I am on the other side of the effort.
Do you also have a life coach?
I have a life coach and I can call on her and as life coaches, we are allowed to reach out to other life coaches when we sense we also need help.