INTERVIEW: “I Lived In Mushin For 18 Years, Sold Ice-Water, Did Car-Wash“
A member of the International Coaching Federation, ICF, and the British Psychological Society, Oyinkansola Alabi is the only female CEO of an Emotional Intelligence Academy in Africa.
Popularly known as Emotions Doctor, the Cornell University-trained Human Resource Executive is the lead researcher and facilitator at acclaimed Africa’s leading emotional intelligence centre, Emotions City.
Oyinkansola is a high impact trainer who has taught tens of thousands of executives in organisations such as KPMG, Guinness, Multichoice, Interswitch, First Bank, Stanbic IBTC and the Federal Ministry of Agriculture among others. Her work has taken her to over 30 states in Nigeria, Ghana, Egypt, Kenya, South Africa, Rwanda, UAE, United Kingdom and the United States.
She is the first African Master Trainer in Yale University’s Ruler approach. She is also a Rational Emotive Behavioural Therapist, a Cognitive Behavioural Therapist, and a Six Seconds Network Licensed Emotional Intelligence Practitioner
In this interview, the ordained Pastor at the Fountain of Life Church in Lagos, convener of Emotional Intelligence Week and author of many books including High Table Executive, Sold To Be A Speaker and Life Beyond Money, speaks on her mission to heal Africa of limiting beliefs and mindsets.
How did a Human Resource expert end up as an Emotions Doctor?
This is what I have always wanted to do; I’ve always loved psychology and behavioural change. I have always wanted people to move from a life of dissatisfaction to satisfaction; for them to be happy and fulfilled. This is a natural zone for me.
I have had people come to thank me for how I pastored them back in the university. I lived in Mushin for 18 years. So, I know poverty, pain and labour. I have sold stick-meat before in Lagos, I have sold ice-water and didcar-wash.
What prepared you for this?
I wrote my first book titled ‘A Teenage Christian’ when I was 17. It was published on my 19th birthday. My mother packaged it as a birthday gift for me. So, Funmi Iyanda invited me to her studio for an interview after it was published. She took interest in me and afterward, invited me to her church. I finally found my way to her church.
We got talking and it was the first time somebody said “I am interested in mentoring you.” She was therefore my first mentor and that was the best foundation anyone could have asked for. I got ordained a pastor while at the university soon after. So, I started out as a spiritual leader; pastor.
What are you bringing to the table as an emotions doctor?
I want to serve Africans; that was why Emotions City was established. So, Emotions City is by an African for Africans. Even though I learnt far and wide from different schools, it is the fact that we are creating our models. When I teach emotional intelligence, it is from an African perspective; looking at how culture has influenced our beliefs, behaviour, parenting, etc. As Africans, culture has really affected our behaviour; there is a way we act in this country that people don’t do everywhere else; there’s a way we attach value to things.
For me, it’s teaching emotional intelligence from the African perspective and I believe that we are all here at this time to be our ancestors. Our ancestors have died; we cannot be running in that space to function in the new. It’s the same way you cannot do business on 3310 right now; some templates and beliefs must expire.
Applications expire, beliefs expire; there are some that you need to renew, there are some you need to update. But in Nigeria, once one person says something, whether it is foolish or not, we just run with it. Those are part of the re-direction and re-generation that we need to troubleshoot. We need to begin to ask questions.
COVID-19 brought a lot of stress and depression; how did you help?
I released a research report on the effect of COVID-19 on the emotional stability of Nigerians and the whole of Africa. COVID-19 was something that nobody expected; we have never experienced it before. The last time we ever experienced any flu was in 1918.
The beginning of the word ‘unhappiness’ is when your present reality does not align with your desired outcome. So, what that means is that what you are presently experiencing does not align with what you projected, anticipated or desired to achieve. So, you land in the unhappiness zone, disappointed.
Thus, when COVID-19 showed up, we were at first taken aback, then we were disappointed because we all had just mapped out our plans for the year. We are concerned about this at Emotions City and that informed the recent launch of a Trust called Emotions City Trust, where we will be offering 80 per cent free therapy to Nigerians.
What we are trying to do is to get people who appreciate investing in mental health and then give to people who cannot afford to pay for mental health; so, they pay 20 per cent of the fee. We are in partnership with 40 different therapists and psychologists who have agreed that they would take a stipend for every session.
Have you noticed that a lot of Nigerians see going for mental therapy more like one has a psychiatric problem?
Media has made it look like mental health and mental issues are the same thing because there is a difference between the health and the illness. Mental health is emotional stability and when you are talking about mental illness, you are talking about the fact that you need to treat an imbalance. Treating it is the same way you would treat your finance; if your profit and loss are not balanced, you will treat it. If your health is not aligned, you will pay attention to it. It is the same way you treat your ignorance by going to school; so, the media and movies have made it look as if you are a psycho.
In Nigeria, mental is defined as ‘kolo’; which is madness. There is a spiritual part; my senior colleagues think everything is tied to prayer – so, when you are hungry, you don’t pray; when you want to have sex; I don’t think you pray. It is very funny when somebody is unhappy and you want to cast out the spirit of sadness. Why are you not casting out your sexual drive? Why are you not casting out your hunger? So, those battles are there; and are real.
The media has a role to play here by helping people understand this.
What mindset will you change instantly with regards to women if it were possible?
Nigerian women should try to have a life that is not tied to anybody’s existence. The narrative in Nigeria is that you are an offshoot of your husband; and that is why singles cannot be happy. Why would you think that God, in His wisdom, would tie your happiness to somebody’s? So when the person dies, what are you going to do? Many men have complex and low self-esteem. So, they always try to control under the guise of submission. This is tied to manipulation. And when you really feast on control, it exposes you; you cannot accommodate another person’s greatness, the thought of a woman succeeding threatens you, you don’t want her salary to be more than yours, etc. It is only in this country people do all these things.
How do you unwind?
I have good friends who come around, and then I exercise a lot. My office is located where there is a gym, pool and also where one can take a stroll. Life is really simple. Usually, I travel. I also sleep really well.
You’ve just clocked 36; what has life taught you in the last 36 years?
Life has taught me that emotional intelligence is not a soft, hard or life skill. Emotional Intelligence is life.
If you were to start life afresh, what will you do differently?
If I were to start all over again, I will prioritise the fact that relationship is the new oil. When God wants to bless you, he sends good people to you. Humans are the favour and money we pray for.
What’s that one thing you wish more people knew or understood?
I wish more people prioritised their emotional stability like they prioritise their feeding and source of income. Emotional stability is the grandfather of wealth.