Born on a cold day in May, as first child to a young couple in Ondo state, the young Toluwanimi didn’t have anything particularly spectacular. All that was to change within the first two decades of his life.
For one who has achieved so much at so young an age, life didn’t prove particularly fair. Two incidents proved instrumental to his long walk to impact. An accident while he was still in primary school left him with an affected heart which made him become tired very quickly, after little exertions. But that wasn’t all. He was confined to a life on crutches and was severely discouraged from participating in any sporting or rigorous activity. The combination of all these left the young Tolu traumatized. He developed phobias and fears. But what was supposed to hold him down actually fired him up. As a result of several thoughts of a life constricted to limited motion coupled with nearly two months of hopping around with crutches, he snapped.
The second incident came in the form of a Mr Hammond, his Ghanaian teacher in primary six. He gave an assignment that was to ensure each student learnt the world map by heart as well as countries and their capitals and that made a huge impression on Tolu. He took it a step further and, after reading up more than was required, even at that tender age, he came to a conclusion that “Nigeria was a backyard place.”
There was more.
Tolu wasn’t particularly gifted- at least in the sense that many have come to think of as ‘gifted’. He was no good at any sports. He couldn’t tell the difference between do and fah so music was a no-go area. He didn’t make friends easily. He wasn’t the orator. In fact, he can’t clearly recall if he was good at anything. All of these led him to possess acute inferiority complex. That was when he began his life-long romance with books. “I understood them. They made me happy and they didn’t judge or mock or ridicule me. Instead they made me know more than everyone else.”
He started a book club in primary school where he rented books. What was doomed to be a business failure before it even began, became his first profitable business as a result of a policy. Mr Hammond began organizing frequent quizzes for the students. The questions were drawn mostly from the books in Toluwanimi’s ‘book store’. That made students patronize him- very often. He soon became the richest kid in class. But even that didn’t earn him more friends. He was still unpopular and often bullied. The cumulative effect of all of these was that he had huge issues with Temper Management.
Second year in school he threatened a girl real bad that he was going to deal ruthlessly with her. She was so scared that she reported to her parents who came to school the next day and promptly reported to the principal. Tolu grew fascinated with louvre blades as the ultimate vent for frustration. On many occasions, he detached window panes and used them to drive home his point. Several scars bear testimony to his crude method at enlightenment. In a short while, his reputation had been sealed as one to avoid when angry. One incident he clearly recalls was in Senior Secondary Two, when boys throwing corn cobs over his head accidentally hit him with one. “I quietly went to the window, removed two louvre blades. By the time I turned back, my class was empty”
But Kolawole Toluwanimi, despite his many faults, was a star in the making. Even from secondary school. He almost always represented his school in debates. He was a member of the Children’s School Parliament as well as the International Society of the Red Cross. He also joined the United Nations Youth and Students’ Movement.
By the time he entered into the Federal University of Technology, Akure, in 2006, he was set for exploits.
He served as General Secretary in Scripture Union, SU- 2007, and then Regional School’s Coordinator for the Scripture Union in 2008. In that same year he co-founded Youths With A purpose YWAP FUTA. Still itching for more, he also co-founded Students In Free Enterprise-SIFE (an international organisation) in FUTA and served as its first president from 2008 to 2009. It went on to become the first independent students’ organization that the authority sponsored to several events having seen the zealous work embarked upon by students under his leadership. In 2008, he served as FUTA Judicial council. He sits as South-West Coordinator, the green project.
In 2009, he tried to found ANUNSA in FUTA. He also served as Human Resource Manager in Rhealyz Naija, a human empowerment organization and was a member of ActionAid. From 2006 to 2010 he was an Ondo State representative to the United Nations Youth and Students Movement. In 2010, he attended KOENIG, India and got fifteen Certifications. He was part of a team that placed first in Nigeria on their first outing and went on to represent Nigeria in the United States of America Imagine Cup, USA 2011. The project was a software designed to help doctors reach more patients faster and more efficiently through the internet or mobile platform with SMS technology.
In 2010, he was awarded with the Student Leadership Award. He is a recipient of the coveted MDG Developing Countries Award, International Youth Forum, Netherlands 2010.
He has been involved in a number of humanitarian prjects as well; Fundraising for disaster victims organised by the Red Cross, served as Project Coordinator for Community Development Projects in Rural Communities by Rhealyz Naija, Hospital and Half-Way House Outreaches and a number of others.
Asked about the effects of his ever busy schedule, he says “I’ve got a heart that thrives on activity, on progress, no room for too much ease.” Toluwanimi says all these are just a preamble to the real thing. He has his eyes set for impossible heights in the near future and he has no doubts that he’ll conquer.
On what he wants to be remembered for, “I served God’s purpose in my Generation, I lived full, I die empty… I was always faithful. Two roads diverged in the woods, and I took the road less travelled, and it made all the difference”
He enjoys reading (some of his best books include- Awaken The Giant Within, Purpose-Driven Life, 7 Habits Of Highly Effective People and The 8th Habit) travelling, meeting people, mountain-climbing (there’re huge hills behind his home), listening to rock music, writing, thinking and watching movies as well as praying.
He leaves us with some great words, “Anything achieved in history and life had always demanded a leap of faith. We must never lose faith, It’s what makes room for possibilities.”
Did I mention that Kolawole Toluwanimi is only 21?