How do we begin the story of the Lion and the Rat without saying, ‘once upon a time?’ Well, it begins with understanding the story of Mohammed Ayodele Ataba.
I can’t recollect where I heard the story of the Lion and the Rat. What I recollect is, it must have been one of those stories that energizes my love for epic stories and made me a lion fan. Come to think of it, I love Lions to a fault and I’m thinking of travelling to Senegal to walk with the Lions like my friend, Aminat did, recently.
Anyways, we are here to reminisce the story of the Lion and the Rat.
The Lion was once caught in a trap made by an unidentified hunter. The Lion roared to the point where he got tired. Literally, the roar went on holiday. He started whimpering. The caught leg was bleeding. He couldn’t move. He stood transfixed, resigned to fate.
Came superhero Rat.
Man was just walking about for food. And he met a predator begging for mercy. In the end, he freed the Lion. And, they told us that, the lion didn’t eat the rat. Instead, the Lion rewarded the rat and gave him food and visibility as the assistant to the King.
Though there are many versions, the end of the story was all about saying that when you do good, you will receive in abundance and leap. Whenever I’m trying to understand the concept of this story, I always look to my friend, Mohammed Ayodele Ataba.
Like the premise of the story, Mohammed Ataba stirs controversy, wittingly and unwittingly. One of these is that people erroneously think that Mohammed is a Yoruba man. You can’t blame those people – it appears so. His name sounds too Yoruba-ish. And he grew up on the streets of Ibadan. He is always proud to show all the places he trekked while growing up around the Iwo Road area. He would show you his favourite spot at the Under-Bridge at Iwo Road, Ibadan, if you are not in a hurry.
So, if you mistake Mohammed for a Yoruba man, you could be well forgiven. The truth however, is that Mohammed has his ancestry in Kogi state. Mohammed is a Kogi man of Ebira origin. You can’t take away the Kogi blood from Mohammed.
The biggest of the controversy in the story is best replicated in Mohammed’s choice of lifestyle, serving humanity through providing succour for the most neglected and vulnerable children in the society. Like the lion, Mohammed is the rat running helter-skelter, chewing the traps to liberate these children. In other words, he is a Child Rights Activist.
As a Child Rights Activist, who strongly believes that, ‘a society with progress and development in foresight should not leave the next generation to the mercy of the streets and urchins who would stop at nothing until their mind is polluted and nothing good comes from that.’
As a street child while growing up, he has been able to identify the operation of street children and as a result of this, he has rescued quite a number of them in Ilorin, Kogi and Oyo state of Nigeria. Wherever you see an old-aged person deserted and left because people think such is a witch or wizard, expect Mohammed and his ‘geng’ to take over. He has led his team to rebuild, rework and repaint the abode of about 50 aged persons in this category.
Some two years ago, a sharp and grilling cry was heard in a nearby hospital. A baby was just delivered but the mother didn’t survive the process. With no one left to cater for the baby, Mohammed moved in and became the baby daddy after fulfilling all legal processes.
When you mention the biggest sacrifice Mohammed has made, it will be going around cap-in-hand to beg for funds to return many children to school – many children in Osogbo, Ibadan, Ilorin, Kogi., pay for their WAEC fees and source for food for those children. Now, it makes sense why he was awarded the ‘Humanitarian of the Year’ by the UNILORIN Students Union Government.
His Baba Slum Initiative has fished out many children in the streets and returned them to schools and take up skills where they have started prepping to become excellent people for the society. His commitment to making them enjoy the thrill and excitement of being a child is why he goes into the hinterlands of Ilorin to host parties for the forgotten children in the slum
Is Mohammed wealthy? It depends on what you understand by wealth. Mohammed is quite wealthy on the humanity front. Mohammed has displayed that the real measure of wealth is how much you are worth when you see the lives you’ve touched.
Hate or love Mohammed, the man’s concern is to take many children off the streets. Makes you wonder if he will have time to get married. Fingers crossed