Patricia: Message from the Morning Man
by Kojo Yankson
16th May 2016
Patricia was told she can’t be a journalist. The class was full, and she didn’t make the cut. besides, she was a woman. Home Economics was a better fit for her. They gave her no choice in the matter. So she made a decision. What she needed was an education, so if they wanted her to do Home Economics, she would do it and do it well.
Patricia was told she can’t do Home Economics. Of all the courses on offer at her school, Home Economics was the one that cost students the most. There was so much equipment, utensils, implements and inputs to buy, and without them, you couldn’t be in class. Patricia was from a poor family in Mepe. There was no way her grandmother could afford all she needed for school. So she made a decision. She was going to pay for everything herself by joining the family business: cutting trees in the bush to sell.
It was hard work indeed, but Patricia never complained. She would work hard all day, fully focused on her goal of making enough money to buy all she needed for school. The only thing that broke her concentration were the aircraft. They flew so low, Patricia was afraid they were coming for her, so she would hide until they passed by. This happened so often, and her fear was negatively affecting her productivity. So she made a decision. She was going to find out where these aircraft came from, so she would no longer be afraid of them. After several miles trekking through the bush, Patricia found Kpong Airfield, where all the planes had come from. She walked straight across to the manager, and said, “can I have a job?”
Patricia was told she can’t work at an airfield. In fact, the exact words of Captain Jonathan Porter, Kpong’s Chief Engineer, were “You can’t work here. You’re a girl”. But he was so struck by Patricia’s enthusiasm and curiosity that he put her to work digging tree-stumps from the runway. So she made a decision. All she needed was an opportunity to work with planes. If she had to dig tree stumps in order to get that opportunity, then she would be the best tree-stump digger the Captain had ever seen.
One day, an apprentice was fired for stealing, and the captain was short-handed. In desperation, he called on Patricia to give him a hand. She had been watching his every move, and knew exactly how to help him with the repair he was doing. The captain was amazed at how much she knew, and from that moment, resolved to teach her everything he knew, and fully fund her pursuit of a pilot’s licence.
Patricia was told she couldn’t be a pilot. Anyone she told about her work as an aircraft engine mechanic thought she was exaggerating. The idea of a woman aircraft mechanic was so unlikely, much less a female aircraft mechanic from Mepe. But as for Patricia being a pilot, well, that was pure fantasy. So she made a decision. She would work harder than ever and do whatever it took to become a pilot. She ate, drank and slept aeroplanes, until in a record-breaking six months, Patricia got her Pilot’s licence.
Today, Patricia Mawuli Nyekodzi is Ghana’s first ever civilian pilot, the first woman to hold a Ghana National Pilot’s Licence, and the only woman in the world qualified and certified to build Rotax Aircraft engines. Oh, and she’s only 28 years old!
Friends, I wanted you to know Patricia’s story for one reason. Life is hard even for those without dreams, so for you and I, with all the ambitions we’ve pursued since childhood, life is an even greater challenge. Life is hard, even for those who have people supporting them to achieve their goals, so for you and I who keep being told we can’t do it, the odds are stacked even higher against us.
Patricia Mawuli grew up in a mud hut. Everyone she knew grew up in a mud hut. Nobody they knew had ever even touched an aeroplane, much more flown one. How could they possibly fathom the dreams Patricia had? You’re in the same situation. You dream of doing something that nobody in your family, your village, your region, or perhaps even your country, has ever done. So don’t be surprised when everyone around you tells you it can’t be done. But just like Patricia, when they tell you it can’t be done, you then have a decision to make. Will you prove them right? Or will you prove them wrong?
Proving them right will give you peace of mind. Nobody will laugh at you, nobody will taunt you, nobody will tell you it can’t be done, and sit back with their arms folded, waiting for you to fail. But if you choose to prove them wrong, you’re going to have to cut trees, trek through forests and dig up tree stumps to achieve your goal. There’s a reason why majority of humans are ordinary. It’s because they all think it can’t be done. But if you want to be extraordinary, then get into that shower, put on those clothes, get into that car, go out there on this Magnificent Monday Morning and show all those ordinary people that it CAN be done, and YOU are going to do it in record time.
I once read a poem written in 1917 by American writer, Edgar A. Guest. It’s titled, It Couldn’t Be Done, and Patricia’s story reminds me of it.
Somebody said that it couldn’t be done,
But she with a chuckle replied
That “maybe it couldn’t”, but she would be one
Who wouldn’t say so till she tried.
So she buckled right in with a trace of a grin
On her face. If she worried she hid it.
She started to sing as she tackled the thing,
That couldn’t be done and she did it.
Somebody scoffed: “Oh, you’ll never do that;
At least no one ever has done it”
But she took off her coat and she took of her hat,
And the first thing we knew she’d begun it.
With a lift of her chin and a bit of a grin,
Without any doubting or quiddit,
She started to sing as she tackled the thing
That couldn’t be done, and she did it.
There are thousands to tell you it cannot be done,
There are thousands to prophesy failure;
There are thousands to point out to you, one by one,
The dangers that wait to assail you.
But just buckle in with a bit of a grin
Just take off your coat and go to it.
Just start to sing as you tackle the thing
That “cannot be done,” and you’ll do it.
My name is Kojo Yankson, and I believe in you.
GOOD MORNING, GHANAFO!