Ten years, six academic sets, many lecturers and millions of naira ago, I was an innocent, naïve and little boy with a vulnerable mind. I liked nobody, wanted nobody, spent time with nobody, but I hurt nobody! And that was all that I was, till I got involved with a religious group which was meant to bring out the best in me. It didn’t. If anything, I became worse. Two months and three fake friendships later, I trusted nobody! I dressed my way (nothing fancy), walked my way (not proudly. In fact, I was evidently not financially buoyant), smiled my way (perhaps on people’s birthdays), attended classes my way (when I wasn’t in my father’s house asking for money), talked my way (I guess that’s the only thing I did well) and read my way (not too bad. I finished first year on a CGPA of 4.7). My colleagues called me “the Don”, others called me “one-man-army” while church-mates called me “god-father”, simply because they hardly saw me smile or even talk and I definitely was not a Liverpool FC fan (I always walked alone).
Indeed, Love Was in the Eye of the Bible-Holder!
It was four days to my Matriculation day at the University of Ibadan and I had made no plans for the “dodo ati rice” that typically adorns the Alumni Centre field, Chapel ground and other green lands that surround the beautiful Trenchard Hall. My “Deeper-Life pastor” parents in their characteristic conservative manner had once again carefully considered the Matriculation “celebrations” as redundant, unnecessary and almost extravagant. As such, we all had a family agreement to defer the party till graduation (which was at least five years away). Needless to say, the only person who was aggrieved after the “family agreement” was yours truly.
My tears were not about the Matriculation ceremony because indeed I neither had friends to give the food to, nor a large appetite to consume the entire party food. The family agreement however brought back memories of many other family agreements we had in the past, none of which was in my favour. One of such was the time I had to wear ugly over-sized, tailor-made clothes to the “Out-of-Uniforms day” at the International School, Ibadan, a day when colleagues wore the very best of “Nike”, “Reebok”, “Fubu”, “Fila”, “Timberland” and “Phat Farm” designer outfits.
Well, what can I say? It is okay for you to laugh at me now but it was not funny that day.
Eventually, I resolved to let go of the displeasing family agreement and visit Itunu, a friend I had kept since Primary school. I met Itunu climbing the staircase on H-block in Awolowo hall, and as I tried to get a handshake, she grabbed my arm and briskly led me into a room where a 32-year old lady named “Mother” was sitting pretty, waiting for Itunu to serve the soft drinks she had just bought. Two hours later, not only had I developed a special bond with Mother, she had already taught me, embarrassed me, pampered me, beaten me, fed me and loved me. I had such a pleasant time that I could not care less about the Matriculation party anymore. All I wanted was to spend an hour or two, or maybe even twenty-four with Mother on Matriculation day.
Mother, whose real name was interpreted as “Mother” in one of the languages of South-South Nigeria, was a PhD student at the Faculty of Social Sciences, University of Ibadan. She was a devoted Christian and member of the Deeper Life Bible Church. Mother held a bible everywhere she went; from Market to Supermarket, Classroom to Bathroom. Mother had also mastered among other things, the art of love. She loved easily, deeply and affectionately. She taught me respect for women, how to enjoy attention, how to balance school with friendships, love for God and how to be confident.
Above all, Mother taught me how to love!
See How Far I’ve Come
I’m writing this piece from a room in Oniru Estate, five minutes’ walk from my office in Victoria Island, Lagos. I’m currently a lawyer in one of the top international commercial law firms in Nigeria with two years experience. Before being employed here, I was a Company Secretary to a company in Ikeja, Lagos for eight months. Before working there, I was a Consultant with a Legal Consulting outfit in Gbagada, Lagos for 3 years. Before that, I worked as a tutor in one of the biggest schools in Ibadan for one and a half years. I’ve also worked as an Assistant Editor with a Law Publishing outfit in Gbagada, Lagos. Before working there, I worked with a bank in Ikeja, Lagos for a few months. I have also turned down jobs from one of the biggest global auditing firms across the world, among other companies.
Impressive CV, you may say. But I have not been all about the work.
In 2009, I was featured with thirteen others on International Television (DSTV) for three consecutive months on a Reality TV show. In 2008, I represented my faculty, my secondary school and even the University of Ibadan at several competitions in Lagos, OAU and Ibadan. I came first in all but one. Before graduating from UI, I was also the President of my faculty for one year. After graduating from UI, I went to the Nigerian Law School on scholarship from a Lagos-based organization. I am also currently the founder of two separate youth-based organizations focused at developing people’s careers and investing in their futures.
My Little Penny
It may be hard to believe, but all that I have done so far, can be said to have taken its root from that “drag up the staircase” to Room G45, Obafemi Awolowo Hall by Itunu that afternoon. The things I learnt that day and the next few days by merely sitting beside Mother, listening to her and allowing her love me, have created permanent marks on me.
Here are the lessons learnt:
1. Being independent is very good, but it won’t take you far. Isaac Newton said “if I have seen further, it is by standing on the shoulders of giants. Always take time out to meet people, know people and accept people. Never feel as if you don’t want to be close to people because you will merely be preventing the myriad people aching and itching to reach out to you. Every person you meet has something to offer and by the time you gain, learn or take one thing each from every person that comes your way, you become rich enough to go through life more confidently.
Here is proof that I learnt this lesson well: As at the time I was graduating from UI, I had at least 4 very reliable friends that had stayed with me for four years each (including the person that made me write this article today). I also had at least a network of 25 University of Ibadan students, 3 Babcock University students, 7 Obafemi Awolowo University students, 3 Bayero University, Kano students and 10 University of Lagos students that I could call at anytime to get something done for me. I had over 3,000 friends on Facebook and I knew people in every faculty in the University of Ibadan.
You can’t do without people. The contacts you make and people you know will always be your true wealth. They will open doors for you in places you least expect, even in other countries of the world.
2. Confidence is key to progress and success. Little things that Mother did to me, made me develop my confidence. For instance, she would take me to a room full of strangers and force me to get their attention and say a prayer for all of them. She told me I was smart and intelligent and I believed her because I knew Mother had no cause to lie to me.
Here’s proof that I learnt this lesson well: I have become a public speaker. I stand in front of people to speak. I have won awards for being a good speaker and it helps me in my day-to-day relations with people. It is that confidence that made me walk past a row of soldiers and security men to shake the hands of a sitting governor in Nigeria, simply because I wanted to ask a personal question.
Develop your confidence. Speak well, develop your vocabulary, dress smart, look neat and always keep your head up. If you do this well, you will always have your way wherever you go.
3. Be kind to people. Kindness is reciprocal: Mother never hesitated to feed me and give me what she had. Eventually when I came to Lagos, she introduced me to her husband and I lived with them for 6 months. She also got me my first job in Lagos.
Here is proof that I learnt this lesson well: I have been part of three charity organizations in the last two years and at the moment, I am sponsoring the education of a young boy that was picked on the streets of Lagos. I have never even seen him because he is at an orphanage. All I have seen are his pictures, but I love him already. I also never hesitate to be of help to people that genuinely need assistance, and even when I don’t have what they need, I direct them to where to get it.
It is important to do things for other people, especially people that cannot pay you back. God never allows kind people suffer, and even people that know you are kind will always want to help you. Little deeds of kindness are investments which yield bountiful results, and the most fertile soil for investments is the lives of fellow human beings.
Seasons Under The Sun
On the day of my Matriculation ceremony, just four days after I met her, I got a call from Mother, asking me to come to the front of my hostel, Tedder Hall. I got there and saw her standing beside a cooler of Jollof rice and crates of soft drinks. I burst into tears.
Remember that when a farmer plants, he is the one that goes back to harvest. The seeds you sow in people’s lives will yield fruit for you to pluck someday. The people you know and the people you have helped are actually the true reflection of your wealth.
Whether you choose to be Mother or you choose to be me, one thing is sure, you can NEVER lack and you will live a happy, successful or fruitful life. And doors will continue to open as you approach. For me, I am certain that as long as I remain on the surface of this earth, Mother’s children will enjoy the many benefits of who I’ve become.
And one thing I know about my stay in the University of Ibadan…I was there, I lived and I loved!