In Nigeria, it is quite common for people to have two dates of birth. We have learnt to call them “football age” and real date of birth. This unusual corruption of facts is a Nigerian way of exploiting government’s recruitment or employment policy that usually tends to favor people with younger age.
In my case, October 20, 1992 is my original date of birth but my uncle – the man in charge of registering my birth certificate – had registered October 21, 1992 as the official birthday. The birth certificate had therefore dated my birth date, a day late but the real Nigerian thing usually involve scraping 2 to 10 years out of ones age. My mother – Iya Kafaya – always insisted that I was born on Tuesday – Ojo Isegun in Yoruba – and I would have been named Segun if not for some last minute change of mind.
Growing up in Ajegunle, I ran into an old 1994 calendar and it arose a curiosity in me to re-validate my birth date. This calender was found in front of the Aloba’s compound in Temidire, Ajegunle but unfortunately for me, I couldn’t find a 1992 calendar in the waste pile.
I resorted to using my mum Panaphone cellphone to cross check the date but again the calender only stopped at 1995. It was only when Iya Kafaya started using the popular Samsung blue babyface phone that I became conscious of my real date of birth as Tuesday, October 20, 1992.
This discovery brought about an intellectual renaissance and coincided with the period I was becoming more interested in the Jehovah witness Watchtower and Awake publications. These two journals brought history to my attention and I enjoyed reading them then more than I enjoyed reading the Bible. Since then, I made up my mind that I would only study a course that would afford the chance to read, travel and write. For long, the number one discipline that fit this description was Mass Communication until the Physics teacher in Araromi Ilogbo High school – Mr Issa – convinced me of the abundant opportunity that comes with studying History or Sociology. Quite an irony it was a scientist that became the decider of my career choice.
Things however took an ugly turn in the summers of 2009 and 2010. Those two years saw me lost two siblings – a sister and brother (May Allah’s mercy and blessing continue to dwell with their soul in the beyond).
My late sister, Monsurat Kikelomo always insisted that I would go to college and would not learn craft like my other siblings. She used to say I have the head for books and we used to laugh it off because we all knew all my other siblings were likewise gifted. My case was only more evident because I grew in the period of expansion in Nigeria ICT sector.
With her death, things became worse when dad had an accident on his way home from work on a raining Thursday in July, 2011 – just 5 days after I wrote my last NECO paper. The accident was caused by a Coaster bus speeding on a wrong lane along the Okoko-LASU axis of Lagos – Badagry express way. That year, I cleared my O’Level (both NECO and WAEC – a rare feat then in a public school) and also scored 262 in JAMB. Those were the days my head only bothers about how to get a new book to read.
Nevertheless, I could not gain admission that year. The family breadwinner was bedridden and would eventually require a surgical operation to repair his broken right leg. So I had to work for a year as a teacher and I am deeply indebted and grateful to my high school girlfriend then for maintaining my sanity. She kept giving me hope and I don’t know how she did it then.
In 2012, Dad was still on sick bed. This time, the family was introduced to Dr. Aina – a talented surgeon in Aradagun Badagry. The man assured us that he would get Dad to walk again. Unknown to them, I picked another Jamb form in my second bid to escape home. I scored 210 that year. 75% in Unilorin post-utme and 66.6% in Uniosun aptitude test. I await admission but was disappointed by the tightly guided fact that dad may be needing close to 300,000 for the operation of his leg. It’s been over a year since he left work and mum had been with him all those years too. 2012 was tough.
It was so tough that when UNIOSUN gave me admission, I did not share the news with my parents for fear that it may only led to further depression. My sister – Iya Juwon – however conveyed the news to them. Their reaction to that news was no doubt mixed. Uniosun admission and accommodation would require close to 180,000 and the family was still looking for the money for dad’s surgical operation. As unusual, it was another scientist, Dr. Aina – the doctor that was treating dad – that God used to convince my parents to allow me take up that admission.
Miracles happen. Miracles really happened.
The family managed to scrape through and arrange the money for my acceptance fee, school fee and accommodation. To our surprise, my dad workplace also came to the rescue by covering his operation bill but this would only come at the detriment of any compensation/ pension he was entitled to. We were happy. I paid my acceptance fee. Attended my first class on Thursday September 27, 2012. The lecturer was Mr. Farawe – a brilliant mind – and he was taking us Introduction to Nigerian government and Politics. The class changed my mind of crossing to Ifetedo to study Law as Las was quite tempting then. I spent my first night in college in the first civilian barracks in the room of Oke Daniel.
Everything seemed to be going on fine and then the devil struck again.
After that class, I travelled to Osogbo enroute back home to pack for full relocation and to collect the money for accommodation and school fees. I spent more than a month in Lagos before the family could arrange the needed fee. It was not an easy task.
On October 30, 2012 – ten days after my birthday – I packed my bags and backed Hp backpack – containing all my credentials and over 125,000. I boarded a night bus in order to escape the tormenting traffic that is now a regular feature of Lagos – Badagry expressway.
I was dead tired, so it was not surprising that I dozed off in the bus. Couple of hours later, the conductor tapped me to inform me that we were at the last bus stop – Fagbems petrol station at FESTAC. I hurried down with the bags containing foodstuffs and another packed with carpet and two paints. I was already at the other side of the road when I remembered I had not lifted my HP backpack containing over 125,000 and my original credentials. At that moment, whatever sleep was left on my face was slapped off by the shocking reality of my carelessness. All my life was lost in a bus I couldn’t even remember its color.
I hurriedly called my sister – Iya Juwon – and she ordered me to rush to the motor park to check for the vehicle. I went there to scan through the packed buses but none of them had my bag in them. I rushed back to the bridge to scan through the moving files volkswagen buses. I couldn’t even remember the vehicle color of the bus I was looking for.
I called my alfa instantly. Baba Tijani asked me to calm down that he would call me back. I called him back. He told me my bag was no longer in Mile 2 or Festac axis. My soul melted into my shadow. I could feel the sweats oozing out of my socked feet. My brain was already projecting another picture of what my future would look like. I could still be a carpenter or a fashion designer. Options still abound.
Then it dawned on me that I had not just lost my ticket to a likely better life but also that I just dashed the family dream of having our first college graduate.
Mum call came in next. She sounded troubled and beyond sad. I became more depressed.
I was still on the overhead Mile 2 bridge. My life replayed in my head in a two minutes highlight. The future was gloomy. I thought of a way to put a end to it.
I stare down at the moving trailers beneath the bridge. I moved closer to the metal fringe of the bridge to calculate the distance frame for the incoming trailer to collide fast into my dropping body when I eventually dive down the bridge. I was unable to complete the calculation when I took that dive down the bridge of Mile 2.
My eyes shut down as I feel the warm breeze fry whatever was left of my life.