I am who you can describe as the ‘true Nigerian ‘. At a point in my life, I could communicate in all the three (3) major Nigerian languages- Yoruba, Hausa and Igbo.
I was born to Yoruba parents in Minna, the present Capital city of Niger State, more than 50years ago. Minna remains a Gwari and Hausa settlement.
My parents were civil servants who traversed the length and breadth of Nigeria serving Nigeria as Civil Servants. At various times, we lived in Kaduna, Zaria, Sokoto, Jos and Lagos. While living in Northern Nigeria, my paternal grand-mother and mother effectively introduced me to the Yoruba language.
I learnt the Hausa language by interacting with Hausa natives at my neighbourhood in Kaduna and Zaria. We also had Hausa speaking Servants in my Home. My Hausa accent still remains very strong.
I learnt the Igbo language when I was already a full adult and was undergoing the NYSC program at a prestigious Merchant Bank, known then as the International Merchant Bank, or IMB for short. During the NYSC program, we received a booklet on the basics of the three main Nigerian languages. I kept the booklet and notebook in my drawer and would keep my ears wide open to listen to discussions between two female colleagues who preferred to speak Igbo language to themselves. As they conversed, I would be checking on the interpretation of words in the Igbo section of my NYSC booklet. A few times, I would ask any of the ladies to interpret Igbo words to English and they would gladly oblige me. Trouble came when they realised I could now fully understand what they were saying in Igbo which centred primarily on their love affairs with menfolk inside and outside the Bank. The ladies became livid and resented me so much. They also stopped speaking the Igbo language whenever I was seated beside them. Our relationship soured. The reaction of those ladies dampened my enthusiasm for learning the Igbo language and so I lost a lot of my competence in that regard. I now barely understand only a few Igbo words. Curiously, my staff in the office are mainly Igbo but for reasons unknown to me they would not speak Igbo language in the office. Last year, I decided to pick up myself again from my bootstraps to improve on my Igbo speaking skills. I am making progress.
I. My close friends consists of people from all classes, tribes and religion. I have friends who never completed High school. My father was arguably the first person to build a modern House at a community in Zaria, thereby making me look like a silver spoon kid amongst kids from poor Homes. Despite our different backgounds, I fraternised with those kids closely, entered their mud houses, ate the same meals with them and played football with them. We left for Sokoto after four years and I lost touch with these kids. In Sokoto, I would visit the Sultan’s Palace and was a frequent visitor to ‘Hubbare’ where all the previous Sultans including, Usman Dan Fodio were buried and where people came on pilgrimage for prayers.
II. I reconnected with my friends in Zaria after 40 years and by this time ,to my surprise and delight, some of these kids had done well for themselves and had become very senior Armed Forces personnel, Professors, Administrators, etc. They love me passionately. I am Yoruba and Christian. They are Hausa/Fulani and Muslims. I continue to receive calls from those ‘Kids’ who have just been given my contact.
I will tell my younger self not to discriminate against anyone on account of class, religion or tribe. I believe in the entity called Nigeria. Our strength lies in our diversity. We are better and stronger as one indivisible Nation.
2. EDUCATION: I started off a bit early, graduating at the age of 22 from University with a Degree in Law. I had always wanted to be a lawyer and to graduate from Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife. When my first attempt to get into Ile-Ife failed, my maternal uncle advised that I apply to the University of Ilorin, which was just starting the law program. I applied and was the first person on the roll of students admitted in my set. As I was getting into the third year, the Law faculty of the University of Ilorin faced accreditation issues and my Faculty was scrapped. It was a very difficult period for us. Luckily, Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife agreed to admit us on condition that we pass the exams for our class set. I passed the exams and found myself later at the Convocation ground in Ile-Ife, my preferred choice. Learning from this tortuous experience, I would tell my younger self never to be discouraged, to always believe in myself, and to always pursue my dreams, in the hope that the best awaits me.
3. CAREER: Until a few years ago, I did not realise how important it was to have a mentor. I made career choices and mistakes that would have been different and avoidable if I had a mentor. I would tell my younger self to always have role models to consult for advice and guidance.
4. LOVE: I was always finicky about the woman I wanted to date and marry. She must be physically attractive and know how to cook. I must love someone sufficiently to be able to live with her. My wife is attractive and also a great cook. She has sired children three in number, who are very beautiful, all girls, and who I view as masterpieces of nature. I love them dearly. However, I would tell my younger self to look out for more qualities other than beauty in a relationship. I am lucky to have a spouse who cares for me and loves her family and I appreciate her sacrifices.
5. RELIGION: I have never been an easily impressionable person. As a Christian, I have never been carried away by the high-sounding Pentecostal wave of evangelism or practice of Christianity. I believe that religion should be private between self and God. I have seen very religious people doing the most devious things and betraying the trust of others. My attitude to religion has made me a better individual and I would tell my younger self to retain the same attitude. There is only one God, but different ways to reach him.
6. CONTENTMENT: I am a generally content person and this is sometimes mistaken for being laid-back or foolish. The scriptures teach us to be content with what we have while striving to improve ourselves. My being a contented person has helped me maintain a healthy and happy life. My younger self would be advised to eschew jealousy and to bear no ill-will against family and friends. I always run my own race.
7. HEALTH: Being contented is no guarantee for good health. There are many factors, including genealogy, affecting one’s state of health. I have been lucky at over 50 years old not to suffer any visible or latent illness. I am mostly a teetotaller and take care to maintain a healthy lifestyle with physical exercise.I will advise my younger self to maintain the same health regime.
8. LEARNING: I never stop learning. Life is complex. The more time you spend on earth, the more you learn new things and new possibilities. I will tell my younger self that people and situations do change, He should always be prepared for every situation.
Finally, I will tell my younger self to always trust in God Almighty who makes the impossible possible.