When I gained admission to study Mechanical Engineering at Federal University of Technology, Owerri, life was hard. We had just buried our uncle and the occasion had sapped available funds, no thanks to our cut-throat traditions of burying the dead with pomp and pageantry. I had a pair of trousers and two shirts. I wore the pair of trousers from Monday to Friday and then washed it for the coming week. I attended classes twice a week just to scrimp on transport money. But I didn’t clam up and escape into the cave of depression.
I passed by a billboard one day in school and saw a scholarship advert. I applied and then began scouting for others. I scoured magazines, newspapers and the like. I visited the library on a daily basis poring over information materials. I didn’t pass any signage without reading. I sat and wrote many scholarship tests. I had every conviction I would get at least one or two.
I remember walking into one of the school’s bukas one evening in the year 1999. It was the second semester of my first year. I had 20 Naira on me with which to eat a plate of garri and fish. There were other students gathered in a trickle around the basins of food lined up on a table out of which the attendants dished food to students. Gradually I shoved and heaved, albeit gently, till I got to the front of the queue. As the girl was about to serve me, a student standing at my back hollered, “Abeg give me chicken lap and extra garri.” Instantly, she ignored my call for “15 Naira garri and 5 Naira fish.” The student with more money had to be served first. The chicken lap was worth 50 Naira at the time. She couldn’t just let that money go like that being that he was a few steps behind me and could easily walk away if his order wasn’t taken serious. I lost my voice. I just couldn’t argue. Silently, I uttered below my breath that in no distant time, I would eat chicken to my satisfaction.
By my second year, the dark lights began to brighten. I had won two scholarships.
By my third year, which was generally the limit of eligibility for application for scholarships, I had five scholarships to my name. I was a “big boy” on campus. I regularly went back to the same restaurant and ate chicken laps almost every other night. You know the feeling when you’ve been denied something for so long. Then when you get it, you embrace it with gusto and relish. I decided to splurge on clothes too.
So I bought sneakers, combat jean trousers and tee shirts. It was time to cruise life.
One of the members of my religious group spread word that I had joined cult being that he regularly saw me wearing yellow and black. I was summoned. I appeared before the panel and throughout the duration of the grueling inquisition, I smiled all through. I was ‘acquitted’ for lack of evidence. I later knew who it was. I forgave him though. I just couldn’t waste useful energy on hating him for nothing that lacked substance.
Imagine if the earth was one big object. Imagine if everyone on earth just ate one type of food, for example egusi soup. It would have been so boring. Life wouldn’t have different shades and colors. We would have yearned to die and just go to sing alleluia in heaven. That’s why God is a super intelligent creator. He didn’t create robots, he gave us different ‘charms’.
Some of us talk to birds and extract the language of the esoteric. Some see a scenario and carve words on paper in a way that makes the reader ‘travel’ excitedly beyond his or her extremities. Some are able to paint masterpieces on canvasses. Abstract as the painting may seem, it is imbued with deep meanings. Some are able to enter a woman’s sloppy and bloody crevices and birth a being while some cringe at the sight of blood.
Some can aid a ‘guilty’ man escape the hangman’s noose so far as he wasn’t caught with his fingers in the cookie jar. Some are gifted literary critics. They never write, but they know when you missed a dot or forgot to use the proper preposition. Some are good at pointing out the grey areas and the dark sides, but aren’t good at mobilizing the white clouds of glory. These people know all the reasons why a new project will fail, but never offer viable options. Don’t think that you don’t need them. You do. They will point out the oil stains on your starched white shirt which sycophants won’t do.
Every one of us here has a gift. They are as varied as the spots on a leopard’s skin. Learn to differentiate between intentions of the heart and the admissibility of service. That is paramount.
Appreciate the dark clouds that folks raise. Within the clouds you may discover other perspectives you haven’t thought about that can add shine to you. But there is a warning: don’t tuck the dark clouds into your kitty.
Most goalkeepers can’t play like forwards. We all have our games which we are good at. Different gifts, same worthy God. So don’t bug the critics, skeptics and pessimists. The truth is that you need them.