I997 I was 18 and in J.S.S 3 (junior secondary class 3) according to the new academic calendar. Modupe had graduated from our school and was waiting for her W.A.E.C and JAMB results to proceed into the University.
During the last long vacation, I had gone to meet Modupe’s mother and told her about all that transpired between Modupe and I in school. I recounted as many embarrassing episodes as I could to her and finally I told her that I need my money, all of it.
She said she had invested everything in her business and I should give her time. I told her I have given her three good years already, she was not training me in school because I was on full scholarship. She does not buy me anything nor gives me pocket allowance. I hustle for my pocket money! How can I have money with her yet she could not spare me some from time to time?
I was still discussing with her when Modupe walked into the sitting room accompanied by hey boyfriend Akindele. The mother told her to sit down and she narrated all I had told her to her daughter.
It was Akindele that first reacted.
Dupe is it true? He asked her surprised
Is what true? She countered
All that Bolaji said about how you treated and humiliated him at School is it true?
Why are you acting up Akin? She had challenged him: would you believe what this bastard told my mum or you would hear me out first!
What? Akin was shocked; I did not hear you well, did you just call Bolaji a bastard? Is Bolaji your age mate? Are you this rude? Akin queried
I can see you are already taking sides! No problem, judge me! Judge me Akin! She said and began to sob. Akin lost his guard and pulled her into his arms; I am sorry, he said; I didn’t mean to scold you that way. Then he turned to me
BJ, he called; how dare you come here and fabricate lies to mama? What is your motive? He asked.
I shook my head in disgust as I rose to my feet; listen all of you! I want you people to listen to this bastard very well; I want all of my money that I gave mama to keep for me! For the past three years, this family has been feeding fat on my money yet you call me a bastard! I am a bastard but my money is not a bastard abi? And you Akin! I feel so sorry for you; see how easily your senses are confused by your girl friend! You can’t think straight as a man and proffer justice! This girl will put you into trouble someday because you are not in control of her. You dare challenge me and took sides with Modupe after all she did to me? If it were my old self I know what I could have done to you! You know me nah! Don’t you? Have you forgotten what I did to you while we were in primary four? I can still do it again! I can still beat you up and stuff your mouth with dried shit like I did years ago! You stand here and asked me stupid questions instead of admonishing your spoilt brat. You no dey fear face? Well, mama I will be going back to school next week and when I return during the holiday, I want my entire money ready in cash! I walked toward the door on my way out of the house.
Look Bolaji or whatever your miserable name is! Modupe called: water, they say finds its level! Go and find your level! I am not in your class! I will not bring my self so low as to banter words with you! You are like a pig! No matter how well you are washed, you will always go back to the dirt. Agbaya lasan lasan! Uncle B my foot! Look Bolaji, I beg you in the name of whatever you hold sacred, don’t ever come near me or my family again! It is my mother that has been making me to tolerate you all this while o! I wish the children of Baba Oloro had beheaded you the way they beheaded your dog the last time! You would have been forgotten by now! Stupid local champion! If not for my mother that saved your life and accommodated you in our house you would have been dead by now and you have the effrontery to stand before her now with disrespect over a paltry amount of money that she is keeping for you! Ingrate! If not for my mother and I would you have left the boarders of this village let alone attending the same school with me? Now you can speak English language and you think we are on the same level! She clapped her hands as she hurled abuses at me.
I was stunned watching her heap insults at me and no one stopped or cautioned her. When she paused for air I quickly chipped in a question at her; Modupe, where and how did I wrong you? Why so much hatred for me? Please tell me so I can apologize to you!
I don’t want your apology! She barked: I hate you! You are a pig! And she stormed out of my presence into her room.
Once again I went to school and told Mr. Adegoke about what transpired in the village during the holidays. I told him about my money in Modupe’s mother’s custody.
Hmm, I have my fears, he said; I have my fears about the possibility of you getting your money back. If she does not give you the money when you go back home, you may have to involve the police in the matter. I can smell sabotage, I for see mischief, he said; but in all of this, whatever happens, I want you to keep your head up and don’t look focus on your sole objective of making it in life! I want you to brace up to the challenges life will throw at you. Life is not fair! He said; I tell you the truth my boy, life is cruel and human beings can be terrible! I will advise that you brace up for dark days ahead because I am sure you have been swindled by those women!
I buried myself in my studies in preparation for the junior WAEC examination. I did not go home during the first term holiday; Mr. Adegoke invited me to spend the holiday with his family in Ibadan. I enrolled at an intensive tutorial class during this period and I was able to cover all lost ground and even studied topics ahead and outside the schools academic curriculum.
I was smoking hot when we resumed back to school, as everything taught was not new to me. I was asking and answering questions as if I was Kazeem. At the end of the final exams I cleared all my subjects with ‘A’ and a ‘B’ in Yoruba language. Passing my junior W.A.E.C in flying colours sure made me very happy as I was the second overall best student, Kazeem cleared all ‘A’s and was the overall best.
I went back home to settle scores with Modupe and her mother as per my money, I had resolved to collect the money and relocate permanently to Ibadan.
I got the rudest shock of my life when I got home to find out that Modupe and her family had vanished into thin air. Their house was deserted. I went to inquire from the owner of the house and he said he does not know their whereabouts, he said as long as they were not owing him any rent, they are not his business. I went round the village looking for them to no avail.
Modupe’s mother is not an aborigine of our community so she could have relocated to her village, but no one even knows her Village, we all knew her to be an Ijebu woman but which of the Ijebu’s? No one knows. It was like coming to Nigeria to look for a Nigerian woman that swindled you abroad and all you know about her is that she is Nigerian!
After a week of searching with the police, I gave up hope of ever seeing them again, coupled with the fact that the Police men were beginning to exploit me in the name of helping me. I was paying for the fueling their Car; I was buying food for them and giving them tips daily as we drove to places where we hoped to get information about the Modupe’s family.
I went back to my house and brought out all grandmas’ boxes of clothes and jewelries. I took the contents to each market day and sold until I sold off all that was left by my grandma. I raised seventy thousand naira from her jewelries and clothes that I sold. I locked up the house, carried my luggage and traveled back to school to resume in senior secondary class one. That was in 1988 and I was 19 years old.
Welcome to the real world Bolaji! I saw this coming when that woman started giving you lame excuses about your money. I knew something was amiss! My dear, no one gives a damn if you are an orphan or if you are somehow incapacitated, whether you are duped or swindled, no one cares! You are even lucky you could still raise some money from your grandmas’ properties! Even with the little money with you, you are still better off than millions of people in this country! Some people will still rob you off that money with you after listening to your pathetic story. My boy, this world is a battle field!
I was expecting to hear consolatory words from Mr. Adegoke but these words of his were strange and it left me confused.
My boy! He continued; it is all left to you to make a difference! To change your story and your situation! Life is like a relay race competition, grab your baton and bolt! Don’t look back! You may stumble and fall! Don’t look back! The facial construction and determination of the other mans’ face may scare you and you loose hope in your own ability! Even if you fall, even if your baton drops, pick it up and continue the race! Remain focused, gun for the finish line tape and ensure you complete the race!
He paused in his pace to and fro the office, and then he looked at me with an expression I could not interpret
Bolaji! He called
Do you know you can make a difference in this world?
Get an education! Never back down! With education, you can make a difference in today’s world!
But sir, how can I get an education with what has happened to me! I have narrated my ordeal in the village to you; I have lost all hopes of survival financially. The scholarship granted to me only covers tuition fees alone.
Hmm, Bolaji! Do not focus on the problem any longer, it will build up negative energy in you and that can destroy you. Don’t allow what happened too confuse and throw you back to the dirt’s Modupe said you always fall back to! You will never be able to forge ahead when you wallow too long in the wilderness of negativity and impossibility, in the abyss of sorrow and disappointments! Then you will be stuck down there!
Free your self my boy! They may have stolen your money but not your brains! They may have cheated you but you still have a chance at life! You are alive my man! Use your brains! Sometime ago you could barely speak English! Sometime ago you could barely solve a simple mathematical equation! Sometime ago you could not eat with a set of cutlery except your bare hands! But look at you today! You are refined; you are one of the best students in the school! My boy! Show the world that you are born to succeed! Get an education at all cost! If you must slave to get an education, then slave it! If you have to hunger and thirst to get an education, then so be it! My boy! You have got potentials and I do not want you to blow it! If you have to be humiliated, abused and trodden upon to get an education, face it! As long as it does not kill you, you shall overcome.
Bolaji stand up! He snapped.
I stood up! I was charged. I felt goose pimples all over me.
Say after me Bolaji; I will succeed!
I will succeed! I replied
Say it like you mean it! I can’t hear you!
I will succeed sir!
No! No! No! You are not talking to me! Say it to Bolaji Afolabi! Say it to yourself, you will succeed!
I will succeed! I will succeed! I said repeatedly beating my chest and meaning every word of it and that instant, I made up my mind to let go of the past and move on with my life taking each day as it comes but with a determination to be the best.
I moved into Mr. Adegoke’s boy’s quarters during the holidays and I attended extra tutorial lessons. I was a science student. My friend Kazeem opted for the social sciences because he wanted to be an accountant like his farther. I wanted to be an engineer so I stuck to the pure sciences.
My senior secondary school years were very engaging as I buried myself in my books. I continued to be the class captain and in SS3 I was made the school’s senior prefect. I represented the school in all academic competitions and we excelled. My spoken English improved tremendously and I lost a lot of my Ekiti accent, though not totally.
Mr. Adegoke combined farming with his teaching profession, so during my holidays, I assisted him in the farm. He had a daughter and a son who were still very young and were in primary school. I was like a younger brother to him and he offered me shelter, food and protection. He was not super rich, but he was comfortable, he was also studying on part time at the University of Ibadan for his post graduate degree.
I continued to top my class, I was an overall ‘A’ student and when I wrote my senior secondary certificate examination (S.S.C.E) in 1990 (The first set to write S.S.C.E) I was very hopeful of a good result. After my S.S.C.E I was living with Mr. Adegoke helping out in the farm and working part time as a teacher at the Tutorial School I attended. I was teaching junior classes and SS1 students.
My joy was full the day Mr. Goke came back from work and brought out a sheet of paper from his bag, he stretched the paper at me grinning from ear to ear. See your result! He said; my heart beat skipped an instant as I held my breath and clasped my hand over my mouth in shock. I was scared but for the smiles on his face, then he said congratulations my boy! You made me proud. I quickly glanced at the paper and all I could see was ‘A’ parallel! Even in yoruba language.
You are the overall best he told me as I leapt into his opened arms. I know you could do it! I know you could do it! He said patting my back as I cried for joy.
His wife came out and saw us; she collected the sheet of paper from me and glanced at it.
Jesu Christi o! She screamed; ‘A’ parallel! How come? Come! Come! Come! She hugged me and congratulated me. Wow! Congratulations BJ! You are indeed a genius! She said. My joy was indescribable. What remained then was my JAMB result. I had opted to study electrical and electronics engineering at the federal university of technology Owerri . Mr. Adegoke said that F.U.T.O was one of the best universities to study electrical engineering in Nigeria. I was optimistic that I would also do well.
Two months later, the result of the JAMB examination came out and I scored far above the cut off point for electrical and electronics engineering department.
The day that Mr. Goke brought home my admission letter from his mail box was the day some banks in Nigeria were announced to have gone distressed and it included the bank that granted me scholarship from secondary to university level, and even promised me a job upon graduation.
All the branches of the bank in Ibadan were sealed up. Security men were detailed at the banks to prevent people that have converged at the banks from having access to the few staff available at the bank. Mr. Goke took two days off work and together we traveled to the head office of the bank at Akure city. We met some officials at the bank and when we presented my case, we were told that the bank had seized to exist as a corporate entity, in other words, the bank is dead! The bank has no obligation to anything or anybody until the courts say otherwise. We returned to Ibadan exhausted and disappointed. Even Mr. Goke for the first time since I met him lacked words to use and encourage me as I cried. He allowed me to cry.
It was hard to imagine how my hope that was raised so high was squashed and my life was turning into a quagmire of sadness and confusion. Where do I go next? What do I do? Mr. Adegoke was just managing with his nuclear family and still sponsoring himself at school. I could not afford to be an additional burden to him, he cannot sponsor me in school for he does not have the resources.
I fell sick; I was hospitalized and discharged after five days at the hospital. I lost hope, I lost appetite and I lost the zeal to move on. After struggling and burning my candles at both ends in order to gain admission into the university, here I am with no means to survive in the university.
I was fully recovered two months going when Mr. Goke woke me up from sleep in the middle of the night and told me to prepare to leave for Owerri in the morning.
He said I should take my destiny in my hands and move on to face the world. He brought out some money and gave to me. It was the money I realized four years ago when I sold of grandma’s properties. I had given it to him for safe keeping but I assumed he must have spent it all these years while taking care of me in his house.
Take this money and go to Owerri to claim your destiny! Do not allow any obstacle or force on earth to stop you from being the man God has made you to be. Just go and get your self registered first! Then look around you and find a means of survival. You could survive by teaching your fellow students and helping them in assignments and projects! Write to me regularly and let me know how you are doing, my wife and I will always pray for you. I do not have money to give to you but take my advice seriously and dare to succeed.
“Dare to succeed” that was why I left Ibadan the next day and traveled all the way down to the eastern part of Nigeria on my own. To dare to succeed!