Tribute: For Tejumola Olaniyan, Scholar, Teacher, Mentor, Father –

I lost my advisor to heart failure on November 30, 2019. This tribute was written as part of how I had been dealing with his loss. It was published in a Nigerian online Magazine, The News, on December 2, 2019. Find the link below:

Source: Tribute: For Tejumola Olaniyan, Scholar, Teacher, Mentor, Father –

What is African culture?

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I’m always mortified when people say this or that thing is “un-African,” or it’s not part of “our culture and tradition.” I’ve always wondered how those people arrive at this absolutist position. It is as if culture is this organic, unchanging thing that has been and will always be like whatever assumptions these self-appointed “cultural ambassadors” have about it.

Often, what people who make this claim are doing is to equate an aspect of the customs in whatever ethnicity they come from with what obtains in different contexts and locales on the continent. Their “African mind” may never grasp the fact that there is no such thing as “African culture” outside the early anthropology of European racialism, which often reduces the complex and diverse nature of cultures on the continent to one convenient primal structure of existence. Even within, say, for example, Yoruba culture, there are so many subsets that it is quite tricky to pin it down to the specific generic notion that is unchanging. The universal ideals that come with being Yoruba, for instance, also leave room for expansion, distortion, and adaptation to fit or speak to particular contexts. There is almost nothing absolute about how “Yorubaness” is defined. The Ifa corpus speaks to this claim better than I can articulate.

Those who evoke “African culture” as a defense against what they consider “foreign” or “Western” do so due to their limited experience of the vast continent. They often ignore her historical interactions with the rest of the world, which transcends colonialism—the cul-de-sac for everything “un-African.”

The silliness in claiming “our culture” lies in the paradox of the fact that such thoughts are made without reflection about what may have changed or is still changing about the day-to-day reality of the place where such culture is practiced. Also, it is the same folks who identify as Christians, Muslims, and any other religion outside the scope of their “cultural” reference. While we have to admit that these religious beliefs are now as indigenous as the so-called “culture” itself, it is almost comical to see the same folks condemn “traditional African religion ” as pagan, primitive, and evil. Without a sense of irony, most of those who are quick to evoke “culture” ignore the cosmological framework that their traditional religions provide for its ethical, moral, ritual, philosophical concepts and the ordering of social life to thrive. And all of these also go through the process of change, including the “traditional” religion itself.

When we see an Oba driving in a Rolls Royce, does it strike us as absurd that he doesn’t choose to ride on horseback as his choice of transportation from say, Abuja to Lagos, because that is what Obas used to ride at the very foundation of “our culture”? So, where can we find a Rolls Royce as a material object that signifies emblematic royalty in Yoruba culture? Have you also thought about why in most Christian populated part of Nigeria and elsewhere on the continent, we have a “traditional engagement” and church wedding in one package of solemnity? Many forget that the church wedding is the traditional ceremony of those in the West. And what is considered “traditional engagement” is a semblance of the actual wedding in the traditional cultures of the couple. In fact, in both cases, a marriage is not legal in the face of our modern African laws until a court registry is signed. Such is the nature of our culture today. The same goes for so many other things that define the reality of experience in the modern world.

So, there is nothing like cultural purity. Every culture evolves, and part of its process is the acceptance of what we may initially see as foreign and then, later, domesticate and include as an integral part of “our culture.” In fact, language, which is the most potent element of cultures, evolves. Let’s take, for example, sexual preferences such as homosexuality, bisexuality, and androgyny, which have been seen as transgressive and “Western” to “our culture” by some people. The irony here is that in Nigeria, for example, they have to use a “Western” legislative process to institute a draconian law to “punish gay marriage.” They didn’t leave it to culture to decide whether to accept or deny its existence. The question is: are these choices of sexuality and desires really foreign? Do we have a repository for describing them in the language of “our culture”? Of course, we do. If that is the case, where do those words originate and how “Western” is the meaning they evoke to the reality that births and includes them in “our” cultural corpus? The point I am trying to make here is that society may or may not frown on these expressions of sexuality depending on places and contexts. Still, their existence is as old as the “culture” or “tradition,” which becomes an impregnable wall of defense against them for the Bible-wielding, Quran-reciting, English/French-speaking, self-appointed defenders of all things “African culture.”

So, if I may seek further clarification from those who are knowledgeable and well-grounded in the history of societies on the continent, what is African culture?

In memoriam: Bàbá Pápàpáà (Baba Sunday Jekayinfa)

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Today, I find myself working while blasting Ayinla Omowura records in my office, with my earpiece on, of course. I cannot but remember my late uncle. My mom called him, Boda Sunday. He lived just across my mom’s house. Bàbá Pápàpáà (Baba Sharp Sharp), as he was famously known for being an artisan who gets the work done on time, was one of the most significant influences and father figures in my life growing up.

He was an expert at fixing household utensils. As a Tinker, he would fix aluminum or metal pots, kettles, and big water containers we call “bàsíà.” During the repressive General Sani Abacha era, his ability to fabricate Adogan (a metal firewood stove), coal pot and efficient sawdust cookers from any piece of used metal was the stuff of legend in Ọmí-Àdìó. Most of all, he was there for his baby sister, my mom, through thick and thin. Poor as he was, I could never have wished for another uncle. He was a hardworking, loving, and caring man that life dealt a weak hand.

He had limited schooling, but he was a highly skilled artisan. He was once a Welder for an Italian construction company before joining Solel Boneh, an Israeli construction company. He was proud of his work as one of the welders who built the Kainji Hydroelectric dam in Niger State. Baba was laid off after an accident, and he lost his fortune. His wife left him and remarried. He had to raise two teenagers by himself. Life weighing heavy on him, he took to drinking locally brewed gin, ògógóró. He came back to Ibadan and set up his welding shop. Bad situations here and there and the shop folded. He sold his equipment. For want of something to do, he went back to tinkering.

Tinkering is a family business that gave their father his wealth at Agbokojo, Ibadan. My maternal grandfather, in his lifetime, had a huge compound that had professional tinkers and many apprentices learning the trade. Apart from the intrigues of a polygamous family, my mom’s siblings loved one another. Particularly the ones from her mother are tightly knit.

Baba was there for me. He watched me grow and protected me with a devotion that some people even felt I was his biological child and not my mom’s. He made me love Apala music. I learned his signature dance steps to Haruna Ishola and Ayinla Omowura, his favorite musician. Baba was short, but he had a backside that some women would envy today. So, he would gather his agbádá around his body, with one of his hands in front making the motion of someone riding a motorcycle. Then, Baba would bend his back a bit forward and majestically move his backside to swing to the mid-tempo, heavy percussion apala beat, as the waves on his vinyl record player carry Omowura’s sonorous voice. He loved music, and that love was infectious. I caught the bug, even though, Apala was not in vogue at this time.

My uncle, Bàbá Pápàpáà, had his close friends and they were all drinking buddies. They had thick skin for insults, mockery, and all kinds of disrespect because of their work and drinking habit. Two of his most prominent friends, Baba Pélé and “Boda Kayode”(That’s what my mum called him) were fascinating characters. Baba Pélé was a typical Ibadan man with a very sharp wit. He can humorously exchange cusses and insults with his traducers till they literally hate themselves for daring to make fun of him. Boda Kayode played pool or what they now call sports bets. He was easy-going, unassuming, and kind. I learned a lot from these folks. They take criticism well. They take life in their strides and carry on with little worries about many things in life.

Last year, I went to Ọmí to visit him. He was very old and frail. He lived in my mom’s house at the time as the caretaker. It took him a while to recognize me. We haven’t seen each other for more than 20 years! When he did eventually figured out who I was, he cried, and I did too. He was so proud that I had grown and turned out okay. I hugged him and thanked him for great childhood memories. He went to my mum’s grave, in front of the house, with tears in his eyes, he said to her, “Bọ́sè, your child is home.”

Baba passed away in August, this year, reportedly in his sleep. I was in another part of the country and couldn’t make it back in time to attend his funeral. Today, I honor him as Ayinla Omowura takes me down memory lane on YouTube.

An Open Letter Against Xenophobia

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Dear South Africans,

Nigerians once thought Ghanaians were taking their jobs when the economy was still doing great in the eighties. That was the origin of the famous “Ghana must go” bag. The Ghanaians left. Nigerian economy nosedived. It is still nosediving. Now, Nigerians are yet to get those jobs they clamored for then. Their lot has not improved much over the decades. In fact, the rate of unemployment is at an all-time high with the cluelessness of the present leadership in Nigeria.

Just like a plot twist, Ghana bounced back. She has moved from having worthless currencies to one of the strongest against the dollar. She is still bouncing back economically. In fact, Nigerians now go to study at Ghanaian universities and to set up businesses. They’re are in Ghana buying up choice real estates. Nigerians are investing a lot in Ghana because the environment is good for business. Like they are in your country, Nigerians are everywhere in Ghana. Some get deported back at random for not having the right papers or for overstaying their welcome. All of these happen without bloodshed.

If all the African foreigners leave, including Nigerians, you will still need jobs. It won’t change the conditions of your townships and ghettoes. It won’t bring you the jobs you so desire. They are not the primary problem you have. Your political leadership and the black South African elites are your problems. They have failed you. Face them and demand accountability.

Killing foreigners will not stop drug and human trafficking. It will definitely hurt your economy. If all Nigerian, Zambian, Zimbabwean, Ethiopian, Tanzanian, and other nationals’ businesses and professionals should leave, SA will be worst for it. But if you insist, instead of killing them, let the government agencies do their jobs. Arrest, jail, and deport criminal elements. Fish out the criminals and hand them over. They live in your community. You know them.

I must also warn you, Nigerians are very tough. They will not leave just because you loot and burn their shops. They will start over from scratch and continue living in your country. So, in your interest, embrace your brothers from all parts of Africa. Demand that they employ more of your people at their businesses. If an Ethiopian sets up a tuck shop. Set up your own. Create a healthy business environment for competition. Embrace the live and let live.

Accept Yourself

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Self-acceptance is important. Accept yourself. This is not a message for those with supposedly low self-esteem. I’m talking to those who have public acceptance and image. The role models. There are lots of people in our community who are great inspiration for many. They live such an exemplary life that they become too big to fail or fall. The expectation of the crowd becomes the yardstick of their public, and sometimes, private conduct. If you’ve ever been the “perfect” child in your family, you’ll understand what I’m saying. When your parents begin to say, “why can’t you just be/behave like your sister/brother” to your siblings; then, you’re the one. Unknown to them, the pedestal becomes a burden. You begin to tailor your life carefully, not deviate from the golden child image. Your other siblings, while they live reckless and free as kids should, you’re locked up in the garb of the model child. Also, because the siblings are often scolded using you like the standard, they begin to dislike you. They begin to highlight your faults. They want to report every slip you make just to show that you’re not always a good boy or girl. Then, you begin to struggle to either justify your mistakes or to defend yourself against their “attacks” on your person. Worse still, you become aloof while translating their fault-finding as jealousy. So, you can’t ever be wrong.

Deep down, however, you begin to doubt yourself. You start to wonder if you are what they say you are or you’re just playing the part. No one knows the struggle because each time, you must wear the mask of the model child, student, artist, or public figure in your environment. Sometimes, it may lead to depression. Sometimes, it becomes an albatross around your neck. You carry that burden, and then, one day, you’ll make a mistake or lose your guard at a moment of weakness. Like a pack of cards, all the years you’ve invested in keeping up the image will collapse. The public that has always looked up to you, the parents that have always been proud of you will suddenly be disappointed. They will begin to feel like all the while, you’ve been pretending. They’ll forget all the time you’ve been good. You’ll lose the audience.

In response, you’ll then withdraw from society. So many thoughts would run through your mind–dark and harmful. You’ll become bitter and angry at yourself. For a long time, you’ve refused to do a lot of things because you’re worried about what people would say when they find out. Here’s a newsflash, you’re fallible. You’re human. You deserve to make mistakes. Take the mask off and live free. Life is transient, live a full life. Laugh at your silly and grave mistakes. Refuse to be the yardstick of other people’s life expectations. Accept yourself. Accept your flaws. Accept you’re human. When you fall, dust yourself up, learn the lesson and continue to live your life unapologetically. Trust me, you’ll have a new audience who will place no expectation on you. So, when you stare at yourself in the mirror, accept yourself. When you’re alone with your thoughts, accept yourself. Let the public worry about anything else.

Every Day is Suicide Awareness Day

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Sometimes, reading other people’s stories, we find the strength to tell ours. I have been monitoring the rise in deaths by suicide in Nigeria and the reactions to them. Some assumptions trail some of the unempathetic comments directed at the departed. Some would say suicide is not part of “our culture” and that no matter what, those who died should have found a lasting solution to the problems they were facing.

Mental health is the least discussed issue in our part of the world. It is stigmatized. People stone and make fun of those considered to be “mad.” Our folks assume all kinds of things about what made those individuals unfit for life as sane people. There are those who would take their mentally ill relatives to “spiritualists,” who would do nothing but flog and punish them in the name of exorcising the “spirits” possessing those sick individuals. Even the so-called psychiatric hospitals are hardly fit for rehabilitating human beings. Nigeria, as a country is a mental asylum. If one did not lose one’s humanity living in Nigeria, one would be close to the edge of mental breakdown without a keen sense of awareness that one is almost losing it. This situation is partly because nearly everything is designed to bring the worst out of a decent human being. By default, everything is designed to frustrate and drive one insane or kill one. The stories of those who chose to end it are not different from those of many. Coping mechanisms can breakdown. And some may not find a reason or worth attached to their life. So, they cut it short. The stories remind me of that dark time in my life. I almost ended it.

It is essential to understand that some wounds, however trivial to an outsider, may never heal. Some void may never be filled. I almost committed suicide a few years after losing my mom. With every second, the more that noose I made with a rag was tightening around my neck, by the staircase, the more I realized I wanted to live. Nobody was at home that day, but I somehow managed to rescue myself by swinging to hold the railings. It was a close shave. Since that event, I made up my mind to make my life count for something. Unless they are reading this post now, the relatives I was living with at the time did not know about this story. They could have found my body instead, and I would have been long gone. I didn’t even know what I was suffering from until much later. I was too young to understand grief and how to process the loss of a loved one. I just knew I felt alone, overwhelmed, and everything around me was tasteless and dark. I was barely fourteen.

My mother was my world. When she fell ill, I was the only one living with her at the time. I would travel to her younger sister’s place to pick up food. One of my older nieces, sister Bunmi, would occasionally help with washing her clothes and cleaning the house. I would bathe her in her chair and manage to change her clothing. I was eleven years old, turning twelve at the time. I would give her her medicine and hope she’ll be fine. There was no mobile phone, then. So, there was no way to reach out to distant relatives for help. When her situation got critical, her younger sibling, whom she fondly calls, Iyabo and older sister, Mummy Lalupon, came to tend to her. I was relieved of much of the duty, but I knew she would die eventually. She couldn’t talk, and I saw the pain and sorrow in her pale eyes. On the day she finally passed away, her older sister was praying on a mat in one corner of our house.

My mom’s breathing became labored, heaving heavily, and her frail body revealed the struggle to stay alive. She gave it her best shot and then, I watched her breathe her last. I didn’t cry. Her older sister couldn’t bear to watch the body. It was an abomination for the elder to bury her younger sibling. She had to leave. My mom’s younger sister was inconsolable. Everyone around me cried, and I couldn’t shed a single drop of tear. I walked to her sister and consoled her. I told her that a bucketful of tears would not bring my mom back. I went to lay beside her still body. It was warm at the time. Her eyes were expressionless. She had given life her best shot.

The following day, the hurriedly made coffin arrived. She was cold now. The veins were popping out underneath her dark, stretched, and glowing skin. I didn’t know her age at the time. That sort of detail doesn’t matter to a child who felt his mother would live forever. They asked me to leave her side. By the time of her burial, my elder brother, who was in college at the time, joined us. Still, I didn’t cry. I felt nothing.

When she was lying in state, I looked at her lifeless body. I realized she wasn’t coming back. The dam broke. I cried a little, but inside, I was crying a river. Then, it was time to put her in the ground. After the priest had preached, my older brother was handed the shovel. Dust to dust. Ashes to ashes. Then, it was my turn. I could hardly hold the shovel to throw one scoop of sand. The dam collapsed. I felt deep sorrow and sharp pain in my heart. I cried until I was weak. Then, we buried her. My aunties made sure the guests, neighbors, and passersby had something to eat.

Afterward, I went to live with my mom’s younger sister. I dealt with many things. The transition was strange, and everything was different. I started missing my mother. Part of coping with her loss was losing touch with my feeling and the fear of death. It was around this period that I decided to end it. Leading to that day, I would randomly say I wasn’t afraid to die, and my aunty would tell me to stop talking like that. One day, I tried to do precisely that—take my own life–and in the middle of it, I realized I wanted to live. Many more realized that fact a little too late because their chosen method of death could not be reversed. I was fortunate. I survived. Many won’t because they give in to that overbearing weight and that shadow that reduces everything to nothing. When you hear the story of a girl who took her life because her boyfriend left her, could you not call her a fool? We are not all wired to take betrayal and rejection kindly.

Many people couldn’t explain why they’re depressed. Some find themselves in shockingly unexpected circumstances that at that moment, the only solution they could think of is to die and not have to deal with the mess. If you haven’t been in that spot, you probably don’t have the language to deal with it. Some have spent a long time in therapy. That is not an option for many, especially in Nigeria. Please, don’t try to explain or insult the memory of the dead just because you can’t make sense of it. For many of those who took that option, their actions didn’t make sense to them as well. They find themselves in a void, a space of existence and decided it wasn’t worth the fight to stay alive.

If you’re reading this and you’re suffering from clinical or undiagnosed depression, please, seek help! If you fit the description, don’t give up on life. No matter what you’re going through, your life is not worthless, even if you convince yourself to believe it is. Depression comes in different forms. For me, as a thirteen-year-old, I couldn’t process or understand it. Now, I know better. It’s been decades since that experience, and I’m I glad to be alive? Absolutely! When you’re in that dark place, nobody understands, ask for help. If it doesn’t help, seek therapy or support. Don’t shut yourself out to the world. Suicide is never the answer to depression. Get help.

If you’re in the business of making jokes out of other’s misfortune, stop it! Close your mouth and pray that you’ll never find yourself in that void. Be supportive. If you must lend a voice, put yourself in their shoes. Otherwise, SHUT UP!

May 29

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Democracy-day-

Image source: Federal Ministry of Information and Culture, Federal Republic of Nigeria.

All over Nigeria, except for a few states, there will be a litany of plagiarized speeches. A lot of them will be highfalutin, good-for-nothing balderdash spewed from raised platforms as new and old politicians are sworn into office. It will be filled with, “I will do this and that.” There will be loud cheering by the party faithful and supporters. As usual, the events will be filled with pomp and pageantry. The speeches will mostly be in English, even when more than half of those attending don’t get the hang of it.

The newspapers, radio, and TV stations will have a field day. Friends of friends, cronies, various “movements” and “associations” of this and that, as well as politicians lobbying for appointments, will jostle for prominence in every available ad space. They will congratulate, swear allegiance, and hail the incoming “Excellencies.” The “excellencies” will be sworn in with either Bible or Quoran (I still look forward to ayílála prominently featuring as a swearing-in option in the ritual).

The motorcades will be as long as the river Nile. The security will be tight around the men and women of the hour. A mammoth crowd will throng every street leading to the venues of these auspicious occasions. Huge funds would have been withdrawn from the state coffers to cover the expenses and the after party where political friends and foes will pop the champagne, thank their stars and broker new deals on the sharing formula.

Afterward, the noise will subside. Everything will continue as they’ve always been. Yesterday, for some reason, will be looking rosier than today and tomorrow. The purveyors of our dysfunctional system will carry on as they are wont to do. Until the next election, there will hardly be any meaningful speech that connects the desire of the citizenry to the promises of May 29.

Of Poverty and Happiness

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I have no fond memory of being poor. I remembered the embarrassment of collecting food on “credit” before the end of the month. My mom was a primary school teacher. So, she wasn’t earning much. She passed on long before the beginning of the Fourth Republic when Obasanjo’s government reviewed workers’ minimum wage. I remembered going to sleep hungry sometimes. I remembered working for some of my friends’ parents, who are food sellers. Chores range from fetching water, doing dishes, helping to hawk food wrapped in leaves. I owe some of my friends and their parents a debt of gratitude. They helped me from always starving. My mom put up with a lot of insults and disappointments. She did her best to make me happy, but lack was a constant companion. There is nothing romantic about being poor. I wore a lot of hand-me-downs, oversized shoes, and pants that I would hold with ropes or belts. I was an adopted child of many where I grew up. Of course, I had fun playing with other kids and all, but there was nothing beautiful about growing up in poverty.

When people say things like “back in the day, we were poor and happy,” I always wondered if they experienced the same kind of poverty like me. I have no fond memories of drinking Bongo tea without bread and sugar. I can’t imagine how eating bread flour sourced from discarded bags at the bakery with “pàdé mi ní gun pá” (meet me at the elbow) watery water leaf soup is indicative of happiness.

As I speak, I am still warring with that scourge called poverty. My hatred for penury prevents me from equating it with happiness. How can you be poor and be happy? Is it the depressing situation that poverty brings, the shame, the pain, the dream-deferred, the economy of death, and suffering that one should be happy about? Is it the degradation that it produces in fueling corruption and fraudulent intent? Is it the agony of 10,000 naira being the difference between living and dying at the hospital? What exactly equates poverty with happiness? All that trails being poor can and should only motivate us to fight the system, seek better opportunities, and work harder so we can say, “never again.”

Don’t let anybody deceive you with “the rich also cry” mantra. The rich may cry for other things, but not where the three square meals would come from. I am always angry at the Nigerian government when I see potentials wasted and lives destroyed. Poverty is the motivation for voting against our interests. In a place where being modest is not a virtue when you’re rich, poverty cannot possibly make one happy. The rapacious intensity with which the politicians steal stems from the fear of lack and life after leaving the government. Wretchedness is not a virtue. It is not a prescription for happiness. Poverty is a scourge. We must collectively fight to end or reduce it in our society. When you see me, I’d like to hear how you survived and escaped poverty and not how you’re happy being miserable. If you romanticize poverty around me, a ma ní problem.

Please, help your family and friends abroad.

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Please, help your family and friends abroad. Don’t assume they’re rich. Those pictures on Facebook in serene environments don’t translate to wealth. When you call them, have sufficient credit. Find out how they are doing. Listen and believe them when they say they don’t have money. Ask them how you can help. Be genuine in your intentions. There are so many stories of family and friends who have scammed and betrayed their relatives abroad. It is painful to learn that a father, brother, sister, in-law, a friend that they trusted could be dishonest with helping them to manage a business, build a house, monitor investments or simply take care of the family they left behind.

Some of them cannot even visit because they live in the shadows. Some of them work themselves to death to send whatever they have. The sum of their dream is sometimes to have something to value and return to when they come home. Don’t let short-term gain or poverty or greed motivate you to add to their suffering and heartache.

Don’t always call to request for things. Call to tell them you have something waiting for them when they arrive. If they give you a T-shirt or whatever, appreciate it. It is free and given out of love. They thought about you by adding it to their luggage. When they come to stay with you, don’t burden them with all your financial and household needs. Let them, out of their own free will, contribute. They will come again and again. They will have fond memories of their visit. You may be a reason for bigger investments that will employ millions of people.

Be a bridge and a channel of blessing to them. Be understanding. Be kind. Assume nothing about their life. Support their hustle. Being a blessing has little or nothing to do with giving money. Just your time and effort to see them succeed is enough. It can also open more doors for you and your children. Be responsible with trust. Value your integrity over things that are here today and tomorrow, they’re no more.

Post-NYSC Blues

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During the youth service year, you begin to earn Federal and state allowances (“allawee”). You’re introduced to the world of work and earning while serving your country. It lasts for almost twelve months. If you’re lucky, you can get retained where you worked, but that’s not the reality for most of us. This is where what I call the post-NYSC blues begins to set in.

The post-NYSC blues becomes critical after two to three weeks of the passing out parade. At the end of that month, you’re suddenly aware that no money is forthcoming. You’re jolted to the reality of every job seeker in Nigeria. Now, if you’re living with your family, you begin to feel the need to move out in search of the greener pasture. This is when you’ll start asking tough questions about the future and what your degree can secure for you. I will narrate my post-NYSC story, and hopefully, you’ll find it helpful.

After NYSC, I taught myself, with the help of oga “Go-slow,” a professional photographer in my hometown, how to take pictures with an analogue camera that someone gave my father as a gift. It still had its manual, and it was just gathering dust in the storage. It was a gift no one needed at that time. So, out of frustration after a week of waking up, eating and doing nothing, I started reading the manual. Then it occurred to me that the annual Inter-House Sport at my former high school was a week away. I went and purchased a camera film to test-run my understanding of setting the right aperture and angle for shots. I took most of the shots at the games for free. Out of joke or sympathy, some of the students and community members took pictures with me. It was a humbling experience. Anybody who saw me carrying a camera around in my hometown would probably find it amusing. I suspect some of them were like, “how can a whole graduate be going about with a camera in the village?” or “Who taught him how to be a photographer?” I didn’t care. I just couldn’t stand idleness and joblessness.

I learned on the job. I took so many terrible pictures that I had to redo for the customers until I got really good at it. After a while, the business started bringing in money. I could feed myself and “drop something” to support folks at home. I could “escape” farm work for my dad. I was an earner now. It went on like that until I started my MA program at the University of Ibadan. I had even written a plan on how I was going to get a loan from wherever to expand the business and hopefully own a studio and a huge printing business in case I didn’t gain admission for the master’s program. I eventually got in and had to leave home.

I understand a new set of Corps members have been discharged from the NYSC programme. Please, while you’re still applying for jobs and other opportunities, occupy your time with something productive. You can learn a trade, a skill, or start a business. Some of you are still owed “allawee” by some state governments. When the money arrives, put it to good use! Invest in yourself to kill time. As a Mechanical Engineering graduate, you can learn a lot from boda Mufu the mechanic. A Civil Engineering graduate could learn something from that bricklayer or the building contractor in the area. Go there, offer to work for nothing if you can. If you need to learn computer skills, do it. If you need to start an extra-mural class for students in your area, do it. If it is cassava farming, do it. Don’t listen to those who will mock you or think you’re crazy. No one will take away the certificate and the knowledge you have acquired. It gives you a more competitive edge in mastering the new endeavor you have before you. An idle hand is not just the devil’s workshop; it is the beginning of poverty, low self-esteem, and underachievement. Subdue your ego and sense of entitlement a.k.a as-a-(fill-in-the-gap)-graduate, I-deserve-XYZ.

May you find a way to fulfill your heart’s desire. The only thing that beats work is more opportunities to work. If they’re not hiring, hire yourself and don’t be ashamed of the job you find to do. Go ahead and succeed.