Many years ago when I was just a 200 Level student of English at the University of Abuja, I arrived home during one of those short breaks we have after exams and noticed an empty 40ft container had been dumped by the side of our house. Because I was curious about this I went there from time to time to see what was happening in the container because I saw men get in there to do some work to make it habitable perhaps, for some purpose. After a few days the container looked different, maybe a place I would have loved to hire for a study and rehearsal area but Oga Aliyu; custom officer and owner would not rent to me. A week later, I noticed work had commenced in the container; there were young boys whom I found out were brought in from Kano to be useful to themselves I guess. They opened a local laundry place where people brought clothes, some to be washed, some to be washed and ironed. I liked the company of the boys whom I now visited frequently because they hardly could speak even one word of English; maybe they only knew “Good morning” and “fine”, the popular response to “How are you” only but for me I saw them as that avenue to sustain the little Hausa I acquired growing up, perhaps to also improve it. Of all these my Kano friends, Ibrahim and I got really close. He was 14 years old at the time and youngest amongst them. A day hardly went by that we did not see or speak even when school eventually resumed.
Time passed and there was another holiday this time a longer one because I was done with 2nd Semester 200 level and came home to family and my Kano brothers. On my return, I noticed some little changes in Ibrahim the moment I stepped into Maitama again, this time he did not want to converse in Hausa, he tried mixing this Hausa and English that did not make sense to me at all, I mean Hausa and Pidgin and our conversing just never worked so we ended up getting back to Hausa full time. One morning while I got ready to go see one of my old Mentors, Barr. Austel Elumelu, Ibrahim cornered me and said, 'Chuka, please teach me English. I want to go to school'. Honest, within me I laughed and I asked him, 'haba Ibrahim, ya ya za mu yi wanan abu wanda kana tambe ni yenzu?' (Forgive my Written Hausa) but it means 'Ha Ibrahim, how are we going to achieve this that you have asked of me?' He said, he did not know but was willing to wash my clothes and everyone's clothes in my house and iron them for free if I was willing to help him learn. I was moved by his commitment to the point that same evening, I went to some stacks of old books we managed to save from our burnt book stores and got some old books for nursery one - Primary 2, queen Primer and few others then we kicked off studies next day. In a week, Ibrahim had grabbed a-z, 1 - 1000, A-Z, could combine 2 and 3 letter words. Gradually, we spoke more of English than Hausa but I did not let him wash my clothes all the time for free sha but I did enjoy the free perks sometimes.
A month into our programme, I wished I was a teacher because Ibrahim, a mature Hausa guy who had never been to school and I mean never, had improved so much to the extent that during one of our lessons, he reminded me again, 'Chuka, I want to go to school, I want to be like you.' I was not sure what to say, I knew school was right because I loved education but I wasn't sure what this guy could ever make of it since all I have been able to teach him were in their preliminaries. But guys, you cannot tell what any seed could become because this guy shocked me oh. Before school resumed for the next session, Ibrahim told me he was going back to Kano, leaving the trade that made him dash me money sometimes to go to school. I thought he was joking but he left before I knew it; I woke up one morning with some clothes, I wanted him to wash for free and all I got in response was a note; 'Thank you Uncle Chuka 4 evritin' Well he tried to write something even though 'for was spelt as 4' and the spelling of 'evritin' I did understand and with tears in my eyes, I prayed that his dreams came true and then I went back to washing clothes myself.
Years passed and I moved from Maitama as a full-fledged bachelor but never forgot Ibrahim because I always asked from the Custom's man how he was doing. All I heard was fine and nothing else. One day, Ibrahim called me from the blues, he did not lose my number and he said, 'Uncle Chuka, am getting into J. S1' and I asked how it happened and he said he took exams and started from Primary 2 or so and other gist and we left it there. Some years later, Ibrahim called me again and said he was getting into the polytechnic, I was flabbergasted and wondered more what God was doing in the life of this guy and what he was also doing with himself but I wished him well. Now see the shocker that inspired this.
Few days ago, I was sitting in one of our businesses; RAPID EXPRESS LOGISTICS LIMITED working on some manuals with a friend when I received an SOS (important text) and it read 'Dear Uncle Chuka, good afternoon. I hope you are fine, Ebele, Emeka, Mummy and Everyone. I am sorry to bother you now because I am aware of the condition of things in the country but please I need even as much as 2,000N (N means Naira I guess) to manage for some days because I am broke. I will be grateful for your assistance. Ibrahim. Hmmmm, I read this message over 10 times and immediately made a call to the number and it was my friend and brother; Ibrahim. Nothing made my feeling better that evening, nothing made work simpler, I was impressed, happy, proud and anything you can think of reading from that guy and speaking with him who still had Hausa accents but good spoken and written English. I sent him 5,000 Naira and asked him to keep in touch because I know this man inspires me to also reach for dreams I have pushed somewhere down the drain. Just check this out; from not even a single word in English (Hausa only) to OND holder because he saw beauty in Education from a 200 level student of English. CHOI - I marvel.
My former MD, used to have a saying "When a Child lifts his hands up, he will be carried or lifted higher". My message for you today and for us as a nation; Nigeria that gets older is, Inspire someone today! Be among those who can lift people up, they may never be able to give you anything tangible in return but you will know fulfilment and you, our families, our nation and world will be a better place.
SO, WHO WILL YOU INSPIRE TODAY?
From me and the team at Jewel Publishers, we wish fellow Nigerians, Happy Independence day, all men and women a lovely October 2017.
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