Nigeria's leading fictional story blog - back to Africa, needy in Nigeria, my mother, streets of Lagos, Virginia Technical University,
“I am pleased to introduce to you, the best graduating student from Virginia Technical University, Miss Chinenye Okafor,” the master of ceremonies announced with excitement. Chineye had just finished her bachelor’s degree in Biochemistry with a 3.9 out of 4.0 grade point average. The crowd clapped and cheered with fervid energy. With a demure smile on her face, Chinenye walked to the podium. She was clad in a black skirt and a flowery colorful blouse that spoke volumes of its African influence. She had her aunt who lived in Lagos make the outfit for her specifically for the occasion. She wore native African beads around her wrist and her hair was woven in patterns that were richly African. She stood at the podium and waited for the crowd to quieten down. She smiled and bowed severally. When the crowd finally became quiet, she cleared her throat and began to speak. “Thank you! Thank you for that very warm welcome. I am most grateful. On a day like this, it is easy to be carried away in the celebrations…it is easy to stand here and think that I am the brightest; the best, the most important. To think like that would be arrogant of me. More so, it would not paint a picture of the full story. Yes, I have had to burn the candle at both ends since I was accepted to study at this wonderful and prestigious university. I love it here. I have been empowered, encouraged, challenged and inspired by many people at Virginia Tech.
“To every single one of my professors, I am most grateful. I like to extend my deep-felt gratitude and express my indebtedness to some other people who paved way for me to stand here today. You see, in 1996 a certain man graduated from the University of Lagos, one of Nigeria’s most revered universities. He was an engineer, having left school with second class upper division in Mechanical engineering. He was buoyant, filled with passion for life and eager to make a name for himself in the world. His parents had worked themselves into deep economic holes to pay his tuition and to cover the entire cost of university education. He owed them a lot, and he was keen to make good his promise to himself to pay them back. Each morning, he walked the streets of Lagos searching for a job that would set him on the path to living his dreams. Soon, he realized that jobs were not anywhere to be found. Doors were slammed in his face and he saw people toss his CV in the bin. Life was beginning to turn into a nightmare.
“Many of his colleagues took odd jobs and settled for whatever life would throw at them – pittance so to speak. They took jobs in the streets as bus conductors and laid bricks at construction sites, understandably to make ends meet. This man did the same, sweating and hustling in the chaotic streets of Lagos…but he never shelved his dream of being more and doing more. He wanted his unborn children to have what he never had. He envisioned a different path; a different life for them. At night after his bus conductor job, he sent out letters to universities in Europe and America looking for a scholarship. Each week, he received dozens of negative replies while some did not even bother to answer him at all. At this time, he told his college sweetheart to carry on. ‘I cannot keep you waiting my love. Carry one for my future is uncertain.’ She would not hear of it. Like gum, she stuck by his side as she too labored in search of a job. He sent out over a hundred applications abroad. Nothing happened.
“Somehow, he would not stop. At times he sobbed when he was alone. Commuters in the street called him names on a daily basis…the typical street, you know. He was broken but not defeated. He thought of his parents and his unborn children; he thought of his beloved girlfriend whom he wanted to take care of and he soldiered on. One day, he sent ten letters out to different universities. One hot evening, he returned home to a letter that said he would be considered for scholarship at a university in the US. He got all his documents together, used his life savings to register for GRE and TOEFL exams. He studied at every opportunity he could find. Soon, the results were out and he passed in flying colors. He was awarded a scholarship, and a new phase in his life began. He worked like a donkey and sacrificed everything he could to justify his scholarship having arrived in this country with only twenty five dollars in his pocket.
“Went on to acquire a PhD in Chemical Engineering and went home to marry his sweetheart who had waited all along. Then came myself and my siblings. With the same passion and drive, they have nurtured us with pride and love. They both kept their promises to their parents whom they have loved and provided for without holding back. They give all they can and go further to give much more. They left friends and family to build a new life in a foreign country. Did I mention to you that he struggled to find work after he had finished his studies here? He went through a grueling experience trying to convince employers that he could actually do the job. Somehow, someone gave him a chance. He has slept on bare floor at some points when he could not find work. He went on a few slices of bread at times for a whole day and sometimes beyond. He saw his younger brother die because there was no money to provide him with proper care. When he tells the story up to this day, he tears up. He had landlords chasing him around for rent, and he has tasted the scary experiencing of being homeless for a short while.
“If I had the powers daddy, I would bring back your brother who died. I know you loved him so much and sadly, he will never be back. That is the reason I want to become a doctor. Like you, I want to dedicate my life to caring for others. I have decided to continue my study by going to medical school. When I am done, I want to head back to Africa…I will make the opposite journey that you did to use my time and talent to help the people who need it the most. I will not be able to bring back your loving brother and I will not save everyone, but if I could save one…if I could work with the passion to save people over making millions, perhaps I could help one…maybe two…maybe three or more people in the same situation as your brother was when he died. If I could do that, my life would become truly meaningful and rewarding as yours is. When I look at you, I see true fulfillment. You work assiduously for your family – us your children, and you give your all for your parents, brothers and sister as well as mom’s. True joy comes from serving others; saving others who cannot help themselves. You saved me…you paved a path for me before I was born. I hope I can do a tenth of what you have done by giving my all to others especially the needy in Nigeria where you were born and raised. Thank you dad…thank you mom. I will forever remain indebted to you. This is for you two.” There were no dry eyes in the crowd after she had finished talking. Her proud parents looked on with tears of joy raining down their faces.
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