Continued from Part One…
That week, I survived the shyness, through courage. By 1983, I finished and I cleared all my papers. Unfortunately, when I took JAMB, I had no idea that Public Administration had been removed from the University of Illorin’s course list. I made a good result but by the time I got to the University of Illorin, they had stopped offering Public Administration and nobody would help me change the course. The following year, 1984 there was no admission for me and in 1985 I gained admission into the Sociology Department at the University of Illorin.
In my first year, I was sent away because of my involvement in student union activism. Late Gani Fawehinmi assisted those of us who were involved and we were able to return to school. I eventually graduated.
I would like to detail my experiences from when I finished secondary school:
At the time when I finished secondary school, I was riding a Vespa. But someone told me that if I went to Kano I would make more money riding my motorcycle. I was amazed and I told myself that I would find my way to Kano.
I went to my mechanic to service the Vespa. After servicing it, I asked him, “Now that you have serviced it, do you think it can take me to Illorin?” He assured me that it would. “If you want to go to London, it can take you there.”
I told everybody that I was going to Illorin. I wore three trousers, five shirts, a face cap and goggles and began my journey to Kano. When I got to Illorin, the cold was unbearable. I think I may have to go back to Illesha, I thought. I kept going.
When I got to Tegina, I was stopped by some strangers. I thought that they were armed robbers. “Gentleman, where are you going?” they asked. I told them I was going to Kano. “What? We passed you in Jebba. We made a stop there, and now on our way, we see you here and you still seem like you’ve got a long journey ahead! Could you please sleep here in Tegina and then continue the journey in the morning?” They gave me five hundred naira; big money back then. Wow, I thought. I slept in Tegina.
The following day, I entered Kaduna where I had a cousin. My cousin saw me and asked me where I was coming from. I told him I was coming from Ilesha and he said, “I know you very well. I have known you from birth and I am not surprised that you would do such a thing. Are you mad?” I told him that I still had to get to Kano. “Have you ever been to Kano? No? Okay, who do you know in Kano?” I said to him: “All I know is that I want to go and work in Kano.”
My cousin insisted that I stay a while in Kaduna. He kept me there for three days. Each day he would look at me and say, “I ought to just kill you. Anyway I know you. You’re such a courageous young man.”
When I got to Kano, I discovered that Vespas were not being used for commercial transport. What do I do? I started to move around Kano and I would see men and women on Vespas. Somebody said to me, “Don’t you know that if you see a woman with a man on a Vespa, she must be his wife or girlfriend. Chances are that man has a car as well.” It became clear that the thing to do was to sell the Vespa and buy a motorcycle. I said to myself, since my elder sister is in Katsina, let me ride the Vespa to Katsina State. She will sell it for me so that I can buy a motorcycle and return to Kano.
I hadn’t change the tyres I used from Illorin. I continued my journey to Katsina. As I was approaching Bichi Local Government Area in kano State – at a slope, the tyre burst and I somersaulted.
I woke up nine hours later in a hospital.
At the hospital, I told them that I was on my way to Katsina to see my sister. I was given a free ride to Katsina. When I got to Katsina, my sister burst into tears when she saw me. “Kehinde, what happened to you?” I told her how I had journeyed from Osun to Kano, she couldn’t believe her ears.
“You wanted to sell the Vespa and buy a different kind of motorcycle. What will you do now that the motorcycle is damaged?” I pressured her to buy me a motorcycle.
After I had recouperated, my sister bought me a motorcycle. I went back to Kano and started doing the commercial motorcycle business.
One day someone told me that if I went to Lagos State, I could make real good money working as a conductor. I was very interested. I sold the motorcycle and moved to Lagos. Unfortunately when I got to Lagos I couldn’t get a vehicle to work with, so I began going around with bricklayers.
The bricklayers told me that the conductor business was good business in Lagos. I eventually left them and got a start working as a conductor. I started going about with drivers and after some time, they began letting me drive the vehicles myself. I drove Molue and all kinds of vehicles for eight years. It was in the sixth year in the garage that I wrote the JAMB examination (in 1985).
It was out of the money from the garage, the transport business that I bought the JAMB form. I would go to the University, come back to Lagos to drive. If I couldn’t find a vehicle, I would work as a conductor. I would use my income to complement the money I got from my uncle, Barrister Olagunju Arowosegbe. That was how I finished and graduated from the university. I had thought about my good result from secondary school and I decided I couldn’t just keep it aside. I was determined to go to the university whether or not I had a sponsor.
While I was in the university I had heard that a lot of graduates who left the universities couldn’t find jobs. I told myself, me, I will never lack jobs. I will graduate and I will get a job. When I eventually graduated, the first job application I filled got me a job in an NGO. Today, this same NGO work has taken me to all the continents of the world. There is no continent I have not been to. This same job has built a house for me. This same job has sent my children to the university – out of determination.
The first time I stepped foot in the US and I was picked up from the airport I burst into tears; because my past never spoke it. My antecedents never spoke it. Me in the US… How did I make it? I can’t explain. Whatever you are determined to do, never look at the obstacles. There will definitely be obstacles, but no obstacle can ever stop a determined man.