This is not who we are

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By Ibraheem Abdullateef

2010.

I was in secondary school two (SS2) ripe for state mock examinations to promote to the SS3. A barely fifteen- year- old boy with no clear cut dream or ambitions. Those days only ended and started with the hope to play football again. Life was what we see or hear, not what we think and feel.

I’d go ahead to make true of the saying ‘failing to plan is a plan to fail.’ Examination papers leaked that year. So many students got on it– I also did, even implicating my brother. Government inefficiency was no excuse. If I was morally and educationally sound, I’d have stayed off it. I didn’t. Like the Kwara pallia-thieves.

Government began an investigation into it. Mallam Bolaji Abdullah was the Commissioner for Education. Some of us were caught and were asked to repeat for two years. Two good years? You’d exclaim! Some of you would have looked for everything to justify my mistake and even upbraided the government in a bid to shield me. You could have said they weren’t careful, didn’t fund education well, or didn’t teach us right.

My father didn’t do so. After he struggled to recover from the shame and trauma I brought upon him, he cleared his throat one day, “When are you going to start school?” I was shocked. It was a way to prepare my mind to bear the consequences of my actions. I cried better than ever! To repeat? To become a junior to those guys who called me senior? To go back two years into my destiny? As naive as I was, I knew the psychological and emotional burden. But he’d not bulge.

I began at my father’s behest. As if fate conspired to punish me, my school changed the school uniform at the time. New students were to wear a white shirt over a long blue pair of trousers. It was so easy to pick repeaters apart as they were still wearing the old yellow shirt. See shame! Father didn’t get me a new one. I thought he was a first-grade hater, who would stop at nothing to see me fail as a person. I began to loathe him too.

Or What kind of father would not protect his son and secure his future? I would often wonder. My heart heartened and resolved to succeed to prove him wrong. Fate smiled on me and brought Mrs Salami, a senior teacher in the school my way. She provided all the motivation I needed, helping me to rediscover my confidence and potential. I’d become the Assistant Head Boy of the same college, winning several laurels before I graduated high school.

2020.

I am just realising what my father did for me. While I thought he was giving me up not withdrawing me from that school as many parents did for their erring children, he actually rebirthed me that day(one reason I love Lukman Mustapha’s 2019 campaign theme: Rebirth. It captured my personal story). You can imagine what would have followed. I’d have been registered in a quick success centre, cleared the papers and proceeded to the higher institution on the empty skull. Such a certificate will not stop me from ever cheating to succeed anywhere in life.

Cheating, looting, violence are not our traits in Ilorin. No Ilorin person encourages these habits. Our values do not include crimes and immorality. Like my father did in my case, we don’t cook justifications for them. We let the recalcitrant children brave the consequences of their actions to straighten up. I am a living example.

“I am not rich. But no one will say I come begging them to feed you. If I strive this hard to make all of you turn out well for yourselves and you are not sitting tight, you will eventually realise it is your loss. The future will tell.”

It is ten years after owning my mistake and suffering for it. People who know me will describe me better. What I’d say of myself is that serving my punishment brought me repentance and remodelled my orientation about law and morality. It gave me a sense of purpose, fairness, and justice. Indulgence would have deprived me of that gift.

On all those who looted Ilorin dry yesterday under stupid guises and threw the state and many business owners into pandemonium and mourning, the future will definitely tell. Either for good or bad, it always does. Whenever it eventually did, those who supported and indulged you in the habit will feature in the story. Like my father and Mrs Salami will always get a mention in my own case for eternity.

Life is a story. You are writing yours NOW.

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