Monday, June 8, 2020 7:02 pm
By Nduka Otiono
There couldn’t be a better time to receive such an awesome news to lift up the spirit than at this time of the global pandemic and uprisings against anti-Black racism. And the incredible news is that my 17-year young mentee has just been awarded a dream scholarship worth $192,000 for undergraduate studies at an American University. As I blog this news here, the young boy who lives with is family in a suburb of Lagos, is still processing the mind-blowing news.
The journey to this historic moment has taken about 5 years, dating back to the summer of 2015 when I was a Carnegie African Diaspora Fellow at Delta State University, Abraka. In search of a conducive place to park my jeep which I had shipped to Nigeria for my use, fate conspired with my friend and personal assistant Sunny to intervene in the life of this brilliant boy. It turned out that while checking out the potential site for parking the jeep, Sunny accidentally sighted the boy’s father reviewing his school report card and complaining about why his son didnt make a perfect average score. Sunny asked to see the result, and was stunned by the boy’s outstanding grades. As the father would later inform me, Sunny immediately told him that he had to connect him with a Prof whom he was sure would mentor his brilliant son.
Sunny called me immediately and luckily we connected. I was impressed beyond words by the total commitment of the boy and his father, who started personally taking delicate care of my jeep parked at the warehouse where he worked. He proved to be so totally dependable that I never bothered that he kept the keys to my SUV or worried about the safety of the vehicle. When the tires went down he would inflate them; occasionally he would warm the car to preserve my battery, etc. Sometimes, he embarrassed me with expressions of gratitude for taking his son under my wings–coaching and advising about the steps that have led to this rare scholarship he has just earned.
When I travelled to Nigeria for a second Carnegie African Diaspora Fellowship, his father brought his son to visit me at my hotel. I saw the slim, dark, unassuming young boy, and teased him about his carefree dress sense. I joked that he needed to match his intelligence with a befitting sartorial taste. We laughed and his father assured me he would work on that. We strategized for him to develop his resume beyond focus on academic excellence, and that he should look beyond local competition. Ever doting on his son and attentive to his academic progress, the father took every suggestion as if their lives depended on them. He enrolled the young boy for SAT as I advised. The boy scored 800 over 800, and was approached by some US universities. Applying my experience, I guided the family through dealing with tempting offers that were largely entry scholarship that could leave the boy stranded. His father could not afford the balance of the fees, and I advised against sending such a young boy abroad without financial guaranties. Confident about the boy’s prodigious abilities, I cautioned the dad to take it easy, assuring him that his son was gifted enough to land a big deal with time.
And then, this latest opportunity knocked. Once I noticed the interest in the boy was keen, we had to work the negotiation delicately. And the university kept coming back and finally offered full scholarship for the boy to study Computer Engineering for 8 semesters.
Needless to add, this is yet another brain drain abroad, to a place where his gifts are already being appreciated even before he gets really started. This young boy and his father represent the kind of talent that, very often, hardly finds fulfillment in our homeland. Without departments of Guidance and Counselling and other critical infrastructure that lead to career excellence, lots of gifted young people in Nigeria end up in the streets as failures or average performers in spaces that stifle their extraordinary brilliance and creativity. In some cases, such brilliant people end up working for rogue politicians and business tycoons whose stock in trade is owing salaries and abusing their staff–I am still owed several months unpaid salaries by some establishments I worked for in Nigeria after decades.
Even as a 17-year old, this young boy is already earning honorarium in USD for articles on artificial intelligence that he is contributing to some international online platforms. His confidence has soared, and he is looking forward to becoming one of the best artificial intelligence professionals in the near future.
Talk about the audacity of Fate and Hope! Good luck, citizen F, and always remember as you embark on the next chapter that indeed Black Lives Matter. Now, someone give me a gourd of fresh palmwine straight from Ubulu-Okiti in Anioma Land for appropriate libations. And I don’t any of you converting 190,000 USD to Naira or asking me to reveal the identity of the boy and his father.
PLEASE SHARE TO INSPIRE SOMEONE OUT THERE ALMOST GIVING UP HOPE IN THEIR FUTURE…