By Tunde Asaju
This is NOT a Happy New Month piece. It is one of gratitude. But I am grateful to see a new month and to see Christmas on the horizon. In March when Covid-19 hit the world, I thought I had caught it. I owe it to Dr Motunrayo and my good brother Garbs who rallied and saved my life.
My story is a big one and it tears me up in many ways. I tell my children that the way God has blessed me, there is no way it could have been anything else but God.
The special privileges of my life’s journey would not have been given to me if it was zoned to Okeagi (Ok-City) in Kogi State; there are better qualified people in that town.
If it was zoned to Laofin, the clan where I was born, it would not have been given to me because again, there are too many better qualified people.
If it was given to the MB and MT Asaju family, I am still not qualified, I was not the first born and I am least qualified again at that level.
Leaving home a few months to my 18th birthday, I was going to meet an aunt whose face I hardly recognized having seen her only once. I had to borrow the cash given to me by a townsman to add to what my poor parents could scrap up to push me away from the shame of leaving secondary school and ending up like my father in the farm.
Even secondary education was a miracle. My parents had no capacity to give that to me, my Uncle JT Sanni who initially offered to pay tuition and fees had to write a letter to the principal asking to pay the fee twice or more.
There was a ten-year gap between secondary school and university during which I struggled to do so much with so little result. Prof Akanji Nasiru provided moral and financial advice to keep me going the first year. The Herald provided the opportunity for most of the rest of the journey. My gratitude goes to Dapo Olorunyomi, Mrs Adeola Oyawoye, Egbon Ademola Adetula, Elvis Olowodara, Seth Maiyekogbon and the Olutola family played pivotal parts. God delayed admission because my girl was just getting ready to meet her future husband. It works like magic when God’s the one putting the puzzle together.
University education over, I had no place to go. The drums of ethnicity were beating in Ilorin and my days at The Herald were numbered. But He who sits in his heavens was laughing! Steve Segun Olutola came to my rescue and I moved to Lagos. My journey here was hectic but the likes of Isaiah Abraham was on hand to help, so was nurse Ajayi. In that precarious time during which treks between Mushin and Ikeja were constant and later between Oshodi and Ikeja, I found my many-times saviour, Muyiwa Akintunde. He worked me through to Newswatch.
Newswatch was hard and I was no good copy. Someone particularly made sure that I suffered ignominy because of my bad copies. I was sent to Abuja because of my bad copies. The idea was that I would go for that assignment, fail and be asked to resign or fired. Again, fate had a different plan.
In the days when promotion was based on your copy, I missed it. Again He who sits in the heavens was laughing. The assignment meant to demote me uplifted me. I got the promotion that was denied me, thanks to Egbon Soji Akinrinade and the good spirit of my senior ogas. When I was asked to return to Lagos to take my transfer fee, someone stood against it, asking me to find my way to Abuja and ask for refund later. I was frustrated, but He who sits in the heavens was laughing.
I had applied for the Journalists in Europe programme and had forgotten. During those SAP riots days, a call came through and before you could say bonjour – I was in France on one of the best scholarships from the Kingdom of Netherlands – the Dutch rocks!
I left a fragile marriage behind and off to Paris. I returned to another transfer and promotion. Publisher Moffat Ekoriko was the first Principal Staff Writer, I became the second! Then came a rash of awards and winnings. I applied for the Chevening Scholarship which was not granted to anyone but those with 2/1 or higher. Grace answered for me, I got it.
Now, all the acts of God in my life, and the privileges He has opened – behold they’ll be written in details in my biography. And in case I don’t live to write one, I have a child that is interested enough to cobble it together for anyone interested.
I don’t know why I am writing this, but I do know how many of my mates, colleagues and superiors attribute their progress to planning – not ME. I have been a product of planlessness – that kind of planlessness that hinges on the divine.
Now I am not a prayer warrior. I was not born in a home that prayed by rote, we just lived! But I will be a fool not to acknowledge in this great month of November of the most trying year of my existence not to say a big thank you to God. I hope that these funny stories speak to someone including perhaps, those who feel that living in Canada was part of my plan.
That part of the story is fraught with several anecdotes that for good reasons I am NOT prepared to share now. A few friends know its a struggle. Those who I have had to deny pleas for help have no idea how I got here and how I am sustained here. But a few good friends know and perhaps that’s all that matters.
I am indebted to that beautiful girl I met in class at Unilorin French Class. French failed me but that encounter has made me. I regret the tears I’ve made her shed and I make no promises there won’t be more. But grosso modo, if this lady has not been beside me, behind me, the shame that was predicted would be mine would have been exposed to the whole wild world. Thanks Bola, I truly appreciate you. I have never felt like I deserved you – but then, God has never really given me what I deserve.
Oloun o je a moore o, amin.
Now, this works much more than going to a locked down church today. Dear God, please accept it as my act of worship. You have been an awesome God and you can never change!
-Tunde Asaju, a multi-lingual journalist, writes from Ottawa, Canada