I was born into a humble family where character and competence were two guiding principles that my parents taught us to live by. Actually more like forced us to live by. We were not given that choice. And whenever I strayed away I often had what the Yorubas called ‘pankere’ to deal with. ‘Pankere’ is cane. Simple. “Foolishness abounds in the heart of a child but the rod of correction drives it out” says the holy writ. I suspect my mum came across that saying just about the time I was born because she never spared us. Oh I meant she never spared me.
I recall a time in elementary School when I was on summer holidays and in our home, it didn’t matter if you had a place to go or not, you had to get up, brush your teeth and take your bath. My mum left the house quite early for some appointment and by the time I realized what was happening, I heard her honk as she drove into the compound. I froze.
It was afternoon. I had not done all the tasks she asked me to do and neither did I have my bath. Today, I don’t even recall what took my time. Maybe I was just idling away. I was just too petrified and time constrained to perform any magic before she stepped into the living room but my butt and the ‘pankere’ had a warm date that afternoon. Unforgettable. When your mum is both an African and a teacher born about seven decades ago, you’ll certainly understand the definition of double jeopardy.
With character and competence as the hallmark of our growing up years, I was brought up to be hardworking. To do what is right and what is required regardless of how painful that is. I learned to work hard and seek no glory for doing same. It was a hard, painful and humbling training because I often wondered why my mates and friends had so much freedom but not I. Then I was sent to a boarding School founded and managed by the late Dr.Tai Solarin, a disciplinarian; Mayflower School Ikenne. As a student and protegee of late Dr. Tai Solarin I learned to ‘work my fingers to the bone’ and to keep my ego in check because there is nothing you do or achieve that will make your leaving any place create an unfillable hole. He taught us a song titled ‘the indispensable man’ adapted from the writings of Saxon White Kessinger.
So why did my dad ‘lie’? He taught me to go to School, be excellent in my studies, work hard, get a good job, believe in God and life will be rosy for me. He taught me that when I do good to people, life will be good to me and others will do good to me. He taught me that hard work is the medicine for poverty and so I should work hard. I was even made to recite a Yoruba poem that emphasized that belief repeatedly until I knew it by heart. Mmmh. What I wasn’t told is that even roses have thorns. I wasn’t told that it takes more than hard work to be wealthy. I didn’t realize there would come fearful moments in life when I wouldn’t have answers to my life challenges. I didn’t realize that despite my hard work, I would face challenges that were not taught in School. He didn’t tell me life won’t make it possible for him or my mum to always be there for me when I need either or both of them. I didn’t know that days will come when I will lay awake on my bed at 2am asking myself, “how the heck did I get here?” I didn’t know that even though you are good hearted, people will misunderstand you and mistreat you. I didn’t know that even when you plan and pray and work hard, your dreams may still fall like a pack of cards around you. I never knew that friends and family will betray you, belittle your passion and fight your dreams. I didn’t know that even when you don’t steal, when you don’t take what does not belong to you, when you don’t rob anyone that people will still steal from you, rob you and even harm you. I didn’t know I would continually face fear as long as I live. Apparently, courage is not the absence of fear. I didn’t know. #livewhilealive#exceedyourlimits #makeyourlifecount#dapobankole