Behind Every Dark Cloud

Updated: Jun 25, 2020


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| This is the 450th story of Our Life Logs |

I grew up in the rural area of West Africa. I was born in June 1980 in Ogun, Nigeria, as the fourth of six children in our family. My father was a police officer, and my mother ran a small shop. My life started out normal, just like that of any other young boy in our village—we didn’t have much, but we had family, we had occasional laughs, and we had dreams.

My dream was to become a legal practitioner one day, the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, to be precise. See, my childhood friend, Julius, and I took making money serious. At the tender age of 10, we both realized the value of wealth and decided that we didn’t want to live like our parents. We wanted to someday get out of our village and live in a big city as rich and influential men. I knew it was a big dream and would take a lot of sweats, but I didn’t know that my journey would be so full of trials and tribulations.

Section Break-Mountains

In 1995, I was attending secondary school: the Anglican grammar school in the Mushin area of Lagos State; it was not far from home. I had just finished my first year when news came that my father got shot by armed robbers when he was on night patrol. The gunshot didn’t take his life, but he got paralyzed permanently. Due to his condition, he was asked to stop working.

A few days after my father was discharged from the hospital, while our family was still recovering from the devastating news of his injury and the consequential financial burden that fell on my mother, another disaster hit. My elder brother and sister were involved in a hit-and-run, and they both died on the site. The loss was so sudden and so devastating that we didn’t really know how to digest the sadness; our hearts were simply broken.

Yet, in a dark moment like that, what else could we do other than swallow our grief and let life push us along to the next moment?

Me, 1995.
Me, 1995.
Section Break-Mountains

September came and I went back to school with a sorrowful heart. Then, one month later, a fire razed my mother’s shop and destroyed everything. Everything. What were we to do? We couldn’t stop questioning why. Why us?

To help out, my siblings and I started to hawk packaged water on the streets after school. With the little money we earned from our hawking business, we managed to finish that semester. During the winter break, I went home. My father became ill. We sent him to the general hospital in Ikeja, the capital city of Lagos State, and the doctors diagnosed him with kidney failure. They concluded that he needed a surgery and it would cost three million Naira (about $8,300 USD). Three million? Where could we get that kind of money? We had no one to turn to for help. In the end, my father asked my mother to go to the Police Service Commission to collect his pension benefits. She went there immediately.

Months after my mother’s first visit to the Commission, she was called in to collect my father’s benefits, a total of 3.2 million Naira ($8,800) approximately. We were overjoyed. Had the money come any later, it would be too late for my father to have the surgery.

The surgery was done two days later and was successful. My father recovered well, and with the leftover money, we were able to pay our house rent for that year. The problem was my school fees. After the surgery and the rent, there was nothing left. I had no choice but to drop out of school.

It seemed I was going farther and farther away from my dream.

Section Break-Mountains

After dropping out of school, I joined my mother and siblings in selling fruits and packaged water on the streets of Lagos. For a while, we were almost doing okay, until three months later, another misfortune befell us. It was 1997. My mother fell ill. At first, we thought it was uncomplicated malaria, but when malaria medicine proved ineffective, we became alarmed. We took her to the hospital and found out she was having Stage-II womb cancer. Chemo and other treatments were estimated to cost around seven million Naira ($20,000), way too much for us to afford. My mother was given three months to live without treatment. All hope was lost.

A few months later, cancer took her life and put us into sheer darkness. Before her death, though, my mother’s last words to me were for me not to abandon education. I decided that I would try all I could to honor her wish.

After the burial of our mother, my siblings and I continued with our hawking business in Lagos. We did that until our landlord began demanding the rent. The previous year’s rent had elapsed and the landlord was not in the mood to listen to our plea. Running out of options, we relocated to our home village in Ogun State.

Section Break-Mountains

A few weeks into our stay in the village, I became dejected. I was not used to the rural life and found it difficult to cope. It felt like there was no hope for a better life if we continued to live in the village. We tried our best for the next few months, but when we had exhausted all efforts in finding a solution to improve our condition, I decided that I would go back to the city of Lagos alone to seek a better future for us. My father gave me his blessings.

When I arrived in Lagos, the first thing I did was to contact my old friend Julius who I knew was living in the city, but I was soon disappointed when I found out that Julius and his family had moved to Abuja a few months ago. The news of their relocation shattered my hope of getting cheap and cozy accommodation. After wandering the streets of Lagos, I decided to settle under the famous Carter Bridge to spend the night.

Early next morning, I began searching for jobs. By evening, I was exhausted, but my search was still fruitless. That night, I went back to the bridge and was accosted by some street boys, asking me to pay them rent. Because they had been sleeping under the bridge for so long, they felt it had become their home. What a funny world, asking for rent under a bridge. I found myself begging them that I had no money, and I was homeless. They threatened to beat me up, but a soldier and his bodyguards passing by at that time rescued me.

The soldier, Mr. Ali, was a Major in the Nigerian army. He usually took a walk in the evening with his bodyguards. That was around the time the boys were harassing me. “What is going on here?” he asked the urchins. They became scared and walked away from me.

I thanked the man and his bodyguards. He asked me what I was doing there. I told him my ordeal, leaving nothing out. Major Ali sympathized with me and took me to his house. He offered me free accommodation for as long as I wanted to stay. I was so grateful. Finally, a ray of sunshine had found its way into my life.

Section Break-Mountains

With accommodation no longer a problem, I devoted my time to searching for a job. After one month, I finally found employment in a factory producing baby foods. The pay was not good, but it was what was available to me at that time. I took the job immediately.