Promise Emmanuel At 30: Fear, Courage, Hope
It is 11:59pm, I see them close the Bonny Cantonment main gate in Victoria Island. hurrying to jump in. Far from the chase. 12am. It is locked. I remain stranded.
I had spent 4 hours in Ajose Adeogun traffic. We got to Adeola Odeku. We saw nothing but two bus drivers arguing on who carried the fairest Ecobank Staff, leaving the old UBA one. It is “Iyalaya” everybody scene.
Lagos is crazy.
People in Lagos have got to be crazy to survive Lagos. You live for 20 years, spend 15 actual years in traffic. Although, they are proud of it. This is why Abuja and Lokoja is boring to the Lagosian whose life is about traffic, “ability to work under intense pressure”, indomie relationships and high rents that takes half of what you earn in a year. Somebody, sorry, some people own Lagos, it has to be so. It is a land of opportunities and traffic. Eko O ni Baje o, traffic lo bá je.
At the feet of the Bonny Camp gate was the under-bridge settlement for hoodlums and every kind of Lagos hooligan. The homeless. The mentally insane. The stranded-looking-for-transport. The traffic-traders. This is where I make home tonight.
With a cute face sitting on a small neck, I become an endangered species in the community of Agberos. It is a night I must sleep, I have to look tough.
I unbutton my shirt. Fold a sleeve. Fold one plain of my trousers. I cub my unbuttoned sleeve into a Lagos Conductor appearance. Iyalaya everybody. Na all of us get this Lagos today. Guy no Dey guy gayoyo.
I pick a corner. The boys are looking. I look away. I cap some lines from Dagrin’s song. Everywhere is calm. Another lost omo ita has come home to sleep.
It is 5am. I get back on the road. I cannot get home again to prepare for work. I would be getting to work by 9am. I resume 7:30am. I sit as Front Desk Officer at Resource Intermediaries Limited by 8am. 8am is 8am. It is not civil service. No free salary.
I get into the driver’s tub. Get a quick bath before anyone comes. The AC in my office helps the skin not to sweat. So it is clean. I wore yesterday in today because tomorrow is all I have got. Shola Adekoya, one of the most important persons in my life is who my face meets first as I make climb away from the back office with signs of early bath. She understands. I understand. No one says anything. We all understand.
I am 21. Life has started. Daddy left at 8. Life is left for me to make it whatever I wanted.
You see, many lies are told to young people. Some of them hang themselves before 30, especially in a country that has no plans for anyone, including birds in the sky. They do so because nobody plans for you but everybody expects you to succeed. You then keep praying about everything because you’re helpless.
From the churches to the motivational sessions you attend, they won’t tell you that planning is key to every success that God blesses.
If you’re 30 like me, your life is broken into three decades.
First ten years: you will have little choice on what you do, how you do it and when you do it. You listen to your parents. Your guardians. Or, the streets. It has to be one.
The second ten years: you wait until you’re 15 to be in Secondary School. This is the age you get to read on stuff like sexual biology. The bully. The Tvs. The likes. You just grow up from cartoons, if your parents could afford a box TV. Power Rangers was the childhood. I lived with Uncles. Mum. Alone. It is a flutter wave of experience.
When I became 21, I made a decision in my life never to be poor. Poverty in Nigeria is like bicycle. It is very strong. It rides you like you ride it into your 5th generation. It becomes a legacy.
Growing up without anyone to tell you much to do because you need to survive on your own terms is why I tell many young people that what they become is testament of the choices they make. You won’t get lucky to find parental support sometimes. You won’t get lucky to even see the streets support you in the extreme. The average life expectancy of Nigerians sits at 53 on paper. In actuality, it is probably 30. Too much social and economic violence that healthcare and standard of living don’t sleep with her two eyes closed. You get so terrified. Your face is happy, your life is sad.
So, if you’re making it out alive with your sanity intact, you will have to plan your own life.
From 21, I did a concept map of my life. It was university. I knew if I entered, I would graduate. If I needed to pick bricks, I would. The certificate didn’t matter, the knowing-better did. To be fair to myself, I was not broke without essentials. I balled on the standard of Lagos boys that had dreams with work to show for it.
Whilst I was at school, I took plenty breaks to work my own money. It didn’t matter if help came. You need to know the books of your life when you take charge of EVERY department.
The pillars to be built: Self Esteem. Educational pillar. Sexual pillar. Financial pillar. Social intelligence. Spiritual Pillar. Understanding Family. Life skills like cooking, driving, combat (I learned martial art to a point). These were essentials to me.
I took each year to study the first 7. I grew up with some.
The foundation of my life was built on Proverbs 27:3: “As a man Thinketh in heart, so he is”. You need to also get a copy of James Allens’ As a Man Thinketh. It is in volumes. It is the expansion of this Biblical verse. You see, plenty people don’t have their own lives because friends think for them. Family think for them. Pastors and Imams think for them. Peer pressure think for them. Wealth think for them. Poverty thinks for them. You need to understand that it is not humility when you do not own your life. You cannot travel in car that does not belong to you, comfortably. If it gets bad, who fixes it? Your self esteem is the strongest pillar in all the pillars. You need it warm and strong. Forget the stories about pride, it is prejudice many talk from. If you allow the world mess with you, it messes with everything that comes.
Come with me,
By educational pillar, I meant exposure, travels, listening et al. It is not degrees. I experimented with sex. I tried saving and spending. I tried making friends and leaving friends. The friend I never got over was my best friend Martha. I prayed deeply and understood that God was anything I allowed in my own spirit. The billowing of my soul is because I am DELIBERATE.
I broke these pillars into a year each growth. As I focused on growing an aspect of my life each year, I dropped a bad habit each year. I stopped lying totally at 25. The small and big lies. Life won’t be so hard if no one has to forget the past lie they told so as not to complicate the future ones. Well, I see myself as a largely honest person from childhood anyway. I find it difficult to lie to myself. It is a principle of growth. I like to see my own reality from what it truly is, then choke it down your throat. It is your business to deal with it.
At 23, I figured out what I wanted to do with my life. At 26, it became clearer. I am not an ambitious person. I only prepare for greatness. What I mean is, I do not have a cap to the limit of my growth, I expand the horizon in building all round capacity to belt any responsibility(ies) or opportunities. I didn’t plan to be Chief Press Secretary to the Deputy Governor of Kogi State by 28. But I planned to be an integral part of those who would fix my state. I had it written down at the sitting room of Pa Elisha Mamman immediately I graduated from the university. I told him everything I was going to do and the timelines. I have not missed one. That man teaches you clarity. The power of Focus. The Honesty of Skill and Competence. The token of character and the pills of responsibility.
You have my story already. Someday, I will put it all in a book to read. Don’t worry, I won’t preach what I haven’t practiced.
I am going to be the inspiration that I will motivate you with. I don’t read or believe In Motivational sermons, they lie a lot. They tell you the end of everything without letting you in on the sacrifice and responsibility needed for it. You read high sounding books without sounding yourself out for the work. I am a real hard work. Life of plenty wet eyes, untiring fists, unwavering focus, unrelenting spirit, brave moves and daring audacity. You build your life with being deliberate.
I have started working out my life in 25 years from now. The courses and degrees and stretching of myself is for this purpose. I spend every penny on myself but not on clothing, phones, cars and women; it is truly on my SELF.
I have spent the last 5 years planting foundations of my life. I am excited that at 30, I have made my mother extremely happy. She is a happy woman. I see her happy in my sleep because the love I have for her teaches me how to care and love women. She is a strong woman. It was not easy for a woman to lose her husband in his prime, her prime and never left her children for other suitors. I will also say that I am proud of my sister who is married. She gave us my beautiful niece, Ruby. Ruby is my photocopy.
Life is beginning for me at 30. I am not wealthy now. I have lived for many people. Loved for some. In the coming decade, I will be loving my wife and raising quality children.
Woman? Where are you? Your Prince Charming is waiting.
Thank you profusely for the birthday messages. My spirit read all of them. Thank you for being part of my life. Thank you for the love and hate. Thank you for the kindness.
I am at peace with my soul.
Yours, Promise Emmanuel.
Chief Press Secretary to the Deputy Governor of Kogi State.