The year of my birth—1992— was economically and politically a tumultuous one for both Nigeria and Ivory Coast. Originally, my family is from Nigeria, we are Nigerians, but my parents were born and bred in Ivory Coast, a West African French speaking country three borders away from Nigeria. Due to the declining economy of Ivory Coast, my father, eight months before I was born in August, left for the United Sates in search for greener pastures in order to be able to meet the financial needs of his family. Two years later, my mother joined him; leaving me and my siblings to the care of my grandmother. O’ what a beautiful work of providence that has proven to be!
Because of my grandmother’s growing concern that our family was becoming more Ivorian than Nigerian she decided to go back and settle down in our country of origin. She left Abidjan, the capital of Ivory Coast for Ibadan, a central city to the Yoruba ethnic group which we are part of, in the year 1994 taking her grandchildren with her. I was the youngest, a little over a year old. Upon our arrival, we found it very strenuous to settle down because at that time Nigeria just experienced a coup d’état which had seen the ruthless dictator, General Abacha rose to power. And also, my father had not as of yet found an easy way of sending money to us, and because of that my grandmother with her advanced age had to do manual labor so that she could put food on the table for her ten grandchildren (including my cousins). O’ what a loving grandmother she is.
By 1995, my father got to know of a money transfer service and with that our living condition was improved. We moved to a three bed room apartment, forsaking the one room we had all been sleeping in. I was put in a nursery school (an equivalent of kindergarten I suppose) at this time. When I became 6 years old, I was enrolled in Mercy Day primary school, where I started as a primary one (grade one) student. During those times, I used to occasionally follow my grandmother to an office where my father used to call once every two weeks to talk with her. When will my parents come home? I would always wonder. For commuting and religious reasons, I transferred to Ad-din International School in the year 1999. During my first year at Ad-din, I surprised teachers by beating my classmates in grades and thus emerged as a prize winner at the end of the year, even though I had only met the second half of the school session. In the year 2003 I graduated from Ad-din with immaculate grades, and was accepted into Government College, Ibadan, one of the most prestigious secondary schools in Nigeria, the same school which produced minds like the Nobel Laureate winner, Wole Soyinka.
July 12, 2004 saw the happiest moment of my life. On a sunny Thursday morning, I opened the gate of our house to see my father and little sister stand in front of me. After 12 year of my existence in life, I was seeing my dad for the first time! What words could do justice to my feelings and my state of mind that day? I remembered fighting back the tears from rolling down my cheeks. I wish you could have seen how I was jumping up and down. It was an emotionally filled day. My mother also came home in December that year.
I lost my fervor for education during the latter years of secondary school. I rebelled against the establishment as meaningless. I know the reader might ask, ‘’why meaningless?’’Well, when a teenager sees people with brilliant academic degrees searching frantically for job without success, and then sees a musician or an athlete who is unable to write a grammatically correct essay of three paragraphs making millions of dollars, education becomes meaningless to him or her. With that mindset, poor performance in the West African Secondary School Certificate Exams was inevitable for me. After my graduation in 2009, I took a five years break from formal education— from classrooms. My parents petitioned an immigrant visa for me; as I tried to ‘’find myself.’’ For five years I traveled around West Africa, roaming between Ivory Coast, Ghana, and Nigeria. Those years remain the best part of my life because it was then that I developed the love for books.
At first it was the desire to know more about my religion that pulled books to me. Then as I read theological books, I also became interested in fictions, then non-fictions, and then everything! This habit quickly became my hobby, and yes, this hobby has been significant in many of the good things which have come my way thenceforth. In the year 2010 I met Dr. Fozea Fryddie, a professor at the University of Cape Town, South Africa, on Facebook. She is my mentor whom I gave an honorary title ‘’Mother in Deen,’’ to, and she did a good job of rekindling my fervor for education. On the 17th of April 2013, after a long, long wait, I got inside a Western Hemisphere bound plane heading for John F. Kennedy Airport. Ah, what a day that was.
My first semester at BMCC was super great. Following my brother’s footsteps and because of the school’s diversity, I enrolled for 2014 spring semester. Prior to my enrollment I had just started to work at Kingsboro Psychiatric Center as a Nutritional Service Worker. So, I was working fulltime (and at some weeks, overtime) while taking five classes. Stressful, yes, but the pleasure of learning mitigated the toil. I had great professors; I would have loved to name them, but I am not sure if it’s appropriate here. Anyway, I aced all my classes and got a pleasing GPA. But before the end of the semester, during spring break, I quickly flew home (for four days) and made the most important decision in my life— I married my fiancé, Zaynab Yusuf. Dear reader, it was hard that we had to have the shortest honeymoon in the history of the world!