The weather was not on my side that morning as I struggled to wake up after hours of editing through the night. It was raining, dark days like that make me lazy and terribly slow. As a photographer, wife and mother, my peaceful time to concentrate on the work I had done during the day, is late at night when the world in my time zone was fast asleep. If asked, #TeamInsomnia on twitter and Instagram can assure you of that. After much longer than usual, I made it out of the house and straight to the studio.
I arrived the studio to meet 3 potential clients waiting for me. My first thought was ‘it’s just too early for this’ but I jolted my mind to wake up. I went through discussions with the 1st and 2nd clients; the 3rd charismatically walks into my office with a grin on her face. She declared that she was not here for business but she had always wanted to know a couple of things. She continues to list them out without giving me a chance to even ask who she was.
- Are you really from Kebbi state?
- I hear you are also a muslim, how true is this?
- How come you are a female photographer? I find this really odd! And…
At this point, I cut her short and asked “Who are you? And why would you want to know this?” She apologized, proceeds to give me her background information and she tells me she lives her life through my eyes each time she goes to my website. She was now 42 and feels like she did not get to live the life she wanted because she never believed it could happen in Nigeria. She wanted to be a photographer but she never got the support she needed. I told her, IT IS NEVER TOO LATE but she looked at me like ‘look at this child’.
She took me back to a time when saying to your parents you wanted to be anything ‘less’ than a lawyer, doctor or engineer meant you could be cut off from your family. I told her my story. Even though I had the support of my family, I still had to jump through many hurdles. My father got me my first camera but I doubt he thought I would actually become a photographer at the time. My sister would laugh at me because my first dream was to shoot a classic portrait for someone like Michael Jackson and it would make the cover of an amazing magazine. Sometimes I thought that was a huge dream but it could happen, I told myself. Most of my money went to developing my films (at the time we were not in the digital era) or printing photographs. Even while I worked as a Human Resource Manager, my savings went to the equipment I needed for photography.
To cut the long story short, one day in 2008, my sister and I went to say hello to Uncle Soni. Most people know him as Soni Irabor the TV talk show guy. We were discussing my love for photography at the time and he immediately sent me to his wife’s office. The lovely Mrs Betty Irabor, Editor-in-chief of Genevieve Magazine, had no idea and probably still doesn’t know that she made a major positive impact in my life that day. We sat there in her office and she listened to my sister make jest of me and my so-called huge dream of being an amazing photographer that may shoot Michael Jackson or some big shot someday. With a straight look on her face she said to my sister “What is wrong with that dream? Is Michael Jackson not human?” My sister was gob smacked! Betty looked at me and said ‘Aisha! Get rid of all these dream abortionists in your life, starting with your sister right here! And when I say get rid of them, I mean mute them. Do not listen. The more you listen to the negative things, the more you believe them. A dream is like a baby, it can be birthed. Do not let anyone perform an abortion on your dreams”
I left my thoughts and got back to the lady sitting in my office. We discussed how Nigerians allow the negative aspects of our society overwhelm us. And I asked her, what does being from Kebbi State in the north or being a Muslim/female have to do with me being a photographer? Does who you are or where you are from determine what you can be in your life? We live in a society where one of the first questions you get from people is what state are you from?
Are you a Christian or Muslim? I remember being nominated as one of a number of young Nigerians creating change for a leadership class. I was told to send in my curriculum vitae. Two days after, I received a phone call from a representative asking for my state of origin, as I had not stated it in my CV. I boldly asked; what does my state of origin have to do with my achievements? Will this change my nomination in anyway? Don’t get me wrong; I am a proud indigene of Kebbi State but I liked his answer, “It had nothing to do with a quota system, it was more for statistics” He replied. That was unlike what I was used to, so I gladly attended the class because it was more about what I had achieved than where I was from.
We discussed ‘the theory of the dream abortionists’ as I now call it. Underestimating ourselves can destroy our Nigerian dreams. By believing that who you are, where you are from or where you went to school and other trivial things should determine what we can be in this life. I had the opportunity to become a photographer but I could have lost that opportunity by believing the people who started their statements with ‘you are a dreamer!’ ‘You are out of your mind!’ ‘Stop dreaming these dreams and focus on your job abeg’ and so ‘on. Get rid of the voices that suggest you cannot do it, the annoying Uncle that tells your parents not to listen, the friend that tells you to focus on reality, and the sister that laughs at your dreams like it is a joke. Get rid of your dream abortionists. I told this wonderful lady to at least start photography as a hobby and today she can say she is on her way from being an amateur to a semi-professional. Enjoy living your dreams in the best way you can with connections to reality. There are many roads that lead to your dream, find the best one and let it grow.
These are the things I tell myself as a Nigerian, this is my way of being patriotic. The dream abortionists must go. We tend to wake up from the dream of Nigeria becoming a great nation as it once was. We believe that issues like negative press, bribery, corruption, violence etc will take over this country but we can nourish our dreams. We can make it happen if we all work on it from our little corner of society. We cannot sit and watch. We must get rid of them.
Op-ed pieces and contributions are the opinions of the writers only and do not represent the opinions of Y!/YNaija.