Emmanuel Egobiamu: Amidst the dark clouds [Nigerian Voices]

Two years before 2010, I had finished my WAEC  examinations and was nursing pains of a failed attempt at securing admission into a higher institution. The struggles were real. Whenever I saw my secondary school mates who were already in “school” my heart would sink.

Whenever I recall how good my JAMB (then there was JAMB for polytechnics) result was, tears would threaten my eyelids. I had applied to study my childhood course, Mass Communication (I love writing and media), at Auchi polytechnic. While a score of 211 – way past the cutoff mark, would easily get one a ticket to the university, I was left confused why it didn’t get me one.

Literally, I was like a fallen warrior, and picking myself back up was like an ant carrying an elephant. Depression kept plugging at my gut. And since I locked myself in a room with sobs as comfort, I didn’t realize 2009 was speeding away until 2010 came knocking.

As 2010 was born, I became more confused. The nights became darker; “the center wouldn’t hold”. My hopes were hung on a thread. I sought direction from matured people, but each encounter with them deflated my hopes of studying my dream course.

My elder sister whom I stayed with, had packed up her grocery/provision shop (which I managed with her) at the later part of 2009, in search of greener pastures in Lagos, which made things more difficult for me.

Being idle was a no-no for me. I dusted off my CV, combing Asaba for paid employment. The boiling sun added to my woes, as the hot tarred roads heated the soles of my shoes while waddling from Cable Point to Okpanam Road in search of “work.”

If there was an award for “The Most Submitted CV”, I could have won it.

Whenever I returned from the hunt, blisters were my companion. Despite this, I was bent  on getting a job; to “leave house” as the saying goes. Luckily, the following week, I resumed in one of the schools where I submitted my CV to work as a “Receptionist”. Just like packaging is the difference between plaintain chips and “kpekere”, “Receptionist” was the coded name for a “gateman.” I accepted the offer and worked on school days/hours. My pay only took me to the bus stop, it couldn’t take me home. It was 8,000 naira monthly.

While settling in on the job, I thought about my admission setbacks. Tales of failed admission efforts from “matured”people, became a sing song.  “Ah! You wan put federal school? Who you know? Dem no go give you admission ooo”, an “admonition” from one of them. This sank in my mind. They were missiles shoot at my heart. I saw impossibilities. I lost confidence and the rounds of depression – which I had managed to contain, tanked up. Fear of failure hung over me like a second skin.

Then, on a fateful day at work, just like a thunderbolt, it struck me. “I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me!  “What!”, I exclaimed as I studied my bible. As a young Christian, that verse was alien to me. It was the opening of a new chapter. My lost confidence began to trickle back;  a rising sun amidst the dark clouds. Later in January, JAMB forms were on sale. Both polytechnic and university admission seekers, now had to sit for the same JAMB. It required having two choices for universities, polytechnics and colleges of education. With the little savings from the “kponkpom” I did while the Asaba Airport was being built, I dashed to the bank, bought the form, processed it and intensified my study since my work gave me ample time.

I bought past questions, and few texts. My notes from secondary school were also handy. They were my study materials. I didn’t use the internet since I had no internet-enabled device. And often, I would lock myself up in a room to study; it relieved me of depression.

Hours flew to days, weeks and months and JAMB exam day came.  My exam center was St. Brigid’s Girls’ Grammar School, Asaba. On that day, I woke up early and did my revision and left for  the exams. At the venue, the crowd was mammoth but it took no time before I was ushered into my hall; and the battle began. Like an expectant mother, the exam results came out. My mind ran faster than Usain Bolt’s legs. “Hope I did well?”, were my hopeful enquiry to God.

“O boy! where you for write JAMB?”, the café attendant asked  as the result bar popped up. “Asaba”, I wanted to reply but anxiety was written on my face. It was as obvious as a ripped mango fruit on a pawpaw tree. When I inched closer to the computer system, “263”, smiled at me. I wasn’t excited, my face was bland. My benchmark was 300.  I left the café in anger, asking myself why I didn’t score at least 300. Next, I turned my attention to POST-UME. I had to alter my choice of universities following an advice from my elder brother. I processed the POST-UME application for DELSU and UNIBEN. The screening/exam for DELSU came first.

On UNIBEN’S POST-UME day, I shook like a jelly fish out of water. My body temperature could cook a meal for a family of five. Every thing was hazy as I staggered through the  “Main gate”  to my exam hall. “Please, raise your head and try and write”, an invigilator beside me urged. My paper and table were misty; my head spurned each time I looked at the paper. I shaded as many answers as I could before I dozed off with my head on the desk, and later to wake up to calls of “submit your papers.” Thereafter, I staggered back to the park and left for Asaba. It was from frying pan to fire. As I stepped into the compound, “whoosh” flew by my ear like a javelin. One of my elder sister had come to see us but had waited for endlessly as nobody was home. Like an hungry lion, I was her prey.  I somehow managed to escape the destiny-reshaping-slap as a neighbor blocked her to become my spokesperson – “he went for an exam while contending with fever.”

Later on, the results for DELSU came out and I scored 60. I waited for my name on the admission list. First batch, no show. Second and third batches, it was deflated hopes. As I combed the internet (I had gotten an internet-connected phone), I saw a thread on Nairaland: UNIBEN 2010 admission list out. I read it and dashed off to the café.  My heartbeat was louder than a home theater. “We are sorry you were not…” flashed across the computer screen. my heart skipped. But on closer look, it was a connection/network error.

As the page loaded, my eyes darted to the bottom of the screen. “You have been offered…” Not sure of what I saw, I asked the café attendant to “check am again.” I looked at the screen. It was my details on display; my choice course: Mass Communication. It looked like a dream. “Who help you?”, the attendant asked me.

I was numb. Then, I screamed, “Finally!!!”, like a “vuvuzela”. I raced home faster than an antelope, picked up my phone; sharing the good news. It was orgasmic and enthralling. Today, (fast-forward five years) every time I look at these pictures (the first, taken on my matriculation; the second, during my convocation ceremony and the last, my certificate scroll), I see a dream turned reality; the silver lining and rising sun amidst the dark clouds!

picture-1_-on-my-matriculation-day

 

-certificate-scroll-:Emmanuel Egobiamu

This entry was submitted as part of the Nigerian Voices competition organized by YNaija.com

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