Oluwadamilola Shonibare: In pursuit of happiness [Nigerian Voices]

by Oluwadamilola Shonibare

“Dude, Can you just delete this movie from your laptop? How one earth would we need memory space to install this software and you will be keeping this one-point-something-gig movie that every Tom, Dick and Harry has seen…” My roommate, Femi was exasperated. He couldn’t fathom how we’d spent the previous 35 minutes hunting for space to install a critical software program on my system and this seemingly dead movie kept staring at our murky faces. I could understand his frustration. Here was the same Femi that copied the movie to my system some four years back. He had seen me see the movie a couple of times and simply couldn’t comprehend how I turned to an ant craving for sugar whenever the movie was up on my system… What was it about it about this movie that I couldn’t get enough of?

The Pursuit of Happyness is a brilliant inspirational movie. Apart from the fact that it has a brilliant plot which told the true life story of a certain Chris Gardner; it also featured an all-star cast which included Will Smith, Thandie Newton and the ever effervescent Jaden Smith. However, nothing in the movie catches my fancy as much as the scene that showed the sheer happiness that saturated Gardner after he had been informed that he had won the coveted full-time position in a brokerage firm. It’s safe to say that I’ve seen that particular scene a minimum of a hundred times‐and that is no exaggeration! That scene gives me life!

Quite honestly, I do not find my Nigerian story to be one of the most invigorating, intriguing or say, the most inspiring stories to spring from the 170 million persons exhaling carbon dioxide within the confines of this country. Nevertheless, I’d like to think that my story perhaps portrays an archetypal life pattern of a young Nigerian, especially one with tall dreams and even taller impediments.

Now serving my Father’s land in Delta State…wee!

My story illustrates a life pattern laden with failures, successes, hope, despair and accomplishment‐a pattern that revels in happiness and ecstasy and longs for more of such moments… The challenges facing the educational sector in Nigeria are well documented; unqualified teachers, incessant unions’ strike, inadequate teaching aids, and much more. Consequently, I can safely assume that almost every Nigerian has felt the brunt of education in Nigeria either directly or indirectly. I am not left out.

Before gaining admission to study chemical engineering at Obafemi Awolowo University, I made certain resolutions which were to ensure I maximized my schooling experience. Chief amongst the resolutions was to ensure that I underwent top notch industrial trainings (IT) at first-rate establishments. This is where my story begins. Scratch that. This is where my “happy” Nigerian story begins. And just like Will Smith in the movie Pursuit of Happyness, I had hinged my happiness on getting a quality internship at a world class establishment..

As is customary in some universities across the country, engineering students are expected to have two IT programmes before completion of their program ‐ the first one is ideally for three months and is sandwiched between the third and fourth year while the second which ought to last for six months takes up the gap between the end of first semester of the fourth year and the start of the final year. Right from my freshman year, I had heard a myriad of tales by senior colleagues of how herculean it was to get a decent IT placement especially if one delayed the IT hunting process. Thus, as a diligent student that I was (at least I’d like to think so), I decided make hay while the sun was blazing hot. I made all the necessary phone calls. I told my people to call the people I couldn’t call. I applied to all the online internship adverts such that I obliviously began to fall prey to malicious job adverts. I literally did it all!

I was wowed by the beautiful structure(Chevron). I took this picture the day I came to drop my IT letter…all the way from Sango-ota

As the time for my first IT drew nearer, it suddenly dawned on me that I needed to remove the hinge of happiness I nailed on the door of IT placement. This realization became more palpable when I was informed that I would have no more than seven weeks instead of the usual three months for the program; all thanks to the antics of an inconsistent school calendar. Ah! Naija, my country… So, there and then my plans changed. I decided to derive happiness from whatever form of internship my relations were able to conjure up for me. Fortunately for me, my mum struck gold! Well, not exactly gold but I considered it such; considering the fact that I was ready to take up “any” job. To cut the long story short, my mum knew someone that knew someone that invited me to come and have my IT at a second-rate pharmaceutical company along Lagos-Abeokuta Expressway. We all know that works, right? Knowing someone that knows someone… Nonetheless, I was happy.


Working in the production unit at the pharmaceutical company
Working in the production unit at the pharmaceutical company

If the search for my first IT was the trailer of a blockbuster movie then my second IT search was the movie itself! And just like the movie, Pursuit of Happyness, this movie had multiple scenes that depicted anything but happiness – failure, murkiness and sadness – nevertheless, when the happy moments came, I absolutely reveled in it… By the time my colleagues were frantically searching for IT opportunities as we were approaching our IT semester, I was pretty relaxed. Reason being that, I had secured an IT placement at one of the leading multinational confectionary companies in the Nigeria; thanks to my performance in a written test I took during the previous break. In fact, the only thing that bothered my mind then was how long how would stay at home before resuming.

However, I got the shock of my life when I got there for resumption of work to resume. In the words of the HR rep who attended to me, “we are sorry to inform you that we will not be taking any interns for some considerable time, this is a directive from the management”. The words that proceeded from his mouth were simple and crisp. No more, no less. I could feel my soul yearning for help. Where do I start from?

Rather fortunately for me, “Nigeria” happened. By Nigeria, I mean ASUU went on a strike that lingered for about six months. This meant that I would have ample time to get a placement at a respectable organization and of course, my graduation date from school will be extended. To say the truth, I cared less about the extension… The next two to three months that followed were one of the hardest times of my life. I had submitted my IT letter and CV in “all sorts” of companies in different parts of Lagos and Sango-ota. I had also literally combed the nook and cranny of all the job websites in Nigeria, all in a bid to get a “tush” placement. Nothing was forthcoming.

Just as I was about giving up by deciding to take up a mediocre internship position at an aluminium-manufacturing company owned by a friend of my dad, a miracle happened and my happy moment came. At about 6:45am on a wet Saturday morning, a colleague of mine called to tell me that she saw my name on a list of would-be participants of an IT placement exam at perhaps the biggest brewery firm in Nigeria… That was how I got my “dream” internship. I scored a whopping 100% in the exam thus I was first applicant to resume work. I remember the joy that shone from my mother’s face when I told her I passed the exam and was to resume the following week. That alone brought tonnes of happiness to me.


Quality control officer at the Brewery

The thing is my story is pretty long; and 400 or 1500 words cannot succinctly tell its tale. There were more moments of bliss and a few dark patches along the way. A particular dark spot that left an indelible impression on me was when I was told to write the name of my sponsor after writing a test for one of the oil companies on the Island. That event was particularly painful because I didn’t have any sponsor thus I was disqualified.

However, I was fortunate to get a better internship offer at a multinational oil company located around Lekki Peninsula. The happiness level that his offer triggered is by far the highest largely because it was exactly the kind of picture I painted before entering the university and because I didn’t think I did particularly well in the exam. In entirety, I had internship at two first-rate companies. And so, my dream was fulfilled and I basked in the happiness that ensued. A quote from Will Smith in another movie Hitch, says

“Life is not the amount of breaths you take, it’s the moments that take your breath away.”


Work mode at the Oil and gas company

What moments are more deserving of taking our breath way than happy moments?

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

We publish, un-edited, Nigerians telling the stories of their everyday lives. Read all the narratives daily on the Nigerian Voices vertical. You can also contribute your own story titled ‘Nigerian Voices’ to [email protected].

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