I am not up to the age of “been there, done that”. I am a youth. I’m proud to say “I am not a savvy in matters of life” but confess it gladly to protect others. I am not a father yet, so my children have not declared that I’m much of a mentor.
The undermined underprivileged children of the world mentor me. They know who they are. But that’s about it.
I am sad how cynical, weary and generally distrustful I have become.
Most days I believe all my mentors are dead. I don’t expect inspiring
words, calming touch or impeccable behaviour. My lowly expectations are too seldom met; too often disdained.
The truth is I am wrong. Mentors are everywhere. They are in high places and low. They are eloquent though their actions but also in the stillness of their patience. They will often speak poorly, with bad grammar or strong accents. I may believe we share no wisdom when they choose the wrong word or call me “dear” . When we meet I am often put off or anxious. “They” are too young or too strange to understand what I need, or care about how needy I am. Oh yes, youth hood embodies neediness.
Tomiwa is a boy who unfortunately grew up into a polygamous family that disregard education. He was brutalised by a cruel step-mother, often denied the right to freedom. Through thick and thin, he payed through his nose to attain a secondary and tertiary education. Now, he’s the footpath to some people’s journey.
Tomiwa has mentored me for months with breath- taking patience and efficiency. I am always giving excuses of why I failed in a cause and retiring to impossibility. Tomiwa keeps setting harder targets and meeting up without fear and excuses. Tomiwa is my first mentor.
Adegbenke is a Nigerian, So am I. She lost her parent to the upheaval of the 1967 biafran war. She was abused sexually. With no family members to take responsibility for her, she hawked to feed her growing foetus, developed her son and gave him a standard education. The boy later became a proficient doctor. As I write this, she is being laid to rest, less than a mile from here. She’s from the hardest part of a hard town. Adegbenke is my other mentor.
Ebele was a mere fisherman whose father canoe-making business wasn’t enough to feed the family. But he studied zoology at school and intermittently rose into power from the education sector to the environmental sector even to the political sector where he became a governor and subsequently a head of state.
Chimamanda is a lady with a lot of history. Her grandfathers died in refugee camp. Her cousin died because he could not get adequate healthcare. One of her closest friends, Okoloma, died in a plane crash. She grew up under repressive military governments that devalued education, so that sometimes her parents were not paid their salaries. And so, as a child, she saw jam disappear from the breakfast table, then margarine disappeared, then bread became too expensive, then milk became rationed. And yet, she is one of the best female writers in Nigeria.
Ayo was denied parental love and care, he was nothing and nothing was expected of him. Determined against all odds, he invested in the area of his talents and he rose to become one of the greatest in the generation of native musicians.
Where do we find our mentors? If we are lucky, we will find them
everywhere. Most all of them, including everyone I have mentioned will say they are
just trying to survive. What is left for me to say about them?