By A. A. Bukar
It still touches my heart that you feel entrapped by frustration and desperation as a banker. And hope you will find solace in the fact that this is not your making. Life has an inexplicable way of fixing us where it pleases. That’s what we call destiny, isn’t it? A mysterious power beyond the freedom of our choices.
In the vicissitudes affecting your life and career, I am sure you’ve wondered: what on earth has Chemistry got to do with Banking? I have also thought about it when another mentee recently joined the apex bank of the country with a degree in Linguistics. But remember it wasn’t either your dream to be a chemist, nor of your teachers and mentors. Here’s an exposè on the initial agenda:
Fresh from College, we were entrusted with your intellectual upbringing as freshers in that private secondary school. Unbeknownst to you and our teachers that brought us there, we were equally at a point of self-discovery; with youthful exuberance, spurred by desire and desperation to make impact on our immediate society. Our immediate concern was the state of the general hospital, dearth of health personnel and what to do about it – big as it was and the multitude it supposed to serve, the hospital could not boast of having 3 medical officers whether resident or itinerant then. We were worried by how, for example, when a family member fell sick, we had to rely on a chemist or a ‘family doctor’ who probably had only a certificate in Community Health. For all type of ailments – from malaria, typhoid to child delivery.
So what to do? We started brainstorming with your other teacher – Audu Bulama. Initially we agreed to abandon our NCE certificates and return to a science secondary school, obtain another SSCE and gun for Medicine. This was in spite of my numero-phobia. Upon further discussions, we decided to maintain our charted course but encourage you to pick up the battle on our behalf; on behalf of all. This largely motivated the extraordinary devotion given to your generation. You’d no Saturdays of your weekends. Extracurricular activities, lab practicals and whatnot. The teachers, on the other hand, made the school their second home, passing the night when duty forced. We were gladdened when, after the career talks in which late Dr Gishiwa was involved, many of the finest brains opted for science class. But in no time destiny began to take toll.
First, your headgirl and her friend got married. That was the end. Travails of UME transposed you and the other boys to B.Eds. Now, one of the two Bashirs that graduated with first class in Mathematics is in airforce. You’re in a bank instead of laboratory. Your close friend, Tijjani, a thoroughbred from art class wanted to study Law but ended up with B. A. in Hausa Language. You can always feel how he struggles to suppress his dissatisfaction ever after. Zarah, your overall best in the first session, found her “destiny” in the kitchen! Only your headboy went nearer to fulfilling the dream with a degree in Pharmacy. My sisters, who I similarly encouraged thus, followed the same pattern of career trajectory – Mathematics, Pharmacy, Medical Imaging Technology and so on.
Dear Iroro, you’re not alone. We were all at this crossroads of dilemma and indecision in the process of evolution. Sometimes due to lack of choice or due to multiplicity of choices. In 2007 I got two admission offers to study B. Sc Mass Communication (100 level) or B. Ed English (200 level) at Bayero University. For obvious reasons I registered for Mass Communication. But before lectures could start, my friend Musa Lawan Kaku , who was doing his double honors in English and Islamic Studies, began to take me to the exciting classes of Prof. Saleh Abdu, IBK and Mustapha Muhammad. I instantly found home and wanted to switch over. We even went to the admin. block with Usman Abdullahi making inquiries on how my registration in Mass Communication could be converted to English. When they said the ink had dried, we, in desperation, asked further whether new registration was possible – that meant a forfeiture of the former. When, along the way, I placed a call on your proprietor (who was my teacher and mentor), Dr AbdulRahman, with regards to this I found consolation and wisdom in his advice. His argument was our community had teachers in excess, dividend of the CoE in the locality but not so journalists. Thus I remained. Happy thereafter, grateful for ever.
Enthused by my editorship of our departmental newspapers and magazines, I kept an eye on practice after graduation. But destiny took me elsewhere. NYSC posting took me closer home – where I was to teach Hausa (another irony) in a Jigawa state village school. Dissatisfied; without any prodding from anyone; without knowing anyone, I ventured into a nearby College of Legal/Islamic Studies requesting to be given a part time job in Mass Communication to kill the idleness precipitated by my posting. After brief perusal of my CV, the provost, Sheikh (now Dr.) Muhammad Al-khamis looked up and said: “Abubakar, we will give you a full time job. We are looking for people like you…” In the voice of Wajahat Ali, “That’s how they (read: destiny) pulled me back to classroom”. Grateful for ever.
But let me be very blunt here. Nurtured to be one, I know I will remain a teacher. But a decade or more in my life was intended for journalism practice before reverting to the classroom. That reminds one of Peter Nazareth or some other literary critics who said Ngugi wa Thion’go, the Kenyan writer, was a village writer. By that he meant Ngugi’s setting has always been village. Even if he starts his story in the city, rest assured he will end up in a village. That’s me with teaching. My friend, Barr. Maidugu Abubakar, once said teaching is just like cultism – obsessing. Axiomatic.
In May 2018, just few months after my Master’s degree, I met with the bureau chief of a leading national daily at a function. We struck a discussion wherein I revealed to him my itching for practice and even told him that I was currently earning a little above hundred thousand in my lecturing job; if they could give me the equivalent I would join them. He looked up in suprise, telling me how he’s on the other hand eager and lobbying to be a lecturer. Note: months earlier than this ABU Zaria had began beckoning. Details some other day. Such an irony.
More ironic about journalism is that while those who have university degrees in it often find themselves elsewhere, those who studied other things find themselves in it. When we reflected over this with my final year students recently, one of them retorted that “It’s because there is no money in practice. That’s why we prefer marketing aspect of it – Advertising or Public Relations”. In recent times Political PR, probably, to be singing “Napoleon is always right.” Remembered Squealer? This in itself is the end target of many veterans in the field; which affects the overall quality of journalistic output currently, sadly.
Now back to you once again. Was your inability to study Medicine an intransmutable destiny? I doubt. Increasingly I see things more from the prism of political economy nowadays. Suppose we liased with a sympathetic powerful politician or a certain influential rich man in the community – since it’s said with anything from 500k such admission offers could be obtained. This is Nigeria! Achebe’s aphorism in “A Man of the People is starker than ever!” The issue is that most of us brought up in this tradition (of knowledge generation and dissemination) were conditioned to see politicians as dirty filthy selfish do-no-gooders. Again, don’t ask me whether it’s right or wrong to bribe for admission offers in this regard. It is a matter of intense debate and disagreement between teleologists and deontologists in Ethics philosophy.
It might have stunned you either that my generation in the community can boast of only a medical laboratory scientist – the cerebral Alwali. Well, ours was largely a victim of educational policy somersaults that excised Sciences during our days and left the Arts students with no option but be boarders once interested in it. And with apathetic parents that were like “just go to this your Boko school and come back to write receipts in the shop”, the outcome is apparent. They were partly so for you will be shocked if you’re told what the take home of a graduate civil servant (read: teacher) was in the ’90s. It was a point in time also when the whole locality had no a single private school that could provide the alternative. You think Boko Haram found ground for nothing? Much a commingle of cultural, economic and doctrinal factors. In the Jigawa village school where I did my “service”, pupils disappeared to farm and never returned for after-break-fast classes. Reason? Parental inducement and priority. So much to talk about which makes this a roller coaster of some sort.
I have intended intimating you on the WHEN question on marriage at this stage. A character in Leo Tolstoy’s War & Peace would tell you after accomplishing all goals – an AOB in the agenda of your life. How reasonable and practicable this is, we discuss later inter alia.
With the proliferation of degree awarding institutions in the locality, we will soon start grappling with how to contend with graduates bulge. I hope one day someone will fish out your likes with strong science background and place them on scholarship for a second first degree in where the community has the most pressing need. Meanwhile keep your eye on a foreign one – especially for a post graduate degrees. That opens windows for unimaginable opportunities. Sorry for writing you this: So Long a Letter. It is coming while completing Anne Frank’s Diary on transit, and made open perchance your type herein will stumble, benefit, or relate. At least.
A. A. Bukar writes from ABU Zaria, Department of Mass Communication.