Iyinoluwa Aboyeji is a Loyola Jesuit College (LJC) 2007 Alum. He writes to his fellow LJC students…
To be fair though, it wasn’t as if the “you are the future of this country” rhetoric the school bothered to expose us to almost every weekend didn’t resound on some level. However, it just didn’t seem like something we should bother with at the moment.
Then December 10th happened.
A lot of things changed.
First, it totally burst my bubble of invincibility. Death was real.
It was a special situation for me especially because I had bought a ticket for the morning flight which was merged into the afternoon one. The only reason I didn’t board was that I had alternative transportation that would get me home quicker. It was that close.
Since then, some strange sort of timer has been ticking in my head. It is actually part of the reason I don’t sleep a lot. I am so freaking scared of time, the lack of it and death. And in my obsession with both, I want to get everything done as soon as I can because the way I see it, I could die tomorrow. In my head, life is like this exam you are writing where you don’t really know how much time you have, but you are pretty sure your exam can end at anytime. So picture me in my head trying to scribble as fast as I can before the invigilator of death snatches my paper from under me.
This is why I am so jealous of how everyone else can plan their lives around this solid concept of time. “When I’m 27, I’ll get married”. Its so unreal to me. This is why in my life, instead of setting timelines, I set deadlines. “Before I am 27, I should be married”. (Good thing is I usually meet the deadlines way in advance)
The other thing that happened to me was that all of a sudden, Nigeria’s problems became so much more personal. The trouble with Nigeria wasn’t a lifeless 4,000 word essay I could churn out on the regular. It wasn’t a lecture for Mr Frank’s history class or one of Mr Chinedu’s famous tragic (and slightly exaggerated) stories. It was the empty spots in our classes and our dorms that December 10th left. We could point to them. I could even name them.
“Richard died because there is a government official who has been stealing the allocation for fire trucks in Portharcourt”
“Wole no longer sleeps besides me because he died when doctors at the hospital wouldn’t give him medical attention”
The pain of Nigeria’s challenges became relatable beyond the usual, “God will judge”, “Let us be praying” attitude Nigerians often have to these things. It became easier for me to abhor corruption and indiscipline when I remembered December 10th.
I remember in the days following December 10th that we would sit around and talk about how each person died.
“They sent Richard to the hospital, and all they needed to do was find him some oxygen but the hospital didn’t even have oxygen.”
“Chuka could have gotten out but he stayed back to make sure his sisters were ok.”
“Hadiza had a rosary in her hand when they found her”
I doubt any of these stories are verifiable but honestly, some of the stories still stick out in my head as didactic emblems of who my colleagues are and what they represented. Even more poignantly, they served as symbols not just the myriad of challenges we face in Nigeria, but of the virtues that we need to keep us together in these challenges.
One of the most poignant moments from December 10th and the moments following it was the literature class I had with Mr Adeodu (where is he?) when we resumed school in January.
I won’t lie, I don’t remember a lot of what he said. But I remember when he talked about “tragedies that inspire us” and how we had to live the empty spaces and dreams of our colleagues that passed away.
Wole Ajilore, (one of the angels who was my room mate the preceding year and table member the year of the crash) and I had talked endlessly about going to school in America together and starting a huge company in Nigeria on graduation.
At many critical junctures in my life since December 10th, I have imagined I was doing whatever it was I was doing for the both of us. I think doing that has doubled my drive. I’m pretty sure I didn’t do everything the way he would have liked but five years later, I’m starting a company; taking my first step to fulfilling both our dreams.
I remember that when Mr Adeodu finished talking, we held hands. I know we did that a lot (the teachers were probably trained to make sure we did) and I don’t even remember what was said in the circle.
But I remember that was the first time I thought to myself :
“I’m living sixty dreams.”
And that has made all the difference.
PS: Quick shout out to the 10/12 Commission (for those who remember it). We might not have been able to do that much while we were in the mango village but man, I’m looking at where each of us is today and its mega. seriously.
PPS: If anyone knows where Mr A.A. Adeodu is, a quick email reunion would suffice
PPPS: We are coming…
Image via Loyola Jesuit College