They say my brother goes where the fighting is thickest and he’s only a pretender. – Game of Thrones (Season 2, Episode 9)
University education used to be a big deal in Nigeria. Real big deal. I remember growing up as a boy in the dusty streets of Southern Kaduna in the mid-1990s. There was only one guy in the university in the whole group of streets around us. He was a celebrity. We looked up to him, with awe and a dreamy eye. There was something in the way he walked, talked and looked at you that sets him aside, apart from us and almost too real for us.
In the early 2000s, university education was no longer such a big deal, but it was still a big deal. People in the university managed to stand out. It was at this time that people believed JAMB does negative marking, and passing could make you a local hero.
The big dealership of the university has continually declined to the stage where I wrote why you should go to the university (one of my most read posts ever), to the stage today in which no one cares.
Or so I thought until I attended my brother’s matriculation about two weeks back. The road leading to Nsukka was quite busy. The campus was colorful with students dressed in their corporate best and carrying broad smiles; phone cameras flashed; photographers feasted on the kids. There were parents, canopies and jollof rice. People care!
University education is (somehow still) a big deal.
So today, after weeks of procrastinating, I sit before the desktop to write a letter to my brother to offer some words over his education. Because I am a writer; because I write whatever I want; because I feel like writing. It doesn’t matter why I write this, you are reading it so it serves some purpose. (I will close each passage with a quote from Game of Throne series which I grudgingly watched and liked late last year.)
You have become a man. You are leaving home to stay on your own for the first time. It is a big deal. You will be tempted to enjoy this new found freedom with careless abandon. Enjoy it. Forget about careless abandon. When I left for Zaria over eight years ago, mama gave me a simple advice; she said: “In all your reading, remember to eat well and draw close to God.” I pass this advice to you. If you spend a good deal of time on your knees and in the kitchen, you won’t have the time for careless abandon. I don’t even know what careless abandon means.
And now my watch begins.
You will notice, as you have, that life on the campus is unnecessarily hard. You know how hard it was to submit your files because Non-Academy Staff Union were on strike. You know how much difficult it is to follow the strange patterns of lecturers, how overcrowded lecture halls, how unpredictable the entire system is. How frustrating. You must have read my how my supervisor roasted me.
You already have a clue about how unnecessarily difficult some humans charged with the education of the next generation can be. Don’t let this remove sleep from your eyes, in fact, expect the system to mess up. Take a look at what a Facebook philosopher wrote:
“In this Nigeria Case, there are three things involved.
1. I cannot kill myself.
2. I cannot come and kill myself.
3. I cannot come and go and kill myself.”
This should be your watchword.
Storms come and go, the big fish eat the little fish and I keep paddling.
Don’t lose your soul, nor personality, nor talent in the campus.
The degree you’ll be getting after four years in the university is just one aspect of the whole package. One over four. The other three are outside the classroom, in the Friendships you build, in the connections you make, in the skills you learned, in the experiences you undergo and in the person you have begotten. I daresay that ninety percent of the things that sustained me I got outside of the classroom.
Don’t lose your soul bro. You play football, carry your boots close to your chest; you were practicing the keyboard before admission, keep pressing this (in fact, learn the bass guitar and the trumpet before you graduate). Don’t let assignments, tests, quizzes, whatever rob you of your talents and ambitions.
Don’t just let anyone deceive you that you need to pass very well to make it in life. Lies. Of course, you must take your books seriously but first class or third class or pass doesn’t matter. Just have sense and use it. And please it’s a four years course. Finish it in four (or how long ASUU decides four years is)
It’s easy to confuse what is with what ought to be, especially when what is has worked out in your favor.
Make us proud.
Like I did them. Even though you’re in the second best university in Nigeria. Think of UNN as the Kingsroad
Honour took you to Kingsroad and honour brought you back.
And now my letter is ended