It started when I left Government College Umuahia (GCU) in June 1973 after my WAEC (West African School Certificate examinations). We were the first set of Class 5 students to sit for the school certificate exams in May/June. Candidates in previous years did so in November/December each year until the school calendar was changed in 1973.
We had the Higher School system in Government College those days that is, the 6th Form, Lower & Upper Sixth. Umuahians, as students of GCU are known were favored for admission into our higher school. You enjoyed some privileges then as a 6th Form student. You wore trousers (those in Class 1-5 wore khaki shorts and pink shirt), you were a big boy, you had a junior boy (fag) attached to you (magi) as a helper, and if you were of good conduct, carriage and intelligent, you stood a good chance of being appointed a School Prefect, even the School Captain, still with more privileges.
But I was not interested in all that. I wanted to go straight into the university to study Medicine. After all, I was good in science subjects. The rave then was to study Medicine, Engineering, Law or Architecture. The typical ambitious Igbo mother in Nigeria would tell her university aspiring son or daughter then, “Nwam, Igabu Dokitor, Igabu Ingineer, Igabu Lowyer, Igabu Architector,” meaning, my child you will be a Doctor, Engineer, Lawyer or Architect as per the child’s aptitude.
Those days, these courses, regarded as core disciplines of study, gave illiterate, even literate parents pride. They heckled their children to work hard and enroll for such courses in the university. That meant you must be excellent, not just in English, also in Mathematics, Physics, Chemistry, and Biology.
Parents restricted the choice of course of their children to these professional courses irrespective of your talent and personal endowment. You dare not tell your parent, uncle or sponsor then that you wanted to study Theatre Arts or Music. They will scream, even threaten to disown you. “You useless girl,” a mother will scream at her daughter. “Over my dead body!”
To gain admission into these ‘choice’ courses, we sweated with these science subjects in college, passed them and sat for individual university entrance examinations. But many of us just could not gain admission for Medicine. It was too competitive. If you had ‘B’s and a Grade 1, there were hundreds with ‘A’s and Distinction as School Certificate results were graded then. I Can and I Will? No way.
That was when it dawned on some of us then that though we were willing to study Medicine, we could not enroll for the course. Many of us fell by the way side. Engineering was out of reach for those of us who did not do Add Maths as the subject was known then. Now I think the subject is called Further Maths. So those of us in the corps of, ‘Let my people go,’ settled for Biological or Physical Sciences such as Biochemistry, Microbiology, Chemistry, graduated and plunged into the corporate world to ‘make it.’
Life pushed us around, and some of us ended up in vocations and professions we never studied in school but we had aptitude for. I did a combined honors degree program, Chemistry/Botany, started working life as a teacher. Along the way, I took a flight from Anambra State to Lagos, discovered the Rod in my hand, stepped onto the rough and desert road to my Promised Land, and ended up as a business writer, financial journalist, author and brand storyteller.
Plenty of written and spoken stories since 1983 when I started journalism, and 2005 when I matured into motivational speaking, and lately brand storytelling. Am I fulfilled? Yes, and if you have not discovered the Rod in your hand, and you are still sweating it out in the ‘wrong’ profession, God help you. You have to follow your passion to be fulfilled.
(25 January 2012)
Eric Okeke is a storyteller, editor, business writer, motivational speaker and author of the best selling book: I Want a Husband. He is one of Nigeria’s most experienced financial journalists. He has published several articles in local and foreign publications and in websites such as http://www.ezinearticles.com, www.ezinearticles.com and www.writingcareer.com. He is currently running Infomedia Company, a media consulting and information marketing company. Visit his blog at http://sallywantsahusband.blogspot.com