CHRONICLES OF A BARRACK(S) BOY 2
Long Post Warning
I was raised within the military barracks community in Northern Nigeria. A lot had happened to me because of the dysfunctional relationship I had with my dad earlier on. I began to pay attention to the impact of my upbringing and background only in the 80s and 90s.
I grew up a very shy person who later developed a very low self esteem/worth. My father was in the military but he was not a high-ranking officer. One time in the early 90s, he got transferred to another location and the family had to move but I couldn’t go with them.
At that time, I was running my ordinary national diploma program [OND] at the Polytechnic in Birnin Kebbi, so I needed to stay back and finish the program. We had a relation who was a senior officer who had agreed for me to stay with him during the brief period I intended to wind up my studies at the school.
While living with this relation who I can best describe am my “uncle” of some sort, I noticed that I got a lot of unusual attention from the other young people in the barracks, especially from girls, because they thought that this man that I lived with at that time, was my father. And so I got special treatments and some level of respect, so to speak.
When I later fully understood the reason for the attraction, I decided to capitalize wholly on that. There was this girl I really liked, she was intelligent, black and beautiful. So, I approached her to talk to her and obviously get her to notice me. She was sort of checking me out too; to know if I was really worth her time. So being a sharp young guy that I thought to myself that I was, I flaunted my supposed new credentials – son of a military officer. I in fact told her that my relative, whom everyone very much respected and regarded highly was in fact, my “father.”
That appeared to be the magic wand; it paved the way for a lot of things between both of us. She picked interest in me and this snowballed into a full fledged relationship. We dated for some time and we were on and off until I left that town eventually.
A few years later after I had moved on to join my parents; I got admission to study for my higher national diploma in Bauchi. I had a lot of issues with my dad who subsequently refused at some point to be responsible for my fees so I became responsible for them and for my life from when I turned 20. It turned out to be a blessing in many ways and I hope to catalogue this for another occasion.
After I secured admission, I had to pay my own tuition fees. Whenever I needed money at school or during the holidays, I would go home to Keffi where my parents lived to hustle and my mum would lend me some cash with which I would go to local farmers and buy a lot of cassava in the nearby farms. I usually would hire some of the local women to help me uproot and peel the cassava. I would then make garri for sale. I did this for a while until I became some sort of expert at frying and selling garri which became my main avenue to raise money for school fees and expenses in school back then.
Omo person don see things oh, no be small.
I did this from time to time, but on this particular day I didn’t have enough money to get the number of women I needed to uproot and move the cassava to the location where we peeled it and prepared it for processing. I had to join the women to reduce costs and after we finished uprooting, the ladies I had hired and ai proceeded to carry the cassavas to the location where we would sit and peel them.
Everything appeared to be going fine till I reached a corner after a long stretch with the cassava on my head. As soon as i turned the corner, would you guess who I saw right in front of me? That same babe from years earlier who dated me for the regard she had for my supposed “dad.”
“Oh my goodness”, I muttered under my breathe. I was paralysed with a combination of fear, shame and embarrassment. All i could think in the seconds I had before we met was, “what do I do? How do I explain the bundle of cassava sitting on my head with the kind of clothes I had on?” Many questions ran wildly through my mind.
I perceive that you may also be right now wondering why I have taken my time to share the details of this story with you.
This weekend in Keffi, I am going to be speaking to a group of people I grew up with in the barracks from years ago. Whenever I have had to hang out with some of this people, I get comments like ‘You’re fortunate’ , ‘You’re lucky’, ‘You’re connected’, ‘God smiled on you’, ‘You’re talented’. ‘That’s why you travel overseas and you’re doing well for yourself’. And I try to remind them that we attended the same schools, so I am still the same guy they grew up with. But come to think of it, I was like them until I realized it wouldn’t do me any good to live a fake life. I decided to be myself, I had to be my authentic self. And realizing who I really am helped.
Every single thread in my story, including the things I once was ashamed to let people know I gladly share and teach from today. These are the same ingredients that would serve to put me up for the road I am currently threading. I tell my story to inspire people all around the country and beyond. This is the very story that morphed me to who I am today.
This goes to show that your past is the exact ingredient you need to encounter your own specific greatness. Any other spice or mix would have given you a different outcome. I believe this with my whole heart, there are no coincidences, no happenstance or accidents.
If I had missed any moment in my life, good or bad I would not have gotten to the where I am now in life. A place where I am happy and excited and helping loads of people change their own outcomes as well.
So, that’s why I have chosen to reach out and connect with people. Learn to embrace your past, every bit of it and let it spur you to become better. Allow it to become an inspiration for many. Accept every bot of your background and feel confident in your own skin and experience. It is your to revel in.
Have you ever felt as embarrassed and overwhelmed like I was on tbat day when I walked past my ex with the cassava on my head and her eyes on me? I doubt.
I felt ready to disappear. I was totally stuck in the moment, wishing for an earthquake and rapture to happen at the same time. I wanted the earthquake take her down in the open earth while the rapture take me up to the heavens and return me after she is consumed .
Come on, don’t think of me like a horrible person, you have had moments like that too and thoughts of your own, haven’t you?
Of course as you can imagine, that didn’t happen. So I just had to continue walking until we met at a point. I can’t even describe this feeling that enveloped me on one of the most embarrassing days of my life.
Fast forward to today, how would I have handled that situation differently? I definitely would have responded differently, because I am now confident in myself and really don’t care what people have to say about me or what I do. I am utterly shameless and have low or near absent regard of who you think of me as a person because of my past and my background.
I am Innocent Usar and I hope that you will help in dispelling the shadows of your own past too and rise above and against the treacherous attitudes of self-sabotage and limiting decisions of the past.
To your own epic outcomes now and in the future… adios.