Chidi Okereke – 27 Years of Grace
LOL. I remember when I was 16 and all I wanted in life was to be a Rapper. I thought I’d be a multi-millionaire before I turned 25 too. I had my life all planned out: send a demo to Kennis Music, get signed to the number one Record Label in Nigeria before I turned 18, become the next Lil Bow Wow, rule Africa like 50cent was ruling the US, and grow to be the most successful rapper from this side of the world.
LOL. Childish dreams. Real life had something else in mind though. Something else.
Anyways, my first reality check came when I scored 193 in JAMB. I was so disappointed in myself I almost lost my mind. Imagine having the overall best WAEC result in your school (8 distinctions and one credit) and then scoring 193 out of 400. I shut myself out and became a recluse. I continued writing songs, but that dream too took a big hit the day I went to a studio in my area and the Producer told me how much a studio session cost. Cutting the long story short, I could not afford it. Coupled with depression and all, I didn’t prepare for the next JAMB I wrote. I scored 183.
That was when my uncle Ocy (God will bless him forever) decided I had to leave Lagos. I moved to his house in PH and while preparing for my next JAMB, I wrote my first full story, titled “Undertakers”. No, I have refused to publish it because my writing style wasn’t so great. And because it is the very first novel I ever wrote, I am afraid to change it…sentiments and sturvs. Anyways, I decided I wanted to be a writer. I started “I do Not” and penned synopsis of many other stories. I started seeking publishers, and that was when I experienced reality check 2: finding a publisher in Nigeria was impossible, especially when your book is not educational. Writing became just a hobby.
I finally got into school after my 4th JAMB – UNIPORT Mechanical Engineering. (No I passed the 3rd one, but UNN Post UME said no no no). I was going to be a bad ass Mechanical Engineer. Despite the fact that I had spent 4 years at home, I was determined. I studied hard and when my first semester results came out, the first 3 results I saw were ‘A’s. Man, I was going to graduate with a First Class. Then get a job in Shell. Then become rich. Then marry one of Femi Otedola’s daughters. Then live happily ever after. Then…I saw my fourth result. It was an E. The fifth was a B. The next a C. The next two were Ds and the last was an E.
Okay, maybe I wasn’t going to get a first class, but a second-class upper was achievable.
But I received my 3rd reality check after my year 2 results were released. I had horrible grades including 2 Fs and my CGPA dropped to 2.9. I started praying to God to let me just graduate in 5 years. I hated Engineering and regretted choosing it. I started writing songs again; because it was obvious a career in Engineering wasn’t my calling. But then something happened.
Out of over 3000 people who took the NLNG SIWES test, I was one of the 50 selected to do my Industrial Training there. I arrived Bonny Island with an Umbrella and a bag and after the first sumptuous 3-course meal at one of the facility’s restaurants; I wanted to be an Engineer, an Oil and Gas Engineer.
4th reality check came when my boss gave me one of his cars to use, and said, “Chidi, you’re such a good boy. If you make a 2:1, I will ensure NLNG hires you.” My CGPA was 3.1 and if I was going to get a 2:1, I needed to get 100% ‘A’s in final year. That was impossible in Mechanical Engineering. My dreams of being an Oil and Gas Engineer ended. My prayer point became, “Father Lord, please let me graduate with my mates.” He answered that prayer because out of 150 students in my class, only 45 of us graduated without issues. My CGPA was 3.23
Time for NYSC, I was asked what state I wanted to serve in. I had no idea what direction my life was going to take so I just said, “I’m letting Jesus take the wheel”. I was posted to Kogi and I was almost mad at Jesus for doing that to me. What happened to Akwa Ibom, Delta, Enugu, and other ‘reasonable’ states? Why Kogi? Why? I refused to socialize in NYSC camp. But responsibility has always had a way of finding me. I led my platoon choir and was made the camp RSM. I was assured of a place in Lokoja but when the posting came, I was sent to one village where electricity and network was unavailable. I rejected it. My pop called someone who called someone and they gave me a “blank” posting letter. Choose wherever you want. I chose a school in Dekina council. And I eventually became the CLO there.
I started looking for a job in January 2014. I registered with all the job sites I knew, but in the end only 2 firms invited me for interview. Everyone wanted someone with a 2.1. That was the period when the NIS exam scam happened. The sheer number of unemployed people was my 5th reality check. I lost hope in Nigeria. Was I going to be one of the folks in the Labor Market? Was I? I was already thinking of ways to start making money via social media and the already saturated blogging industry when Editi called.
That was the question he asked. And like they say, the rest is history. I joined Anakle a month after service and since then I have met Presidents, movers and shakers of the nation, sat on the same tables with men that could change someone’s life with just two words, done incredible stuff and made ‘small’ money too. LOL. I remember the first time it dawned on me that I had up to one million naira in my account. I had already ordered Rice, Stew and Fish at my regular buka in Okota when it sunk in. Chidi Okereke, you have one million naira in your account. I stood up just as the food came, paid and told them I wasn’t eating anymore. I flagged a cab and asked him to take me to Jevinik Restaurant where I almost killed myself with eba and vegetable soup with fresh fish.
The last one year has been an awesome year. And I believe the next one year will be awesomer. To everyone who has been there for me, I say thank you. Let’s do this again for the next one year.
PS: I, Chidi Okereke will run for presidency in 2031 or thereabouts. VOTE FOR ME! Plix. Epp mi.