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The Fourth of September 2015, was another normal Sunday. I and my sister were making up, tying our head ties and talking about how late we already were when someone knocked. It was Chenemi. Ojochenemi.
She is one of the most resilient and focused persons I know. I met her in J.S.S. One B, of the Demonstration Secondary School in Zaria. With her neatly ironed white short sleeved shirt, blue pencil skirt, a beret perched atop one corner of her head, her determination to hold her own, write her notes and even draw her own diagrams despite her constantly shaking hands drew my respect and affection as well as that of other class mates.
Over the years, she has progressed, reading books, writing exams like the unchallenged children and getting into the university at almost the same time we did. She is indeed a NIGERIAN STAR. Hers is a case of Polio.
The vaccine which had been used to immunize her in infancy had been among the infinitesimal number which make up the statistic of vaccine failure. It left her movements slow, jerky and uncoordinated as well as her speech. But, she was undaunted.
Beautiful in face as well as heart, she opted to study Sociology at the Ahmadu Bello University of Nigeria to better understand and assist people like her and ease their condition in society. Halfway through her course, disaster struck.
Her grade point average was too low. It had gotten mixed up with that of another student and as she had been seriously ill for the larger part of the session, she was placed on probation. Her efforts to straighten out the result brouhaha lead to nothing but more problems. She was asked to withdraw.
Seeing no possible solution for the problem in the near future, Chenemi sought advice and bought another Jamb form. She sat for the examination, passed, gained admission and began again from two hundred level in another department. The Department of Library and Information Science. She had gotten a diploma in it earlier while she waited to get admitted to study sociology. Now, she decided to continue with it using the direct entry admission forum.
Through all this, she held her chin up. Focused on what she wanted to achieve. Never allowing depression to get to her permanently. She struggled through challenges at home, being taken for granted, loss of friends, shaken faith…. Two of her younger siblings worked up the ranks, attaining and surpassing her in academic prowess but she held her own.
After all, not all fingers are equal and everyone had their own destiny and time. She would often say: “I know that God will help me. I am confident that I will get there in His own time”.
That time had come. Or at least, one of those times. “Hey! I have finished A.B.U oh! I graduated from A.B.U yesterday!” Chenemi screamed as soon as she entered the room I shared with my sister.
I turned sharply from the mirror and hugged her, shouting: “Jesus! Congratulations oh. Thank God. Ah ahn! Jesus….” My sister dabbed at her eyes as she came forward to shake Chenemi’s hand and congratulate her. She also knew the long road Chenemi had had to take to obtain a degree. “Graduate! The newest graduate in town!”
When we were done hugging and congratulating her, Chenemi picked up perfume and sprayed herself then limped out of the room. “Don’t forget o. Next week Saturday, four in the evening but of course you’ll come early. Let me get back to Church” she said as her church was only a few metres away from our house. “We are late ourselves” I said smiling while she left. I was so proud of her.
She had come a long way, from 2005 to 2015, using ten years to pursue and achieve her dream of getting a degree. What remained for her was to find love. I vowed to commit that to God in prayer while in church and smiled again thinking of the party she was going to have.
I KNOW A NIGERIAN STAR and it is Ojochenemi. I can only pray that she gets the job, postgraduate degree and family she wants with less of a struggle than she got the first.
Yerima Dina is a Postgraduate student, of the Department of English and Literary Studies, University of Nigeria, Nsukka Enugu state.