Tobi was held back in Libya when he could not cross the Mediterranean Sea. For more than six years, Tobi and his friends slaved on Libyan soil as sex tools, beast of burdens and meat for Libyan cannibals. He told me of the auction sales in Libya and how he was sold into slavery. He was particularly pained by how cheap he was sold. He told me: “I was sold very cheap. The mad man who bought me as his slave said he would not pay more than 50 dollars. Imagine that! I know my worth was more than that. I was a first class brain. I was the best in my class.”

He said this looking at me to know my reaction. Immediately, I saw this psychological need in him to be reassured of his worth. So, I nodded my head in agreement but somehow, Tobi knew the truth. He knew his value as a person has dropped. He can never be the best again and somehow, he admitted this truth. This is because, for much of our discussions, he kept saying: “I was this, I was that.” All references to himself, his gifts and talents were expressed using the past grammatical expression, for something no more. He did not for once say: “I am this or I am that.”

More than anything else, the experience in Libya was for Tobi an existential moment, a moment to search his life for values and personal worth. No wonder he is yet to get over the Libyan man that reduced his value to 50 dollars. He kept referring to him as a mad man but what would his search for personal worth and value reveal? What is it of value in his life again?

That was when I moved to interrupt and ask him a question. “Tobi, “will the child you were, that smart and talented child of my high school days, be proud of the adult you have become?” I asked. He did not say a word to me. He rather looked up to me with gelid eyes, guilt written all over his face and left my car.

The problem with Tobi has nothing to do with the Libyan man. His problem is rather with the choice he made against education. He wanted quick money and that was how he destroyed his life. Now, each time I read Thomas Jones’ poetry; sometimes, I remember the fate of Tobi. The poem reads:

“Across the fields of yesterday

He sometimes comes to me

A little lad just back from play

The lad I used to be

And yet, he smiles so wistfully

Once, he has crept within

I wonder if he hopes to see

The man I should have become.”

I am forever haunted by the last two lines: “I wonder if he hopes to see/ the man I should have become.” Where is the man Tobi should have become? Where is the man the intelligent Tobi of my high school days should have become? Here, the answer is silence but I will not accept silence as an answer. My concern is still building up. Tobi and his Libyan experience open an existential vista into the tragic situation of some of our youths. Tobi is just one among the many youth of today who have a new definition of success. Being a movie star, a professional footballer, a celebrity musician is now the new success trend. While becoming a star footballer or musician is a beautiful success story in its own right, one question remains: how much of an opportunity does football or a career as a celebrity musician hold for the teeming youth who flock the music industry or football field every year?

What of those, like Tobi, who quit education for a career in sports, those who refused to do any other thing except football or music? I remember most of my high school mates had dreams of being professional footballers, athletes, movie stars or celebrity musicians. It is over 20yrs since I left high school. Many of my classmates who pursue a career in education are now doing well in their chosen fields. Some are barristers and medical doctors; others, university professors, pharmacists, captains of industries and leaders of thought.

But I know some who chose a different path, some still trudging their way on the path of a career that had no more space or promise for them. Some of them either had no voice or had a terrible voice yet wanted to build a career in music. Another one is already old or perhaps the same age with most retiring professional footballers and still hopes to make a good career in football. He wanted to get to Europe by all means. What do I call this; determination? No! This is not that sort of determination that leads to success. It is a life in retrospect, a life in decline, a false life.

Their painful story reminds me of the words of Norman Cousins: “The tragedy of life is in what dies inside a man while he lives … the death of inspired response.”

On the question: “is education more important than sports?” Darren Rawie, a Special Education teacher gave the following response: “Yes. Statistically speaking, you will not make a living in professional sports as an athlete. It is a fraction under 1% who does. The rest have to make a living the old fashioned way. In the 60 year history of the high school I attended, no one has ever made a living as a major sport athlete. At the high school I currently teach, over 100 years old, one athlete has made it to the NFL, one to the NBA. Roughly speaking, that is 30,000 graduates during that time. One made it to NFL, one to the NBA and no others.” Rawie ends with this remark: “Your brain and heart are your future.” How many still believe this? Not many anymore.

There is rather a trend more popular now, internet fraudsters or “yahoo boys”. This is the scourge of our age. It is life on the fast lane, the get-rich-quick syndrome. You see them riding on exotic cars, hanging out with the most popular girl around and living in the highbrow neighbourhood of the society. Indeed, there is nothing close to hard work or industrious about this lifestyle. It is simply a life built and maintained through graft, sheer devilry, outright cheat and criminality.

Yet, some people see it as being smart, a praise-worthy millennial savoir-faire required of any youth who wants to survive the times or live the dream life. Unfortunately, this was not the feeling I got after listening to Tobi. Tobi is a proof that all that glitters is not gold. He reminds me of the words of Steven Covey: “People often find themselves achieving victories that are empty; successes that have come at the expense of things they suddenly realize were more valuable to them.” These are the real poor people, those who wanted to escape poverty but ended up losing what they have, what they should have become. Patrick Meagher has taken a swipe on them with these words: “some people are so poor; all they have is money.” This is the story of Tobi, the story of one man who made a choice against education. It ends in a deep sigh.

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10/07/2019 6:12 pm

Now, here comes the end, I wish I can share this a million times. It is a long, but interesting piece. Cheers guys.

10/07/2019 6:15 pm


11/07/2019 8:34 pm

Life and it lessons, pray we take decisions we will be proud of in the future.

Nice piece

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