By Alexander Adejoh
Mister Alex Adejoh, a youth corps member serving in Anambra State, but now working with Fides, in this piece, recalls the circumstances that landed him, his first job, despite the stereotyped fears about the attitude of the Igbo to strangers.
Hmmm! Where do I start from? Okay! I remember vividly that fateful Friday evening at about 8:45pm. I was in my room thinking about life after school, then my phone rang, I was hoping that it would be my aunt who earlier promised to help me with some money to buy stuff I would be needing for NYSC Orientation Camp, but no, it was a friend of mine, Kabiru Danladi. I was truly reluctant to pick the call, I’m sure you know that feeling, when you get an SMS from your network provider almost the same time you were expecting a bank credit alert, LOL!.
Fast forward to the call, I picked the call, and to my greatest dismay, “Papa” as he was popularly known in school, did less of pleasantries and straight to the point he asked, “Alex, where were you posted to?” Instantly, I had this cold shock running through all the 206 bones in my body. And with a cold voice I asked, “Is posting out? I truly have not checked.”
“I was posted to Kwara State,” Papa said, “please quickly try and check yours, I will call back shortly to know where you were posted.” Then he dropped the call.
At this point, I could not believe my ears. Immediately, I knelt down in my room and I prayed a simple prayer. “Lord God, I thank you for seeing me through my studies in the university, I know you have good plans for my posting but please I beg of you to touch the hearts of these people to post me anywhere not far from home, Lord I will accept Kano, Jos or even Abuja. I have so much confidence that you have answered my prayers because I prayed in Jesus Name, and with an innocent voice I said, Amen.
Guess what? These few words of prayers relieved me of my fears of being posted far from Zaria and without wasting much time, I quickly logged in my portal, clicked my dashboard, opened my call-up letter and while I began to read the posting letter that evil fear gripped me again, my entire body was shaking. I read to the point I saw: ”Your state of deployment is ANAMBRA STATE”.
So many stories have been told about Anambra State and the Igbo people; how they eat strangers, practice nepotism, dislike non-indigenes and so on. The thought of these stories gave room for so many questions like: “But why Anambra? That was my last choice, 15-16 hours journey?” I was still ruminating over these thoughts while my phone rang again. I hissed and as usual I picked the call without much enthusiasm.
“Where?” Papa asked.
Angrily, I replied, “Anambra State.”
“Wow! Congratulations! I am so happy for you, you must be lucky; at least I heard the state government pays N8, 500 as monthly allowance.
“Papa Kay B good night. Who is talking about allowance when your life is at stake? Are you the only one who is yet to know that Igbos kill and eat non-indigenes? Or are you also not aware that it is the joy of every corps member to secure a job upon passing out from the NYSC Scheme? Do you need a prophet to tell you that Anambra State is highly prejudiced? You get a job there only if you can say Kedu, Ego-ole, or Nnoo. I dropped the call on him angrily and made up my mind to come to camp in Anambra after which I would relocate back to my base in Kaduna.
That’s by the way. Now, let me hit the hammer on the nail. I got to camp here only to realize that the State Coordinator of NYSC in Anambra is from Kwara State. The head of Registration, Mobilization and Relocation is from Edo State, and above all, the NYSC State PRO is from my state, Benue. “Could Papa be right?” I asked myself, but no, my fears would not allow me; these are federal appointees from Abuja.
The camp ended and by then I was already loving the atmosphere and beautiful people of Anambra (but I still had my fears anyway). I therefore decided to cancel my relocation, serve and go back to Kaduna after one year; that’s if they don’t eat my flesh before that time I thought.
Now, let’s talk about what prompted my pen to embark on this journey. I was on my way to church one cool evening when I saw this beautiful edifice. On coming close, I realized it was a media outlet called Fides Media Ltd. I smiled and told myself, “Young man, don’t even think of applying for any job here, are you Igbo?” It was announced during announcement time in the church that same day that Fides was recruiting reporters, office assistants and drivers, and that interested applicants were advised to apply quickly.
Yes, I was sure that I won’t be picked for the job, even if I applied; but to prove my point and clear my conscience, I settled within me to apply for the job to fulfill all righteousness. I went back to my normal life of thinking aloud to myself and this time I was thinking why Gen Yakubu Gowon, the founder of NYSC, had to think about forcefully taking one out of his comfort zone in the name of national integration. I was so lost in my thoughts that night that I hardly noticed when an SMS came in my phone. Thinking it was my aunt, I was surprised to discover it was an SMS from Fides inviting me for an interview the following day. I was extremely happy and read the text over and over again.
On the day of the interview, I was dressed as if I was going for a presidential debate with my funny looking shoes that I bet you won’t want to see. I got to Fides, and straight to the reception. The interview was for 10am but I was there before 9:30am. I saw seated there about nine other candidates who were obviously all Ndi-Igbo as they spoke to each other in their local dialect. My fears seemed to have finally been proved, “I am finished,” I told myself.
Still contemplating on what to do, I heard a voice say, ”Adejoh Alexander Johnson, you are next.”
There we go again, I thought. Why did I not use Alex Johnson, rather than Adejoh? Hearing it would definitely make them know that I am not one of them, I thought. Anyway, I decided to brave it out.
The lady called me again and by this time, I was a dead man living. I got to the conference room, knocked and I was asked to come in. To cut the long story short, I was asked to seat down by Fr. Martin Anusi, Director of Fides Media, who, while going through my curriculum vitae asked if I was from Zaria.
In my mind I was like I knew it won’t work out. I wondered why where I came from should be his first question.
I answered, “No sir, I am from Ogbadibo LGA of Benue State but I schooled in Zaria.”
You won’t believe what his second question was; “But, you speak and understand Hausa, right?”
My village people are at it again, I admitted to myself and was almost tempted to lie. But I replied, “Yes sir”.
He smiled, and then called a staff member who he introduced as Mercy Hill. He said she was also an Abusite from Zaria. He then asked me to speak the best Hausa I could speak with her. We spoke shortly with Mercy and at that point I was beginning to feel at home although my fears still held.
Fr. Anusi, then excused Mercy and asked me a few questions and for the first time in my entire life, I was granted the Job offer immediately. I was truly shocked when the Director revealed to me that they had other Hausa speaking staff and that a good number of their staff members were not indigenes of Anambra State.
For me, this was the actualization of Gen Yakubu Gowon’s dream of promoting national unity; irrespective of one’s tribe, religious belief or social background. We must learn to preach One Nigeria, saying No to nepotism and every other evil vices that seek to divide us.
Today, I am truly convinced beyond all odds that Anambra State is indeed the Light of the Nation, a home for all.