I once did a contract job with a GIS consulting company and that GIS means Geographic Information System. The GIS consulting company simply offered to pay me to get lost on behalf of other people. Each of us had to go with Google printed maps that had no labels or street names. The assignment was to fill in those missing names so they can be useful to other people. We had about one or two thousand Naira per day as transport allowance. Also, the office gave us printed map sheets and jotting pads.
This was not about crunching numbers or showing people how you studied at Harvard and have Einstein’s IQ level. It was simply a challenge, get lost as far as you can so that other people don’t get lost. We were frontier leaders of sorts. By that time I had lived in Ibadan for almost sixteen years, I was about nineteen years old. It was a daunting task but I had this unyielding belief that I could do anything especially because I had a dream.
My dream Kept me steady
I had always wanted to play a musical instrument, so I decided I was going to use that job to buy me a Clarinet which would later lead me on to play the Saxophone. I was not going to throw that dream away all because I was afraid of getting lost. Trust me at nineteen, I fit the perfect profile for News report announcement of missing children. I didn’t want that to happen, I was scared it would happen.
One of the scariest days I had was when I reached a dead end, instead of a street, I just saw a huge pit in the middle of cramped up buildings. I ran back the way I came that day and chose another section of the map. I visited dangerous parts of Ibadan because I had to follow the map wherever it went. There were days I walked into streets asking for names and before I could think, residents would surround me threatening to beat me up.
Most of the people living in these closed off parts of the city are scared of people that go about poking for information, you are the enemy. No one knows you, they assume you were sent to do a reconnaissance before a robbery. I managed to hold my ground and never got beaten. That assignment was something anyone would think a nineteen-year-old should not be doing but I did it.
The scariest day for me was when I had to go towards the runway of the Ibadan airport. I had somehow walked from the highway leading to Lagos, through some “Ogbere” something —all the localities around there started with the prefix “Ogbere”— so I just remember I was in some Ogbere! Still, I walked on, marking streets and taking notes. I didn’t realize when I lost my trail on the map, I had slipped out of the map and was as lost as the prodigal son.
It was getting late and I just knew my destiny was not tied to getting lost, or at least I convinced myself of that. After all, I had not yet fulfilled my dreams to buy and play the Clarinet. I summoned the courage and turned into the nearest street, I asked my way from the first people I met. I had a map with me but its scope was limited, they had information which should help me find my way back onto the map.
This worked. I didn’t care if they would turn out to be kidnappers, I didn’t care about anything because I had no options. We all do the impossible eventually, but this usually happens when we reach that point of no return. The harder we hold on to safety, the less likely we are to chart a new course which others can follow.
I got back on track, phew! For a moment I honestly feared the worst but it was fleeting. I chose my dreams over the fear and it dictated my decisions. A lot of times, our young Africans like me choose to take new challenges, plunge into deep water and test the safety before calling others to follow. There is a lot of opportunity for pacesetting. We may have to navigate our own uncharted waters so we can find originality and own our territory truly.