We are not the same guys any longer.

Johnson Babalola
October 16, 2023

BIK, one of my mentees, approached me recently. He was planning his first trip to Nigeria after 15 years of absence. In those 15 years, he had struggled through homelessness, lack of immigration status, financial struggles, mental health and eventually, becoming a citizen of Canada and finding success in his professional field. “Sir, what should I expect from my family members and friends? I have not seen most of them in 15 years. Though I speak with some of them from time to time, I must appreciate that meeting with them in person is a different ball game!”. In response, I told him a story:

“Many years ago, I visited Nigeria after almost 10 years of absence. I had just opened a law office with two others in Lagos and felt good. Like you, I had struggled through almost (not all) everything you went through in the United Kingdom before relocating to Canada as a permanent resident. Naturally, I reached out to several of my friends including old primary, secondary, university and law school mates and others to announce that I was in Nigeria. One of my good friends while studying for a post-secondary academic program in Nigeria was extremely happy that I was in town after many years. Let’s call him TT. He showed up in my office. He came in his official car, dressed in a well fitted Italian cut suit. He was warm, full of life and energy. Everything around him was positive. He told me he was a senior manager at a financial institution. It was nice to see him.

TT and I caught up on several things: wine, women, work, and life in general. Then I started asking him questions about a few of our friends and classmates at school. Where GB now? I would ask. Then he would respond that GB was in South Africa. How about KN? ‘Ha, KN now farms in the village’, he would respond. I asked about many of them because I genuinely wanted to reconnect with each of them, especially the ones in Nigeria. Then TT said something that has remained with me till today:

‘My guy, relax o. We left school in the 80s and at that time, we knew each other well. We could vouch for the integrity and character of one another. We knew the ones that were serious about their academics and those that were not. We knew the ones that were anti-religion and the ones that spent almost every minute at churches and mosques. We knew the ones that would fight everyone they came across and the ones that did everything to make peace with others. We also knew those that would smoke anything that came their way to the extent that we gave them the names of cigarette brands as nicknames. Some of our mates came from rich homes and they flaunted it while some were so poor that poverty was written all over them. We knew those we mocked for being dull and those we admired for their brilliance. We called some ugly while we referred to some as beautiful. I can go on and on my friend. My point is, almost 20 years later, we are not all the same people you knew then’.

TT continued: ‘Today, some of the ones from rich homes are poor while some of the poor ones are very rich. The beauty of some is gone while some of the ones we thought were ugly now radiate in beauty. Some of those we thought would never be successful are very successful today while the ones our teachers said were promising are not doing well. Remember KD? He was into drinks, parties, women, cigarettes, manipulation and many more. Today, he leads a successful church, teaching the words of God while XC who was known to be a follower of Christ then was recently arrested as the mastermind of human smuggling. While some of us are in positions of authority in public and private sectors, a few of us are probably into drugs, stealing and other terrible things. We can therefore make or mar you. So, my friend, most of us are not the same people you knew at the time. Don’t rush into a relationship with us based on our old friendship. While most of our classmates that I know are good people, I urge you to make your findings, get to know them again and be cautious in dealing with us (I have included myself) until you form your opinion about us. Be careful about blind trust, the invitations you accept, who you visit, what you eat and where you eat. Having said that, please enjoy your stay in Naija. On our part, we will take our time to know you too because many travel overseas and then return as good or bad individuals’.

“BIK, I hope you have learnt one or two things from this exchange. All the best.”

“Thank you, sir.” BIK said as he left my office for his house.

Johnson Babalola, a Canada and Nigeria based lawyer, leadership consultant, storyteller and corporate emcee, is a public affairs analyst. Follow him for discussions on real life issues that affect us all.

You can obtain a copy of his newly released book, REJECTED on Amazon, FriesenPress, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, Google Play, Apple Books, Nook Store etc.