This is a typical story of an African male child who although trying his best not only for himself but for his family, seems never to get it right.
Is it a curse or is the world just against his kind?
Emeka was just an African male child like any other from a poor background in society. Seeing that his parents could not really afford to give him a good proper education and take care of his other siblings, he decided to go work for his uncle. In this part of the world, leaving your parent’s house to go work for a relative is a form of an apprenticeship program in which one will be settled as agreed upon by the relative (usually an uncle or aunty) upon the completion of his apprenticeship. Settlements can come in various forms. The Superior can choose to give the apprentice money to open a shop or the superior himself establish another shop for his apprentice. This program is usually a thing of pride that comes with many expectations.
Emeka like any other considerate and hardworking young man hoping to make a way for himself and his family in an unfavorable society left Lagos after high school in search of greener pastures in the east. He was to tend his uncle’s automobile spare parts shop.
But it is said, “the only place where a man is truly king is his home. When he steps out in search of daily bread, he automatically becomes a commoner who begs, weeps, is insulted, and sometimes humiliated and humbled”. This was Emeka’s situation the minute he stepped out of his parent’s house in search of a greener pasture. He knelt down before lesser men and was demeaned by clients. All these he took in undignified but internally proud knowing that it is by his submission that bread is guaranteed for his family in the future. For him, submission was a matter of survival.
His submission did not go unrewarded. In a short period of time, his uncle’s shop experienced success like never before. With Emeka’s submission tactics, customer satisfaction increased, and usually in any line of business, a happy customer is a returning customer. 3 years down the line, his uncle’s shop became one of the top shops in town that deal with automobile spare parts. His uncle became more influential and benevolent as he was invited to almost every gathering or get-together in town.
It was time for Emeka to be settled after working for his uncle for 5 years, his uncle started finding faults and reasons not to settle him claiming he has been incompetent. This is a common phenomenon. Superiors in order to avoid settling the apprentice usually come up with allegations against him or her. These allegations are usually based on accusations of theft and shop mismanagement. But this was not the case of Emeka because he was as diligent and honest as one could be.
Disappointed and powerless, Emeka left his uncle’s shop back to his parents in Lagos with nothing but his tail between his legs. This was the kind of heartbreak that could send any mother to her grave early. Her son’s effort wasn’t only wasted, he was also known as a thief in town. A title one doesn’t recover from in a lifetime.
But every man has the right to chase his dreams and his mother understood this when she asked him what he wanted to do with his life going forward. Emeka realizing that education will only be a burden to the family opted to do business. He told her he rather start a small business in order to support the family from time to time rather than go to school and be relying on the family for fees. His mother, understanding that his decision was thought through and the best for the family, gathered all the money she had saved and collected from friends and gave it to Emeka to start a business. Emeka knowing the gravity of the mother’s gesture relocated back to the east determined to make it on his own this time around.
As the case may be, slowly Emeka began to make a name for himself, while his uncle’s business gradually declined. This only fueled the rumors spread by his uncle that Emeka must have stolen from him to be able to afford a shop in the first place. This didn’t bother Emeka much because he was only concerned about not letting his mother down again.
It wasn’t rosy, neither was it fast, but Emeka was able to steady his ship long enough to feel there was a prospect for his mother in the east too. So he decided to set up a provision shop and invite his mother over from Lagos to the east. Reluctantly his mother left her comfort zone to come test waters. This was the worst decision of her life. It was harder than she anticipated but she couldn’t give up and run back to Lagos a failure. To her failure wasn’t an option. So she decided to stay, cry, pray and work it out. Gradually like an answered prayer, business began to boom for her also. Just then she began to see the prospect her son was talking about.
The shop wasn’t bringing in a six-figure type of money, but it was sufficient to feed and cater for basic needs including the school fees of her other children, with the help of Emeka of course.
Business was good for both Emeka and his mother that they decided it was wise for the rest of the family to relocate from Lagos to the east to at least help out one way or the other. Through Emeka, the family acquired land of their own and started erecting a proper family house.
Just as things were about to look good for the family, Emeka died mysteriously after a brief minor illness. You can only imagine how devastated the family must have been. Emeka’s mother could not be consoled and on the day of her son’s burial, she begged God to take her life also. Suicidal thoughts were not far away from her mind. One can only imagine the pain of a mother who loses a child, a child that was the light of the family.
How does one recover from such? Who are you to blame? God? So what do you do? Do you lose faith? How do you begin to pray to a God that crushed our spirit in such a way? All these were the questions Emeka’s family struggled with for answers for years.
Emeka’s mother had 9 lives but 4 of those lives died with Emeka. And although he was able to raise the standard of the family and give the rest at least a fighting chance in a cruel society, the family has never been the same since his death. Often when things go so bad that it seems like there is no help coming, his mother cannot help but wish her son was still around to drag her along.
He was the forerunner who usually test the waters for the family, and in the end, he was the sacrificial lamb the family didn’t know they had until he was gone. He was a true African Male Child
Emeka’s story although unique is relatable to most poor and average background families in which one person (usually the first son) sacrifices his comfort, education, and possibly his life for his family. And sometimes it is a case of “one generation plants the tree while the other gets to enjoy its shade”.
To all out there that can relate to Emeka’s story, do not despair. It is the price you pay willingly for the betterment of your family. You are the true hero in the community and this is to tell you that you are truly appreciated.
And as an African Male Child, society might not appreciate what you do for them in today’s world but never relent because not all heroes wear capes.