As my eyes gazed randomly in the class, my palms began to sweat profusely while I was aggressively struggling to solve a second-degree simultaneous equation. My first day of preparing for Olympiad mathematics in 2016 got my head twisted. “Have I made an erroneous decision to nod my head in approval for this contest?” I was left with a conundrum to ponder. My mathematics teacher gave me some set of textbooks to prepare for this competition, but unknowingly, I had handed over myself to draining arduous tasks, and an outburst of troubled feelings erupted in my heart afterwards.
Inexplicably, while I kept skipping several pages of the books due to my inability to comprehend the questions, I could feel the heartbeat of blood traveling from my heart to my heated brain, but leaving out my frightened right hand. Just when I was battling with thoughts of backing out on the contest, a boy in a shining uniform walked up to me and tapped my shoulder blade. “What is the problem, Timilehin? You look disturbed,” John whispered to me. I surmised he could read the uneasiness well written on my eyes.
John miraculously showered rain of motivation unto me that fateful day. I meticulously explained my plight, and the actions he took amazed me. Not only is he a silent ‘moving book,’ but also, his wealth of experience in mathematics cannot be quantified. John joined the school when we were in SSS1, and cleared the awards during the sessional Prize-giving Day. Yet, his unusual quietness towards representing the school in competitions baffled me. The way he dissected the questions that seem like mountains on the first page of one of the Olympiad textbooks marveled me. “Is he an alien?” I kept wondering within me.
As days go by, we became more intimate due to my preparation for the exam. He explicitly gave details on everything I needed to know. Little did I know that was the beginning of a new season in my life. A friend worth more than gold was someone I found. Not only do we share a similar mindset, but we also became like brothers from different wombs discovering several hidden talents in each other. John remarkably turned to a fulcrum my life revolved around.
Due to my timorous nature, I never liked to be known by teachers, neither do I like to lead a team. I was lucky to escape leadership until I got to SSS2. However, John usually mocks me with the catch-phrase, “Is it because your name is ‘Timi’ that is why you are timid?” Any time he says that, my cerebrum will react, and sends an image of a melancholic look to my face. Interestingly, John put an end to my lackadaisical attitude in taking a leadership position by nominating for the post of class captain. That was the beginning of a novel beginning!
On getting to our third year in school, he liaised with other prefects to bring me out of the mud of shyness and recommended me for the position of the senior prefect boy. New Light College made the position of senior prefect to be attained by electoral process for the students to have a say in the system. Amazingly, John and my other friends, to my greatest surprise, singlehandedly sponsored all my campaign banners and posters. The only thing the timid boy named Timi had to do was to timidly address the students. I thought my friends were forcing me against my will then; on the other hand, that was a turning point in my life. My leadership potential was awakened and I continued in that path even till now. What a conglomerate of friends led by John that saw a virtue of a leader in me!
Shockingly, it was as if the clock was moving with the speed of light, and shortly, it was time to proceed to the next phase of my educational journey. Due to the wealth of John’s parents, he proceeded to Imperial College for his first degree in Mechanical Engineering, while I applied for Civil Engineering at the ‘first and best’ university in Nigeria – University of Ibadan. Unfortunately, my financially disadvantaged parents could not afford to pay my acceptance fee after being offered admission into the University of Ibadan. With the deadline for payment drawing near, tears began to roll down my cheeks every morning. At first, it was a thought that I might have to stay at home till further notice until it was 24 hours to the last day for the payment when the reality began to disrupt my mental state.
Literally, at that moment, I had three options; to steal, to borrow, or to forfeit the admission. Being entangled in a critical decisive moment, my brain kindled, and I picked up my phone to try my luck. I decided to put a call through to John if he could be of help. While his phone was ringing, I kept thinking that even if he would be of help, my decision to inform him at this late hour might likely render the situation hopeless. To my amazement, after dishing out my predicament to him, a credit alert entered in the evening when I least expected. John’s father sent me the money with extra cash. That was how I escaped the trap of staying at home that year. Who knows if I would have to face similar peril in the coming years as well if John had not intervened?
Two weeks later, John resumed at Imperial College while I could only but hope the academic calendar of University of Ibadan can be miraculously fast-tracked. A new intake will have to patiently drink the tea of patience for several months after most students in other institutions would have resumed. So sad! Not being discouraged by that, John was there to keep me away from being incarcerated into the prison of idleness by engaging me in thought-provoking activities. He opined that we should opt in to learn programming language. At that time, I was clueless about the importance of his decision, nevertheless, my motion was there to convince me – “if it is from John, then it must be amazing, no doubt!”
Six months later, we had marched into the intermediate stage in coding; creating websites, and other not-too-complex programs. On resuming at the ‘first and best’ university, my journey in the school seems stress-free with John enveloping me with perpetual assistance. He was always there to motivate me over the phone whenever I am loaded with truck-load of tasks to do. By the time I got to year two, we were already proficient Junior Developer.
October 12th, 2019, John texted me that he would be defending a project he carried out on ‘the future of self-powered automobile machines’ the following week. He critically did justice to the project and sent a copy to me. ‘Excellent’ will be an understatement to qualify the job he did. Although he was meant to submit a signed document in school, but it escaped his mind to tell the principal engineer at Renitech where he carried out most of his practical works.
Strangely, while John was navigating his way to the company to sign the document, a yellow Benz driver trying to make a left turn to a four–lane road hit him unknowingly. However, we were thankful to God that he survived the injury and was rushed to a nearby hospital. A few hours later, he began to have a drop in body temperature caused by reduced circulation of blood. Afterwards, he gave up the ghost unannounced.
This is approximately 12 months after John’s demise, and the memories are still fresh. The legacies he laid down will forever remain gold to me. I am currently the president – National Institute of Civil Engineers, University of Ibadan Chapter. Also, I am the founder of FOLTIM, an upcoming social media website. This is just a tip of the iceberg of the outcome of John’s impact in my life. Bringing the best out of the poor boy that hailed from the ancient city of Abeokuta will never be forgotten in the book of history.
In conclusion, Bill Gates started Microsoft with his best friend Paul Allen, Larry Page started Google with his best friend Sergey Brin, and Steve Jobs started Apple with his friend Steve Wozniak. Even before getting to know all these, I have never discounted the power of friends. How I wish I could reconnect with John, but nature had left an indelible mark, and created a boundary which triggered psychological pain any time I remember the priceless contributions of this dear young lad. If not for John, what will be my testimony now? Absolutely, nothing! So sad he passed away too soon. See you in heaven John; I have missed you so much.
Folarin Oluwatimilehin wrote in from Abeokuta via firstname.lastname@example.org