• Sunday, June 16, 2024
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BusinessDay

How old is too old in Nigeria?

The deepening misery of Nigerians

Six weeks after you read this column, yours truly will be turning 32. Whenever I mention this online, I get some variation of the “OMG you’re so young!” response, I confess I always feel secretly relieved.

I feel that temporary, empty satisfaction that comes when you are the coolest guy in the nightclub and the centre of attention, while in reality your clothes are borrowed and you are buying those drinks on credit.

Because of course, after all the compliments fade away, I am left with my mirror and my reality which tell me very plainly that I am not getting younger.

In Nigeria, people may be happy to pretend that 32 is not conceptually closer to 70 than 18, but the awful truth is that in a country whose median age is 18.1, turning 32 means that one is 4 years shy of being statistically twice as old as the average Nigerian. A 32-year-old is physically closer to 40 than 20. Their thoughts are increasingly thoughts of the early mid-life crisis persuasion.

Even for David Hundeyin, being David Hundeyin in perpetuity without a succession plan is not realistic and I’m telling that to as many investors and funders as need to hear it

Those with careers they are not proud of are learning that true career satisfaction comes only from making enough money to solve problems consistently. Those with less than delightful spouses are learning how to stretch their failing marriages out for 30+ years like our parents did. New aches and creaks pop up now and again, constantly singing our (hopefully) slowly-impending mortality into our ears.

Yours truly is not spared. These days, every investment proposal or funding application that I write now has an entire segment dedicated to West Africa Weekly’s next generation of writers and journalists. Even for David Hundeyin, being David Hundeyin in perpetuity without a succession plan is not realistic and I’m telling that to as many investors and funders as need to hear it.

My glory days are in the past

Once upon a time, yours truly spent 16 years being turned into a walking encyclopaedia pretty much against my will. This wasn’t what I wanted! Finally at 16, my big act of rebellion finally came. Motivated by an English teacher who didn’t realise that his throwaway comment had just changed my life forever, I informed my folks that I was changing the course on my UCAS application from Business Management to Creative Writing and Journalism.

The ensuing drama took me through a Siberian detour in Okada, Edo State, but it ended up with a degree in Creative Writing and Media from Hull Uni in 2011, so my point was proven. I was my own man!

More rebellions ensued. Instead of returning home after my degree, I remained in the UK and fell in love with a beautiful lady from Zimbabwe.

Subsequently, I slipped, lost my footing, fell and got her sort of…pregnant. Which didn’t end well because, you know, ectopic pregnancy. Emergency keyhole surgery to save her life. Loss of an ovary. End of relationship. Loss of my job. Subsequent eviction. Rough sleeping in Leeds. Clinical depression. Eventual return to Nigeria in 2013 to start afresh.

But the rebellion was just starting. I literally stormed out of home in 2015 and went off to marry someone they didn’t like or even really know. I officially dissociated from their JW religion in 2016 and came out to them as Atheist, nine years after the fact. I built a successful career in writing and media, which I would like to think was much to his confoundment.

Whereas his entire professional persona was built on being quietly effective and avoiding the spotlight, I went and became an investigative journalist whose work gets him hunted by USD billionaires and spiteful African dictatorships in Abuja and Kigali. I even got some body art and coloured my hair at a point.

Read also: Despite hardship, polls show Nigerians prefer investing to secure future

Turning the name “David Hundeyin” from my dad’s quiet name only known in the polite government and real estate circles he moved in, to a byword for “thermonuclear journalism served with raw tatashe” was probably the ultimate 2-fingers to my old man and my demonstration of just how young and fiery I was.

Now, I am looking for successors because I have acknowledged that the business of changing the world belongs to those who are most invested in changing it – because it is quite literally their own future. Once you turn 32, you cannot genuinely claim to be focused exclusively on the future, can you? It’s your “now,” stop lying.

Why is a “youth leader” 36?

I promised myself that I would resist the urge to write a column about the absurdity of a 36-year-old man successfully running for office as a “Youth Leader” in an influential political formation. Apparently, I failed to resist that urge so here we are, three days after one of the world’s weirdest spectacles, pretending not to be utterly weirded out by the fact that someone who is twice the median age of Nigeria’s population is now a “Youth Leader.”

Hey, I have no problem with the guy as a person (I’ve never even met him), but surely at some point the DJ has to take the needle off the record and stop playing. Is everything Ok at all our collective homes? What on earth is going on?

According to Christian mythology, Jesus of Nazareth – the man whose story some consider to be the most influential human story ever told – died at 33. Think about the significance of that for a second. A man who existed for the grand purpose of saving all of humanity could be said to have fully achieved his purpose at 33 years of age. In those 33 years, this man made such an impact on the world that the non-believer who wrote this column is referencing his story some 2,000 years later on another continent.

However, factual or embellished it may be, the story of Jesus of Nazareth points toward a fact that anyone with some measure of common sense already knows – that those who change the world, most of the time are those whose age affords them the physical and mental energy to do so.

Had he not been born in Nazareth – say he was born a few thousand kilometres southwest in Aramoko – what would he have been doing at 33? Changing the world irrevocably and single-handedly shaking the dominant world power of his time? Espousing a popular revolutionary ideology that would someday change the world? Dying a famous but painful death? Well I mean, knowing Nigeria, maybe a stray police bullet or an unfastened shipping container falling off a flatbed truck could have done for him.

He could definitely have died a painful death at 33, but just without the “famous” bit. Jesus of Aramoko would probably have died at or before 33, albeit for no reason at all and to absolutely no effect whatsoever.

Or he could probably aspire to contest for APC National Youth Leader.

In three years’ time.