Several years ago, father had just acquired a farm surrounded by a river. The River is popularly known as ‘Dumes’ in the present day Sagamu. It was a thick forest before activities of labourers were sought. They cutted the grasses and the trees were uprooted. We joined them in the bush burning.
Father was a water hawker, firewood seller, join-man and fisherman when he was a boy. He had planned to train us in a similar way. We have been working as labourers in his numerous farms before this time. It was time to learn fishing. He drove us to Awolowo market, bought tread, hook, got a long stick strong (Cain-like) and prepare the fishing tool. We dug the river’s bank for earthworms, a normal bait to lure fishes to an early grave.
He sat on a falling tree and taught us how to fish. As a fisherman, one of the tenets to learn is patience. Fishes cannot be physically seen, but if patient, you can notice their activities.
Illustrating this, a fish would first bite-run the bait (earthworms), and then repeat the same process after several pauses. This may take 3-5minutes of several trials. Once the fish is sure of availability and stability of the bait, it will go for outright consumption (swallowing). It’s at this point the fisherman would notice the thread on the stick and the watchman (a small Dunlop on the thread) would be dragged to the fish direction, usually the fish abode. Then, it’s at this point the Fisherman must do the needful. He must carry his stick up. He just caught a fish!
As a Fisherman, I learnt the dynamics of age. In my experience as a fisherman for about 3years, big fishes don’t eat much compared to fries (baby fishes). Fries are sharp eaters, strong and smart Fisherman’s tormentors. They are always closed to the top of the river (about one foot deep into the water), they usually consume big earthworms without missing target or being caught.
Only very experienced fisherman can catch 10 of them throughout a day. Why? They don’t swallow the bait. They cut-run- and – bite. You can catch them only by swinging your stick to their direction not by waiting for them to swallow the bait.
Fishing was funfair for a boy who was raised in a compound, not exposed to the street or public life. I could fish in the company of my younger brothers and friends for hours. We would go home with fishes of different species. But that couldn’t have been possible without patience. Mama was usually worried, she would say:
‘I didn’t send you to the river o. Chief (referring to our late father) please talk to your children o. I don’t want them around water o.’
How can you catch what you don’t see? The fishing puzzle remains secret to life’s success. There is nothing you can’t achieve in life if you are patient. Being patient is arguably not the same as being stupid.
You have to be calculative doing so. When I was aged 19, I thought of publishing my article in a national daily. I thought of Punch Newspaper. I was then a contributor at Gateway Mirror (a newspaper owned by Ogun State government then).
So I approached Punch Newspaper’s office at Olokemeji, Ikeja Lagos with some of my works (cartoons, poems and articles). My goal was to see my name published. I dressed in corporate. I left Sagamu around 7:30am. Got there about 8:30am. My first call was to the Receptionist. She asked if I had any previous appointment with the MD. I replied ‘ no, but I have something that can turn Punch Newspaper around.’ She asked ‘what is it?’
‘ Well, I can’t tell you. My message is only for the MD.’ _My response.
She looked at me, smiled and asked me to have a seat.
I remained on that seat unperturbed for several hours. At about 12noon, she came to me, ‘ young man you are still here?’ ‘Yes ma’ I replied with zeal. She said ‘ok’. Then she picked her phone and called the office of the MD to relay my message. Then I was asked to come up. That was around 1pm. That strategy worked. Like in fishing, the strategy you use in preparing the bait is not the same you use in catching a fish. So I met with several people before the MD. A woman in her 50s now approached me, ‘welcome Sir, this way’, as I was ushered into the MD’s office.
‘Good day young man, what can I do for you?’_ The MD asked.
‘I am Adedara Oduguwa; I have some things here that can change the face of your newspaper for good. In fact, what I have here will take your paper worldwide.’ I boast with the close-to-rubbish collections in my hand.
The man looked at me, smiled and asked for what I have got. I gave it to him, he then said:
‘ I like your zeal, and we will employ you. But you know this is a company, I will need to introduce you to the board. However, tell me about your background.” He said.
At that time, I didn’t want employment, because I was still a diploma student at the University of Agriculture, Abeokuta. All I wanted was for my works to be published.
Then I replied ‘ I am from a poor home and needed to support my family. I am currently a student of UNAAB’, the man oared. ‘You mean you are still an undergraduate?’ ‘Yes’, I replied.
He then said ‘we have standard here. We can’t employ an undergraduate, however, we would take your works and be paying you based on what is published and when you finished your studies you can come back, we will employ you.’ He submitted.
I was so happy. Although I lied about my parents being poor, that was necessary because no one seems to be interested in you once they know your parents are comfortable at the time. Throughout my juvenile, I never for once reviewed my father’s identity to any prospective employer or mentor. That act was intentional and strategic. I needed sympathy to achieve my goals. I got it on several occasions.
Back to my Punch Newspaper adventure. The MD called on the Chief Cartoonist-Aliu Eroje, don’t know if he’s still in Punch today or retired. He (MD) asked him to look at my drawings. I followed him to his office, he asked even before screening me ‘ who is MD to you?’
‘My uncle’. _I replied him confidently.
‘Wow, that man is not easy to see. You won’t believe I am only seeing him now after a month. Anyways your drawings are not up to standard but with two or three months brush-up you can be a Cartoonist here. So do you want me to tell him you need three months training with me?’ He asked respectfully.
‘No problem sir’._ I said.
He smiled and added ‘Haba, you are oga’s son now’.
We left for MD’s office and it was done. I submitted my works to him (MD) that day. He dropped a token for me with one of his senior secretaries. I was so happy for that unanticipated encouragement. I left Punch Newspaper that day a fulfilled young man.
Prior to my Punch Newspaper adventure, I had told my editor at Gateway Mirror Newspaper my intention to visit Punch. She said:
‘You better don’t bother yourself, your writings are not so good and even us that are professionals, at times when we write Punch Newspaper, our works are usually for the bin.’ She submitted.
Meanwhile, I have never been discouraged by what people say or would say. I like to try and get a first-hand experience of anything. So I was not moved by what the Editor said. Rather, I became more inquisitive. I desired to experience it. At least, I wanted to go to Punch and be punched!
My visit was on Tuesday, by Saturday, my face and article was already put-upon punch Newspaper. It was my Editor that first called:
‘ Dara I am not surprised, I know you would do anything to achieve your goal. Congratulations on your publication.’ She said.
I was so proud of myself that day. I need to add, it was my dad that taught patience and self-sufficient. He lost his dad when he was three months old. He worked so hard to be above his equals (may his soul continue to rest in peace). My case was a bit different, I had him. The fishing experience taught me what I didn’t have. It changed me for better and increased my ability to wait-unto –the –, Lord, without fear. If you must go home with a basket of fish, you must be very patient.
I know it’s not easy today to live an incorruptible life, since it is a world where people acquire wealth to oppress rather than to survive. I believe it is still possible to achieve a whole lot through patience, endurance and perseverance.
If I have the privilege, I hope to teach my children how to fish, perhaps, they would learn more than just fishing. This is my story. Share yours!