It was sometime in 1990. Twas either a Tuesday or a Thursday…can’t remember the specific day. It happened during lunch break in my secondary school. I was in JSS 1.
While growing up in the Akisanmi household, we were mandated to follow ardently the food timetable that had been meticulously crafted out by my mum. Tuesday and Thursdays were the days we had beans for lunch or dinner. On Tuesday & Thursday school days, our lunch packs were packed with beans & plantain (or garri). Unlike the other richer kids in International School (UNILAG), I wasn’t privileged to have been given an exorbitant amount to spend on food during lunch break; sometimes I took lunch packs, other times I was given “enough” money.
On that faithful day, beans was my portion for lunch. After covering the beans in a “planta butter” container for over 4 hours (we usually left the house by 6:30am), I proudly opened the cover to descend on the contents within. Upon opening the white cover, a sour aroma filled the 45-pupil-capacity classroom. My then-bestfriend Dipo frowned and covered his nose at the scent of the aroma.
It was at that moment that my classmate, Lanre, made the statement that will lead to the name I was popularly known by in school.
“I HOPE YOU’RE NOT GOING TO EAT THAT”, he screamed. I assured him that I was going to do justice to the beans regardless of the aromatic stench that filled the atmosphere.
After putting a full spoon of the beans in my mouth, he said something I might never forget: YOU’RE AN ANIMAL. He shouted at the top of his voice to the hearing of everyone in class. A few of his friends started shouting ANIMAL repetitively as if it was rap sentence in MC Hammer’s album. That was how I was eventually tagged “ANIMAL”. I was the guy that eats “expired” beans. For the next 5 years, I would be known more as ANIMAL than Seun Akisanmi.
If you had visited my class during my secondary school days, you might have had a difficult time locating me if you were asking who Seun Akisanmi was. But if you had mentioned that you were looking for ANIMAL, your search would have led you straight to JSS 1 Gold.
It wasn’t until recently when I visited memory lane that I realize how derogatory that nickname was. Because I didn’t have the characteristics of a “G” (the term that was used to describe someone who had money, girls and every thing that would make them invitable to all the parties in town), I would eventually discover that people like me did not deserve to flow with the big boys in school.
I would eventually become a messenger to some of my classmates in an attempt to be considered cool. If Olumide or Damilola needed to buy donuts & AfriCola at the kiosk, I would gladly offer to go because these were to coolest guys in school then. Ofcourse they bought food for me also and I was happy to be called ANIMAL by most of them.
Fast forward to 2014. I’ve backslided 12+ times, managed over 5 companies, been depressed countless times, attempted suicide twice, been to prison once….in short, I’ve been and done many things I’m not necessarily proud of. One thing I’m grateful for however is the fact that I’m still alive. It is memories like the ANIMAL season that makes me determined to make an impact in the lives of people that might have been considered ANIMALS, stupid, incompetent, ugly, idiots, dullards, lousy or mad.
I’ve learnt so much about history to know that most of the people that have made positive impacts in history have been given one or more of the aforementioned nicknames (and in most cases, they were rightly called so). That is why I enjoy teaching the class of 8 & 9 year olds in my church. That is why I encourage many parents that their “troublesome” child is a great person in the making….if only they can see.
Its been an adventurous journey on this planet thus far and I’m wholeheartedly grateful for the many challenges & blessings that have come my way. If you’re one of those that have been given nicknames that isn’t befitting of the person whose image you were created in, know that a great destiny awaits you if you faint not. At the end of the day, you’ll realize that truly ALL THINGS WORK TOGETHER FOR YOUR GOOD.
I’m not perfect. I still have issues (just ask my wife and my first daughter). But I know that if I stay focused on being a blessing to my generation (and generations to come) through my photography, poetry & teaching gifts, people will say my name from the depths of their hearts each time they think of me: OLUWASEUN (Thank God)….
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