He arrived in the United Kingdom in the summer of 2003. Funnily enough, it was the hottest summer recorded in a long time.
He had with him, just 200 pounds and a dream.
All set to stay at his Aunt’s place, he smelt trouble the moment he set foot inside the house. He wasn’t welcome – as simple as that. Time showed him the door, comfort and welcoming attitudes were conspicuous by their absence. He slept on the floor. He wasn’t allowed into certain rooms. He was not given the chance to enjoy the care of a family – it wasn’t even given to him.
200 pounds took him only so far. But in two days, he landed a job in Mc Donalds. Weeks passed by with him flipping burgers. One day, luck dawned on him. He took a chance and skipped work, running to a job fair where he got a job with O2 telecoms as a retail assistant. They paid little, but more than the folks at Mc Donalds for his nifty ways of flipping burgers. But the store manager hated his guts.
He retailed and retailed, and retailed, and retailed some more. Education knocked on his doors, this time, asking for some space in his life. He enrolled in University for a multimedia course. And the store manager hated him even more.
At home, he was under the iron-fist of hatred and control. An 8:00 pm curfew was imposed. But because he was so far back in his studies, he had to stay in the library till late. When he came home, he would be locked out. Once, twice, several times. And then he got smart. He eventually devised a system where he would study until late and go to night clubs till the early hours of the morning. And from there, he would head to school or work. Sometimes, he spent the night in a telephone booth.
Luck still decided to send clouds his way. Upon graduation he didn’t get any work and was disillusioned. He quit the job at O2, and devoted his time to getting a job. To the wealthy relatives he had, he was a joke. Broke, hungry and on the verge of being kicked out, he surrendered to God and asked him to help out.
He moved out, slept in a friend’s house, on his sitting room floor. He took up a job at a call centre. He would cold call people to buy things they didn’t need. He had a degree in Architecture, but no one hired him. He tried, he tried, he tried and he tried some more.
One morning he got a call to attend an interview outside London, with a huge property developers design unit. By now he had attended so many interviews and gotten the 'we'll be in touch' response that he really didn’t want to go this time. But he did.
He picked up his heavy portfolio, and ran to catch his train. But the train was delayed. He went in late for his interview, but life was waiting for him, to happen. At the interview they talked design, multimedia and music! And the job, the job was his. In the middle, somewhere, he also moonlighted as a musician, recording a UK Top 3 track.
He climbed steps then, one, two, three, one by one by one by one. And slowly made his way to the top – the much coveted top rung. From Minimum wage and Sleeping on floors, he got his Masters and Salary hikes. A long arduous ride, he even got to go back to the McDonalds where he once worked to grab a bite and several workers were still there.
He looks back now. He respects them for making an honest living. But the darkest hours were there. It felt a million miles away now
As told to Elsie Ijorogu-Reed and Kirthi Jayakumar