Some called me the village boy without a sense of class. As such, I’ve had to deal with people who consciously belittle the wonders of God in my life; people who seemed more concerned about my failure than my success.
I came from an average family, right next to the circle of poverty. I wasn’t born with a black, gold, or silver spoon. In fact, I was born on a wooden bed. Well, I am not about to go into details of the circumstances surrounding my birth, nor would I be talking about the various obstacles I came across in my relationship with people. I am excitedly interested in sharing with you the things God Almighty did within seven days in the land of Senegal for a village boy.
Ready? Take a deep breath!
In November 2018, the Ford Foundation funded my trip to attend the Youth Entrepreneurship and Self-Employment (YES) Forum on Decent Jobs for Youth in Dakar, Senegal. As exciting as this news was, unfortunately, there was a challenge that could have hindered my chance of traveling.
On the eve of my trip, I received a call from the team at Ford Foundation that they couldn’t secure my hotel and that sending funds to me at the time was going to be a bit of a challenge. And then the unexpected question came: “Would you rather we cancel the trip, or you would proceed to sort out the accommodation and feeding?”
At this point, I knew I had to make that decision. Right there, I told the caller I would proceed to sort out the accommodation and other stuff myself since I would be refunded. Immediately after I ended the call, I went online to search for a hotel in Dakar. After what seemed like an endless search, I finally saw a particular hotel, Villa Soleil du Senegal. Their fee was reasonable, and they were willing to accept payment on arrival. I called their mobile to confirm my reservation. They confirmed it and also offered to be my chauffeur from the airport.
All this happened on Sunday evening.
On Monday, I hurriedly visited my bank in the morning to make a withdrawal and speak to my account officer about the need to make my debit card useful when I get to Senegal. Of course, they assured me it would work and that I would be able to withdraw from my account. With that, I withdrew enough Naira to at least sustain me for three days. By 11:00 am, I was already at the airport to catch my flight.
Let me take a quick sip!
On my arrival at the Blaise Diagne International Airport, I noticed I had made one of the biggest mistakes ever. The Naira is not an acceptable currency in Senegal! So, you either have the Senegal currency (CFA Franc) or the US dollar. At this point, I knew “Faith was the only currency” to live on.
At the airport, I approached some of the bureau de change stands and none of them were willing to change my almighty 200,000 Naira. After a series of efforts, I decided to plead with one of them to allow me to make a call to the hotel. Within 30 minutes, my driver arrived and took me to the Villa Soleil du Senegal, sicap foire lot 360, Dakar, Senegal, which would be home for the next seven days. The hotel was magnificent, the aesthetics were brilliant, and the environment was homely. Unfortunately, I couldn’t pay the driver. So, the lady, Mrs. Sall, offered to pay on my behalf, believing that I would pay her back when I settled in.
Just so we are clear, I DID NOT KNOW ANYONE IN SENEGAL, AND THAT WAS MY FIRST TIME THERE!
The hotel is managed by the woman and her family. One of her daughters, Assisat, took me to my room. Oh my! It was everything! It had free internet, a personal dining room, a kitchen… In fact, it looked like I was in “the oda room” in Aso Rock.
After settling in, the lady, Mrs. Sall, came to my room to ask me the big question, “When are you paying?” At this point, nothing else would matter but the truth. I showed her the naira and my debit card and told her I would appreciate it if she could show me to any of my bank branches where I could make a withdrawal or even change the Naira. That night, after much thought, she decided to provide my dinner and thereafter agreed to take me to the ATM where I could use my card. Unfortunately, like I feared, my debit card did not work.
The following day, which was the first day of my conference, Mrs. Sall came to my room and offered to drive me to the venue since she also worked around the area. And yes, she brought my breakfast as well, even though I did not make any form of payment!
At the end of the conference, she came back to the venue as she had promised. We hurriedly drove to a bureau de change market where I could probably change my almighty naira. Well, after much pleading my 200,000 Naira was exchanged miserably. And this could only cover two days of my stay in her hotel. Being a good woman, she sympathized with me and also assured me that she would be bringing me to the venue of the conference for the next two days.
For the next four days, this woman and her family fed me, providing all that I needed only by living on the assurance that I would send her the money the moment I returned to Nigeria. They were a Muslim family with a good conscience and a love for humanity. They made sure I ate like a king, and I never had the chance to feel bad that I had not paid for my apartment or the food. They made me feel at home in a foreign land.
Let me take a sip!
On the fifth day, the unexpected happened. Mrs. Sall couldn’t bear the fact that I was leaving comfortably in her hotel, eating her food, and not paying. According to her, someone who had interacted with Nigerians in the past spoke to her and told her that I was a scam and that I wanted to take advantage of her. I sat on the couch looking at this woman, and I could only respond with tears. Right there, she told me to either check out of the hotel or make sure her money was available by the time she would be returning from work.
Immediately after she left, I picked up my phone to surf through the internet for the Nigeria embassy. Fortunately, I got the details of the embassy and I told them all that had happened. The lady on the phone asked me to hang up and that they would send help immediately. Unfortunately, help never came, not even till I eventually left Senegal.
That evening, when Mrs. Sall returned, she demanded to know if I had made my decision. I told her about what I had done earlier and that the Nigerian Embassy promised to come to my rescue. At that moment, she felt sorry for me and asked that I do not worry anymore, that she would wait for me to return to Nigeria to pay. You could imagine the joy and excitement I felt.
Oh, let me quickly add that she celebrated her birthday that night, where I was privileged to sing and dance with her family, and as usual, we ate and laughed together as a family. (Now, I am emotional remembering this) On the following day, the daughter took me to almost all the tourist centres in Dakar, Senegal (you can see some of the pictures) for free. It felt like the best time of my life. I had so much fun without paying!
On my way back to Nigeria, I remember boarding the same flight with Nigeria’s dancehall musician, Patoranking, who was, by the way, very friendly and got a copy of my book, “Unemployment is a Disease.” On Monday morning, as at 7:45 am, I was already in front of my bank to make the wire transfer. I called her almost immediately after the payment was made to inform her that it had all been sent to her; her reactions and responses have meant a lot to me to this day. That payment, in fact, made her change her negative perception of Nigerians.
Just so you know, she and her family have become my family. We have a mother-son bond. Her hotel and restaurant have been rated as one of the best in Dakar, Senegal, with customers from around the world.
Why am I sharing this again?
I wanted to share the wonders of God with you. To my readers, God is never silenced when we completely trust Him. In fact, he shows up when we are left without any options. My story may sound cliché, but the truth is, God showed up for me within seven days in a foreign land.
No matter what you are going through, no matter what the challenges are, I need you to find faith in the almighty God. He owns everything and can provide anything.
God can use anyone to glorify himself. He can allow situations to make you trust him more. He can decide to make you stranded to show that he alone can provide for your needs. If you doubt me, ask the birds!
Once again, God showed up for me when I was at my lowest point, and He can do the same for you if you TRUST HIM!
I am still in the business of shunning unemployment and my purpose is to empower youths for global relevance in ministry and business.
Thank you for reading, and kindly share this with others.
Mayowa John Ajibodu (Mr. Shun)
No1 Unemployed but Not Jobless Nigerian Youth.