I had a rough childhood.
I was born in Mushin, Lagos, Nigeria, on 29 July 1989 to Mr Wole Musiliu Lasaki from Abeokuta, Ogun State and former Miss Maryam Imoleme from Irrua, Edo State. She was one of the five women, two of them Europeans, that my dad had children with in his lifetime..
I was named Kolawole Abideen Lasaki. That name would later change to Kolawole John Lasaki.
My parents separated or divorced when I was two or three years old. I am the third born of my mum's four children for my dad, and the only male.
Growing up, I was moved from one relation to the other.
My dad, a sailor, lived in Germany.
I first stayed with my paternal grandmother, Alhaja Mosunmola Lasaki at her family house at 18 Oloruntosin Street, off Isolo Road, Mushin, while attending Twins Nursery and Primary School, Papa Ajao, associated with Ms Taiwo Martins, a former wife of Chief Olusegun Obasanjo.
I was in that school from nursery to Primary One.
I continued at Gideon International School Okota for about two years, still living with my granny.
Then I changed to Command Children School at Charity, Oshodi, and my location also changed to Orilowo Ejigbo, where I lived with my paternal aunt.
Oh, it was tough living with her.
She had a car wash facility and sold water sourced from her borehole, and as young as I was then, as soon I returned from school, I would resume work there.
Yet, she insisted that one should come with good results from school. I had little or no time to read at home. I was also a chronic late comer to school.
I can never forget when I came eleventh in our examination. I was beaten mercilessly. Four of her workers held me down, poured water on my back while I was whipped with a cane. I cannot forget that day.
Why it was painful was that when her daughter came twenty-fourth in her examination, she was not punished. That, for me, was partial discipline.
Somehow, I did not develop any hatred for her.
One effect of that beating, however, was that I improved and climbed to and remained in the top five of my class.
When I was in Primary Four, I was moved away from my aunt back to my grandma's in Mushin.
My father had come home from Germany and visited us at Ejigbo and saw my feet full of blisters. I had a severe athlete's foot infection.
I finished at Command in Primary Five. I took entrance examinations into King's College (KC) Lagos and Baptist Boys' High School (BBHS), Abeokuta.
I got admitted into BBHS in 2001 but I left after two years.
It did not go well for me there at all.
I was at home for one term because of what was said to be typhoid.
I continued my nomadic life in 2003 when I was moved to Badagry where I stayed with my maternal grandfather, Pa John Imoleme, and attended Araromi-Ilogbo Secondary School, Oko Afo, Badagry. He was the one who simply gave me the name John. No ceremonies. I attended a Pentecostal church with my uncle and grandpa's son, Samuel Imoleme.
I was there only for my JS (Junior Secondary) 3 when I changed location again.
My dad had returned finally to Nigeria and lived at Ijoko, Sango Ota, with his last wife who had two male children who were younger to me.
I joined them there and was enrolled at Prince and Princess International College, a private school, where I repeated JS 3.
I sat for the May/June West African School Certificate Examination (WASCE) in 2007 but my result in English Language was one of the results withheld in Ijoko by the West African Examination Council (WAEC) in that examination.
I sat for the June/July National Examination Council (NECO) one, which we had also registered for at the same time with WASCE.
I now sat for NECO June/July
But I did not pass physics which was essential for the Computer Science course I had intended reading. Although I had performed well in chemistry, biology, further mathematics, mathematics, agriculture economics, English Language and Yoruba.
I sat for GCE November/December that same year as an external student and passed.
I sat for the Joint Matriculation Examination (JME) in 2008 for the separate university and polytechnic admissions.
I scored 192 which was twelve marks above the cut-off mark for microbiology for what was then known as UNAAB - University of Agriculture Abeokuta. It later became FUNAAB, with the "F" for Federal. Actually, the choice of microbiology was by the folk at the tutorial centre in Ijoko which I attended.
I went for the post-UTME test but that was where my quest ended.
But I got admitted to Yaba College of Technology (YABATECH) where I read food technology and had my national diploma in 2010.
Rather than go for a higher diploma, I sat for JME again to attend a university because of the job discrimination against diploma holders.
Although my university of choice was still UNAAB, my chosen course was food science and technology. I had by now fallen in love with food technology.
This time around, I was admitted.
So, I was there from 2010 to 2015.
It was a year after my admission, 2011, that the name change from UNAAB to FUNAAB occurred.
I was a bit involved in student union politics and I was at some point a representative of my department in the Students' Union Government.
I was fortunate to have worked at the university's Industrial Park Unit in my fourth year and learnt the processing of, among others, honey, palm wine, gari and bread.
I had a Second Class Lower grade with a CGPA of 3.40. I had laid a poor foundation in my first year with 2.75. When I saw that result, I knew I had to buckle up. My target CGPA was 3.5.
It was at FUNAAB that I developed the habit of always wearing a facecap. It was simply to protect my face from the intense sun which was because of the university's hilly location.
At the university, I also got involved in the fashion business whereby I was selling customised t-shirts.
From about my third year, I felt the need to augment the little I was getting from home and those t-shirts were in vogue then and demand for them was high at FUNAAB. I tried to meet the demand.
At some point, I even executed a contract from the National Association of Nigerian Students (NANS) to supply a large volume of t-shirts.
When time came to go for national youth service, I chose Abia State, because I needed to be close to the fabrics market. Fortunately I was posted there and to Àbá, the heart of the market. I taught at Great Brain Academy in Aba.
So, I would buy fabrics, have them sewn and the clothes sent to my customers in Lagos.
After youth service, I moved to Abeokuta.
Sometimes in 2019, I met a friend named Emmanuel Umana online.
He had a contract to supply plantain in Lagos and he had to get them in Abeokuta. I invited him to stay with me while he transacted his business. He got what he wanted, though later we had to go to Ondo for a cheaper and bigger supply of the Elephant Giant variety that the customer sought.
Logistics challenges made it uninteresting.
We soon entered into a working relationship involved in connecting buyers and sellers of agro commodities.
We did some transactions together, some successful and others not so.
Then an opportunity arose late 2019. I saw a notification to apply for a one-year free-tuition-and-boarding training in modern and sustainable agriculture sponsored by the Leventis Foundation.
I applied and also advised Emmanuel to do same.
Our applications succeeded.
We got into the extensive camp in Ilesa, Osun State, in January 2020, just as COVID-19 loomed. Thankfully it was residential and so we were locked-in.
The training was intensive, broad and practical on crop production and animal husbandry.
I also gained a mentor in one of our trainers, Mr Gabriel Okosodo, an agro-forester, who is excellent in nursery management.
After Ilesa, I have also had a free training in the soilless farming of fruits and vegetables and setting up of greenhouses. The training was under the aegis of Soilless Farm Lab in Abeokuta, owned by Samson Ogbole (TL: @Samsonprolific)
I currently have a one-acre leased land in Ikenne, Ogun State, where I farm vegetables, besides consulting here and there on agronomy. I am open to provide my services around Nigeria, and I can be reached via WhatsApp on +234 703 542 6120. My Twitter handle is @FaceCapFarmer and it is all because of my wearing of facecaps at FUNAAB, although you can still find me not wearing one. In fact, a few months ago, because I love changing my looks, I did an "All-back" braid which has made it a bit difficult for me to always wear facecaps. But I still try.
I am also trying to pursue a master's degree, preferably in a foreign university because of the international exposure to modern techniques it would afford me.
My dad died in 2015 while I was doing my final examinations at FUNAAB. Even as we did not have a good father-and-son relationship, I sometimes miss him.
My mum remarried but her husband is late.
She is a missionary. She goes from place to place, particularly remote areas for outreaches and so it has been difficult to also spend quality time with her.
To anyone who has gone through my kind of turbulent childhood, my message is that they should not let such define the kind of person they would be and never blame anyone for whatever they might have gone through.
I defined what I wanted to be and I worked in that direction.
My three cardinal points:
1. Be intentional.
2. Be a fighter.
3. Be focused.
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Taiwo Obe, FNGE
Commonwealth Professional Fellow
Founder/Director, The Journalism Clinic
+234 818 693 5900