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    Saturday, December 23, 2017

    Behind the scenes (II): I grew up in a place where you are not expected to have lofty dreams but I beat the odds

    Salim, (centre) with friends.
    By Salim Yunusa

    While sitting down quietly in the bus, sandwiched between three other hefty passengers going to Zaria from the seat of the nation's capital, Abuja on a seat made for three, I braced myself - not only for the uncomfortable journey, but to confront the block threatening to throttle me. I haven't been able to write for weeks, and I have several deadlines creeping up on me.

    As a child, all I wanted to do was to read and write; that was enough for me. At a time when all my friends wanted to be doctors, astronauts or have other "important" professions, all I wanted was to be able to write short stories - just like the ones I read weekly in the newspapers and magazines. These stories gave me much joy and happiness, and I wanted to do the same for others.

    A living testimony that dreams do come true
    Nearly two decades later, here I am; equipped with a brain, a computer and God. I have done things I never thought I could, considering my background. I grew up in a slum in Zaria, a city in Kaduna, a state in Northern Nigeria. I grew up in a place where you are not expected to have lofty dreams, and where you're definitely not brave or crazy enough to chase them. But here I am: a living testimony that dreams do come true.

    I graduated from Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria (currently the best university in Nigeria) with a Bachelor's Degree in Urban and Regional Planning. I'm also currently undergoing the mandatory one-year National Youth Service Scheme (NYSC), where young graduates are expected to serve their nation for a year, and my Primary Place of Assignment is Baze University Abuja, where I'm the graduate assistant in the Department of Urban and Regional Planning. It has been a rewarding experience so far, for I have met many people and seen many places. I hope that as we step into 2018, things would continue to get better, with the hope of getting retained at my job or getting a better job elsewhere.

    Against all odds
    When I look back at how much I've achieved, I humbly raise my hand in supplication and gratitude for the growth and transformation I've gone through. At a very young age, I overcame autism, battled bullying and survived several sorts of abuse. I had to pick myself up from the bottom, and dust myself back up. With all that has happened to me, I'm glad I didn't succumb to the suicidal thoughts that had once or thrice crossed my mind.

    The struggles continue, for I am still struggling with the issue of identity. It is excruciatingly painful to know yourself, and to refuse to accept who you are. Alas, that's a story for another day.

    Behind the Scenes: It’s hard to be a Nigerian. It’s hard to be a Muslin in the 21st century

    Behind the scenes, I'm just another vulnerable, self conscious person, who walks around with hunched shoulders, refusing to allow life, - and scoliosis, bend me down. Behind the scenes, I'm an ordinary person who sins. I'm not perfect, and I've never claimed to be.

    It's hard to be a black person. It's hard to be a Northerner. It's hard to be a Nigerian. It's hard to be a Muslim in the 21st century. But I'm all that; and I wouldn't trade being all this for the world.

    I believe in myself, and believe that the youths are the key to the future. I believe that each and every young person has something to offer, and to contribute to making it a better place. That's why I'm in the International Youth Federation: to link up with other amazing individuals who share the same vision with me.

    That's why I'm the co-founder of a National NGO, Project Grassroots Nigeria; where we advocate for development and progress at grassroots level. The greatest impact one can have is to start with his community, right? That's why I'm doing what I do. I've successfully carried out campaigns on humanitarian grounds for people.

    Behind the scenes, I've founded a literary movement on Facebook, called Poetic Wednesdays. This is a forum where young, budding poets submit poems and interact using themes. It's a burst of fresh air in the Northern literary scenes, and it's fast gaining grounds as a place to be. As a lover of literature, I also have several stories, poems and articles published in various magazines and online blogs. I also write for several magazines. Living the dream life, right?

    Behind the scenes, I'm a fun person. If you don’t find me watching TV series and movies, you’ll surely find me hanging out with my friends or mountaineering. I'm also a huge fan of nature, and more often than not, you will find me not only appreciating it, but doing all I can to protect it.

    In light of the impending festive season creeping upon us, I deem it fit to wish everyone at the International Youth Federation the warmest compliments of the season. See you in 2018.

    Salim Yunusa, IYF Guest Contributor

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