“We can respect others’ differences, and accept them, even love them unconditionally, without thinking we have to make everyone a bosom buddy… I have to feel that I can be absolutely myself and not be judged or have others try to mould and shape me to their ideals…”
– Barbara W. Laser.
During my days in Kaduna I wanted to write a series – The Ikirun chronicles but I never got to do that. I wanted to share some of the things I learnt in the place I mention so often that people tend to believe my family is based there. Funny thing is – all that I know of the geographical space called Ikirun is not more than a small partially-fenced portion in that town, the Federal Government College Ikirun and the road that leads to the college.
I’m certain about certain things in life, one of them is that I would write my autobiography (God sparing my life) and another is that my days in Ikirun will occupy a significant portion of the book. Ikirun was the place where I ‘grew up.’ I learnt quite a lot there that its almost impossible to believe I spent only six years there. In Ikirun I learnt to look after myself, being several kilometres away from home, with no parent or siblings, no school father or mother and having run away from the two school guardians I had. I learnt to be independent and how to manage the independence.
Today, I will talk of how Ikirun shaped my view on friendship. However, to start with, we need to go back a year or two before my sojourn in Ikirun began. In the last primary school I attended I had a best friend and his name was Bode. Maybe I should state here that I attended nothing less than six schools for my primary education, little wonder then I was thrown off to a boarding school to have a taste of stable education.
During one of our breaks in Ikirun, I was back in Lagos and I bumped into Bode. Imagine an 11-years old at that scene, I was so happy to see my best friend in primary school. We greeted like kids that we were and boy, I was shocked, dude had forgotten my name and it hadn’t even been up to two years we left school. I was BITTER because it only meant that I wasn’t my best friend’s best friend.
With that position of best friend now vacant, I made a new best friend in Ikirun, Femi Adesina. We were in the same class and in the same house so it meant that we did our assignments together, went to the stream together, got beaten by the same seniors etc. We did almost everything together.
Then sometime later, we had a third friend. Problem was – Femi was the middle friend not me. I don’t need you to be adults to understand this, I need you to open your kid-mind. What being the middle friend means is that the two other friends are jostling for the attention of the middle friend. And I hated sharing my friend.
I particularly remember a day, it was one of those post-exams periods when we had so much time on our hands and little miscreants that we were we had run away from the hostel, in the middle of the road we had to decide where to go. Jide, our third friend suggested a place and I suggested a different place. We were friends and we would go to the same place but there we were torn between two options. We ‘voted’ and Jide’s suggestion carried the day. I was BITTER that my best friend didn’t take sides with me and that meant I was about losing my best friend, again.
There and then I knew something was wrong with my idea of friendship and it had to change. Bitterness and friendship don’t go together. I had to let go of that childish attitude of having my best friend all to myself. I made amends. I admitted that it was impossible that my best friend would be a friend to me alone and I also removed the restriction on who can be and cannot be my friend.
To be my friend, we both don’t have to share same faith or creed, we don’t need to speak same dialect to be friends, we don’t need to agree on many things to be friends. What matters is that we find a common ground of belief and we respect our differences. I can call you my friend simply because we both have the same favourite author. And when I call you friend, I mean it in all the senses of the word. And from that time till now I have been blessed with awesome friends.
From then till now, I have had an open book of friendship. My life is open to new friends and friendships everyday. And in all the years that I have kept various and varied friends I have learnt a lot from them. Friendship is not about finding someone you agree with on all matters, one area of agreement is just fine and in the areas where you disagree, respect each other’s views. Think about it, don’t you have views that you believed few years back but that you have since dumped? Most times, life is not about right or wrong, the differences arise out of our differing paradigms. Paradigms aren’t compasses that are always right, they are like kids who believe that wherever they are facing is north.
I think our world will be a better place if we learn to tolerate others as I have learnt in friendship. We aren’t as different as we think. If you open your heart and book of friendship, if you’re welcoming enough, you’d realise that the man next door isn’t an enemy simply because he speaks a different language, practises a different religion or doesn’t share your political views.
Valentine is not just about lovers. Its also about friendship. This season, extend the hand of friendship/fellowship to someone.
PS: This post is specially dedicated to Prof. Bobola Akintomide, a friend from the Ikirun days, who helped me in getting my domain name.
I am @seunalade