Cheering news from Tanitoluwa Adewunmi
The locust years of military rule led to ruinous economic policies that led to the decimation of the Nigerian middle class which led to the exodus of the brightest of minds to foreign climes on economic asylum especially to the west.
The Ibrahim Babangida led government in particular made life unbearable for many Nigerian professionals who had no choice but to check out like Andrew to eke a living. Many of them on getting abroad were told that they couldn’t make use of their hard earned certificates to get decent jobs and so they had to start afresh from the lowest rung of the ladder eating the humble pie in the process. They toiled day and night in the cold and heat to live the foreign dream. For some it was a dream come through while for the not so fortunate, it was something worse than a nightmare.
The parents of Tanitoluwa Adewunmi were no exception to the harsh realities of living in Nigeria which made them seek asylum in the United States popularly known as God’s own country. Life was very tough when they first got into New York, the Lagos of America. So hard was life that they were initially homeless and had to make their permanent abode in one of the numerous homeless shelters in the city that never sleeps.
Their economic woes was only for a short while as they were domiciled in a country that places a very high premium on talents which also goes the extra mile to create the enabling environment to ensure that the diamonds in the rough thrive.
The then seven year old Tanitoluwa learnt the highly intellectual game of chess from his class teacher and became a prodigy in barely a year. In 2018, he won the New York state scholastic championship at the tender age of eight. This brought him to national reckoning and a gofundme crowd funding drive was done to raise funds for his family to have a befitting accommodation – over $250,000 was raised for them. The starry-eyed lad was privileged to meet some world leaders including former US President Bill Clinton.
Then came an even bigger breakthrough when popular comedian and host of the award winning talk show ‘The Daily show’ Trevor Noah decided to make a movie about him. The plot of the movie centred around the emigration tale of the Adewunmi’s and the sacrifices parents make and the extra length they go to for the sake of a brighter future for their offspring. Zero Productions imprint would produce the film and the young star has been profiled by the influential New York Times.
This is indeed wonderful news as a small section of Nigerians have given the country a bad name in the Diaspora. The obnoxious activities of drug peddlers, internet fraudsters popularly known as yahoo boys have caused a lot of collateral damage on the green passport. On some occasions, Nigerians are subjected to searches by sniffer dogs for hard drugs. Many Nigerians get denied visas at the embassy for no justifiable reason after paying the non refundable visa fees. One of the biggest fraud cases in the world where $242 million vanished into thin air in a Brazilian bank had some Nigerians involved in it. The recent case of Obiwanne Okeke popularly known as Invictus Obi who was recently arrested by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) for alleged internet fraud after being featured by Forbes magazine leaves a sour taste in the mouth. Adewunmi’s monumental achievement at an age when most of his mates are yet to leave their diapers is indeed a breath of fresh air.
We really commend the vision of his parents for taking the bold step to migrate to the US against all odds as his star would never have shone so brightly at this young age if they had remained back home. We hope that they continue to nurture him so that he can improve from day to day and maintain his enviable status as a genius who will in no small measure inspire his generation.
We hope the movie becomes a box office hit so that it will serve as an inspiration to youngsters that smart work indeed pays.
Tony Ademiluyi writes from Lagos and edits www.africanbard.com