Happy birthday, Ezekiel Zamani also known as Marajo! As I sit here and think about our time together at Federal Government College, Ogbomosho located in Nigeria, memories of our childhood flood back to me.  We met way back in 1988, in the second term of the school year, and since then we have experienced so many life moments that shaped us.  I remember the first day I met you, you were assigned to my room and were wearing your school uniform.  It was an instant connection, and I knew we were going to be mutually respectful friends.

My fondest memory of you is the day you gave me a cup of garri from your very limited provisions and resources.  We were going through a tough time in school, struggling with hunger and limited resources, and I was surprised when you offered me a cup of garri.  It was a small gesture, but it meant so much to me at the time.  Your act of kindness and selflessness touched me deeply, as it showed me the true nature of friendship and how far one person is willing to go to help a friend in need.  It was a defining moment in our relationship and solidified the trust we had formed during our time at FEGO City.

I remember that your white t-shirt with “Marajo” inscribed on it, and how it became your moniker as senior students called you by that inscription because they were rather uninterested in asking your name.  You were a quiet and serious person, and you did not participate in much of the pranks or childish games.  You were always focused on your studies and goals, particularly the goal of survival.  But what I admired most about you was your hardworking, humble and kind nature. You were also a great leader, always putting others before yourself.  You were also great at playing volleyball, always leading the team to victory.

As we grew older, we faced new challenges, one of them being the difficult job market in Nigeria. Despite the high unemployment rate and the limited job opportunities, you never gave up on your dreams and continued to strive for success. Unfortunately, as an underemployed adult, it is hard for one to be a good provider for one’s family. Nigeria has not been kind to many of us, and it is a shame that such hardworking and resilient people like yourself are outside of the circles of influence that dictate the order of the nation.  It is clear that Nigeria needs more job opportunities and a better economic environment to help people like us succeed.

But we are optimistic that things will improve for the better and that you, Marajo, and many other hardworking Nigerians will thrive greatly.  We believe that the Nigerian economy will benefit everyone and that more opportunities will become available.  It is not going to be easy, but with determination and hard work, we can make it happen.

On your birthday, my dear brother, I want to say thank you for being such an important part of my life and for being who you are.  Here’s to many more years of friendship, good memories and success. Happy birthday, Marajo!

With Ezekiel Zamani and other classmates during our 25th school reunion.

With Ezekiel Zamani and other classmates during our 25th school reunion.