The Friendship Chronicles #002: Jeremiah Aremu, Nigeria

Published: August 8, 2023
Author: Heidi Uskaure
”Hey there, I'm Heidi! I launched this blog back in January of 2023 and I'm having a blast writing in a laidback style. Although, my ultimate goal is to become a pro writer one day. Thanks for joining me on this journey!”

Story of Courage and Open-Mindedness

The Friendship Chronicles continues
#thefriendshipchronicles #story002

These Chronicles consist of captivating stories about my friends from around the globe. As you may already know, I love stories, and I want to be writing them the best I can.

I managed to fall on my bike a few weeks ago. As I was waiting in ER to check my left wrist after the fall, the person I met the day before sent me a message asking how I was faring, and as I told him I fell with the bike, and I was at the hospital, he offered to come and keep me some company. I think the craziest thing is that he offered his company. If I look at my circle of relatives and friends, I can’t name any who would offer to come to the hospital to keep me company while waiting, and neither would I even want to bother anyone.

His name is Jeremiah, but friends call him “Jerry”. During these weeks ever since we have met four times, and all of these times have been different. I replied to him: “Hey, if you want to, I don’t mind, but I’m fine by myself, too.” We discussed how he was waiting at the same ER a while back, too, and he ended up leaving because it was taking too long. I went home from the ER after 6 hours of waiting and never got my wrist checked.

The following Friday, I went out with a friend to catch up, and I thought of going to the movies by myself; ever since last year, I don’t mind doing things by myself, but I asked if Jerry wanted to join, and he did. We watched The Guardians of the Galaxy 3 together and chit-chatted afterwards. He was curious about my knee and wrist that I hurt as I fell, I told him that the wrist hurts a little more now, and in the ER, I said it didn’t hurt, which is my guess why I wasn’t taken seriously.

I’ve been doing things myself for so long that I don’t expect kindness or anything from anyone. I guess that way, I rarely get disappointed. As Jerry sits beside me at the ER, he looks at me and says it’s time for me to stop being so strong and independent; “we all need people“. I told him I didn’t have friends that were that close to me anymore for many reasons. The Finnish people have tight circles, even inside families. It’s okay, for I’ve come to terms with it. If not for my transition, I wouldn’t notice or pay attention to these things, nor would I be scribbling down these stories of strangers who have become my new friends. I asked if he wanted his story to be written in my blog, and here we are, trying to do some justice to it.

 

Meet Jeremiah

Jerry is 37 years old, and he is originally from Nigeria. He moved to Finland in 2021 to study. Jerry has a bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering that he studied back in Nigeria, and now he has finished his Masters’s in Automation Technology – Intelligent Systems in Novia, Vaasa, Finland. He is one of the nicest people I have enjoyed getting to know.

He modestly describes himself as calm and ambitious, which resonates with my observations. In the company of Jerry, there is an atmosphere that encourages authenticity, making it effortless to be myself around him. He has expressed a keen interest in finding employment in Vaasa, as he genuinely enjoys this city and would prefer to stay here.

During a conversation, I inquired about his observations of Finnish people, and Jerry shared his thoughts candidly. Initially, he maintained an uplifting attitude towards Finnish people, but he also acknowledged that they could be challenging to approach. As time passed, he gracefully accepted and learned to navigate this aspect of Finnish culture. It didn’t surprise him if a classmate chose not to participate in discussions or if a neighbour didn’t greet him, as he understood and respected the cultural differences.

As I peruse my notes, I realize I need to contact Jerry to review them again. I called him at 8 pm and soon found out he was sleeping. However, Jerry’s response is incredibly understanding, assuring me there’s no need to feel bad. We engage in a conversation on Telegram that lasts over an hour, meticulously reviewing the material I missed. Throughout our discussion, he generously shares detailed insights into his background.

 

Life in Nigeria

Jerry enlightens me about how Nigeria is geographically divided by two significant rivers: the Niger and the Benue. In the northern region, most of the population practices Islam, while in the southern part, there is a mix of Christians and Muslims. Interestingly, Jerry mentions that on the southern side, it is generally acceptable for a Muslim individual to marry a Christian. Still, the same is not always accurate in northern Nigeria, where such interfaith marriages may encounter more challenges.

Regarding the Nigerian presidential election process, Jerry explains that it follows a modified two-round system, with the possibility of up to three rounds. In the first round, a candidate must obtain a plurality of votes and secure over 25% of the votes in at least 24 states. If no candidate achieves this, a second round occurs, where the top candidates with the majority of votes in most states face off. To secure victory, a candidate must obtain the highest number of votes and have at least 25% support in 24 states. A third round, determined by a simple majority, decides the election’s outcome if necessary.

Jerry’s background

Jerry grew up in the small village of Isanlu, estimated to have around 200,000 residents. After completing his studies, he pursued electrical engineering at Abu Zaria in northern Nigeria.

His family has four children: two daughters and two sons. His father, an electrical engineer, served in the Luca local government’s land and housing department, managing permits for various government projects. Jerry’s mother had a career as a teacher and later transitioned to working for the education ministry, contributing to implementing guidelines and policies in schools.

Due to the challenges faced by the Nigerian government in effectively combating crime, it has become common for households to have guard dogs as a security measure to deter potential thieves.

After his graduation, he worked for five years in Dangote Cement and went through a training period at Dangote Academy in Obajana. Dangote Cement is an international company that produces cement. Jerry ensured everything worked well in the plant. He was responsible for energy audit and management, maintenance for the inventory of electrical and instrumental spare parts, troubleshooting PLC (programmable logic controller), DCS (distributed control system) -based controls systems (automation) and PLC and DCS calibration of process instruments.

Seeking new challenges, Jerry changed jobs and relocated to Lagos, where he joined a PET (polyethylene terephthalate) production company named Jotna Nigeria Limited. His dedication and expertise earned him the opportunity to travel to Switzerland for PET plant training, and later, he travelled to China to observe the processes of a similar company there. Jerry devoted five fruitful years to his work at Jotna before eventually relocating to Finland to pursue his studies in data science.

I got curious why he chose Finland, and he answered he was looking for the best schools, not too expensive and what the requirements were to get in.

Tribes in Nigeria

Jerry tells me the production of goods changed a lot after Nigeria started producing Petroleum. Today, Nigeria is the second largest oil and gas producer in Africa. He also continues to tell me about two hundred fifty ethnic groups in Nigeria and many unique languages you can’t find anywhere else. But the leading and most prominent tribes populating Nigeria are the following:

Hausa

The homeland of the Hausa people is Hausaland (“Kasar Hausa”), located in Northern Nigeria and Southern Niger; however, Hausa communities can also be found across Africa and Western Asia. Most Hausas and Hausa speakers are Muslims. Farming tribes populate the area the Hausa tribe lives, and as Northern Nigeria is not as fertile as it is on the South side, it mainly produces food crops and peanuts. A funny fact Jerry shared with me was that they make pyramids from peanut bags; one pyramid could contain 180 000 bags. 

Yoruba

The Yoruba people are a West African ethnic group mainly inhabiting parts of Nigeria, Benin, and Togo, and the regions in these countries where they predominantly reside are collectively known as Yorubaland. Before Nigeria discovered oil in 1957, most of the development of Nigeria happened in the southwest area. Yoruba made the most money from agriculture; cash crops: such as cocoa, coffee, and rubber tree. Today Nigeria gains only 2% of the money from the end products of cacao and coffee.

Igbo

Geographically, the Igbo homeland is divided into two sections by the Niger River—an eastern section, the larger of the two, and a western section. Igbo are considered industrials; they’re into business, always felt like they didn’t want to be a part of Nigeria, and are looking for ways to leave the country. Jerry tells me about a rumour that their lineage can be traced to Israel. Igbo tribe populates Southeast Nigeria, where most oil production companies are located.

Fulani

The Fulani is an ethnic group in the Sahara, Sahel, and West Africa, with a wide dispersion across the region. A substantial proportion of the Fulani, approximately one-third or an estimated 7 to 10 million, are pastoralists, making their ethnic group home to the world’s largest nomadic pastoral community. Fulani natives of Nigeria are nomadic, and most people who do well in politics are from the Fulani tribe.


My final question to Jerry was about his vision for change in Nigeria, and his foremost aspiration revolves around his background in engineering and inventions to benefit the country. He envisions advancements in product development, utilizing local raw materials to create self-sustaining industries, especially in beauty technology and innovations such as producing coffee from coffee seeds and designing efficient coffee brewing machines. Jerry firmly believes in refining raw materials into high-quality products to boost the country’s domestic trade and enhance the country’s economic potential. Undoubtedly, his response is truly inspiring.

In summary, Jerry’s journey and how he embraces various aspects of life are truly admirable. His calm demeanour and ambition have left a positive impression on those around him, and his adaptability to a new cultural environment demonstrates his open-mindedness and respect for others. I wish him all the best in his job search in Vaasa and hope he continues to find joy and fulfilment in this vibrant city he now calls home.

While writing these blog posts about my friends, I’ll request their favourite songs to include on The Friendship Chronicles playlist on Spotify. Jerry selected a Gospel song, “No, Never Alone” by Ludie Pickett, his song of choice.

You can access the playlist by following this link. Additionally, as I complete these stories, I will continue to add new tracks to the playlist. My ultimate goal is to reach 100 stories, making the playlist remarkable in several ways.

Be kind & don’t go changing,
x Heidi Uskaure

 

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