It’s hard for me to remember names of childhood friends but I would never forget the two names: Chinonso and Uriel. Chinonso was the guy who supplied anything- rubber bands, DIY radios, cards, ‘aiyefele footballs’. Uriel was the guy I gave my one year’s worth of savings + my brother’s for a small tortoise. Let me tell you how it happened.

My brother and I spent Christmas at our cousin Debola’s house. It was the best Christmas ever. What could a 15 year old want more than Uncles and Aunts lavishing one with love, a house-help that actually did all the dishes and a house without a set bedtime. At that time, my parents couldn’t afford many things. We had a house help but my parents couldn’t afford to allow such luxury as to not wash dishes.  They also could not afford not to send us to bed after 9pm(well, 10pm if we were lucky).

One other thing they couldn’t afford was a 1,000,001 in 1 video game console. It was just not something they would spend money on. Video games?? Mba! They would rather buy us books.

But Debola had this Sega Mega Drive with a catridge that had 1 million games in it. No jokes! And that was why Christmas 1996 was lit.

A few days later and I was back  home from this sweet vacation. I couldn’t let go of  the sense of freedom I felt at Debola’s house. I couldn’t let go of the thought of having my own gaming console so I decided I was going to buy my own.

I convinced Todimu, my brother(who’s likely to still shoot me if he reads this), to join me in the quest to save for our own video gaming console. With a sheet of paper, pen and calculator, we tried to figure out how long it would take for us to reach the N20,000 goal.

“2 years”, we figured. So we despised lunch, cursed hunger and remited our savings into this kolo (piggy bank) made of wood.

Ah! I still remember the hunger I endured every lunch when all those ISI big boys would waltz into the classroom holding a bottle of Limca and a fried turkey thigh. Or the lies I had to cook up when a fine girl asked me to buy her lunch. “I bought lunch for Hadiza today. I would buy you lunch tomorrow, don’t worry”. I once blurted.

One day, I met this really slim boy who lived down the street– about 8 blocks from our house. We got into rather awkward conversations about toys and pets when he told me he had a tortoise for sale. My god! The only tortoise I had seen was at the University of Ibadan Zoo and in books that talked about the awesome wisdom of the slow moving creature.

That night I couldn’t sleep. I kept picturing in my head what it would mean to have an ‘exotic’ pet. I picked up the encyclopedia and read all I could about tortoises.

Early the next day I had devised a way to remove all the money from the locally made piggy bank. I waited till evening for Uriel to get back from school, handed him the N7500, which at that time was a year’s savings between my brother and I, and went home with my new obsession. The obsession I later named Raphael.

Let’s just say I broke our game console dream, I got in trouble with my mum who later found out that I stole all the money and a year later, I gave Raphael to my high school crush – a year’s savings GONE!

Almost 20 years later I can relate to my actions, pick big lessons from these and also share financial lessons from this.

  1.  Accountability: I used a piggy bank that you couldn’t see through so when I withdrew all the money, my brother was unaware. If I had gotten my mother involved in this savings plan, it wouldn’t have gone down this way.  Likewise, you need to be accountable to yourself or to your partner(s) when dealing with finances. Create budgets, have clear spreadsheets that detail every IN and OUT, even though I was still under her care. I ran away with my brother’s money and got away with it –  somehow.
  2. Dedication and Visualization: I was very dedicated to this cause o. Imagine having a console with a catridge that had 1 million games. At that time, that was EVERYTHING.  I could get home from school and then play as many games as I wanted. If I got bored with one, I would switch to the other. I could tell my classmates that I had every game they had. I was ready to do anything to make this a reality- including planting this dream in my brother’s mind.  But dedication isn’t enough when the dream starts to fade in the mind. Soon enough you start to question why you even had the dream in the first place. It must have been what happened with me. As the year went by, I had started forgetting the emotion that came with Christmas as Debola’s house. I had latched on to a new dream, the dream of having a tortoise. I constantly visualized owning a pet no one I knew had. This visualization created strong impulses in me that drove me physically into achieving what I wanted to achieve.  In my life today, I no longer worry about getting money for anything. If I wanted something so bad and entered visualization mode, it was done.“According to research using brain imagery, visualization works because neurons in our brains, those electrically excitable cells that transmit information, interpret imagery as equivalent to a real-life action. When we visualize an act, the brain generates an impulse that tells our neurons to “perform” the movement. This creates a new neural pathway — clusters of cells in our brain that work together to create memories or learned behaviors — that primes our body to act in a way consistent to what we imagined. All of this occurs without actually performing the physical activity, yet it achieves a similar result.Former NBA great Jerry West is a great example of how this works. Known for hitting shots at the buzzer, he acquired the nickname “Mr. Clutch.” When asked what accounted for his ability to make the big shots, West explained that he had rehearsed making those same shots countless times in his mind. Other sports legends like Michael Jordan, Larry Bird, Tiger Woods and pitcher Roy Halladay have also used visualization to improve their performance and achieve their personal best.An article on the Huffington Post by Frank Niles says,
  3. We do not change: Almost 20 years after, I am not much different from who I was back then. I could be a very impulsive spender; I love pets- and I have two including a parrot. But I have learned the importance of understanding how we can curb our excesses.

From time to time I wonder whatever happened to Chinonso. If I could make a very good guess, I would say he’s a shrewed business man, having made a lot of money from me back then even though he was about 14 years old. The apple doesn’t fall far away from the tree. Is that not what they say?