How I Pushed Wheel-barrow, Worked As Shoe-mender To Become Professor – Nigerian Lecturer

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A Nigerian university lecturer has narrated how he pushed a wheelbarrow and repaired shoes to survive before becoming a professor.
The lecturer, Nicholas Asogwa, teaches at the Department of Philosophy, University of Nigeria, Nsukka (UNN) Enugu State, South-east Nigeria.
Asogwa was elevated to the rank of a professor of ethics at the university on Tuesday.
The academic, in a long piece in celebration of his elevation, said he had pushed a barrow and worked as a shoe repairer in his efforts to become successful in life.
The piece titled “My Journey to Professorship” was read by the lecturer at an event to mark the elevation on Tuesday.
A text of the piece was posted on Facebook by a media expert, Chido Nwakanma, on Wednesday.
“I recall with tears my days as a barrow pusher at the popular Orie Orba Market in Udenu LGA of Enugu State, and then my days as a shoe-mender in one of the female hostels (Bello Hall) in the same university where I have become a professor,” Asogwa said.
How the journey began
The university lecturer said he was born into a family faced with “abject poverty,” which posed a serious threat to his educational opportunities. His dreams seemed “unattainable,” he had thought.
He, however, said the value of education and the belief in hard work and perseverance instilled in him by his parents helped him to overcome his hurdles.
Asogwa recalled that, as a shoe mender at the university several years ago, he had a conversation with a woman, Nkechi Ohanuka, who used to be one of his regular customers at that time.
Mrs Ohanuka, a lawyer from Imo State, realised, during the conversation, that he (Asogwa) attended school up to secondary level and asked why he did not want to further his education.
Asogwa responded that he desired higher education, but that because of his poor background, he needed to make some money to fund his education.
The conversation, he said, happened at a time when the form for an entrance examination into university was still on sale.
The examination is organised by the Joint Admission and Matriculation Board (JAMB).
He said in the evening of the same day, Mrs. Ohanuka visited him at his shop and handed him a wrapped paper.
“I have discussed with my husband, go and purchase JAMB form,” the woman told him. When she left, I unwrapped the paper, and lo and behold, it contained N620, the exact amount JAMB form was sold then,” Mr Asogwa stated.
But because mobile phones were not in vogue at that time, he would lose communication with Mrs Ohanuka, who was in her final year at the time.
Despite making efforts, the lecturer could not reconnect with Mrs Ohanuka until late 2013, about two months to his Ph.D. oral defence.
His reconnection to the lawyer followed painstaking search on Google and Facebook, he said.
Proscovia Ndoboli from Uganda also used to be a customer to Asogwa during his time as a shoe-mender in UNN.
The lecturer recalled that Ms. Ndoboli, then a student of religion, was shocked when he informed her that he was quitting the shoe-mending work to study at the university.
The Ugandan citizen was shocked because she did not know that Mr. Asogwa had attended a secondary school that would qualify him to be admitted into the university.
“After congratulating me, she told me that she would like to come and know my place and see my parents. In addition, she told me that she would pay for my initial school fees. She fulfilled her promise and left Nigeria the next year, following her graduation,” he recalled.
“That was how I started. Nkechi bought JAMB form for me, while Proscovia paid my first school fees and put me in the hostel. From there, my parents and I took over, and the struggle continued.”
Investing in people
The professor, apparently inspired by his life experience, said investing in people is better than “material things”.
“Look at me: ever since I got employment as a lecturer, there has been no day that I entered the bathroom to bathe and prepare for work without remembering Nkechi Ohanuka.
“Look at what the seed she sowed in me some years back has grown into. I, myself, have leveraged on that seed to sow seed in others, and it will continue like that.
“What I am today and the more that I will become tomorrow are in one way or another the results of that seemingly small investment she made in me. Whoever sees Nkechi Ohanuka and Proscovia Ndoboli should thank them profusely for me,” he said.
“I have no doubt that becoming a professor is an important achievement, but I am also convinced that what one does with one’s professorship is much more important than one becoming a professor.
“I stand here today aware that my promotion carries with it a tremendous responsibility. It is not simply an acknowledgment of my accomplishments, but a call to serve, inspire, and empower young minds. I pledge to use this position to uplift others, to create opportunities for those who come from disadvantaged backgrounds, and to inspire belief in their own capabilities.”

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