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BN at 6 – Our Stories, Our Miracles: From Good To Bad & Back To Great! Wole Talabi Shares His Incredible Story



As part of our 6th anniversary celebration, and in line with the BellaNaija ethos of entertainment, information and positively impacting lives, we are sharing 6 stories of real people who have been dealt with some of life’s unexpected cards. In spite of these challenges, these people have found the strength to pull themselves up and trudge on and are willing to encourage others going through their own issues. Life is a roller coaster with its ups and downs and twists and turns. For Wole Talabi, a gifted child, the sudden upheaval that came with the loss of his parents was very difficult. We sincerely hope that you are inspired by his story.

I find it very difficult to describe myself… some people have described me as a bit of a wandering spirit. Some describe me as a nerd. I have even been described as an old soul. The one thing I can say for certain is that I enjoy solving problems. I was born in Warri, in a steel town hospital which might explain why I’m an engineer (twice over – a chemical/process engineer and a petroleum/reservoir engineer). Both of my parents are from Ijebu and I’m a bit of an amateur short-story writer – I mostly write at where I also serve as an assistant editor . I love cakes, music and cocktails.
Growing Up
I spent the early years of my life in Warri. I had a pretty interesting childhood (at least by my own reckoning). Days spent plucking fruits from trees, saving up money to buy kool aid and ice cream; talking about Rambo and Robocop and doing  the entire assortment of random things children generally do. I have always had this fascination with information and knowledge. For as long as I can remember, I have always wanted to know how things work – I had finished reading my father’s collection of encyclopedias by the time I was 8 even though I didn’t understand half of what I had read anyway. (I have also forgotten quite a lot of it – I have a notoriously bad memory). I also wrote essays and stories quite a bit. I won a prize for one of my essays back then. The only thing I remember about that entire event was that my mother was extremely pleased (she had also won quite a few awards for her own essays back in her youth and she eventually obtained a degree in English. I think she thought whatever measure of talent I had, came from her – she was right)
Academic Life
I’ve been on scholarships for most of my life. When I was 9, I won a scholarship to attend the Igbinedion Education Centre in Benin for my secondary education and so I did. By some universal conspiracy, my parents moved to Benin as well and I concluded my teen years and secondary education there before moving to Lagos. I eventually gained admission into Obafemi Awolowo University in Ife to complete my degree in chemical engineering. My dad had studied the exact same course 30 years earlier in the same University so this was a really exciting thing for me. While I was there,I was lucky to be the recipient of scholarships from TOTAL and ExxonMobil. I had a reasonably interesting social life and managed to waddle my way into graduating with a first class degree and also somehow ended at the top of my class – I still hold my mother’s prayers and God’s grace responsible for that little piece of academic maneuvering.
When It All Changed
Then in February 2010 my father passed away suddenly and unexpectedly. It was the first in what was a series of life changing events that came in quick succession after that but it was surely the most significant. My mother was in the hospital at the time for another condition and so having to take care of her, dealing with the grief as well as having to make funeral arrangements for my father was extremely difficult for me, my brothers and the entire family. That period of intense grief, mounting responsibility and the realization that life could very suddenly change without any warning has definitely become one of the defining periods of my life.
When I Lost My Mother
My mother also passed away a few months later in July. I was 24 at the time and by many standards, my brother and I were adults so we had to deal with a lot of the ensuing issues by ourselves. It was a harrowing experience, having to visit her in the hospital everyday up to her passing, trying to run the house and businesses and keep her spirits up as she fought for her life in the hospital. Eventually, when she succumbed to illness, I think something broke in me. My mother was a lot more than just a mother, she was a close friend. We were something of kindred spirits – I had inherited her love for food and literature and music and we explored a lot of those things together. We used to cook, dance, make jokes and play games together. Losing her struck at my very core.
Coping With The Loss and Dealing With Grief
I think I went through all the classical stages of grief. Denial, anger, bargaining, depression and eventually – acceptance. The thing they don’t tell you about the acceptance stage is that it can take the rest of your life to complete. I think I am still accepting but I also think it’s important to get through the first few stages as quickly as possible.
In my case, my elder brother and I realized early on we were all our younger brother had left. He needed us to be strong for him, to take care of him and so we took charge and did what we had to do to keep what was left of the family functioning. My elder brother was my greatest support. I think since then, we have learned to rely on each other a lot more than we used to. Some extended family members were very helpful as well. Between my brother and myself, we made a plan, we focused on it and we have been doing our best to achieve it ever since.
Specifically, before my parents died, they had a plan for me. I had gained admission into Imperial College, London to study Petroleum engineering. To this end, they had set aside some money for tuition and expenses but with my father’s demise, I had started to consider saving that money for contingencies and the expenses that were bound to come. As fate would have it, I won the Petroleum Technology Development Fund (PTDF) scholarship that covered all my living expenses, accommodation and tuition, just a few months after my father’s death. This was a huge boost in helping me focus and stay on track with the plan the family had made.
Having to Deal With School While Grieving
Going through such a difficult course just a few months after a series of tragedies was both a blessing and a curse. It gave me something other than the pain and grief to focus on. On the other hand, there were points when things got really difficult, and I sank to some very low lows and it seemed overwhelming having to deal with so many things mentally at the same time. Whenever that happened, I would remember my father and his calm and collected attitude to solving problems. I would remember and then I would try to deal with things the way I imagine he would have. I also rested and wrote a lot. Whenever I felt overwhelmed, I would just take a break. I also wrote fiction, random musings on life in general, poems, anything. Putting words (or equations) on paper seemed to give me some reassurance and peace. But really, in the end, I think my friends at Imperial were my greatest support. Especially in the ones in my class. We would talk about everything from the course work to our families and life in general and I slowly came to realize that a lot of people have gone through difficult trials of their own. So many of us had suffered losses of varying kinds and to varying degrees but we were all there, pulling through, helping each other deal with our respective issues.
Experience at Imperial College
Petroleum engineering at Imperial College is a very rewarding course but it does demand its pound of flesh. An intense workload, brutal schedules and continuous bombardment of knowledge and information were the things I had to contend with. Most of the time however, it was actually a lot of fun interacting with, working with and learning from some of the most intelligent people in the world – as course mates and lecturers. For the first time in a long time, I was actually unsure of my academic performance. The entire class was made up of people who were the best from their respective universities and some had years of actual experience behind them and so things were uncertain and tense in the beginning but after a while, it eased up. We all bonded quite nicely (nothing brings people together quite like shared suffering).
Prize Winning At Imperial
My department had an interesting policy where they do not release any results until the entire course is concluded. This implied that beyond an email informing me that I had passed my exams in January and May, I had no idea how good or bad my results were up to the very end. Then one day, I was out for a movie and drinks with friends when I got an email from my project supervisor telling me that not only was I one of only three students to be awarded a distinction but that I had also won the coveted London Petrophysical Society Prize for the work I did and presented as my MSc thesis. I was completely blown away. I actually fell to my knees with surprise and appreciation. It’s one of those moments I will probably never really forget. Six months later, at the graduation ceremony, when I was called out to applause from the entire Royal Albert Hall, I was thinking of a great many things, it was another special moment. I was glad my brothers were there to witness it; I only wish my parents had been there to see it too.
Who I Am Today
I often joke that if you took exactly half of my mother and half of my father and put the two halves together, you would get me. My parents largely influenced who I am today. The experiences, good and bad, define me fundamentally.  The experience has made me a  bit different emotionally as I realize just how ephemeral life can be and so I enjoy it as much as I can. I live and learn harder than I ever used to. I have every intention of living to honor the memory of both my parents. I’m working on living for both of them and myself. Doing what they would have wanted for themselves and for me too. I’m working on being both an engineer and a writer. I have a patent in both mine and my fathers’ names (it was the last major invention he worked on before he died and is a legacy I share with him). I also wrote a science fiction short story which has been accepted for publishing in an anthology by a small publishing house based in South Africa. Right now, I live and work in Abingdon, Oxfordshire at a Technology center where I get to help develop and play around with state-of-the-art Petroleum engineering software applications.  I intend to keep writing short science fiction stories so that one day I can collect them in one book and dedicate it to my mother.
Final Words
Things like this hurt profoundly. You want to cry, scream, curse, wallow in your sorrow and just crawl into a corner. You can do that. When life deals you harsh cards, then you have earned the right to do that. But when you’re done, the world will still be waiting. There will still be things you need to do. Responsibilities to be taken up. Legacies to be carried on. You will still have a life to live. And so I tried to get on with the process of living as soon as possible. All I can say is, “we are what we experience”. Whatever happens, good or bad, take it, absorb it and make the most of it. Channel it and use it as a driving force to achieve whatever you have already set out to achieve. Experiences are more powerful than any simpler inspirations.

You probably wanna read a fancy bio? But first things first! Atoke published a book titled, +234 - An Awkward Guide to Being Nigerian. It's available on Amazon. ;)  Also available at Roving Heights bookstore. Okay, let's go on to the bio: With a Masters degree in Creative Writing from Swansea University, Atoke hopes to be known as more than just a retired foodie and a FitFam adherent. She can be reached for speechwriting, copywriting, letter writing, script writing, ghost writing  and book reviews by email – [email protected]. She tweets with the handle @atoke_ | Check out her Instagram page @atoke_ and visit her website for more information.


  1. Diamondgirl

    July 30, 2012 at 9:56 am

    I’m sooooo happy for u! U made it against all odds, tooo inspiring

  2. Ayorinde

    July 30, 2012 at 10:07 am

    Such an amazing story. God bless you Wole and may you continue to find fulfillment and success in all you lay your hands on.

  3. Ayodele

    July 30, 2012 at 10:08 am

    wow! truly inspiring.

  4. Theodora

    July 30, 2012 at 10:11 am

    woooohh. now this is something

  5. ngee

    July 30, 2012 at 10:16 am

    Very inspiring,♥ his courage,and determination,bellaniaja help me tell him I bake cake oh different types,since he loves cake.}

  6. Ginika

    July 30, 2012 at 10:19 am

    This is just way tooooooooooooon inspiring.
    Thanks for the post.

  7. ij

    July 30, 2012 at 10:20 am

    wow,very well done, how amazing , so is he married?

    • eesha

      July 30, 2012 at 10:38 am

      lol. ij take it easy now.

    • ij

      July 30, 2012 at 12:53 pm

      ok, i will

    • NINA

      July 30, 2012 at 6:14 pm


  8. Aminat

    July 30, 2012 at 10:37 am

    A truly inspiring story. You are truly blessed and brilliant and you made it against all the odds (scholarships) that were thrown at you *eyeroll*. May the souls of your parents rest in peace. They would have been very proud of your achievements.

    I just wish that all the children who become orphans at birth or soon after birth enjoy the benefits of scholarships and that they make the best use of it also.

  9. lol

    July 30, 2012 at 10:41 am

    final words…ON POINT!!

  10. Singer

    July 30, 2012 at 10:47 am

    A very very amazing story. Teaches me that where we all come from is too little compared to what where we are going. This story strikes some chords in me cos i equally grew up in the steel town, plucked fruits from other people’s tree and did my secondary school in Benin. It gives me the confidence that in the next 5 to 10 years i would be in the place of my dreams. God bless you Wole Talabi, your best is yet to come.

  11. yetee

    July 30, 2012 at 10:56 am

    Simply Amazing! May God continue to bless you.

  12. ojay

    July 30, 2012 at 10:59 am

    Sola nice 1. i went to iec with this guy and he sailed through it easily. Sola is in a league of his own. Thumbs up to a true scholar. i can remember our english teacher trying to convince him to write letters in exams instead of essays so as to increase his grades but the guy still wrote essays and smashed it. keep it up.

  13. Nkechi

    July 30, 2012 at 11:06 am

    So Inspired

  14. BrownSugah

    July 30, 2012 at 12:03 pm

    “We are what we experience” No joke! A truly inspiring story. Something i would want my unborn children to read.

  15. florence

    July 30, 2012 at 12:15 pm

    waoh amazing and inspiring. GOD BLESS YOU WOLE.

  16. Adedoyin

    July 30, 2012 at 12:47 pm

    Wow! so inspiring…..Greater heights ahead Wole

  17. krasivayawears

    July 30, 2012 at 1:03 pm

    welldone wole, i remember you in the odunsi’s compounds, coming for holidays and you have always been a bright lad. God will see you through and uplift you…

  18. Tiki

    July 30, 2012 at 1:12 pm

    I haven’t even finished reading the story…I stopped at ‘……’ Is this my sapiosexual crush @ TTXII? Omg omg omg *starstruck*

    Off to finish reading the piece!

  19. Tiki

    July 30, 2012 at 1:19 pm

    Wow. As if i didn’t respect you enough from afar, knowing a bit of your life story has made me respect you even more. I may not have had my life turned on it’s head quite like yours (yet), but your story shall stick if (when?) I do.

    ps. BN, I was expecting gist on his marital life na! Let a girl know how clear the coast is! :o)

  20. tomeloma

    July 30, 2012 at 1:38 pm

    Really inspiring…God bless you


    July 30, 2012 at 2:01 pm

    O lord God settle all our ladies who sincerely wants to get married AMEN

  22. lilly

    July 30, 2012 at 2:01 pm

    He does look like one who has an “old soul”, reminds me of a friend with a similar fate.
    I thank God for the mighty things He has done for this young man, great story!

  23. Princess of Zion

    July 30, 2012 at 2:02 pm

    Wole! Great and very inspiring story! I’m really happy that you turned out to be great! Your parents will be so proud! God bless

  24. kayrules

    July 30, 2012 at 2:30 pm

    bigups bruv

  25. Sisi Jacobs

    July 30, 2012 at 2:56 pm

    We certainly are what we experience, and you can either let it build or break you, glad you did the former. All the best as you continue on the journey if life

  26. barbz

    July 30, 2012 at 3:46 pm

    WOOOOWW!!!!!! dis is a true story, no fiction @ all.. weldone Wale, The Lord is ur strength. May the souls of ur parents rest in peace. They will b smiling frm heaven. all dis gehs wey de ask if he is married na wa ooo, so no success no love abi…?

  27. Anonymous

    July 30, 2012 at 3:59 pm

    congrats wole. More power to your elbow.

  28. konnie

    July 30, 2012 at 4:37 pm

    May their souls rest in peace. I know how you feel. my parents died in quick succession with my father going first. That is painful but nothing prepares you for your mothers death. You bottom simply falls out and something dies inside of you. If you don’t guard it and pray quite a bit, you could appear a little callous to people because you would stop caring . the acceptance stage can be a long one. God bless. I am happy you stayed on top of your school work because that could have suffered too.
    Much love

  29. Osama

    July 30, 2012 at 7:52 pm

    Inspiring story…some people are truly blessed..thank God for giving u the grace

  30. highlandblue

    July 30, 2012 at 8:58 pm


  31. beebankz

    July 30, 2012 at 9:55 pm

    lovely and truly inspiring journey i must say…..
    can i ask, cause it appears an error to me, it this guy 26 or 36??? cause it seems there’s been a swap around of the “1” in “2010”…… no disrespect intended, he just looks older

  32. StephanieIj

    July 30, 2012 at 9:57 pm

    This is so inspiring and amazing.. God is ever faithful.
    I grew up with Wale Talabi and I can also say he is extremely modest, I mean read this story again..
    *off to link up*.. 🙂

  33. Concerned

    July 30, 2012 at 10:20 pm


  34. Le Dynamique Professeur

    July 30, 2012 at 11:43 pm

    Highly inspiring. What I learned? No matter what life brings your way, keep on keeping on! Don’t stop, don’t brake, just keep moving.
    The sky your limit Wale. Thanks for inspiring us with your story.

    – LDP

  35. lazioman

    July 31, 2012 at 7:37 am

    Very inspiring. I understand your point of view. I lost both of my parents at a young age too, but I’ve been filled with hope and optimism to live on to better things.

  36. lazioman

    July 31, 2012 at 7:37 am

    very inspiring

  37. Yeni

    July 31, 2012 at 8:42 am

    Wow, very inspiring. Makes you want to go on against all odds

  38. ricky

    July 31, 2012 at 8:45 am

    awww! so touching. are you married? lol

  39. Laiza Lounge

    July 31, 2012 at 10:18 am

    Wow! Such stories just inspire me to be better everyday. I remember him from high school. Keep up the great work and be assured that God always remains faithful to His own.

  40. Ure

    July 31, 2012 at 1:28 pm

    God’s hand has really been on your life. thank God for your story, bet your parents are smiling down on you. may the Lord who brought you this far see you through.

  41. toyin

    July 31, 2012 at 3:24 pm

    Waoh! the humility of this young man is mind blowing. May God continue to strengthen you and take you to greater heights. The morale of his reality is this, when life deals you a blow, learn to recover from it’s blows and develop a tougher skin such that it’s blows will turn to caresses. Always work and pray hard to triumph over adversities. Never give up.

  42. daisy

    July 31, 2012 at 10:33 pm

    I remember u and ur brothers back then in the steel sorry to know ur parents are late.may their souls rest in perfect so happy to know u and ur brothers are ok.ur story is very inspiring.u guys left d steelestate when we were all young and its going seeing u are grown and doing well.God bless u

  43. Soraya

    July 31, 2012 at 11:12 pm

    This is really impressive- a young and matured man who has sense, focus and direction is a rare thing indeed and God will bless this man every single step of his life. To go to Imperial and graduate with a distinction is an excellent achievement indeed!

  44. derivative TypeCurve

    July 31, 2012 at 11:14 pm

    Yeah, thats a motivating story (thanks to God for the intelligence & grace to go through the tough times).
    By the way, comparing your childhood pic (displayed here) with your present looks, I wonder where your hair has gone to (lol… jst a joke bruv).
    Keep it real & be a blessing to others.

  45. tega

    August 1, 2012 at 1:28 am

    I guess I can say our world is full of so £any things both controlled and uncontrolled. Your life is true inspiration for me. Really wish I got to know you better

  46. oluwachick

    August 1, 2012 at 3:32 am

    Stumbled across dis…. Nw I understand y I tink u ve got brains dts way out of Dis world. Wit wat u ve bcome, sure they both looking down n smiling…. No parent wouldn’t b proud to av a son like u.
    N ur humility….*sigh

  47. Nicole Smith

    August 1, 2012 at 5:50 am

    Inspirational, more grease to your elbow. May your parents soul rest in peace, may the lord continue to be with you and your brother. Amen.

  48. Ayokunle

    August 1, 2012 at 10:24 am

    Great one there Talabi. truly inspiring.

  49. Pd

    August 4, 2012 at 10:12 pm

    Future children….c dis 1 ba? Abeg oh baba God! Make my children brilliant oh pls! God continue to bless u wole! Amen

  50. Omolola

    August 9, 2012 at 2:28 pm

    So inspiring, God bless you. Stories like ds encourages me to do more.

  51. Taiwo

    August 18, 2012 at 6:52 pm

    I sense aTruck load of HUMILITY!!! God bless our hustle bro! And fill u every old withjoy nd happiness!

  52. Tincan

    August 24, 2012 at 9:45 am

    Wow! I pray to God that one day I would be able to string sentences together like he does. I am inspired.

  53. eddie

    August 28, 2013 at 11:35 pm

    hmmm Wole, I read your story and wat came to mind was our usual late bus trip to Hammersmith and to paragon. U made us proud.

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