On a day like this, I will not forget the man that sowed the seed that gave life to me. My father.
My father is a great man and an embodiment of fatherhood. He populated our house with all manner of books and encyclopedia for our enlightenment. During my childhood, the most electronic gadget my father could afford our home was a battery radio. But because he knows the value of education, he not only allowed the radio to be a source of entertainment to me, but he also ensured that it was an educating tool to me by making me listen alongside with him to enlightening stations like the Voice of America. His job as a career teacher first started at home. He was a good teacher.
I still remember my first beer. He took me to a bar and got me a bottle of beer and some pepper soup. I will never forget that day. I felt like a man.
I am a soccer freak and played competitive soccer. He came to almost every soccer game I participated in. To watch me play. It was unbeknownst to me. Until I spotted him one day. And on that day I wasn’t playing at the level I was used to. But spotting him from where he was hiding among the spectators got me reinvigorated and I gave one of my best performances in soccer competition to date. I couldn’t be prouder of him.
At nights upon coming home from school, I used to read anything that is printed. I remember the first word he gave me the correct pronunciation and meaning to – mere. When I first encountered the word in the book I was reading, I got the pronunciation wrong and was wild about the meaning. I waited until he got home and I have to ask him. Just like every good father, he helped me out in my study life.
He is a disciplinarian but was not someone given to constant chastising. The moments you expect him to whoop your ass for a fuck-up that deserves serious ass whooping, he will disappoint you. He will sit you down and he will talk to you. The guilt you will feel after his admonition will not only make you repent of your sins, but will discourage you from doing such bad things again.
Discipline is never sweet. Even the Bible said it. But the good thing about it is that the person disciplining the disciplined knows better and has the best intentions for the disciplined because he knows that discipline is the ONLY way to produce character in the disciplined. And if the disciplined can walk through the process, he or she will eventually see the gains. And that was the case with me.
Last Saturday morning, June 20, 2015, I logged in to my Facebook account to wish my friend and former graduate school roommate – Chikelue Uwafili, a happy birthday. I had received notification email from Facebook the previous day about his upcoming birthday.
Upon logging in to my account, I went straight to Chike’s wall and posted my birthday wishes for him. Then I decided to attend to other notifications and messages before logging out.
It didn’t take a minute after my writing on his wall that somebody close to his family responded to my post saying that I should cut off with the wishes, that Chike died the day before. I thought it was a joke on the guy’s part and got mad at him for such an irresponsible joke. He told me he that wasn’t joking and went into details about the death. Suddenly I remembered a message Eseosa Sowemimo, our mutual friend left for me on Facebook the previous day asking me to call her ASAP. The tone of the message was serious. And I connected the dots. And for a brief moment, my heart stopped.
Why did my heart stop?
Yes, people die every. And I am not completely shrouded from the experience of death’s ugly fangs upon someone dear. Actually I have slept with my cousin in the same room when death came in the middle of the night and snatched his life away. A very close cousin who passed for my little brother when he was alive. I missed him and I still miss him. But Chike is different. He is not the type of a friend or young man you want yourself or humanity to lose at a tender age of 30.
Chike and I met for the first time in September 2007 at an event organized by the Nigeria Students Society, University of Manchester chapter. Both of us just arrived at the University of Manchester, United Kingdom for our graduate studies. It was the inaugural meeting of the society and I was the coordinator. So after my welcome address to the group, I opened the floor for networking. It was during this session of milling around and exchanging pleasantries with fellow students of Nigerian extract that I met Chike. We clicked right away because we had so much in common. He loved politics more than I do. He was an ardent follower of Keith Olbermann when he was an anchor at MSNBC. We both are ardent soccer fans even though we supported rival English clubsides. He was a Chelsea FC of London fan while I was a Manchester United FC fan. We both graduated from the same college in Nigeria in the same year. Ironically while he spent five years in the engineering school and I spent four years in the natural sciences school, two schools that is a block away from each other, our path never crossed until we got to Manchester.