First Gentleman with Wilson Orhiunu
In a few days I would set sail off the 49th harbour never to return again for I would become 50 years old. This milestone is usually a time for celebration and festivities, and rightly so. I have survived. On the night of my conception, a hundred and sixty million sperm cells desperately sought the solitary egg but the honour of fertilisation was reserved for me (one in a million Babawilly). Many were born on that Saturday night on the tenth day of October 1964 and thousands of them are no more. I am still here kicking it to the best of my abilities; so I should be thankful.
It is also a time to reflect and account for what I have been doing with my time. To gaze closely upon the admirable, the detestable and the horrid aspects of my time on earth thus far. Reflections are strange since one decides what to reflect upon and that means you drift to areas you love drifting to thereby losing objectivity. Perhaps that is why at 50, people throw parties and ask guests to say a few words. By the time the eighth person gets to the microphone a picture begins to emerge about the kind of life a celebrant has lead.
My reflections will thus be biased. However I am still grateful to God to be standing on the threshold of the big 5-0. I smile as I imagine hearing guests chant out “…go Tallie, it’s your birthday…Go Tallie, it’s your birthday…” along to 50 cents’ ‘In da Club’. And then just like the serpent would bite without enchantment, I start to dance. Everybody expects me to dance. I expect myself to dance when the music plays. Where has the shyness of my childhood gone? I couldn’t dance in those children’s parties we used to call ‘four to six’ in Lagos on account of my shyness. I could not talk in public either, but now all I need is an audience and I can go on for hours.
We change as we get older, shaped by our environment. My dad could talk and I have grown into his oratorical gifting. He named me Wilson after the Labour Prime Minister Harold Wilson whose narrow election victory was announced on the fifteenth of October 1964. The world was busy with the Tokyo Olympics whose grand opening ceremony on the tenth of October 1964 was broadcast via satellite to the world but my parents were busy changing nappies for they had a new son. It was cold in London during this period but I don’t recollect anything about that. I assume I slept, cried, ate and grew like I was supposed to.
Next minute I find myself in Sunny Fields Primary School, Adelabu, Lagos. I had an exercise book in which I drew various maps of different countries and coloured them lovingly. This had nothing to do with the school’s curriculum and my teacher was greatly surprised when he noticed the book. He exclaimed as he went through the pages then he slapped me across the back of the head saying loudly, “Wilson, this your big head is full of knowledge.” The pain apart, that was the only affirmation from my teachers in six years of my academic ability. I guess the moral of the story is that if you must name your son after a politician, choose one with a First Class certificate from the Oxford University.
My dad did not help with homework and neither did my mum. At one stage my dad employed a lesson teacher who came round to tutor us after school. He also had a free hand to dispense with corporal punishment as he deemed it fit. I recall him being a stern bespectacled gentleman who one day came out of the toilet sweating. I cannot recall who tried to use the loo after him. Perhaps it was my sister. He had converted the toilet into a disaster area. I recollect giving him a nickname and losing respect for him.
I passed the common entrance to St Finbarr’s College, Akoka and had to pass the University of Lagos every day. We looked at the girls through the window of our buses and we all knew that a University education was a must. Undergraduate girls always look beautiful to men outside the university and I am a man after all. On the day I was born, The Kinks – you really got me – was number one in the UK charts. Imagine being born into that; men singing about women getting them going till they knew not what they did. On that same day Roy Orbison was number one in the US with ‘Oh, Pretty Woman’. My fate was sealed. Thank God no woman killed me thus far.
I finally got to the University of Benin in 1981 to study medicine but not before doing the sixth form class for 12 months at the Federal Government College Kaduna.
I met many people who have all gone on to make great successes of their lives. I go through magazines and tell my kids that I went to school with such and such and they always look at me suspiciously for it seems I went to school with everybody.
I have had a nice life. I have beautiful children. I have a diploma for every digit on my right hand. I can make myself laugh and need no one to entertain me or cheer me up. I am content with what I have and never begrudge anybody their success. I am happy.
Some things have not been fulfilled yet but there is time. I have been up the Atlas Mountain and the Kilimanjaro. I have done the New York Marathon once and the London Marathon thrice. I have eaten hundreds of chicken legs and my gut still keeps on digesting protein.
So what do you do when 50 comes calling? Meet him at the door with thanksgiving and start planning on new activities for the next 50 years. Increase the gym time, the running time and the positive mental attitude time. Increase the prayer times, talk less, eat less, get angry less, think more and read more Bible.