First Gentleman with Wilson Orhiunu
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In September 1982, on reporting back to campus after the summer holidays one got that butterflies in the stomach feeling that top-flight soccer players get in World Cup years. There was a prevailing tension in the air that could be cut with a knife. Any misplaced tackle could terminate any chances of making a mark on the biggest stage of all.
As would be expected from a youth full of promise, I broke my right humerus in a silly duel of armed wrestling. Being right-handed, things did not look good. I could barely lift that huge biochemistry textbook talk less of reading its contents that included the unpalatable Kreb’s cycle. Faced with anatomy, physiology and biochemistry, I took the battle to them one-handed. God smiled on me and I only failed biochemistry. The result night for the second MB examination was like Oscar night in Hollywood. I told ‘so-called’ friends about the disappointment I had in failing biochemistry and was later to discover that I had been widely tipped to fail the three subjects and have my name erased from the medical students’ list.
They had all believed the lie that academic attainment was inversely proportional to the ability to dance irrespective of how much time you spent reading or how well you accumulated the facts.
Being one-handed for a spell this important year slowed me down socially. I had just two shirts that fitted as my plaster cast was extra- large and wouldn’t slip into any of my other shirts. When one becomes handicapped, other senses become heightened. I could not do any dissections so I was delegated to the group that read the dissection manual out loud while abled bodied students dissected away at the cadaver who for some strange reason had bullet holes. That was a forced position of learning.
Then Third World came to campus for the best show ever. While dancing on a chair I lost my balance and I feared I might fall off and break the other humerus but regained my balance just in time. The group was on tour and on their return journey they were back for an encore which was more enjoyable that the first show. The gate fee was 10 naira and it was a packed house. That song – ‘Now That We Found Love’ which had peaked at No 10 on the UK charts in October 1978 drove the audience delirious with delight. All the work to be done was forgotten as were the hungry mosquitoes waiting for our return to the hostel. Those anopheles’ nasty girls who suck blood painfully with blunt proboscis and insult by gloating about their meal all night in their dinner provider’s ear.
Some of our past leaders in Nigeria must have been members of the Third World for they too sang “now that we’ve found crude what are we gonna do with it?” Well, the answer is the same both for love and crude oil. If you have no plan before good fortune strikes, you waste the opportunity.
‘Dancing on the Floor’ was a tune that had us in ecstasy. It has peaked at No 13 in 1981 so was a fresher jam with opportunities for the bad to show off fancy guitar playing and soothing harmonies. The song ‘96 Degrees in the Shade’ was so emotional, and that bass line made you forget all your ‘issues from childhood’. It was a good thing I didn’t pay too much attention to the song’s lyrics. A song about death by hanging and we were dancing! The song that brought the roof down was ‘Try Jah Love’. We hummed it all the way to our beds and mosquitoes that night. “If you hunger, I will feed you with my love…”
We all loved food and could relate.
I went everywhere weighed down by the Second MB fever, heavy books and a right arm cast. It was a fever with just one cure; exam success.
At one of my fracture clinic appointments my X-ray was put up by Professor Orhewere our teacher and orthopaedic surgeon and he began to grill his students about the complications of humeral fractures. I instantly experienced how patients feel when their cases are discussed to their hearing in impeccable English. I felt like one being punished for one’s sins. By the time they had gone through all manners of mal-unions, non-unions and perhaps student unions I was sweating. Radial nerve injury and a claw hand brought temporary urinary incontinence to me. Imagine breaking a bone and its sharp edge tears through a nerve and paralyses a hand. How would I hold my partner in the blues (slow) dance after the up- tempo beats had finished and the lights had been dimmed?
The fracture soon healed up and I could wear my shirts. My right elbow was frozen at 90 degrees and it was back to UBTH for physiotherapy. Strange hairs and scales had grown on the arm and forearm and all the muscle bulges were gone. This was the least adventurous period of my student life and it brought focus. It is almost impossible to fracture a bone and not get good with bone and muscle anatomy. Perhaps the fracture was divine. Are all things not divinely designed? Apart from my physical limitations bringing focus, a close friend with an “I go die” attitude to jacking (excessively studious) helped to bring me back to the reasons for which we were on campus. Hang around the ‘jackers’ and you become a ‘jacker’, a hyper-jacker or even an intergalactic one.
The notes I couldn’t take in class were loaned to me and I had a study partners who helped me along the way.
By June 1983, every breath I took and every move I made was for the second MB examination. I saw that success could belong to me. Surprise- surprise, the Police were Stinging at No 1 in the UK charts with ‘Every Breath You Take’.
The exams came and went with me passing anatomy and physiology. I passed the biochemistry re-sit a few months later and the summer holiday was sweet.
Glossary of terms
Jacking – Reading.
Hyper jacking – Moderately strenuous efforts in reading.
Intergalactic jacking – Excessive reading that would put the stamina of Martians to the test.