First Gentleman with Wilson Orhiunu
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The 1986/87 session was exciting. I had changed rooms and now shared a room with Pastor Efe. All the people I had looked at from afar as weird fanatical Christians were now my friends and they all appeared normal. I made it to the campus ‘bugg’, the magazine whose journalistic purpose was to embarrass students. Erstswhile Mr Kave joins the CU. I laughed it off.
That final year medical student tag was a big deal. It was a busy year. We had to do O&G and Paediatrics then moved on to Medicine and Surgery. More was at stake, and the reading continued. I had reduced my dancing and physical exercise and started writing poetry; comic verse written with Austin who with me had left the CU and now were members of the Word Foundation Fellowship. We wrote and shared the work, and threw the poems in the bin at the end of the day.
It appeared God had moved to an estate in Tulsa Oklahoma and started a dictation business for all the Christian books we read came from that part of the world.
The Paediatric team in UBTH was a hotbed of talent. It was world class. There was a White guy called Dr Sykes who I couldn’t figure out. He was once teaching us about an abdominal examination and his hand was constantly prodding the abdomen as he spoke. I thought ‘Leave the pickin na’, but I dared not speak.
We felt a bit intimidated by the larger than life personalities who taught us. Clinical meetings were of a high standard. Residents were drilled and we all took notes. On a night on call, sitting there watching a resident do an exchange blood transfusion confirmed to me that paediatrics was not for me. Blood was withdrawn via a catheter and discarded while fresh blood was introduced into the baby, all in small amounts at the time. Haematology was not for me either.
Talk about what to do after graduation began to surface and I recall a friend Osayi saying he would go abroad. I was convinced he was mad. Why leave this town where all our friends were?
I felt at home in Nigeria. Things were getting harder economically though. Brilliant residents who amazed us with their dedication and knowledge had to take tuke-tuke buses with their patients as they had no cars.
October saw the birth of two iconic questions in Nigeria, on par with the USA’s
Who killed JFK?
In October 1986, our President asked the Inspector General of Police ‘My friend, where is Anini?’
In that same month when the whole country was celebrating our first Nobel Prize courtesy of Prof Wole Soyinka who was awarded the prize for literature, Nigerians had another question on their lips, ‘who killed Dele Giwa?’
If Benin was the pelvis of Nigeria, then we were experiencing what one of our Gynaecology teachers described animatedly as PID. ‘In Pelvic inflammatory disease, the pelvic organs are hot!’
Benin Inflammatory Disease was in full flow. A curfew was in place, and Anini and his gang ran riot. A thousand mobile policemen were drafted in and following the calls for prayers by the Oba of Benin, a thousand eggs were sacrificed at the Emotan statue in Benin praying for peace. The Inspector General of Police for the state was shot in the face by Monday Osubor, Anini’s right-hand man and the violence that clouded Benin was palpable yet the people have sympathy towards Anini and no one grassed as to his whereabouts. Anini always ‘made it rain’ after every robbery in keeping with his Robin Hood persona.
The Anini problem soon got the Mamman Vasta solution first deployed in 1985. Anini was arrested in December 1986 and executed by March the next year at the Ikpoba Hill Execution Grounds. High profile March executions on two consecutive years! The country was becoming generally more violent and the disruption was seeping into the Universities who faced the threat of closure due to student union activities and an oppressive military regime.
Televised public executions by firing squads at the Bar Beach in the Lagos gave the public something to sip on. Like it was in ancient Rome with had macabre spectacles but the leaders built on coliseums (perhaps they were too busy building great bank balances abroad).
Our teachers taught us with an unspoken understanding that we were being groomed to treat Nigerian patients on Nigerian soil. What else were the expense and time for? As students viewing the violent and chaotic society one was expected to dedicate one’s life to serve, it was not surprising that people began to have doubts. Our lecturers for sure had doubts if they would remain in the country teaching us.
Three textbooks were sacred by February 1987; The Diseases of Children by Hugh Jolly, Gynaecology by Ten Teachers and Obstetrics by Ten Teachers. We simply called these books Jolly and Ten Teachers. Ten Teachers sounded more like a Shaolin combat movie. I was at war and did not know it.
I failed both Paediatrics and O&G and the proverbial eyes were cleared. If I was to graduate as a Doctor in 1987 I not only had to pass the resit examinations for Paeds and O&G, but I had to also pass Medicine and Surgery in a few months. I just did not want to hang about Ugbowo campus for the seventh year, so I got married to my books.
Madonna’s La Isla Bonita was No2 in the UK charts in April 1987 and it played everywhere on campus. I didn’t go to night parties anymore as I was now a campus Christian brother. Birthday parties among ‘the brethren’ were usually done in rooms with the lights on. No booze, no smoking and no hanky panky. They started with an opening prayer and someone shared the word of God. We were a bit like socialists; helping one another in many ways.
I lost all attachment to material things even giving out a gold necklace my mum gave to me. (She wasn’t pleased). I gave away clothes to people who said they liked them till I was down to my last black trouser. I went downstairs to use the showers as the water pressure was weak on the third floor of our Hall. I forgot my soap and ran up with my towel tied around my waist. On my return, my black trouser was stolen. Here I was with no trouser to call my own on campus.
The Lord provided and my roommate Pastor Efe gave me one of his trousers with a slightly bigger waist line but a beggar has no choice.
Louis Johnson of the Brother’s Johnson formed a group with his wife called Passage and released an album in 1981. They had a song, I see the Light. (Any similarities to Nepa purely coincidental). The Brothers Johnson were famed for two things. Their 1980 hit Stomp and a hairstyle that bore their name, a short top and sides affair leaving a mini afro at the back of the head.
I was playing that song (I see the light) all the time. I prayed for myself and then others who had re-sits like myself. Then the Word of the Lord came to me.
Thou shall read Jolly and Ten Teachers with all thy might and so shall thou have good success.
Oh o, I see the Light the Lord has given
Oho, I see the Light.