First Gentleman with Wilson Orhiunu
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This time in 1981, I was rubbing my hands with glee in anticipation of signing the matriculation document that exam success at the hands of JAMB brings. Six years later, at about the same time, I passed my final exams and had become a Doctor.
This year marks 30 years in the oldest profession on the planet second to farming. Since 1987, it has always been patients on my mind so much so that I have mistakenly called other fans at the stadia I have been in “patients” accidentally when referring to the fans.
Few can boast of being in the same profession for 30 years in these days of rapid change. Very few boxers, footballers and pop musicians last this long and we all know that the average career span of a drug dealer is five years. It is not that I am plugging medicine as a career for the stereotypical young black and gifted but no one ever got shot drug dealing for AstraZeneca or Pfizer. I am filled with gratitude as I look back at my ‘upandan’ career. We are still standing ba?
Fellow classmates of a bygone era would no doubt be bringing out the wine to celebrate the big 3-0 as I do or perhaps as we do. I want to look back and thank my lucky stars that life, the patients or all the sundries of cabals did not kill us.
Since the mood is good and one’s head is in a giddy place, I will take a trip down my hippocampus and regurgitate the musical backdrop that formed the canvas on which my experiences were painted during my time in the University of Benin.
Alhaji Shehu Shagari was President of Nigeria when I attended to do my Registration in September 1981. Soon after, ASUU went on strike for a few weeks. ‘Endless Love’ was Number 1 in the US featuring the melodious harmonies of Diana Ross and Lionel Ritchie. By the time we returned in November to restart our education, The Rolling Stones were No. 2 in the US with ‘Start Me Up’. Boy, did they start us up! We students were being fed a diet of Physics, Chemistry and Biology in what looked at the time to be giant lecture theatres. One felt bombarded with an endless barrage of facts and figures.
The exciting campus life was powered by subsidised meals at 50 Kobo per meal ticket. However, no matter the academic workload there was a release valve with Earth Wind and Fire’s ‘Lets Groove’. It shot up the US charts peaking at No. 3 but as far as Uniben went, it was No 1 for almost a year.
Just as we were about to get up from all the ‘get down’ that the Earth Wind and Fire heralded in, we young students were confronted with a question from across the Atlantic. One that was rhetorical, mischievous and seductive.
Kool and the Gang interrogating through their leading counsel JT asked, “Whatcha wanna do?”
For your medical students in the science course (preliminary studies) who had been warned by senior medical students that our names had been written in pencil in the medical students’ list and there was an eraser hovering and eager to wipe us away, we had but one answer.
“Work out our salvation with fear and trembling”. Well, not in those exact words, but we had our next six years mapped out and we all wanted to see it to the end;
- Final examinations for the prelim year June 1982
- 2nd MB Examination June 1983
- Pharmacology June 1984
- Pathology June 1986
- Community Health & Psychiatry exams September 1986
- Paediatric and Obstetrics and Gynaecology finals February 1987
- Medicine and Surgery Finals September 1987
- Oath taking Ceremony October 1987
JT ignored our laid -out plans and continued to his next question which was a leading one.
“Do ya wanna get down?”
Before the young students could muster up contrary compelling arguments the whole band broke into song and the world was a beautiful place.
Get down on it
Get down on it
We even had a dance for the song that mimicked a Giraffe with torticollis about to get an upgrade to tetanus.
We danced and forgot the long-term plan while proud parents back home told anyone within earshot that their child was ‘reading’ medicine. Parents had not bargained for ‘dancing and rocking’ medicine. Christmas and the new year was a first return home from campus and you instantly became the neighbourhood star. You had stories that made people vow to study and pass JAMB too.
January 1982 saw us back where we had left off. ‘Let’s Groove’ and ‘Get Down on it’ continued. By March 1982, almost in a parental voice kind of way, Imagination hit the UK Charts at No 12 with ‘Just an Illusion’ but we no gree. This notion that the campus was a place of fun was the biggest illusion ever to afflict our young minds.
By May 1982, the heat was on. The UK band Central line had a song, ‘Sunshine’ which we grooved to. The lyrics fantasised about getting away from it all and enjoying a welcome break. Ideal for the UK but for us it was hotter than July in the tropics and we were approaching a war. At this stage, some started having nightmares of President Shagari frowning down at them for partying on a subsidised education paid for by his hard-earned petrodollars.
By the almighty June 1982, Denice Williams was No. 9 in the US with ‘It’s Gonna Take a Miracle’. Not just a miracle but loads of coffee, kolanuts and hand-outs for us in Ugbowo campus. Having enjoyed that heady first year as a University Student where every single experience was a first time one (from the rag day to the fashion shows, beauty contests, student union elections and Christian union Christmas Carol Service all rolled in), it was payback time.
This uprising (for that was what it was; a battle against failure), brought out the beast in us; we read like maniacs.
Dazz Band had ‘Let it Whip’ at No. 11 in the US and boy, did we let it whip and rip. I passed all my exams and settled to a summer holiday of domestic chores only for a friend to visit from campus to tell of all the groove I was missing.
I had thought the re-sit season was a mournful experience. My friend told me that even people without re-sits came to groove on campus. By the way, he was off to London for holidays having completed his re-sits. Ha!!! Not fair.
- To be continued.