Professor Ogaga Okuyade
I met him in 2004 in the English/Literature classroom as one of my fine literature lecturers in Colege of Education, Warri. He saw frustration written all over my countenance. There was despondency because I hardly get the three square meal, buy books,pay tuition fees, pay hostel rent and so on.
Youths in my situation in Niger Delta then, have an already made job. Sure, simply get recruited into one of the militant camps and get paid after being trained on how to operate Ak47 Rifle or how to bomb oil pipelines. Yes, I veered into it, but all I saw was my untimely death and how all my best essays will vanish away without the world reading me one day. So, I gave up preferred to choose the path of education through freelance journalism after secondary school for so many years.
The reason for militancy in Niger Delta is basically socio-economic factors where the inhabitants live in abject poverty in the midst of abundant natural resources being transported away in ships and pipelines to better lives of people far away from them who enjoy the oil and Gas money.
A former street fighter and martial artist returned to the classroom where every thing appears unfriendly to him. Although, there was a ray of hope of hidden marks of intelligence despite all appear nothing, even though at a very matured age to secure admission into the College of Education, Warri. A student who once walked out voluntarily from the Delta State University in 2002 due to inability to pay tuition fees.
God never lies! He hardly gives one man on earth everything. It is difficult to enjoy academic prowess in classroom and at the same time enjoy financial affluence. Some may have money everywhere, but they may not have children to enjoy the wealth. That was a classical example of my situation. But the things we may not acquire here on earth should not disturb us so much because no one knows the plan of God. Here comes one of the angels in form of a lecturer. A brother from another mother.
An answer script in one of his class assessment cemented our relationship. He asked ” how did you make it?” I gave in the affirmative with a smile and said ” I was a good literature student in the village secondary school .” He asked again ” Why are you avoiding classes?” I smiled again and replied ” If I attend class regularly, I may not graduate” He insisted ”why?” I opened up after seeing seriousness and empathy expressed on his face ” I am self-sponsored without a good job, but only as a freelance journalist with a local newspaper, living on charity”
Since that day, we became very good mutual friends. When he brought novels for sales in the department from University of Ibadan. In most times, he paid for me because he never wanted me to have problem in his courses.
He was like an elder brother. We may be age bracket or he may have an upper two or three years age difference.
Our relationship was so unique that students started suspected a foul play especially as I was able to pass all his difficult courses in African Literature with a good grade, despite my truancy in class. His love and likeness for me increased when he started reading my articles in newspaper as a year one student in the College of Education, Warri.
We were much closer than student/lecturer relationship. Of course, his humility broke the gap of a friendship between a student and that of an academic doctor, although young in age. That in most times, it takes time for first timers to differentiate him and students as he always hung his laptop bag behind his back. The laptop which was his mobile library for academic research and documentation. We discussed on novels, poetry, national politics and plays both the ones outside school curriculum.
Students accused him that he was giving me free marks. On one particular day in class, he told them ” If I am giving free marks to Cletus, what about other courses being taught by other lecturers that he passed with ease without attending their classes?” he continued ” if you know the secret of Cletus, you will not suffer in class”
he told the students.
Truth is bitter, I was the village bookworm student who believed in self-teaching than being taught by someone. I burnt the midnight oil. I was a nocturnal student who employed all the benevolent spirits during the night for my own advantage which in most cases I became a subject of gossip and name callings by fellow students. Right from my days in secondary school, I did not have up to 50% attendance in school which made the Principal, Late E.E. Tekedou also made the satanic remark on my Testimonial as ” Very intelligent but truant student ” May his soul rest in peace. He was another source of motivator.
To be very candid, I never abused our relationship by influencing a higher grade despite I have every means to do so. One, it is not in my blood to get a free score. That is why cheating during examination was not part of me as I always made myself available in the front row face-to-face with my examiners. I was not an intelligent student. To God be all the glory, I made it, even as a truant student.
In life, according to William Shakespeare, ” Some are born great, some achieved greatness while others have greatness entrust upon them” The oddities of life, sometimes, provide the easy stepping stones for one to achieve greatness. Greatness by all ramification is like a gold medalist who suffers all pains untill he acquires a trophy and being applauded by the society without knowing the danger he passes through. In life, despite grace or providence, our destiny is in our hand. We have the sole responsibility to turn it the way we want.
Experience teaches that God bestows on man everything on the day a child is conceived. Environment counts less on individual’s greatness or achievement when one maximizes opportunities around him in the right channel. Witchcraft exists in the eyes of a man who resigns to fate and accepts defeatism with a feeling of hopelessness. Does witches exist in Africa and not other continents?
No matter the oddities of life, through diligence, hard work, perseverance, focus, determination, sacrifice and above all divine providence (prayers), there will be a silver lining in the dark cloud. Yes,many toiled hard day and night in vain. While others won so many trophies and laurels. In all, our material possessions are vanity upon vanity which we will leave them behind one day, when call of nature comes .All our hurtling and bursting, perhaps left in the hands of enemies or people who never contribute in your life to the great beyond.
One good lesson I learnt from Professor Ogaga Okuyade during a literature class in the Delta state University, affiliated to the College of Education, Warri, in one particular class of English literature 2008, in one of Thomas Hardy’s best sellers novels, ” Tess of the Durbe’ville” Ogaga’s philosophy on the theory of existentialism sounds much like a preacher in the pulpit than the usual classroom teacher or it may be a case of a professor in disguise many years ago . He said ” We do no know how we came about the things we see, enjoy or suffer on earth” He went further ” No matter how wealthy or highly educated, we should not look than on the poor or less educated or brag about our material possessions and that chance brought them to us”
He narrated on the theme of agony in the novel, ”The same chance could have made you poor much like the central character of the novel, Tess who suffers so much that her own shadow rejects her in a life of hopelessness, loneliness and frustration were her friends. Tess at 17 year gave birth a baby girl through deceitful marriage from her own parents. She runs away with pregnancy to her parents who also reject her. She gives birth to a baby at a tender age and the child dies. It is a case of ” Child-child mother” as was described by Thomas Hardy with nobody to care for in a lonely garden as a nursing mother is expected. She does everything by herself even as a little child.
The child dies in few days and the child-mother arranges a Christian burial for her beloved dead child by herself without a helper. She dug the grave with hoe full of tears in agony. Tess was so hated by nature so much so that even the insects, butterflies and the birds in the air all reject her to her fate.
Tess never sees joy or smile in her face as her tribulation starts at the point of the death of the family’s bread winner in a ghastly accident the ”horse” The death horse was the genesis of Tess woes as her parents ganged against her by selling her off in the name of living with a far family relative to raise money for the family.
‘What could be responsible for Tess’s travails, these are the million questions left in the mouth by many as put together by the British novelist, Thomas Hardy who is also the author of Mayor of Casterbridge.
In African culture, Tess, the central character of the novel is seen predominantly believed to have been bewitched by family witches or in most cases, the cause of her own affliction (which means she is the witch) or under the spell of a marine spirit who perhaps, her spiritual husband that torments her destiny, that could need deliverance by great men of God.
I love literature because it is the only subject that revolves around human existence and the society and also proffers solution to problems of mankind. Note; this could be perhaps, part of a rehearsal of my unwritten autobiography.
Today, on behalf of #DailyWatchNews www.dailywatchng.org and her teeming readers, I join all the forces in heaven to say a big CONGRATULATIONS to you as you have achieved the highest ladder in education which you promised me many years back.
Opukeme, writes from Abuja, he holds BA.English/Literature (Delta State University) He is also the CE0, Publisher/Editor-in Chief, Daily Watch News