Fellowship Of Xtian Students & Conspiracies That Shaped Me
By Olugu Olugu Orji
I spent Christmas of 1976 lying supine in the male ward of Dala Orthopaedic Hospital Kano. So while my egghead classmates were swotting away the first term of our second year at Federal Government College, Malali-Kaduna, I was stuck to Bed LR2 (read, second bed on the left row) where I peed, prayed and did the poo. Mine was a classic case of compassionate incarceration.
When you have become a danger to yourself, to family, friends and society, imprisonment of any sort becomes an act of mercy and deliberate containment. And when serial offenders show up in the dock, judges are minded to hand out the maximum sentence.
Having scuttled two earlier efforts at correcting a freakish dislocation to my right knee, I was deserving of every extreme measure aimed at curbing my mindless recalcitrance.
And no one was better qualified to hatch the conspiracy for my ultimate tethering than the one that had borne the brunt of my stupefying stubbornness: my dear mother. In Enugu, she was compelled to sleep right under my hospital bed as that was the safest place on offer.
For the scheme to succeed, Mma had to recruit skilled co-conspirators sworn to secrecy. She found those in Dala’s senior orthopaedic surgeons at the time: Dr Bukar and the one fondly called Colonel.
When you sport an exotic, tongue-twisting surname like Onakhurekhanlen or Ómóigiarueghiaren, Colonel makes perfect sense. And here is why I remain certain there was a conspiracy.
Having become fairly conversant with processes and procedures in teaching hospital settings at Malumfashi and Enugu where I was aware of the type of cast I was to wear before the surgery, not once in Dala was the matter discussed openly.
Even when Colonel or Dr Bukar made ward rounds with the unwieldy phalanx of resident doctors and all manner of students in tow, the matter wasn’t even remotely broached. So it would seem everyone else had become pliant collaborators in the crusade for my salvation.
After the surgery, when the anaesthesia had worn off sufficiently to enable me assess my new status, I discovered a few parts of my body sticking out of a white, solid mass. I could not help but chuckle to myself. “This time around, Mma really pulled it off!”
No, I was not mad at her or the many that bought into her desperate design to secure her son’s ease of mobility. If anything, I owe them all a wealth of gratitude.
One merits special mention: Bridget, the pretty ward attendant. Her kindness, conscientiousness and soft sense of humour aided my healing and reformation in no small way. Could she be the one that bewitched me into this undying love for the Igala?
When I hobbled back into class with the January 1977 cold harmattan winds howling in my ears, it was with a humility and sobriety that matched the ordeal I had just survived.
I harboured only one desire: to make up for lost time, and when you share class with near-Einstein prodigies, that is a tall order.
By the end of the second term of the third session when it seemed I had achieved my objective, I was already slipping back to my old ways and habits. As significant as what happened in Dala was, it was not enough.
And just as physical incarceration can enable only a limited measure of reformation, what I needed at that point was a transcendental experience that would afford me the spiritual impetus to stay on the narrow path.
It was early in the third term that I finally had my epiphany or conversion experience as it was popularly dubbed. Because of how profound and personal it was, I divulged few details to eager enquirers.
Then I became a happy member of the Fellowship of Christian Students even though I must have been the most bizarre-looking convert in all of Africa with my Ghandi-like spectacles painted red in one eye and blue in the other.
Two factors made the FCS immediately attractive to me. Firstly, they called each other “brother” and “sister” like we did in my extended family, Ndi Olugu. Secondly, no one so much as judged me in spite of my iconoclastic tendencies.
My decision to keep a lid on my conversion experience was not borne out of pride. I was merely authenticating the new path while exploring its ramifications.
Incidentally, because of the notoriety I had already notched up around the school, there were quite a few equally interrogating my newfound faith for reasons not altogether altruistic.
The FCS leadership must have taken a studied look at the emerging scenario and decided to proactively intervene in a manner to protect my fledgling faith. And that is how the second, grander conspiracy was hatched.
I was swiftly co-opted into the FCS leadership and assigned the whimsical portfolio of Chorus Leader. That would be the first and only time Chorus Leader will be a leadership position in any Christian assembly I know of.
But then, desperate times call for desperate measures. So, long before the frantic acts of Nigeria’s 5th Senate under David Bonaventure Mark, FCS of FGC Kaduna already knew a thing or two about the propriety of the doctrine of necessity.
I needed to be kept on a short leash so I could be better watched, loved and cared for. And what marvelous care it turned out to be. The funniest aspect of this story is that by the time I assumed office, there were less than five choruses I knew and could sing confidently.
And while I feverishly and fervently learned new songs and choruses, I soon discovered I even possessed a modicum of capacity to write them.
Just when I was settling down to the deeply rewarding routine of an ardent learner, I was made the fellowship’s president. If this wasn’t a monumental risk, nothing else is. How do you promote a novice to such a visible position and saddle him with tasks far above his pay grade?
I should have declined but I did not. My experience as a Chorus Leader encouraged me to see the new responsibility not just as an elevation but much more as a continuation of my learning process. And that is precisely what it turned out to be.
Ably aided by the conspirators fittingly headed by the saintly Brother Peter Ekwo, I learned patience; tolerant forgiveness and many of the requisite skills that have enabled my survival in this increasingly precarious pilgrimage.
Here is to Professor Peter Ifeanyichukwu Ekwo and the fantastic FCS family: your brother and protégé is still here; securely tethered. I’ll remain here for as long as I’m needed.
How can I forget the grandest conspiracy of all: the conjugal collusion that enabled my parturition? One could not have wished for a better pair as parents.
When I consider that it was Papa’s choice that afforded me the pleasurable privilege of the best mother ever, I forgive all the corporal chastisement meted out to me.
Mma, how I wish you were still here to see that your little boy does not make trouble anymore. Instead, I string words together and make smart sentences in the hope that someone would read and be nudged away from the path of prodigality.
I have often wondered why in the Biblical parable of the prodigal son, no mention is made of the mother. I just figured it out. You were the mother, propelled by sacrificing love and working behind the scenes to turn your son’s face away from perdition towards home.
Mma, I’m still home.