Thursday, 1st June 2023

How Abubakar saved my brother’s life 26 years ago

By Zik Zulu Okafor
12 March 2018   |   3:44 am
I didn't know him. He didn’t know who I was. But he saw clearly that I was in desperate need of help. A life was at stake. This rare soul, an uncommon fetching symbol of hope intervened and saved a life at the gate of death. It took 26 years for me to unravel this…

I didn’t know him. He didn’t know who I was. But he saw clearly that I was in desperate need of help. A life was at stake.

This rare soul, an uncommon fetching symbol of hope intervened and saved a life at the gate of death. It took 26 years for me to unravel this mystery messiah. Come with me on this journey of history.

I still remember that Tuesday morning. It was on October 2, 1990. A day to begin my career in Journalism.

It was at TSM, the Sunday Magazine. Founded by a former Nigerian Television Authority, NTA’s imperial reporter and powerful presenter, later Senator, Chris Anyanwu, TSM was edited by a man with all the manifest traits of a genius, Elly Obasi. Ely would later pass on far away in America.

It was in one of my assignments in this awesome magazine that I encountered a US trained business magnate, Peter Eloka Okocha. He did business in Maritime- shipping, Clearing and Forwarding, plus oil and gas.

I was soon to find out that this big man as I referred to him then, was actually from my home town, Ibusa, in Delta State. Having observed him a little closely. I decided to write a special letter to this man. What inspired the decision to write him, I still can’t tell but I obeyed that instinct.

In the said letter dated July 4, 1991, I told him that “something within me tells me loud and clear that having been so successful in business, he might in the future go into politics”. There was therefore the need for him to open his doors a bit wider for our people as he may need them. Note that this was a military era.

The man read my letter and had a good laugh. Two weeks later, precisely on Thursday, July 18, 1991, the business mogul invited me to his Surulere, Lagos office. Inside the restaurant in his office, he told me in terse, crystal, language, “I have no business with politics and will never do”.

On a second thought, he added, “but permit me to withdraw the word ‘never’, but I am almost certain I will not go near politics”, he concluded. About 16 years later, it came to pass that you really don’t say ‘never’ as Okocha made a bold attempt at becoming governor of Delta State under the PDP umbrella.

About this time of my epistle to Okocha, my brother, seven years younger than I am, had come visiting. We were quite close; so close he could almost lay down his life for me. Even now that he is a royalty, I dare say he could sacrifice everything for my cause.

On the night of his fifth day with me, he complained casually that he was having a tooth ache. He is a toughie. His pain threshold is unbelievable.

But by the next morning when he woke up, what I saw was the eerie picture of death. His face was badly swollen, almost disfigured, one side of his cheeks bloated, eyes sank in the skull. I broke down in tears; more from helplessness. My salary was just N900.00; yes N900.00.

The only addition was the N50.00 the office gave us weekly for transportation to our various assignments. I had less than N220.00 in my entire life. How was I to take my little brother to a dentist. How could I send a message to our parents for rescue. No phone. No internet banking. Delivery by bus would take two to three days.

Even though I was not that Christian devout at the time, I didn’t know when I crashed on my knees with hands spread in supplication to my father in heaven for help.

This was just six days after my last visit to Okocha where I had enjoyed a sumptuous meal. Then this silent voice as I was praying asked me persuasively to take my brother to him, that the man would be glad to help.

Going back to the man after just six days? He would probably think I so enjoyed the meal I had during the first meeting that I now returned for a possible repeat, a distracting voice cautioned.

I finally obeyed the voice that kept urging me to go, that my plight had no colour of shame.

I was seated with my brother waiting to see Okocha, not quite five minutes after our arrival when a man dressed in white native attire and a white cap entered. He looked every inch accomplished and distinguished. As we greeted him, he turned with a broad hope- inspiring smile. But before he could answer our greeting, he froze and stared at my brother, dumb founded for a second. “My God”, he said, his face, a picture extreme shock.

“Wetin happen, what’s wrong with this boy”, he asked in quick succession. “Tooth ache”, I replied. “Ah ah, why did you allow it to get to this point now. Look, this thing can kill”, he warned.

In fleeting seconds, he took a paper from the receptionist, scribbled a little note and having sealed it in an envelope he handed it to me.

It was to a dentistry at Ogunlana Drive in Surulere, Lagos. But just as I got to the door, he called me back and asked if I had a phone number. I gave him my office number and he asked about the time he could get me to which I replied, “anytime from 4pm”.

In this article