I am 60 today
About this time (6:30am) exactly sixty years ago today (1/9/2020), my mother, who is still alive and in her early 80s, was in labour. According to her and some witnesses at the event who have narrated what happened to me, as was the custom, she was taken to the back of her thatched roofed house where, at a convenient spot, three long and wide plantain leaves which were procured from somewhere within her husband’s large compound, were arranged on the ground to serve as a bed wherein she was delivered of her baby. The baby was a boy with full hair and a fair countenance to behold. That boy is me and has grown, passed through test and trials and is 60 today.
In those days, a baby boy was a particularly highly priced commodity. And this particular baby boy was the one that first issued forth from her mother’s womb making her a full, fulfilled woman. As some of us must have seen in that MTN video commercial called Mama na Boy! which feminists caused to be banned or withdrawn from airing in our country because they said it over celebrated the arrival of a baby boy and that it will help to foster the feeling that a baby boy was superior to a female one, my arrival set the Alibi Ajor Odey Ani household of Ushara unit, Gakem, Bekwarra Council of Cross River State in joyous commotion.
My mother told me her joy that day and years after knew no bounds. She said when she learnt I was a boy and heard many people say I was such a cute, very good-looking boy with lovely hair, her labour pains immediately disappeared from her body. She says when she holds me she will be wondering to herself whether she was really the mother of this child. Regardless of how I look, who will blame my mother? Which mother will not say her child, more so a boy, was not the cutest looking child on planet earth?
My arrival heralded joy. Thank God that my steady growth into a child, a teenager, a young adult, an old adult and now a semi-old man has not brought anguish to anyone including myself. In primary school, some of my teachers used to call me ‘’Number One’’. The trend continued in secondary school where I was one of a triumvirate of boys that were consistently on top of the class from year one to five. I went straight from secondary school to the university at age 18 and was perhaps too young and too inexperienced to flex academic muscles yet was among the top six when we graduated in 1982. When I went for a journalism course at the Yugoslavenski Institut Za Novinastso (Yugoslav Institute of Journalism in Belgrade) in 1988, a course attended by 22 fellows from 18 Non-aligned countries organized by the UNESCO, I was declared the ‘’best of the best’’ at the end of it.
This testimonial from Belgrade has served to fire my strides in life to be among the best in whatever I have sought to do. In one of his many repudiated poems/love letters to actress Judie Forster, John Hinckley, who tried unsuccessfully to kill late American President Ronald Reagan in fulfillment of the Tecumseh curse on American presidents elected in a year ending in zero and in order to impress his unrequited lover, Judie, once described himself as ‘’a solitary weed among the carnations’’. I would like to describe myself as ‘’a rose among the lilies’’.
Please take no offence at my small little boasts here because today is my day and I owe myself a duty to celebrate myself if no one else will do so. And note also that if this sounds a little like a boast, I am not boasting of my abilities but I am boasting in the Lord, for it is his hand that have been mighty upon my life.
To survive the first five dangerous years in the life of a child that was born on a plantain leaf at a time in a country where millions of under-age five children used to die like chickens, is not a small matter. For if it had not been for the Lord, the man penning this would have been counted among the unfortunate millions who couldn’t make it passed that age. I remember a man in my village called Ajeta ‘’Man Pass Man’’ who lost seven of his children in one day, I guess, to one of those devastating early childhood diseases, possibly cholera!
Because of his mighty hand upon my life, I have risen to the top in five different professions and callings even before age 60. I got married to a girl God showed me on April 21, 1981 at age 23 and at age 24, I became a father. At age 51, I became a grandfather and from the way things look to me, by the time I get to age 70, I might become a great grandfather, becoming a living ancestor while still young and agile!
I joined the journalism profession, rose very rapidly through the ranks and became an editor at age 30. I later joined the civil service, rose steadily and became a Director in the Federal Civil Service at age 55; missing becoming a Federal Permanent Secretary three years later by the whiskers and this was because I perceive that God did not will it for me.
I gave my life to God at age 40 and his oil came upon my head that same year to become a pastor, to teach and to divide the word. From a lay parishioner, to a pastor. I am no pulpit pastor but an evangelist called to preach by example. He gave me the ministry of thanksgiving, to teach this ungrateful generation to learn to count their blessings and to give thanks to God and to the many helpers He sends to help us achieve our goals.
In the middle of this year (the midst of the year), I left Abuja, went home to my community to complete the opening up of a 20-hectare farm holding which began last year, lifting me from a person who merely saw farming as a hobby to one who has now been elevated to the top as a serious commercial farmer charged to produce food for God’s children. What a privilege to be a producer and not a consumer.
Although in politics I have merely been at the sidelines, helping others to achieve their ambitions, the potential to reach the top is real and within easy grabs when the set time for me comes. I can see that an effective and effectual door will soon be opened to me to reach the top because His hand is mighty upon my head.
Alibi, former member, Editorial Board, Daily Times wrote from Abuja.
So far, from what I have seen and can count, I have been saved from instant death six times by that mighty hand I keep talking about. One of them was hair-raising. As Editor of the Sunday Chronicle in Calabar, CRS, I had an official car with which I used to give a lot of people lifts—free ride from Calabar to my community and from my community to Calabar. One Sunday when I was getting ready to leave for Calabar and to give a particular elder a lift, God sent a native doctor to warn me not to give that particular man a ride, saying that if I did, on the way the car will summersault three times and only I will die, and instantly too.
Can you not now see that my recounting of some of these things is not to seek notice but to give thanks to the owner of that mighty hand that has been upholding me in all my life’s battles? I drove myself to a prominent hospital here in Abuja in 2005 where an apprentice doctor prescribed for me an old medication which I later learnt is usually given to old men in their 70s and 80s but which has been banned by many countries of the civilized world. As soon as that drug was administered on me intravenously, I started feeling dizzy and seeing myself going to another realm? When I saw panic-stricken doctors and nurses going to and fro on account of me obviously wondering what to do, I just raised my voice and pleaded with God that I was not yet ready to die but that I will live to fulfill my mighty destiny and I immediately came to.
But if you still insist that these things sound like boasts, let me ask you one question: was it not the late Ahmadu Bello who once said that we should learn to blow our own trumpet because many people will not be willing to blow it for us because they are busy blowing theirs? And was it not Agama the Lizard who says that if he drops to the ground from a fair height and no one seems impressed with his feat, he will praise himself with a nod?
This day, I nod for myself for what God has seen fit to do for me. Already, in a country where experts have said that the average lifespan for a male is 53, I have exceeded that by 7 whole years. And please wait for it: I am 60 today and that is only the first half of the 120 years I am set to live on this planet. I pray a prayer of divine justice every day using Deuteronomy Chapter 34 as anchor scriptures. It is recorded in that chapter of the Holy Book that Moses the servant of God was 120 years old before he died. And that when he died, his strength never left him; his back was not bent neither did his eyes grow dim. If Moses lived for that long and in sound health, so will I. But even if it does not please him to allow me live for that long, I know it in my heart that I am not ready to leave yet. I will be here for a pretty long time to accomplish the many things He has put in my heart to do.
Ladies and gentlemen, raise your glasses wherever you are, even if it is empty of sweet wine, to celebrate this village boy, this son of nobody that God has raised by his mighty hand to become somebody!
Alibi, former member, Editorial Board, Daily Times wrote from Abuja.
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