We write to taste life twice, in the moment and in retrospect
– Anais Nin
He may not have written a New York Times bestseller but he wrote books in our heart. Books that will allow us to taste his life twice. Ugonna was a great storyteller and knew how to captivate readers with his stories.
Here’s an excerpt from an autobiography Ugonna wrote in 2013.
“Making the Loughborough list made me happy. I didn’t know what to expect, what not to expect and it made the whole experience an adventurous one. I was leaving a town where I was loved, had a family, had friends for a community I had never even heard about. Layefa, a friend of mine from BSL called me during preparations to Loughborough, to tell me that he also got admission to Loughborough University and he also had not even heard about Loughborough before applying, so both of us laughed about it and planned to go together to school.
We got to Loughborough in October 2005 and while Layefa got accommodation in Faraday, a student accommodation on campus, I stayed in town in a hall called Forest court. Just like the name, it was like a forest, with a lot of trees, depressing and away from everybody, I started uni life away from the people that “mattered”. It was difficult for people to come and visit me as it was difficult for me to visit them also because in Loughborough at that time, the buses would stop operation by 6:30.
I started a tradition in my flat at forest court that then made forest court the “place”. I learned how to cook and started cooking and inviting friends over to eat. This was how I met Jeff, Uzo, Tayo, and Shima. We were all good friends and with Layefa and I added to the group
Jeff and I at the time wanted to follow God, simple and short. Jeff immediately remembered the church our Brother Martin spoke about and the descriptions to get to the fellowship on campus every Wednesdays. We went to the fellowship and we saw a few people, no musical instrument but we felt the presence of God powerfully. I remember after the closing prayer, Jeff and I said, this is the place to be. Bro Martin walked up to us again after the fellowship and asked, “ Do you play any Musical Instrument”? And I said yes, the drums and the keyboard, he turned to Jeff and asked the same question and Jeff said yes, the drums. They felt really happy to have us join the church not only because “ we were musical” but also because we were young people. Older people always recognize young people when they need a job to be done. It could be different if no job needs to be done.
There was a lot of work to be done in the church. First of all, we need a choir, second of all we need members, in fact, we just need young people in the church. We need young girls in the church because there was none. Lanre, Bunmi, Ewe, were all too old for us. they were already in their final year when we were fresher’s. We had no chance with them. We needed to do mass Evangelism.
We arrived at our first Sunday service, the Sunday after the fellowship and saw that the drums and keyboard had been set up for Jeff and I to show what we were made of. I played basic chords I learned in Nigeria before coming and everyone was pleased that there was some sort of sound that at least rhymed with the songs in church for the first time. This sound was coming only from the keyboard. I immediately realized Jeff had lied to Brother Martin and me about his abilities. At that point, I wondered why a great Guy like Jeff would lie about his abilities, even though I never asked him why I kept wondering why. I realized shortly that Jeff felt a huge sense of responsibility the moment he walked in the church because there was actually a lot of work to be done. I realized that it wasn’t really a lie, Jeff just wanted to help. In fact, I started to teach Jeff the basics of drumming and he picked up and was even a more committed student than I was, a teacher. I felt he understood the question differently. He probably heard “ do you want to play the drums”?
My involvements grew deeper when I was handed responsibility. I was the only fresher that was made a youth leader in the church. I had to attend leaders meeting. It was really weird. I was the youngest and didn’t feel I had attained any spiritual experience to be amongst leaders in the church. The burden grew because I started to drive the church bus to get members of the church and back home after church.
Our lifestyle soon gave us a reputation in Loughborough as the “church boys”. We would not drink, we would not smoke and we would not go clubbing. Sometimes I wonder if I did these things then maybe I won’t be doing them now. Some people commended our chosen path, some of our friends; some people just admired and encouraged us, like brother Keme. He was really a brother and a wise man. He drew us closer to him and he really impacted a lot of wisdom. He used a lot of stories and the bible to make us understand. We understood things that have not left us till today.
After the close of the service, Shima walked up to me saying a plane had crashed in Nigeria. I asked where was the plane going to and he said Sokoto. My heart started to beat because I knew my father always traveled to Sokoto because of the work he had to do there. I quickly left the church hall so no one would notice anything had happened. I called my father’s phone when I got outside and very unlike my father’s phone not to ring; I heard a loud sound that never stopped until I cut the phone. Immediately I knew there was trouble. I left the church immediately and Richard asked me where are you going and I said Nigeria and I told him I felt my dad was in the crash. He kept quiet. I didn’t tell anyone because I didn’t want the attention from anyone in the church. I just wanted to be alone and think about how I can get to Nigeria with the next flight back. I remember I called Jeff and sola to help me carry my sister to the train station, she visited me that weekend and I didn’t say bye. In less than 2 minutes I was off to Heathrow and Richard followed me.
My dad was very close to all his children. He would call us every night in order of our age. I remember he would call my elder brother Henry before me and then call me before my sister Oluchi. He believed so much in order and in doing things the right way. I felt I was closest to him at some point but whenever I spoke to Henry or Oluchi about him I’d realize that he was just a good father. I felt really close to him but so did Henry and Oluchi and Ikenna and Amala, and certainly Precious and Princess. My mum had 7 children. We made fun of her and still do. My dad would always protect her and say “ she’s my wife” I even wanted 12 children but for your mother’s health. It was a funny experience living with them……………..”
Reading this just takes you into his life.
Ugonna wrote an article on Bella Naija in February 2017. Here’s a link to read the article
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