Death followed Sickness into the room where Uwene lay shivering, plagued by uto anyin ekpo. In just a few days, Uwene had become a shadow of his former self. His rapid emaciation shocked everyone who knew him. Helplessness defined his state and surrounding. His wife and children did their best to save him, but their efforts were mired by helplessness.

Uwene’s bony frame lay in the semi-dark bedroom. The only sign of life was the faint heaving of his chest at irregular intervals. Suddenly, an owl hooted at a nearby bush. The faces in the room exchanged uneasy glances tinted by alarm. The owl hooted again and Uwene coughed with what seemed to be his last strength, his mouth spouting blood. Uwene’s children, Mary and Joseph, started their wail afresh. Lucy Uwene went frenetic as she began placing emergency calls; first to the doctor who had left an hour before promising to return in the evening, then to the Chairman of the Town Council whom Uwene helped to win election and in the process had a heart accident when an enemy thug hit his chest with a gun at a collation centre. The Town Council Chairman promised to visit immediately he was done with the budget meeting at the Town Council House. Lucy called Prof Uwene’s HOD to inform him of his colleague’s worsened state. The HOD promised to rush in immediately after completing a research paper and a few administrative duties that the ASUU strike had imposed on his office.

In his last moments, Uwene reflected on his life. He knew he was leaving the world that day; there was no strength left to carry him on. He knew he was leaving his lovely wife and two children in an unjust world that was nothing different from the jungle and its creatures he often watched on Nat Geo Wild. Did he have regrets? Yes, a truck load of regrets. But he did not have time to think on each of them; they just floated across his mind’s eyes like a Nollywood movie.

‘I need a glass of water please,’ Uwene requested from no one in particular.  When the water was brought, he changed his mind and requested a glass of soft drink (Fanta). When the soft drink was brought, he changed his mind and demanded a glass of wine. When the wine was brought, he changed his mind and requested a glass of alcohol (beer or local gin). Still he did not drink any and the four glasses lay before the emaciated professor staring. When he gazed at the glasses, they seemed to symbolise his biography.

Professor Festus Uwene had taught Economics in Adversity University for thirty years. In those periods, he had been HOD, Dean and Director, but he was also desperately poor. His wealth was his catalogue of virtues and resistance to bribery and corruption. The same wealth that made him poor. He was called a fool by colleagues and many mocked him for not playing the system. He was soon blacklisted and was denied sensitive positions so as not to jeopardise the University’s boat of fortune.

A good name is better than riches.

These words were Prof Uwene’s existential compass. Now in his deathbed, he scoffed at them and those who taught him the words from infancy. The same people did not believe in the words the way he had done. It seemed that, in the words of John Ploughman, they had looked this way and pulled the other, while Uwene had focused his attention to where he looked and pulled.

Uwene, at the beginning of his career, lived on the glory and the prestige that went with the job. He was told he was on his way to greatness and that time was all that was needed. The future was bright. Whatever he could not have today, he would have tomorrow.

The future.


These words played tricks on Uwene’s mind as they had always done. They danced and twerked around his ebbing mind as if celebrating their final victory for having deceived Uwene for his entire life.

The Youth are the leaders of tomorrow.

Uwene was no longer young and he was not a leader because his tomorrow never came. He had used contentment to comfort himself and his failures. The truth is that there was a philosophy for every situation in life. But it seemed Uwene was only taught the wrong ones from cradle. He was a lamb in a jungle and it explained why he was preyed on all his life. He never changed his philosophy and so never changed his life. He had taught his students how the British became rich after plundering the earth. He had taught his students how the powerful African politicians crushed everyone who opposed them in order to maintain their power and wealth. He had witnessed how even his colleagues subdued haughty students through deliberate failures and all forms of frustrating acts, yet Uwene never learnt that the world was never a place for the meek and mild. Even Jesus who was meek and mild was a powerful miracle worker who defended himself and evaded his attackers many a time. Uwene had remained a child for life. He only grew up in his deathbed but then it was too late.

Meek and mild.

These were the imagery of Uwene’s childhood Sunday-school messages meant to tame the man in the child. Uwene’s eyes brimmed with tears as he reached for the glass of alcohol. The jungle never rewards meekness; it preys on it because meekness is weakness.  His hand was shaky and he spilled the drink but he managed to take one long draught. He collapsed back on the bed and felt the drink burn his chest and his stomach. It would be good for his dying heart. So a colleague had told him when he was introduced to the art and act of taking strong drinks in the wake of his many awakenings and transformations. He must be brave for the road. He must be brave even for the first time in his life.

Uwene coughed again and out came more spouts of blood from his lungs which elicited cries of alarm from Lucy, Mary and Joseph. The neighbours rushed in and sighed in hopelessness and helplessness. Uwene’s state suggested that it was a matter of time before he breathed his last. They did whatever they could to make him comfortable before some of them departed to their houses to go about their normal businesses.

Uwene’s HOD eventually arrived with two colleagues. They stared helplessly at Uwene, just like a pack of zebras would stare at one of their own in the grip of a cheetah. There was little or nothing they could do to save Uwene. The eight-month strike and its no-work-no-pay policy had weakened them. They did not even have money to move around and had to pull their resources together to fuel the HOD’s car that brought them. They also managed to give a token to aid Uwene’s passage, for there was no hope for health. When they could no longer stand the sight of the grotesque figure before them, they departed to their houses in order to go about their normal businesses while subconsciously waiting for the sad news.

The arrival of the Town Council Chairman, Honourable Efre Mfon, brought hope to the eyes and heart of the dying professor. Here was the man he had sacrificed his life for. He knew he had been busy but he had finally come to visit him. He was a man of his word and would definitely lift him from the dungeon of death. Honourable Efre Mfon was all tears as he embraced Professor Uwene. It is true he had been engaged but he did not think that Uwene’s health had deteriorated to the extent of him looking like a skeleton. He would quickly go and arrange a large sum of money for Uwene to be taken to the City Hospital for proper treatment. It was unfortunate that Uwene was brought back from the Town Council Hospital due to lack of money for treatment. For the meantime, Honourable Efre Mfon left the family a small token from his pocket to aid Prof Uwene’s passage, for he knew that his health could not be revived.

When Honourable Efre Mfon departed, Prof Uwene cried helplessly and hopelessly. He took a bullet for Efre Mfon, yet Efre Mfon could not even wash his bullet wounds. For some reason, Prof Uwene had become wiser. In the past, he would have believed the sweet words of Efre Mfon because then he was naïve and gullible. But now, in his dying moments, as if he was blessed with a supernatural intuition, he knew that Efre Mfon was lying and that he was dying.

Finally, the Reverend Father came around to prepare Uwene for his final journey. Uwene’s face showed spite for the man of God but he pretended to be happy because Uwene at that point also cared about his legacies or how he would be remembered. The Father reminded God of His promises to his children and asked for His will to be done in Uwene’s life. Then he departed to the Mission House in order to continue with his normal activities.

The doctor’s arrival coincided with the arrival of the ambulance sent by Hon. Efre Mfon. It carried Uwene’s corpse to the hospital after the doctor had confirmed him dead. The doctor was sorry that he was delayed at his private clinic and could not make it in time to see Uwene before he died. During the elaborate burial, the earth kept its promise and received Uwene just as God kept His promise and rested Uwene in Abraham’s bosom.

Then the earth continued to rotate around its many promises.

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