Destined to Triumph, by Daniel C. Uwaezuoke, Danliz Publishers, Asaba, 1993
A pink piece of paper – perhaps A4-size – fluttered in the wind before my eyes. Its warmth and something else I couldn’t fathom held on tenaciously to my childlike fancy. I could have been in a miniature paradise. Then… the Serpent, obtruding in the form of a pair of hands, tried to wrench this paper from my hands and tore it.
I cried. In dismay, I ambled back into my parents’ living room. Papa, as I called (and still call) my dad, was receiving visitors. He quickly pacified me, took the paper from me and neatly taped it back together. Though I could tell it wasn’t quite the same, I stopped crying.
Same place, another time. The hubbub of visitors’ conversation drifted towards my ears as I walked into the living room with my unsteady toddler’s strides. My eyes were fastened on a glass mug containing some black liquid foaming at the top. As though born aloft by a phantom, the mug tilted itself towards my parted lips. Papa’s voice thundered at me just as the strange liquid’s bitterness stung my palate…
This was how I first knew Papa: tenderly forbearing and at the same time stern in his reproof. This is also how I’ve come to know him till date. It’s hard not to write this in the first person, just as hard to be dispassionate in this matter. After all, this is about my dad’s autobiography, Destined to Triumph. A 276-page affair, it’s his laudable attempt at compressing the experiences of his nearly nine decades of experience into a handy paperback for the perusal of posterity. Modesty compels my father, Sir Daniel Chukwuemezie Uwaezuoke, to write about his formal education so deprecatingly in the book’s preface. True, he had no more than a GCE advanced level certificate. But didn’t the series of courses he attended in the 1950s and 1960s as a policeman as well as his proficiency in English language amply compensate for his lack of tertiary education?
A caveat for readers: blame the typos or howlers in this book on the fact that my father wrote in longhand and allowed assumed literates to typeset his MS. A hasty editing and a tired printer should also be held responsible for the errors that survived. This explanation is necessary because the reader needs to know the man I call Papa (not Daddy) as a stickler for the right use of English grammar.
My father first lifts the veil on his pre-school years in the early pages and acquaints the readers with his background. There are his parents, David and Eunice, and his father’s second wife, Nwakaji, as well as a procession of colourless characters. His bigamous father no doubt helped to prepare him for the vicissitudes of his future life and also upon his demise on July 17, 1944 forced him to become a 19-year-old breadwinner.
More characters take on form in the subsequent pages of the book, as Papa became a teacher and subsequently moved on to become a policeman following in the footsteps of his late dad. Enter a world of meanness, punitive transfers and eventual personal triumphs. After his hopscotch from Warri to Forcados, Fate led him to Lagos to resume at the CID Headquarters’ fingerprints section where he showed early promise of proficiency on resumption. Besides witnessing a total eclipse of the sun in Warri, he personally suffered the agonising ravages of a Lagos’ worst tornado in 50 years on May 20, 1948
Talking about personal tragedies, he lost his brother Godfrey, then 20, got infected with tuberculosis and eventually passed on in 1951 from its ravaging effects. “I mourned Godfrey more than I had mourned my father,” he writes. “Yet, I had to hold on to courage. With my companion and loving brother dead, I became lonely especially after the day’s work.”
The late Godfrey doted so much on him that he rued his demise whenever he had issues with his surviving brothers. But this experience also informed his decision to learn how to play the organ. This explains Papa’s avid love for classical music compositions.
Godfrey’s death was also prepared the soil for his eventual marriage to my mother, Elizabeth, who I call Mama, on October 1, 1955. Out of sight turned out not to be out of mind for even while in the UK, Papa made sure his host and hostess Mrs and Mrs Swift heard about her. Before Mama’s coming to Lagos, Papa was inundating the BBC’s Listeners’ Choice programme with special record requests for his fiancée.
Barely a year after Papa and Mama’s marriage, the floodgate of incarnations were flung open from June 23, 1956 with the birth of Daniel Chukwunweike (Chike, for short). Their other boys boisterously stomped into this earthly existence after him on March 26, 1958, January 6, 1960, December 14, 1961, March 24, 1964, March 4, 1966 and finally, after the Nigerian Civil War, on December 13, 1970. Total: seven boys, no girl. And Mama, even after the birth of her last boy, still kept the figure of teenage girl.
Papa’s career got that much-needed terrific shot in the arm when he enrolled for correspondence courses, passed the London GCE (both ordinary and advanced level) and was privileged to train under the famous Mr Bateman of the New Scotland Yard during a second visit to the UK. He still revels in the fond memories Messrs Lynn (his boss at the CID Headquarters Alagbon Close, Lagos), Griffith and Ezekwem, who brightened the final years of his career
Fate also positioned Papa to witness landmark moments of Nigeria’s chequered history. His boss, Mr Lynn personally led the investigations of the treasonable felony charges preferred against the late nationalist Chief Obafemi Awolowo. The Civil War forced Papa’s relocation to the short-lived Republic of Biafra. This would eventually lead to his dismissal on May 1, 1971 “because of the follies of the leaders of the country both civilian and military”. Without gratuity or pension, he came face-to-face with an uncertain future.
Flip over to his relatively brief stint as an amateur businessman. He found himself selling cement and working as a pools collector agent as he scrapped to meet the needs of his large family. The story dovetails to his almost decade-long employment with the then East Central Broadcasting Service TV (now Nigerian Television Authority) Enugu, where he worked in the security department and subsequently in the administration.
Papa’s tale of triumph revolves around the deft weavings of Fate, which ensured he had moments of reprieve from unfavourable returning currents. It is also about his seven boys – of whom I am the fifth. He had invested all he had to give them the best formal education he could afford. With pride and a sense of fulfilment and gratitude to the Most High, he celebrates their lustrous academic achievements in this autobiography. There was also his investiture as a Knight of the Good Shepherd in the Anglican Church and an additional diocesan honour and award by his bishop. If he in addition remains grateful to the former president, Chief Olusegun Obasanjo, for his pardon of all the ex-Biafran police officers, it is because that gesture earned him a modest gratuity of over N4 million for his 31 years of service in the Nigerian Police Force.
Destined to Triumph chronicles the author’s life from modest beginnings to giant strides. It is an inspiring story, which offers a lesson in endurance and unwavering trust in the Almighty. It is also a bequest from the author, who hopes to mark his diamond jubilee wedding anniversary with Mama in two years time, to his seven boys.
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