The Fake Onye Ocha

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This is edited version of my assignment at the YaLa Citizens Journalism Online Program for Young  Leaders in the Middle East and Africa.

I chose to share this incident for the first time since graduating in 2010 because the lessons still reverberates.

Hope it resonates with you.

"Truth is ever to be found in the simplicity, and not in the multiplicity and confusion of things." Isaac Newton.

It was a wet Tuesday morning in May 2009, I was in my penultimate year as a student in College. We were awaiting our Lecturer for a class in Public Administration and the man was running unusually late due to some visitors in his office.

Now this course is the easiest of the four majors in Political Science; the others being International Relations,  Political Theory,  and Government, but the personality of the lecturer made it the most failed course in the department.

So that fateful day in May, while we waited for him, the class became a village square; various cacophonies making the rounds, different groups of people with  diverse activities, and I was busy updating my note for I had missed the previous class.

A beggar walked in, and everything changed!

He stood in front of the class and  appealed to the emotions of the class; according to him, he had been involved in a factory accident in the Northern part of the country and had his right hand amputated. The class, as it is with the majority of classes across Nigerian universities then were sympathetic towards him.

They contributed generously and there began my woes...

The lecturer entered just as the beggar was leaving the class after collecting money from us. He called him back, queried his mission to the class. When he couldn't get a satisfactory answer, he accused me of colluding with the beggar to rob the students, mocked the benevolence of the class and requested that the beggar returned the money to the class.

From then on, we became sworn enemies. He striped me off my position as a the class representative to the courses he taught that year.

Hw didn't stop at that, he went on to report me to the Head of my Department and then Dean of my faculty. The most embarrassing part being when he reported me to the Dean in front of other junior students, calling me a thief!

I broke down and wept like a child.

The last time I wept like that was when we buried my dad on May 28, 2004. It was a sorry sight because though I am an emotional person, I pride myself as being rock solid at least in public. The frosty relationship continued till my final year

It was sometime in November 2009, I was in the first semester of my Final year in school. On that particular day, I was late in arriving at my duty post for it was Day Three of the Convocation Week, and I, like other members of the Students' Union Executive, Legislature amd Judiciary for the 2008/2009 academic year were requested by the University Management to act as Volunteer Ushers.

I had served as a member of the Students Representative Council in the SUG and since elections were yet to be held, the University Management directed we Served as volunteers with regards to protocols.

On that day, as it was customary of the University during convocation ceremonies we had some select secondary school students from Anambra State, South East Nigeria and they were already seated in the Council Chambers of the University Governing Council, venue of the briefing before the tour round the University.

I arrived late to the meeting point because I had to arrange for lectures for my class. I had thought that the rendezvous for the volunteers was the forecourt of the Administrative building hence I was waiting before a lecturer spotted my volunteer shirt and asked me to move to the Council Chambers that proceedings were on. I rushed upstairs, got to the door and tiptoed behind my colleagues but hey, my colour gave me out.

The Moderator spotted me, and immediately referred to me as fake "Onye Ocha" and everyone in the room laughed. I was taken aback, I quickly asked the nearest person in whispers why they laughed.

Before I could get a response, the Moderator, then Director of Special Duties in the University, my Lecturer in Public Adminstration and now a Professor of Political Science informed the students that I was a fake "Whiteman" for that is what "Onye Ocha"  means in Igbo language.

He beckoned on me to come say a word or two to the students. Before doing that he had informed the audience about me, how despite being a "fake Onye Ocha", I was among the top 4 in my class, a brilliant and responsible student,  hardworking, faculty leader, Head of my Class as Class Representative bla bla. . .

Now you would understand my surprise when I accepted his invite in that hallowed Council Chambers, stood on the platform and there was the then Vice Chancellor,  Prof Boniface Egboka, Pro Chancellor, Deputy Vice Chancellors and other top members of the University Management and the Students Union plus the Convocation Lecturer, a Professor of Communication at the University of Sheffield in the UK - he was the reason for the question by one of the students who asked  "is he an Onye Ocha" because apart from the fact that he didn't speak through his "nose", he wasn't purely white, but of course he was British.

So there I was, this  fake "Onye Ocha", the "thief" who colluded with a beggar to dupe his classmates eventually standing before dignitaries. The SUG President could have done this but Moderator didn't pick him, there were other people who were more eloquent and brilliant than me but they were not chosen.

So I went up and did give a great speech, detailing the qualities of our Great Unizik and how you get indoctrinated with the values of Discipline, self-reliance and Excellence. I told them that the University will always be glad to welcome them as the"University of the Moment".

When I was done,  I got a high commendation from the Vice Chancellor and others present that day.

Oh and yes, from thence, our quarrel ended and he became my very good friend. I came out of the experience, more determined to not be an imitation and at the same promising myself to always be real no matter the person, circumstances or situation. It also taught me to always be ready like the Boys Scout wold always say. You never can tell what life throws at you at any time.

This belief has helped me motivate those like me, considered  "fake Onye Ocha" because of our lack of pigmentation.

Each time I remember these moments from my College days, it embolden me in my quest to be better and also to help others become better.

Two Igbo adages would suffice here;

Eziokwu bu ndu! Truth is life!

Onu kwuru njo ga kwu mma. The mouth that tell lies would one day tell the truth.

As Michael Jackson once said, "lies runs in sprints, but truth endures marathons".

OjisiEmezie

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8 comments

  1. Inspiring ... Keep being the real you and making great impact as your trademark

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  2. Brilliant stuff. Ojisi, keep the good work going.

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  3. "Onu kwuru njo g'ekwu mma". Lessons learnt,
    1. Don't jumping into conclusions too quickly. doing that may hurt an innocent person.
    2. Rising beyond hurts and disappointment to have an impact in your society will eventually make you stand out.
    Good article. (Oge Nwigbo)

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  4. Good for you. That is an interesting thing to do. I meant to say that this is one of those interesting and useful things.

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  5. That was truly unusual. i would like to get more details on this topic. What is the cause here? Have you anything to add on that?

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  6. This is wow....im happy to have read this ....great lesson learnt.

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  7. Nice of u share this experience...How come u were d only one accused by d lecturer?
    Ain't u one of those who made d contributions?

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    Replies
    1. I was Class Representative and he felt that whatever happened had my approval. Again, his major anger was that we did not 'protect' him when the beggar was insulting him.

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