By PRISCA SAM DURU
Few years ago, Professor Hope Eghagha of the Department of English, University of Lagos, Akoka, was kidnapped on his way to Asaba while still working as the Commissioner for Higher Education in Delta State, a position he held between 2009 and 2014. It was a terrible encounter which he said, he will never wish for his enemy. His ordeal in the hands of his abductors lasted for days that looked like eternity.
Today, while others who suffered same dehumanising encounter remained daunted, psychologically imbalanced or dispirited, Prof Eghagha has chosen to look at his traumatic experience from a positive point. That encounter has birthed a short story titled “Your Death Hour is 10 O’clock, a factional presentation of his kidnap experience. As part of Arts Faculty Seminar series, Your Hour of Death is Ten O’Clock was read by Prof Eghagha to a mixed audience at the English Department UNILAG, last Thursday. It was thereafter, thrown to the floor for comments and criticisms.
In his review, Prof. Patrick Oloko described the story as a marriage of facts and fiction which emphasises the need to re-interrogate our values and morals. Fielding questions from the media shortly after the Seminar, Prof Eghagha praised God for delivering him and for helping him overcome the traumatic experience. “The first lesson I learnt from my abduction is that one must be very close to God, don’t take anything for granted. That encounter brought me closer, face to face with the rough guys of society and I saw the depth of their anger, sometimes misplaced. It brought me close to the ordinary people of the society,” he said.
Recounting his ordeal, he explained that, “There was no certainty that I was going to come out alive, in fact I said my last prayer three times. Much later I discovered that they didn’t want to kill me. Whenever they said your death hour is ten o’clock that scared life out of me.” On why it took him this long to write the story and in the third person narrative, he noted that, “I have to come to terms with what happened to me and also I wanted the to write my story after I left government office. Subsequently, I am going to do a play out of this short story. I chose the third person narrative because I wanted to detach myself from the story.”
“I am grateful to Almighty God that I have overcome the trauma. I was given some pills and I sort a Psychologist for 3 months and a Psychiatrist for 6 months so as to be fit once again. I really wanted to understand what happened to me. You see, when you go abroad, its a routine but here in Nigeria, people don’t have the time to go and see a psychologist. They will say they don’t need it but I discovered that I needed to go and re-evaluate myself. Mental health is very important, your attitude to things, how you react to worries, bad news, are all very important.”
Dismissing the speculations that his kidnap was politically motivated,Prof Eghagha said, “They were just hoodlums looking for money but must have had connections with me before the kidnap day. I don’t think it was politically motivated.”
Eghagha who described kidnapping as a global challenge, stressed that the ugly trend should be “tackled through people oriented programmes that will create jobs for the young people. Security network should be made better, special unit should be created in the intelligence arms, the Police, Army, anti-kidnapping squad so that they can evaluate kidnapping.”