By Jesse Ojobor
Between 1995 and 1997, I was a steward at Shell Specialist Hospital – Warri, where during nearly every work shift, I would, in a kitchen (among other meagre catering services), prepare and serve tea/snacks to nurses, doctors and patients. One of the medical doctors I served was Dr. Emanuel Eweta Uduagha, usually in his consultation office.
One night after finishing an evening shift, October 30th 1995, I was going home at about 10:30 p.m and on my way, I had a terrible motorcycle accident caused by police officers at a checkpoint who in a bid to stop and collect “N10 matching” from cyclists, cornered another bike who was on high speed trying to avoid them into my lane.
And…….baaaam! Till today, I can only remember the split second light flash.
The accident was so bad that I was considered dead by doctors in three hospitals including the General Hospital in Warri.
Somehow I regained consciousness, in the third hospital (Warri General Hospital) the doctor looked at me almost hopelessly and asked if were a Christian. I nodded, he said “pray for your sins and repent”
I think I prayed and repented a thousand million times as I walked home with blood sprinkling from my moccasin like water. I just wanted to get home and die in my mother’s arm.
After an hour’s walk dead in the night, I did get home and I was going to die. In fact, I was dying, my head had hit the tar so hard that my lower jaw mandibular bone broke into nine pieces. Both of my jaws were on my tongue. My face was like a flat A4 paper.
While lying on my crying mum’s arms, blood was dripping from my ears. I apologised to my parents for the pains that my death was going to unleash on them. They could hardly understand me. I struggled. Muttered some words out “Take me to Shell Hospital”
My parents went knocking on everyone’s door that had a car on our tiny street of five houses.
Papa Maxwell answered and, like an ambulance drove into Shell Yard just past about 3 a.m.
My dad and mum were hopeless. My mum’s wrapper drenched in blood. First time I saw my dad cry.
I was taken straight to Out Patient Department and nurses whom I served some few hours earlier were shocked. They called the doctor on duty, and former governor of Delta State, Dr. Emmanuel Uduaghan walked in.
He too was shocked, but he had a job to do. I asked him, “Dr. am I going to die?”
He looked at me, smiled and with gentle and sure words said “No. You are not going to die, you’ll live to be what you will become”
He did all he could to stabilise my situation. He was by my bed side for hours. At the break of dawn, he wrote on a piece of paper and recommended where I should be taken to.
To cut a long story short, I was operated by one of the very few renowned maxillofacial surgeons who operated on me after 28 local anesthesia shots were injected into my face because the resuscitating machine had broken down just before the operation started.
I felt every cut and slice on my face, I groaned in pains as my facial bones were being put into the “right positions”.
I was weak but held strongly to my father’s hand. My mum had earlier given me a stern warning…..”don’t you dare die!” I have not yet reaped your reward as my “lucky boy”
That was the promise. A promise to stay alive. Story of the “lucky boy” might be for another day.
I promised her to come out of the operating theatre alive.
My jaws were wired for 92 days. I fed through straws. Food was first dried, blended to powdery substance and made into light paste for me to sip with straws. During these times I looked like a stage 3 AIDS patient.
So many actually thought I had contracted the virus. But these weren’t my worries. I was more concerned about my future and Mr. Jesse Ojobor doing something important that will actually influence change and alleviate poverty. My thoughts always came back to Dr. Uduaghan’s comments…. “No. You are not going to die, you’ll live to be what you will become”
I resumed my kitchen steward, tea and snacks serving job on 1st February 1996.
I remember these dates. They are remarkable. I met Dr. Uduaghan sometime in March 1996, after seeing me fine, and happily doing my job, he then said to me “Jesse, its time to move……time to start preparing to control your future”…..go get registered for JAMB and leave this job”
Fast forward to 2012, Dr. Uduaghan had become Executive Governor of my state. I had obtained my B.Sc, M.Sc and studying for a Ph.D degree in Water Resources Management and since 2010, I had been working for the United Nations Industrial Development Organisation as an International Project Development Expert at its HQ office in Vienna Austria.
After implementing developmental projects around the world, I decided to fix my compass southwards. …towards home.
And that was how I conceptualised, designed and implemented a world class project in Delta State. A project that not only showcased the potentials of my state but one that also showed commitment of a government wanting to bring industrialisation to Delta State.
In June 2014, when a team of top Delta State Government Officials came on an official business meeting with the Director General of UNIDO, I was asked by the then Commissioner of information, “how could a Warri boy be working in the UN and have developed such a huge industrial development and capacity building project”… but before I could answer, Governor Uduaghan interrupted and narrated my “Kitchen-to-UN” story.
May 25th 2015, during the commissioning of the project at Issele-Uku, I was about reading from a well written UN speech when Governor Uduaghan interrupted again…..this time asking me to tell Deltans my story. I did.
Why this post?
It’s just to tell you that my story may not be different from yours. You may have had a terrifying but humble past. You may have given up on your present situation. All I can say is never give up on your future.
The sum of your past is not and will never be greater than your future. Embrace who you want to be. Write your future story today. Create your future role, name it, accept it.
Concluding, I’ll want to share two powerful quotes by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr:
“The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy.”…
“If you can’t fly then run, if you can’t run then walk, if you can’t walk then crawl, but whatever you do you have to keep moving forward.”