And finally, a red carpet entrance for the top 3>>>
In third place, Henrietta Okafor, a post-graduate student at the University of Nigeria, Nsukka! Congratulations!!!
In second place, Stephanie Ohumu, a student who loves to read and create word paintings. Congratulations!!!
And the award-winning first-place entry>>>
I KNOW A NIGERIAN STAR
This is a story of bravery, of grit and finally of triumph. It is a chronicle of both the bitter and (afterwards) sweet events in a man’s life, a life that was once upon a time grinded to a screeching halt by an ugly sickness, a sickness that sandwiched this life in between two wooden crutches, sauntering aimlessly in search of help. The proverbial ray of hope had long eclipsed on this life at birth, penury became the norm and inevitably, alms was the only way out- Indeed, I KNOW A NIGERIAN STAR.
He was born without any deformity but very early, Polio struck and he was subjected to a life of severe hardship in a lonely village in Oron, Akwa Ibom state. Fate must have been unkind to him as being physically challenged came with enormous challenges; He would crawl to school and back and to everywhere his wobbling knees could take him. Soon, he was unable to cope with the physical (and financial) demands of schooling and had to drop out of school. For many years he lived without a single dream until an old friend of his, who had left Oron earlier for Port Harcourt returned to inform him of a ‘big’ opportunity in the Oil city. Quickly (or should I say ‘slowly’) he wobbled his way to Port Harcourt, without a home and of course without a dime, but he had a plan, a plan to beg for alms on the highway, especially the traffic prone areas. The Air force junction was the choice spot owing to its high volume of vehicular traffic. After a few orientation from older colleagues in the trade, business soon began and that was how Eteyen Onung, the boy from Oron became another addition into the booming ‘alms industry.’ From dawn till dusk, Eteyen would crisscross the dangersome Air force junction in search of alms. He would sing, cry and even pray for his targets just to scrounge a cheap wad or even a coin off them. Life on the street was tough, so was life at ‘home’- a ramshackle pavilion used to run a local block making factory where he used as shelter.
Life may have seemed cruel but Eteyen refused to give up, many times he was robbed of his meager proceeds by touts, leaving him hungry and in tears but he just would not give up, but one day, tragedy struck. On a certain rainy afternoon, perhaps the cruelest of fate’s gifts was dished out on Eteyen. He was hit and ran over by a vehicle and was abandoned along the road unconscious and without help until that help came his way by a lady who picked him up to a hospital and paid off his bills. Immediately after his recovery however, he returned to his hazardous trade. He couldn’t be more physically challenged than he already was, he must have thought to himself, but yet again, help came his way, this time from the ubiquitous Redeemed Christian Church of God (RCCG) through their social welfare scheme. The church took him off the street and magnanimously granted him a cash donation and helped him set up a business. This marked the end of Eteyen’s hazardous business and ushered in the beginning of new things for him. He now owned a kiosk where he sold petty commodities. His kiosk was situated in Rumuomasi, Port Harcourt, close to where I once lived and that was where I witnessed his meteoric rise to success despite the battles he had to fight. Though handicapped, Eteyen became an instant success. Everyone insisted on patronizing him as the feat he achieved was rare. His story reverberated around the entire community. He also enjoyed the goodwill of his neighbours as everyone wanted to give a helping hand in the mornings whenever he needed to convey his stock from his new home to his kiosk which was a few metres away. His neighbours would often fall on themselves just to lay their hands on something, anything…a basin of Garri, cartons of noodles, packs of sweets etc. and then he’d take that very long walk from his house to the kiosk using his crutches. When he gets to the kiosk, I still picture him leaning on the wall to say his prayers, then he’d take a sit and would browse the previous days’ sports papers to see how Chelsea, his favourite team are faring in the English Premier League.
Life has since been different for Eteyen. He fought his way to where he is. Now he lives in a relatively comfortable place, a room constructed expertly with wooden material, his wooden crutches have been replaced with a more modern type but above all, he has become an inspiration in his community. He is empowering his neighbours by helping them sell petty commodities like minerals, recharge cards, Kerosene etc. In his shop, something that is generating income for these neighbours. Now he even has his own personal campaign against street begging. “That thing is risky, my brother” he once told me “and so far, I have been able to convince 3 of my friends out of it, with the grace of God, I believe I will do more” he continued with a smile that revealed just how fulfilled he is.
“And how about a wife, have you found any girl?” I once asked him. “Yes my brother, I have but I don’t know how to tell her that I love her. I only want to make more money, the kind of money that she won’t be able to resist” Such is the kind of transformation that has taken place in his life. His dream, as he once told me is to put a stop to street begging for good.
Indeed, I know a NIgerian star and if we come together, we can let this star shine even brighter!
by Dr Tombari!!!
Congratulations to our top 3, top 5, and top 20!!! You delivered awesome entries; making it this far out of 150 entries is no mean feat! Celebrate yourselves, we are proud to be associated with such intellect and sagacity! Your stories will be published, and impact lives beyond your wildest imagination. Bravo!!!
We acknowledge our awesome judges-Chika Oduah and Bola Essien-Nelson- who toiled in reading and adjudication! You amazed us, thank you!!!
And the sponsors-the Sahara Foundation; Avenues2Wealth and IzyAir Private Charter- who made this possible…we are grateful!
Websites, Sun Newspaper, Blogs, individuals, fans and friends; the first edition of #IKnowaNigerianStar Writing competition would not have achieved this momentum without your input; thank you!!!
On to greatness, people!!! Cheers.