THE DAY I KNEW I COULD WRITE WELL

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< I’m grateful to Msgr. ONOYIMA >

Indeed, undergrad was game-changing. It was everything good. There, I’d met some of the most important people in my life today. There, I had the opportunity to try my hands at things that turned out to be of continual significance. There, I met Msgr. Onoyima, and nothing has remained the same ever since.

Back in the days, you didn’t need to be Catholic to know Onoyima; his name was simply all over the place. For Catholics, staff and students alike, the fear of the man was sacramental. The rules at St. Peters were simple but firm, and nobody was exempt. The man simply came at you raw; indecent dressing and various forms of indiscipline gave him the most cause for concern. It mattered little that he was presiding over the Mass; he gets to put things on hold to attend to your case. If just walking past, he stops by to treat your case – on the spot! He was that sort of man: hard.

Being provincial president meant that he was my immediate boss. Yes, I’d spent my penultimate and final years at UNN serving as Onitsha Provincial President of Catholic Students, overseeing, as it were, 44 higher institutions across 7 Catholic dioceses of South-East Nigeria. And the over two years I spent reporting to, and taking instructions from him, were the longest years of my life. With him, you’re never sure of yourself. Confidence before the man is a luxury I don’t think anyone can afford. He just had a heaven-made way of humbling anyone’s pride, as even the Vice Chancellor fears for himself.

After meeting with him, you either went back to your room feeling stupid, crying, or even doing a first draft of your resignation letter. He came at you with everything he’s got, including threats to relieve you of your duties. “Without discussion,” he’d always add. Being a typical Catholic authority, he doesn’t shy from letting you know how much power he has over you. There are a few times you get to make it to his good books, although never forgetting that no name stays long in that book. The man can mysteriously move from all laughter to all frowning and scolding.

And there was the writing part…

Onoyima would never sign anything he hasn’t read through and through. It is not possible. Before he signs your requisition, Onoyima scrutinizes every item on the list. Since it is his signature as provincial chaplain that validates my signature as provincial president, it is safe to say that Onoyima read every official correspondence I composed over a span of two years. He’s sent me back for want of a comma, wouldn’t sign if I missed a word, took the liberty to over-write my sentences with his. And he was never in a hurry when doing those. There was that day when I rewrote a letter thrice, and when I finally came to get his signature, as if he orgasms from correcting people, he still put a comma somewhere before appending his signature.

Then came that fateful day when I was billed to write Archbishop Valerian, to inform him of a certain ugly development. As usual, I’d have to patch my final draft through Onoyima to have him vet and sign – and, as usual, begin our merry-go-round. To the surprise of my life, and I couldn’t believe my ears, he looked me in the eyes and uttered four words I’d never forget: “THIS IS WELL WRITTEN.” How did I feel? I felt like ordering Angel Gabriel to come and shake hands with me, like I was already in heaven.

And after that, I noticed a pattern of him not reading through my correspondences much. Sometimes, as if he wants me to see he already trusted me, he’d immediately hurry off to his signature spot, drop off the signature, pack up my file, and then spend the rest of the time gisting me how his day went.

Perhaps his boy had become his friend – but I don’t think so. He tells us he’s in the business of chiselling leaders. And I guess that was his way of telling me I was now finished product. The man even stopped vetting my requisitions; he just signs everything straight up.

We all need people like Onoyima in our lives. People who chisel us. People who transform us from raw materials into finished products. And I’m proud to have met the man himself. And Writing Expo 2.0 could be your opportunity to buy an Onoyima for yourself. Check it out here: https://bit.ly/writingexpo2ad

Your No.1 fan,
Cornel

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