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

BEAUTIFUL, USELESS STUFF

beautiful pen

< more than looks, be continually useful >

Since my stock-in-trade is writing, you can imagine that I’m never in short supply of pen and paper. Per time, I have one on my bed, another on my desk, and more and more lying all around the place. And, of course, a pack of it in the wardrobe – with jotters and scraps of paper standing by. The way it works, you just never know when the big ideas come calling, and woe betide you if you’re caught unprepared (to pen them down). That sort of Rule No. 1 for slay queens: Never be caught unfresh.

But some of the pens in my collection are not normal. There is one from Cambridge University Press, a gift from the British Council. Funnily, you just get to feel like the Duke of Cambridge writing with it. There is another one from Sterling Bank, a 2018 souvenir that feels fantastic to write with. There are a few others like them, that leaves you wondering whether there is anything about them beyond the pen that they’re supposed to be.

And then it happened last night! One of those exotic ones ran out while I was in high spirits putting thoughts to paper. I mean, I was so inspired that all I could think of was how to get the job done. You just wouldn’t believe how I flung the pen into the waste bin, as I rushed for the one on the bed. It no longer mattered how beautiful it was; it just mattered that it wasn’t serving my writing need no more. And we were done!

It took me until now to realize what had transpired last night. On going to empty the waste bin, I chanced on the ‘pen’ again. But it isn’t pen anymore; it’s now waste. In spite of its beauty. And I’ve simply moved on to the next pen.

I do not mean you should use people and dump them when you’re done with them. That’d be evil. I’m saying that you should make yourself more useful than your looks. It is your responsibility to be useful for the long haul. Because… when the chips are down, looks will be very secondary. And that’s just the way it is.

Your No. fan,
Cornel

PS. Did you notice how I was able to make a big deal out of a pen that ran out? You should sign up for my training to learn some more: bit.ly/writingexpo2ad

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“NEITHER DID I”

< a new way to see the masters >

If you’ve been following my social media “sharings” the 4yrs or so I’ve kept at it, then you already know many things about me, as the examples are usually drawn from my personal experiences. In this regard, my love for books and movies is no news. When I read books and see movies, I go the extra mile to juice out the usually life-transforming messages buried in the lines – and it makes little difference whether I read just a page or saw only a scene.

And so, I walked into the room yesterday to chance on HBO screening “The Matrix Revolutions,” a movie as old as forever. I was a kid the last time I saw it. I can’t really piece things together here, but it was the scene where Captain Mifune was badly hit and good to die, and there he was instructing an infantry on the only one thing left to do in order to win the war. You could visibly see that the infantry was lost, not getting why Mifune was asking him to go do something that was supposedly way out of his league.

As if to beat the Captain Mifune back to consciousness, to let him know he was speaking to the wrong person, the infantry said, “I didn’t finish the program.” Guess Mifune’s response? The title of this piece was his response, “Neither did I.” Yea, he himself hadn’t finished the particular training it should take to get certain things done and yet made captain. Of course, the infantry found strength and courage in those words and went on to get the job done. He didn’t have to have finished the training.

Now, like that infantry, you may be thinking you need a certain length of time, a particular amount of money, a calibre of connection, or a this or that certificate before you can engage your dreams. May I immediately bring to your notice that most of the titans of industries and celebrities didn’t have all of that before they set out. The truth is that things begin to add up along the way. Whether you think Zuckerberg, Oprah Winfrey, Ifeanyi Ubah or 2Baba, the story is no different. And for the record, I’ve never done any formal training on writing.

Back to the movie. While he was off to make it happen, the enemies shot him down and were about to shoot him dead. But then came rescue from nowhere, one that saw him to completing the mission. I mean, it is along the way that rescue shows up, that miracles happen. We need to get our ass off the waiting room and be on our way to our best lives.

Rule of thumb: “Start before you’re ready.” Don’t wait until you have enough time, money, connections or credentials.

Your No.1 fan,
Cornel

PS. This is not me undermining time, money, connection and credentials. This is me saying they’re not enough to have immobilized you.

BIODUN VS. DAKOLO

< why we should watch out for ourselves instead >

I’m old enough to accept that I mustn’t have or air my opinion about everything, which is why I haven’t uttered a word on #BiodunDakolo, safe when after Mass last Sunday a friend came at me with the topic. Wendy wanted to know what my thoughts on the matter were. I simply told her, and angrily so, that while I’m leaving it to the courts (if they choose to explore the option) to rule on whether Biodun is guilty or not, every generation gets the sort of men of God she “creates.” On a good day, I hope to demonstrate how our generation has succeeded in churning out packs of reckless and fraudulent men of God. And the earlier we started undoing what we’ve done, the better for all of us. I insist that men of God should first be seen, and related with, as men – or women – before God is brought into the picture. Story for another day.

While I’ve restrained myself from going about social media with the matter on ground, I’ve read next to everything on it that came my way. As it was being discussed on different chat groups I belong, I made out time to read everything: what people think, how they feel, and what they recommend. Quite naturally, Mrs. Dakolo is voted victim and deserving of all the sympathies. Of course, the other camp isn’t missing out on points; they think Mrs. Dakolo is up to something. Good for them.

“Cornel, where the heck do you belong?” you may be wondering. Sorry to disappoint, I belong elsewhere. Rape being a serious crime, I think Dakolo and Biodun should go argue the case in court while we await the verdict of the judge; I hear they’re 30 other witnesses to testify. I think we should spend more of this time looking into our very own lives; this episode should call for sober reflection. 16 years down the line, a serious academic should become a professor; get busy considering the possibility of being stripped of your title by the number of plagiarisms you’ve already done. As a young man “dicking around” and not knowing how many seeds have already germinated here and there, bother yourself about the possibility of fruits showing up at your doorsteps after you’ve arrived. And whatever you succeed in becoming tomorrow, bother yourself today with the malpractices and all what nots you’ve already done that’d eventually become the things around your neck. Kindly get busy fixing these things; make peace with the nights of your past before your future dawns.

Lastly, when shit gets smeared all over your face, like on that of Biodun right now, then you’d know that most people in your live today are there for their convenience. They’d just leave you. They’d just join the bandwagon in crucifying you. Trust me, even when you’re guilty as charged, and clearly so, you need friends who still believe in you in spite of your mess and can make bold bets on your future. Let’s get busy shopping for such friends now – by being one ourselves.

Your No.1 fan,
Cornel

PS. It’s OK to talk. It is more OK to reflect.