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If George Egbuchulam Had Died – By Fisayo Soyombo

LAGOS, July 07, (THEWILL) – It was an unsolicited intrusion. I was myself taken out by illness when a friend’s message came in, explaining that George Egbuchulam had been in and out of hospital for months and the doctor eventually pronounced a N2.5million kidney transplant plus an over-N3m post-surgery maintenance the ultimate solution to his health misery. George had been in pains, tenaciously hanging on to life via a dialysis regime at the University College Hospital (UCH), Ibadan, which is anything but cheap to run itself. Knowing what ordinary ‘malaria’ was doing to me at the moment, I could sense — and truly, feel — George’s agony.

As Chinyere Chimodo — his friend who had spent more of her recent time on his matter than on hers — confirmed, George’s parents could not afford N6m. I knew it myself. I knew his parents could not even afford the dialysis. I long had knowledge of his humble background. I had it the way I wouldn’t have wished, though.

Some six years ago at the University of Ibadan, George Egbuchulam was a name on the list of fresh students applying for membership of the National Association of Students of English and Literary Studies (NASELS) Press. And when the name was called in, the panel was astounded to find sauntering in, a young man donning a vanilla vest on a bland pair of jeans and slippers. Was this all he could wear to a formal interview to join the press? Members of the panel unanimously misconstrued him for an unruly jambite who should be taught the rudiments of formal dressing. It was an embarrassed George who left the interview room, fighting frenetically to hold onrushing tears and claiming assuredly that he only wore what he had. But did the nasty encounter stop him from joining the press? No! (When in subsequent weeks and months, I kept on seeing George in variants of his vest-and-jeans outfit, I silently asked God for forgiveness; and other members of that panel did, too, I hope.)

Tall, fair and handsome, George was unmistakable on campus, always wearing an infectious confidence that was further bolstered by a chronic smile. And he was knowledgeable. The only one time we ever engaged in a real conversation (I doubt he will himself remember) was when someone sought the meaning of ‘rococo,’ and it was George who nearly perfectly offered a definition.

He never hid his poor background. You could almost think he was proud of it (one of his most recent works is Cleaning House, an account of the ubiquitous stench of his experience with public toilets, and he is unashamed to state that it is a real life experience), which clearly signposted the strength of character of a man who knew his financial condition was fleeting, who had unflinching conviction he would someday dismantle the poverty that had plagued him all his life.

Despite never having enough to eat and drink throughout his stay on campus, George — the first of his parents’ six children — graduated in 2010 with a Second-Class Honours, Upper Division. He was a prominent member of NASELS Press, winning in 2008 the Union of Campus Journalists (UCJ) Prize for Best Fiction. He also won the 2009 edition of the annual quiz contest of the Association of Theatre Arts Students (ATAS); and he was a member of the prestigious UI team that famously conquered the country in the Zain Africa Challenge of 2009, albeit he did not make the final four that represented the school. In his final year, he was president of the prodigiously talented (traditionally) UI Chess Team. Although he is clearly a writer for the future, he has been stealthily building repute for his works in screen play, poetry and prose, which can be accessed on NaijaStories. For someone who merely struggled to survive through the financial challenge of a first degree, George had already obtained a form in pursuit of a Masters at UI’s Institute of African Studies, despite his work as an editor with Ibadan-based publishing firm, Bookbuilders. No mean feats, anyone would accept. Should such bundle of talent be allowed to die, all because of a paltry N6m?

But what if George had died? What if it was news of his death, rather than his ill-health, that was being disseminated at this point in time? Hundreds of students of his department and faculty would have bought candles for a candlelight procession; NASELS Press would have sent its contributions for his burial; someone would have sponsored a radio or television announcement of his obituary; another would have offered to print his obituary poster for free; many would have wailed; many would have cried; many would have mourned. But now that George is still alive, can we all convert the mourns, the wails, the gnashing of teeth, the posters, the tears, the radio announcements, the transport to his Emekuku hometown in Owerri, Imo State, to cash, and donate to him? A thousand naira from 6,000 people is all he needs to stay alive.

If George had died, a senator, a member of the House of Reps, a minister, a governor, a doctor, an engineer or some wealthy figure somewhere would have lamented, “I would have personally taken care of the boy if I learnt of his case.” But now you have learnt of the case. Would you leave George helpless, knowing his life hangs on just a fifth, a tenth or a hundredth of your bank account? Who is the one messiah who would heap on himself the burden of restoring George’s life? His friends and well-wishers have raised nearly N1m, who is the one person to donate N5m?

Should George die (God forbid!), there is blame for everyone who has heard about his illness, everyone who ever knew him, everyone who ever set eyes on him, and more importantly, anyone who ever read this piece. Two questions: where are the 6,000 saviours; and who is the one-in-6,000 Samaritan who would put an immediate end to George’s agony? The search is on!

If you have been touched to save George Egbuchulam, send a donation to:
Unity Bank: George Chimezirim Egbuchulam 0018310939
First Bank: George Chimezirim Egbuchulam 1233010142434
God’s blessings await you.

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Posted by on Jul 11 2012. Filed under Articles, Fisayo Soyombo, NNP Columnists. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can leave a response or trackback to this entry

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