DR. UKAFIA MY LEADERSHIP TEACHER
It is really difficult to appropriately describe what Dr. Ukafia means to me without writing a tome. Just when you think you have understood him, he pulls another one on you, sending you to school all over again. The man is just an enigma. I will just tell two stories. Dr. Ukafia believes in the fellowship of the church. When he says “the church”, understand that usually he means the whole body of believers. I have seen very few people who believe in the church like he does.
One day, I had gone with him to visit a minister in the city – one whose profile was rising quite appreciably at the time. He had had an event but Dr. Ukafia had been away from the country when the event took place. On his return, he said, “let’s go see that pastor, find out how his event went and make our own contribution towards it”.
We got there but the pastor we sought was not around. We met some staff – young women spotting an attitude. They were condescending, and generally acted as though they owned the world. I was piqued. “Don’t they know who Dr. Ukafia is”, I felt.
He asked if he could leave a note. The one at the front desk decided to get paper, but was in no hurry about it. Just after leaving us, she turned a corner and began ‘gisting’ with one of her colleagues. We could hear her from where we stood. By this time, I was boiling. “Who dares to treat my pastor like this?” was my question. “They are not his equals – not in age, education, or influence. Come to think of it, they are not even my equals” I continued in my mind. She took all her time. By the time she was done and was walking back towards us, trying to explain that there was no paper to be found, I was riled to the brim and was ready to give it to her. I cleared my throats and opened my mouth but as the first words were finding their way out, there came a withering look from Dr. Ukafia that seemed to say “hold it right there!” The words froze in my mouth. Dr. Ukafia left a verbal message and out we went from there.
When we got into the car, he said to me, “Pastor Kelechi, you don’t respond to people the same way they treat you. That will put you on the same level with them. How then will you show the light? How will you be an example?” I swallowed hard. I knew the scripture that said to be an example of the believer, I preached it but the nexus between knowing and doing isn’t always so easy to find, much less to live out. I thought on it for a long time and took away a life lesson – lead by being an example, walk in love.
The man – my Pastor, Dr. Ukafia – lives what he preaches and doesn’t need his followers fighting for him.
I had just lost my father. Burial plans were afoot and they were not coming easy. Being the first son of an Igbo chieftain – an Nze – meant I had to bear the lion share of the costs and they were not cheap. But it was Convention time and we had to be in Uyo for the convention. While driving through town one afternoon, a bike man ran into my car. He had two passengers. The car was severely damaged. I had right of way, the bike man seemed drunk, but who could notice those sorts of things when three human lives were at stake? And so the race began. First to a private hospital and then to the teaching hospital. Thank God, one broken bone was the most serious effect.
Dr. Ukafia walked into the situation, calming me down, assuring me it would be alright. And did I mention that the wrecked car was a gift from him? Convention over, he encouraged me to go on home and handle the plans for my father’s obsequies. He observed though that “now that you need the car the most, this accident has left you with non to use”. It wasn’t only a car I needed at that time, I desperately needed a phone. Mine had reached its dead end and trying to use it was the very definition of frustration. My family had returned to Calabar by public transport and I had to go home to the village to take charge of things. My car was parked in his premises and he dropped me off at the park and waited while the bus filled up. Just as the vehicle was about to leave, he pulled out his phone, removed the sim and handed it to me saying, “you need this more than I do now, you need to reach people and also be reached”. Oh my God, how could a person think like this? His only phone!
While away for the burial, the families of the people on that bike harassed him and his wife to no end, but they took it all in their strides, spending money, receiving insults but refusing to pass the stress on to me. Every time I called for updates, he would say, “everything is going ok”. I had no idea what battles they fought for me. Two days before the burial, his driver arrived with his car. Pastor had seconded both car and driver to me for my father’s funeral. I felt like weeping. What a man! What love! What generosity!
After the burial, the driver stayed a couple more days to help clear things up and received instructions to return to Uyo without the car. Done with my business at home, I drove through Uyo to return the car. I called pastor on the way to tell him I was on my way to bring back his car. He said, “go on to Calabar, we can always get the car back”. That was only a ploy because Dr. Ukafia would not take the car back, it became mine. And did I tell you he also repaired the broken down one? Till date, my neighbours actually believe that I inherited that car from my father after his death – and yes, I actually inherited the car from my father, but not from a dead father but a living one, for that is just what Pastor has been to me – a father.
Pastor, I don’t know how to thank you. Words just won’t be enough to appreciate you for all you have and continue to do for me and my family. To say that I love you is trite. I pray that God who truly rewards will reward you in ways that man could never do. Daniel, Samuel, Jonathan , Ruth and Victory ( our enlarged family) together with Mariam my wife and I wish to say, Happy 60th birthday sir.
Pastor Kelechi Chibuzor.