Growing up in the 80s was vapid. There were no stimuli – the internet, computers, mobile phones or play stations (PS) – to enthral us. Cable TV was sparse; a status symbol for a handful of the rich and famous.
The relic (black & white box television) found in few proletariats homes then, had only Nigerian Television Authority (NTA) channels. NTA operated only eight-hours on weekdays’ and 12-hours on weekends; making viewing mind-numbing pedestrianism.
However, mythological stories told bombastically, provided additional entertainment. Among the legion of fables was the famous the late Dr Nnamdi Azikiwe’s preternatural powers that made him “near-immortal”.
Old wives’ tale had it then, how Zik made it to the seabed, captured and corked inside a bottle a “stubborn mermaid” hindering the construction of the Niger bridge. Suffice it to mean that mythologically, the late Azikiwe was somewhat celestiality. To some of us, his quietus seemed too good to be true.
The south-east region was at his mercy because he was said to have the keys to River Niger. Once he unlocks it; boom! We are submerged. For me, especially, Zik was a totem; the reason May 11, 1996, was my nadir.
However, a few years after I took the red pill, thanks to globalisation, a handful of myths, reminiscent of Zik’s celestiality erupted from Abia State. This Zik’s alter ego is no other than Dr Cosmos Ndukwe.
He was said to possess the magic wand to make or mar and give or take life. The story of his wizardry stunts and astral projection was utterly indescribable. It not only blew my mind but also rekindled my journalistic instinct.
A well-scripted feature story was ideal considering his top-ranking position in government (Chief of Staff to Abia State governor). Then, I was the Associate Editor, New Telegraph newspaper, and an ardent critic of Abia State government. So, I had prodigious willing whistle-blowers at my fingertips.
I instantaneously made my first contact; an insider who I presumed should be in the know. “Hmm! Baba, man of God rugged,” was the response I got from the other side of the telephone. “But I go help you shaa! Just wait make I get home, tory full ground,” he assured.
His preposterous chronicle that night held me spellbound. My mouth was left ajar as he told me how this man disappeared from a somersaulting bus conveying him and his colleagues to Abuja and seen walking out from a bush near the accident scene. The most mesmerizing moment was when he recounted how Cosmos transformed into a bat and escaped assassination.
As I was about to drop the call, he hit me further tsunami. “Baba, did I tell you that the man does not appear on photographs?” “But his pictures permeate the internet,” I queried. “Ah! Baba, you must ask for his permission or else e no go show.” Wow! What a story.
In summary, the picture of the man presented to me was a macrocosm of the mythic late Owelle of Onitsha. He rattled me to an extent I, couldn’t afford to haemorrhage more time to meet this alien from Jupiter.
With the borderline knowledge of my interviewee, I put a call across and introduced myself to him. Of course, I was no stranger to him as I have had a series of altercations with his government. We fixed a date that coincided with his mother’s 80th birthday in December 2015.
Having prepared my questionnaire and my entrapment strategy, I positioned myself and surreptitiously snapped several shots of him to ascertain the verity of his blurred images on the camera rumour. Lo and behold. What I saw flipping through the pictures almost took my breath away. As I was about to scream, “Jesusssss! Who…” Ochendo and his entourage arrived.
To be continued