Sunday, June 19, 2016

Happy Father's Day: Letter To My Father

This post is for my first mentor and editor.

From a very young age, I learnt I could paint pictures with the magic wand and power of words, that I could let my imaginations fly and see, and impact, the world in Technicolor.

Like Aladdin on a magic carpet. Or cupid with wings. I learnt that I could dream, big. And with God, I could make all of them come true, through and through.

My first mentor and editor showed me the first glimpses of the power of faith and big dreams.

He taught me how to read and write the alphabets and my first numbers 1 - 20. At three years old, I knew better than my age mates and those older than me. And I hadn't even started primary school yet.

For most of my early primary school years, teachers from classes ahead of me would call me to read English comprehension lessons to classes filled with older students, in a bid to motivate them to read and do better, because this small boy can read so well. While I was in primary one, I was reading English comprehension lessons to primary two and three students, etc.

They thought I was that good. But they didn't know that small boy had a big teacher at home. My first editor had laid the right, strong foundations for me to build upon into my adulthood.

He edited my first fiction story when I was about eight years old. It was titled, 'One good turn deserves another.' It was published in the widely read Kaduna-based newspaper, Democrat.

I think Abba Kyari, President Muhammadu Buhari’s Chief of Staff, was then still the editor with the New Africa Holdings Limited Kaduna, publishers of Democrat newspapers (Okay, I only got to know that recently, thanks to The Cable).

That story made me instantly famous, in my school, among my peers and teachers, who had read my short story.

Today, I write for The PUNCH, Nigeria’s most widely read newspaper (Yeah, we’ve been doing this a long time, baby :)).

At about 15, I wrote my first poem, about Nigeria and the military's rule. It was titled, ‘The anger of the people shall prevail.’ Who did I show it to first? My first editor.

I wrote more poems. About politics, the military regime, and my anger about issues in the country into which I was born. Of course, I showed him the poems.

When he saw the train of my thoughts, poetical rage over Nigeria issues, he offered me an eternal fountain of wisdom. Write about other things and issues, he said, channel your passion into writing about other subjects.

He asked me to write about nature, life, living, and its beauty, and more.

That was where, I think, I picked up the finesse and brilliance of versatility - in my school at home.

So, I followed his advice. Like a doting son follows his loving father. I wrote about nature, life, living, and its beauty; about me, as well as my budding attraction to a lovely girl a street after mine, whom I had then been afraid to say hello to. Title? That girl.

(Dear future wife, I will be your Romeo, Shakespeare, and more :))

As usual, my first mentor/editor’s brilliance and words of wisdom showed me the way to go. And he let me know he was proud of me.

From then on, the eternal faucet of inspiration flowed ceaselessly, and became a brilliant, unending waterfall. The eternal gift.

Growing up, I remember how his encouragement helped the artist in me blossom. When I was about nine or 10 years old, he submitted my fine art entry for an Amnesty International UK drawing competition for kids. I was also top of my class in Fine Arts. I remember drawing most of Walt Disney comic characters, from Darkwing Duck to Mickey Mouse, and Hollywood movie jackets, like Commando, in bold poster papers. I made greeting cards for family and friends.

With his loving guidance, excellent tutelage and more, my first editor gave me the springboard to dream, big. And believe they can come true.

He had long introduced me to a world of books. Reading through them, and listening to audio books on those turntables - Peter Pan, The tortoise and the hare, and others - I learnt to paint pictures with the deft strokes and brushes of words, to breathe life into them by simply writing or talking about them.

Long ago, I promised myself that when I get on a global stage, I would let the world know the significant role my first editor played, and still plays in my life.

Last year, I won the CNN MultiChoice Africa Journalism award. The least I could do was dedicate it to my first mentor and editor.
Like a great artist, his words of wisdom, his loving guidance and divine faith in my talents and potential has helped me, and still helps me, flourish; in unending bloom.

And if I wanted to, I could have become a famous artist or artiste, a world renowned architect, doctor, a scientist, a brilliant mathematician, First-class engineer, or a ground-breaking statesman.

Because you see, my dad is brilliant like that.

He is not perfect. Like every man, he has his flaws. But through his words and actions, he showed me that I can be all I wanted to be; if I can dream it, write it, believe it and work towards it.

Every day, I remember his words of wisdom. They are significant parts of the luminosity in my guiding lights.

Dear Mr. G. Dean Umukoro, because of you, I can scale great heights hitherto beyond my reach; I can break borders and barriers. I can move mountains and flatten rocks. I can do even more. And I can be. All I want to be.

Dad, you’re not just my first editor. You are my first best friend, my mentor, my very inspiration. I'm mighty proud to be called your son. I'm divinely honoured to call you father.

Muhammad Alli said he was the greatest boxer.

For me, you are the greatest dad. Against the odds, you punched your way through life, on the sheer power of divine faith, focus and an indomitable spirit, and you conquered. You still conquer.

And you give us, your children, family and others, the best you can, in every way possible. You show us the way, to freedom, to the eternal values of life, the beauty of the human soul and spirit, to live the life of beautiful dreams, to make the world a better place, because we pass through it.

Every day, I live purposefully towards becoming a better man, because of you. I live to make you and God proud every day, of the man I am. And the man I become.

You are my champion for life.

Happy Father's Day, Dad. I love you; until the heavens fade.