Without a silver spoon

We owe the above headline to Eddie Iroh, the Nigerian novelist and broadcaster. In 1981, Iroh hit the literary scene with a fictional narrative with the above title. It is a story for young people. It teaches that honesty is the best policy. Ure, a young pupil and protagonist of the book, was to experience […] The post Without a silver spoon appeared first on The Sun Nigeria.

Without a silver spoon

We owe the above headline to Eddie Iroh, the Nigerian novelist and broadcaster. In 1981, Iroh hit the literary scene with a fictional narrative with the above title. It is a story for young people. It teaches that honesty is the best policy. Ure, a young pupil and protagonist of the book, was to experience the true value of honesty later in his life.

Forty years after, we have a truly compelling story of a boy without a silver spoon before us. Whereas Iroh’s tale is fictional, the story of High Chief Raymond Aleogho Dokpesi as captured in the book, “The Handkerchief,” is factual. Authored by Okoh Aihe, Adebayo Bodunrin and three others, the book shocks us with a Dokpesi we never knew.

Since he hit the limelight more than two decades ago, what we had before us was an influential Dokpesi. The Dokpesi we know hogs the klieg lights. He is a national figure, an achiever, a trailblazer, and a bulldozer with a heart of gold. He has been something of a rare breed; a gem of sorts. You would think that he was born with a silver spoon. But he was not.

Last Monday, the man turned 70. And that was how the startling revelations began. From the presentation of his biography that held three days earlier to the thanksgiving Mass and the grand reception that took place on his birthday, it has been the celebration of man whose story epitomizes the aphorism that the heights reached and kept by great men were not attained by sudden flight.

From what we can glean from “The Handkerchief,” Raymond Anthony Aleogho, the son of William Ayaoghena Dokpesi, was not born great. Greatness was, therefore, not thrust upon him. Rather, he achieved greatness through the sheer scope of his imagination.

It all started in 1951, the year Aleogho was born in extraordinary circumstances in the rustic city of Ibadan. His mother, Aishetu Alice, was delivered of the baby outside the hospital. The birth pangs that produced Aleogho were quick and sudden. What Mama Aishetu could do under that circumstance was to reach for her traditional birthplace at the back of the house where she lived with her husband and children. Aleogho was born after a series of female children. In an African setting where more premium is placed on male children than female ones, Aleogho became the bundle of joy who had come to fill the gap in the family. It turned out that he was the only son of his mother in a line of seven surviving children.

At birth, his father called him Aleogho, an Ishan name which translates to “who knows tomorrow” in English. The young Aleogho has since lived up to his name. But so much happened before those who knew Aleogho from infancy began to appreciate the belief in certain quarters that there is something in a name. It should be noted that the Iroko we know today as High Chief Raymond Anthony Aleogho Dokpesi is a miracle child. He was born into privation. His parents were anything but well to do. As if his poor parental background was not enough disadvantage, Aleogho did not enjoy good health as a child. He was sickly, with a speech defect. He was struck by a strange disease, which his parents had a hell of time trying to deal with. Given that no one knew what was ailing the young boy, including the hospitals he was taken to, the feeling within the family circle was that the young boy had no chance of survival. In fact, his parents were advised to do away with the ailing child who had become a source of misery to the family. All of this was to the pain of Aishetu, who needed her only son to feel complete in the family and the world at large.

But while close family members gave up on the young Aleogho, he chose the path of precociousness. He had a superior imagination, a disposition to ride the crest regardless of what prophets of doom had to say. Therefore, as his mother wailed and agonized over the sickly and near hopeless status of her son, the boy was convinced within himself that he would conquer his environment in a manner that would confound pessimists. Thus, as young as he was, and in spite of his sickly state, he told his mother that he would grow up to become the handkerchief with which she would wipe off her tears. That pronouncement was larger than life. It was bigger than the being that uttered it. He was the most unlikely candidate for that grandiose dream, given his pitiable state of health. Yet he dropped the statement which has turned out to be the revelation for all time. It could only have come from a precocious boy whose imagination was unusually higher than what his age could accommodate. It is doubtful if Mama Aishetu found solace in that assurance. She might have dismissed it as a mere fantasy from a child who wanted to give his mother hope. But the reality of what and who we have before us suggests that the young Aleogho had an inner eye. His hope was founded upon something. And he had followed it diligently to the point of excellence.

In fact, Raymond Aleogho Dokpesi has, fortuitously, led an amazing life of distinction and triumph. From the ashes of want and privation, he has risen to become the oak tree, which shelters the needy and the deprived. He is the quintessential man of great deeds and accomplishments. But his ascension to stardom was not an accident. It was a product of zeal, hard work and determination. Even his father who named him Aleogho could not have imagined that he was gazing into the spiritual world when he gave that name to his son. Unlike what many around him thought, Aleogho defied all odds and demonstrated that what tomorrow has in stock for anybody is beyond our fancies and fantasies.

The story of High Chief Raymond Dokpesi as told in “The Handkerchief” resonates with great deeds. It presents us with a rejected and despised boy who, on his own, turned his world around to the amazement and admiration of even those who did not give him a chance. The Dokpesi we know is an accomplished marine engineer, an actor, a theatre habitué, a media guru and a politician. He plays in the big league. He is easily one of the best known Nigerians.

Beyond all this, something sets Dokpesi apart from the rest of the flock. He is filled with the milk of human kindness. He loves to help the needy. He deploys his wealth in the service of humanity. By so doing, he draws attention to the futility of hate. As someone who was despised by his environment at infancy, Dokpesi could have grown up with a wicked spirit, pursuing nothing but revenge. But the man seems to have had a good laugh over the folly of those who gave him no chance. His free spirit is an indication that he harbours no ill feelings against the environment that once rejected him.

The Dokpesi spirit commends itself to others who may have had a raw deal in the hands of those who were supposed to love and shepherd them.

The post Without a silver spoon appeared first on The Sun Nigeria.