I first met George Egbuchulam at the University of Ibadan, Nigeria sometime in 2007. He was very tall, gangling really, and seemed to tower above everyone else. George studied in the Faculty of Arts, and at times it was difficult to know what program he really studied because he often came across as a genius of all the Arts. I assumed he studied English Language, and I might still be right, but I could equally place a bet on him having studied Communication and Language Arts or Classics. George seemed to have an answer to every question, and not just every academic question, he was deeply into trivia also. George was also a guru of the Chess board and could often be seen on a Saturday afternoon at the foyer of Kuti Hall grimacing over a tough game with some serious competitor.
I remember the day in 2008 when George walked up to me at the Students Union Building, University of Ibadan to discuss a comic book he wanted us to co-write. According to the plan, I would write the story and he would provide the illustrations. I was clearly taken aback. Yes, I planned to write a book someday, but I never imagined that my first book will be a fictional book with comic characters, but George was the kind of guy who had such an irresistible charm that I found it impossible to say a simple ‘no’ to his request. I promised to think about it and get back to him. I regret that I never did, but I doubt that he cared much. He probably proposed the same idea to someone who was more interested, and that’s how his life went.
George, from my perceptions, was always optimistic and fun loving. He could carry on a conversation ranging from issues that dominated public discourse in medieval Europe all the way to galactic subjects and discussing life on Mars. I bet he dreamed of aliens and the kinds of flora and fauna which dominated their public spaces, and I’m sure he conversed with them from time to time. He was the one guy who I know who could stop anyone in the middle of the road to discuss extensively about wide-ranging issues, not minding how long they talked. He had such a warm character that any heart would literally melt just watching him do any of the things he loved doing. He seemed most cheerful whenever he was in company of Chinyere Chimodo, a highly respectable lady with a lion’s heart.
When I got wind earlier this year of George’s terminal health condition, I was shocked beyond belief. I believe very few people on earth knew that he had lived with such poor health for years, and even fewer knew of his extremely humble background. Friends at the University of Ibadan took to social media sites and the mainstream media to appeal for financial support in a bid to raise enough money to carry out a kidney transplant that could have saved his life. I wasn’t in a position to offer huge sums, but I backed up my humble contribution with passionate prayers to God for a speedy recovery. Shortly after enough money was raised and assurance given that the operation will be carried out, and especially a direct message from George to all his supporters that he was able to move around and would be back in no time, I rested. Not much was heard in the succeeding months, and I assumed that all was well.
Alas! All was not well. News filtered in on Monday December 2nd, 2012 that George Egbuchulam had relocated to the great beyond. What went wrong? Did we not contribute enough money? Was he unable to wait any longer? Was the surgery unsuccessful? Were there complications? Who is to blame? The hospital? We, his friends? What went wrong? I’m not in the business of trading blames – all I want to do is remember a man who should never have died when he did. George was really too good to have been wasted as he was, but the reality is that he is no more. His dreams, wild ideas, random thoughts and great plans now lie with him in the grave, and in the hearts of all those who listened to the many things he said.
I pray for his family that they find the strength at this time to live with this unbelievable loss. I pray for his closest friends that they find the courage to remember George not only in these early sad days, but for the rest of time. I pray for all associates and well-wishers of George that they deeply reflect on the events of this year and re-dedicate themselves to living for the good of mankind. No, we didn’t save him, but George Egbuchulam lives forever in our hearts. May George’s soul rest in perfect peace, and may his legacy live forever.
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