Growing up in the university town of Nsukka, now in Enugu State and Maroko, in Lagos State, one of the few things that really, really fascinated me was the airplane. Unfortunately, I never got to see what the inside of any aeroplane looked like until I was in my late 20s.
Interestingly, the Murtala Mohammed Airport, Bar Beach and National Museum were among the major tourist attractions that my late father, Ichie Azuh Chimezie, took us to on our relocation to Lagos in the mid 1980s.
But I digress. During an interaction with one of my closest friends, Mr. Teco Benson, the ace filmmaker whom I was also honoured to be his Best Man the day he got married, it escaped from my lips, innocently, that I had not flown before.
Without my prompting, he decided to inform Lady Apostle Helen Ukpabio, whom he was shooting a film (The Price) for then. And the woman of God and General Overseer of Liberty Gospel Church, with over 100 branches scattered all over the world, decided to make my dream come through.
Oh, how happy I was to have joined them aboard that Aero Contractor flight from Lagos to Calabar, Cross River State. The fear, the thrill, the excitement and ultimately the landing are still fresh in my memory.
I have since flown numerous times, traveling for business and family vacations to more than fifteen countries, including the United States of America, the United Kingdom, United Arab Emirates, France, Germany, Kenya, Liberia and Ghana, to mention just a few.
Now, beyond the unforgettable flight with Ukpabio and Teco, we’ve had other memorable encounters too until the reporter in me, years back, almost ruined my friendship with the Lady Apostle. I had employed a screaming headline for a story that did not sit well with her. Reporting me to Apostle Anselm Madubuko and Mr. Teco Benson, she later told me that YES INTERNATIONAL! Magazine shouldn’t have attempted that because of our friendship. And I quite agree with her. Eventually, it took us some time to straighten things out, but that experience again showed me her good nature and large heart.
She demonstrated that kindheartedness with her presence at our second YES INTERNATIONAL! Magazine Annual Lecture, and since then has not visited Lagos without getting in touch and occasionally asking me to join her at her events. In my own little way, I have also reciprocated her kind gestures by gracing her events too in Calabar.
It was Prof. Ahmed Yerima, the quintessential academic, playwright and former Director General of the National Theatre/National Troupe, who talked about the need for one to close both eyes in friendship in order not to lose a friend. Mrs. Ukpabio, I can say with every sense of responsibility, is a living example of how to shut both eyes for the benefit of friendship.
Thanks so much and see you again next Saturday.
– Azuh is a journalist, bestselling author and publisher of YES INTERNATIONAL! Magazine