The book “Serial Survivor” is a great book by every standard of intellectual composition. It’s easy-to-read style makes it even more attractive for those who don’t really like reading. It’s a book that covers the life sojourn of a man with a disposition that there is more for anyone who dares to question stereotypes, push for more and also to anyone willing to pay the required price.
The book starts up with his childhood memories from the South-South side of Nigeria and then unveils most graphically the true life struggles of a man, through what he calls the “Ataba spirit”. That Ataba spirit simply means that we can get virtually anything done, if we put our hearts into doing it. Having survived multiple kidnapping, robbery attacks and even failed assassination attempts on this life, the book gives a first hand account of his triumphs, wins, defeats and comebacks. Beyond him rising to become a top executive in one of the world’s largest IOCs what it exposes is the staying power to bounce back after every trial that life throws. It will be very appropriate to say that the author Mr Gershon Ogbulujah, with his more than nine lives, is a thrill.
Reading his story can open up most hardened hearts to what only GOD through faith can do at all impossible times.
SEA SCHOOL & Secondary school
Like it has been regularly regarded and referred to at the beginning of the book as a man of nine lives, because of the antecedents that surround his triumphs. One of which was his moving over to Equatorial Guinea with his grandfather, which is better known by Nigerians as “Panya”. Panya is a corruption of the word fang, the name of the majority ethnic group in the mainland of the country whose people make up 85% of its entire population.
At one point, his grandfather traveled and did business along the west coast of Africa, from Nigeria to Cameroon to Equatorial Guinea and Gabon. He was the first Ataba person to engage in international travel; he and his grandmother were the first to get any form of international travel documents, so they had great exposure.
Of course, he never went to Panya with the sole aim of becoming a trader, far from that, the major reason was that the means of furthering his education then was not visible and forthcoming but traveling with his grandfather would give him some form of exposure and education of a kind.
Not too long after he went to Equatorial Guinea with his grandfather, by some providential arrangement and intervention, a means of furthering his education came through for him evetually, a message was sent to his grandfather to send him back so he could attend secondary school. Great thanks and appreciation must go to Mr. Maxwell Adonye Iragunima who had piled pressure on his mother to have him sent to school, after a crop of young men who committed themselves to promote the evangelism of education. It was in the heart of this educational evangelism that he was recalled home from Equatorial Guinea.
Mr. Maxwell Iragunima, who at that time was working in Nembe, in the present-day Bayelsa state, had collected the application form for admission into Government sea school, Isaka. Having heard that he passed his first school leaving certificate examination with distinction, he probably felt that he was the best person to be given the opportunity afforded by the new school at Isaka Government school, then just two years old.
The importance of education of any kind can never be overemphasized even if it doesn’t completely guarantee a successful life, it gives a good foundational and fundamental head starts for every individual.
One day, late in October 1978, a friend of his, by the name Emmanuel Njah asked him if he had seen the previous day’s copy of daily times. He told him he hadn’t because he was done with school and didn’t want to read anything, even if it was a newspaper, not knowing it will bring about a substantial part of life path and placement. His friend encouraged him to read the newspaper because he heard some people saying that they saw his name in it.
My name in the paper?
“What would my name be doing there?” Thats what he thought. Eventually, he got hold of a copy of the newspaper and he saw a publication by an agency called Joint Admission and Matriculation Board(JAMB), with a list of names of students who had been admitted into various universities. Wait a minute “JAMB” it just hit him this is the body that conducts the external examination we had written just to have a feel of what external examinations look like before they sat for WASCE. Something they had merely used as a dry run for the main examination.
He truly hadn’t known what he was doing while filling out the form for the examination. He didn’t know it would lead to his name being published in the newspaper, not even to talk about him securing an admission into the university. He calmed down and read the publication carefully. His name appeared under the University of Nigeria, Nsukka and he was to study Electrical Engineering. It all came back to him. He remembered that his choice of course of study was Electrical Engineering and Ahmed Bello University Zaria respectively. Why then was he listed under the University of Nigeria?
He read the publication again and found out what was published, was a supplementary list and that people had been sent to universities of their second choice that no space in their first choice university. He then recalled that the University of Nigeria, Nsukka(UNN)was his second choice. All the dots were then connected, he had unwittingly waltzed himself into a university without any mental preparation.
That was the hilarious story of his admission into the University of Nigeria, Nsukka to study Engineering.
It’s a testimony of how GOD gets things done for us without either our understanding or our consent.
As individuals leave higher institutions of learning, that heartbeat and expectation to get engaged with any kind of labour, particularly the one or ones that answer the call of their profession become the most paramount desire of any fresh graduate but sometimes the Nigerian context and situation have always been one full of unpredicted drama, the reasons are numerous but most of the time, its either there are not enough job and where there seems to be, the numerous individuals are not qualified, no great thanks to our failed educational system.
He had gone for an interview at Onne, Rivers state, where he had tried to enlist into the Nigerian Navy via its short service commission for university graduates. It was at that interview he discovered he had flat feet, hence his immediate disqualification. By the time he left school, finding work as a fresh graduate was beginning to get difficult.
In the past, when people leave the university, people had multiple job offers to wait for them as they completed their youth service. Things had started changing drastically, as the effect of years of mismanagement by successive military governments was beginning to take a toll on the fortunes of the country. He had found a way of keeping himself busy and earning a little money in the process to ensure body and soul were locked in their embrace.
He had what looked like a regular nine-to-five job with a company called Wefro services Ltd, a one-man construction company owned by an Ataba man. It was a company that had a lot of prospects, given that it was a man one business and having no structure caused it, its huge potential and it was not long before it disappeared into oblivion.
He later moved over to Rivers State Civil Service Commission, of course from there he got hired by Agip Nigeria, where he spent a very large amount of his professional life. The progression, staying power, doggedness and the triumph of his conviction paid off in the long run.
Being an active person with a lot of drive for getting things done, so when he was posted to the Agip Headquarters Abuja, with little, or nothing to do, in terms of active engagement, he began considering retirement, not forgetting his face-off, with one of the Italian guys, who never wanted to follow due process, as to how things should be done, even at the risk of people’s lives, he eventually was given the offer of voluntary retirement, which he accepted and moved on.
It seems that men by their design and make up enjoy chasing things, as in this context women, not really for the end product, like it ending in a great relationship, or even marriage, but the process of engaging a lady, and all the antecedents that surrounds the whole process, all that brings men joy.
Target hunting is an activity used in industry to identify workplace conditions that could lead to accidents if left unchecked. Target hunting is usually more effective if a fresh pair of eyes is brought into space where such targets are being looked for.
The reason being that, when we have worked or lived in a particular space for too long, we tend to take things for granted and may not even notice any longer the presence of items or conditions that exist in the work environment that may lead to serious incidents or accidents.
Similarly, when a thing is too much up-close to us, we usually do not see it properly or notice its fine details or even see at all.
He and his eventual wife lived in the same compound, at a point in their history, somewhere in in Diobu in Port-Harcourt area of River state Nigeria, yet they weren’t friends, he never even noticed her. She lived with her uncle while he lived with his stepfather. Maybe, it was because he was too young to know or care. If he remembered her at all, it would only be faintly. he couldn’t vividly remember any event or encounter related to her at that time.
They grew up and all that changed after one of those secondary school parties they usually held in Ataba. This particular one was in December 1977. There she was in a white dress, dancing away with other girls. She was slim and tall and swayed rhythmically to the music.
The way it used to be in those days was that the boys sat on one side of the hall and the girls on the other. When a song came on, the boys would walk across to ask the girls for a dance. He was determined to go ask her for a dance with the next song; he wouldn’t mind even if the song was a bach or Mozart classical. There was a risk of rejection in going to ask a girl for a dance. Well, they danced and connected well, almost immediately and as they say the rest is history.
Nowadays, everything is instant, from instant milk to instant noodles to instant messages. Things needed time for gestation especially things of the heart. Letters took time to arrive, food took time to cook and hearts took time to win. In the end, it’s whose heartbeats we hear only within the depth of our soul that we finally clinch to and believes that fate consolidates our choice helps one live absolutely in peace with the consequence of our individual choices
Retirement means different things to different people. To some it means giving up on active life, to others, it could be a time to pack up and wait for nature’s call, to others it could be a time to start counting their losses. But retirement could be one great opportunity to begin again, not necessarily to start your life all over again but it could be a time of deep and sober reflection, to think through the life’s journey you have walked, whether in the course of your younger years, professional or career life.
It allows one to do that one thing, you have always wished or wanted to do, but seems you never have the time to venture into it because of the danger in not finding something of purpose to key your life into. Once our active work-life stops, something of purposeful activity must begin, or else we might begin to head into a quicker aging process without even being conscious of it at first.
In the word of the author “retirement, especially the Nigerian brand comes with its peculiar baggage. Apart from the impending lifestyle changes, there are also predators scanning the horizon for this species of people. You must therefore develop mechanisms to deal with them. The thinking usually is that this category of people, especially those who worked in the private sector, would have a huge stash of cash at their disposal”.
Having a mental preparedness and readiness to make certain adjustments that life was never going to be the same is not only important but crucial in taking into consideration that certain means of income might not be there again and even if you invest in several things, it might not yield immediate revenue, spending habit must be consciously tamed and any decision that is to be made must be rational and intelligently considered because any funds lost at this point of one’s life could be detrimental to the person’s stability. One of his great acts of exemplary leadership quality of Mr. Gershon was those moments in Agip where the Italian expatriates thought they had become invincible, untouchable, even where they have aired in the stipulated organizational and industrial rule.
Where they got to flouting rules with impunity, knowing they could get away without being cautioned. His stand that the same rule governs everyone, whether Italian or Nigerian was legendary, which somehow cost him his job but at least he didn’t betray his conviction.
Every closed door leads to another entrance, life was not designed to have vacuums, being consistently engaged, but progressive at the same time is very important, both mentally and economically. Retirement from active service of any kind shouldn’t be an end in itself but a means to an end and also a means of doing different things with different kinds of energy and drive.
His decision to venture into other active engagement almost immediately he put his pen down for retirement, which has led him to the Enugu bag packers excursion, Fitcity colour blast Abuja,ile-ife marathon. And of course, touring several African countries has given him a whole new drive about life.
Forming a lifelong habit for reading can never be overemphasized, as consistent mental exercise keeps the mind alert. It was the book “Younger Next Year-Live Strong and Sexy Until you are 80 and Beyond” that was one of the turning points of his retirement.
A great book to read, even if you don’t like reading, this one will keep you glued to it until the last page is read. The easy-to-read style makes it a reader delight. It will be appropriate to say at this point,it should be every person’s delight who wishes to do more than the average person.
The voyage into a fulfilling life as we see in the book is not cheap. it’s however attainable to everyone who dares to through their actions. Clearly we see that if you waste your twenties, you will play catch up with your thirties and keep telling yourself and others tales of pain when you are even older. As the saying goes, when your youth is a blunder, it leads to an adulthood of struggle and an old age of regrets.
His courage to attend university education, despite the family meager income is quite inspirational. The community evangelism for education, the communal support, that saw him through school, is simply amazing, to say the least.
I salute his unshakeable devotion to his wife, during undergraduate days, after graduation and when the wife had to go pursue a university education. I liked the metaphor about the public toilet, how people do not pay attention to the consequences of their actions, particularly our public leaders.
For me, the climax of reading the book was the part where he decided to take up other challenges, almost immediately after he retired from Agip Nigeria, which led to his participating in long-distance runs, travels both within and outside the country.
A very important discovery he made almost after retirement can be summarised in three simple lines, regular exercise, a healthy diet and social networking.
Personally having read a lot of books, this one stands out as my top 20 best books.
8/10 is my sincere rating for the book
Book Review by a Hexavian