How Dee Chidi Nurtured me to Manhood
By Paddy Anyatonwu
I am so proud to be able to call you my Dee. Thank you so much for everything that you have done for me over the years. After all, you have done, thanks do not feel like enough. All I can do is offer my gratitude and appreciation for nurturing me to manhood and for being such a wonderful dede.
Some years back, a Knight of the Catholic Church got a telegram that the Bishop of his diocese will be paying him a visit at his country home.
On the agreed date, the Knight of Saint Christopher called in some of his close friends to receive the High Priest in the Order of Mechizedek.
It was not lost on me that congregants in their numbers were handy singing, ‘lee onyeisi ukochukwu…, onyenaeme ihe di Chineke nma, leeya ka ona abia’.
At the end of the ceremony, many dibias were converted and a notorious witch embraced Jesus as Lord and personal saviour.
This is similar to the first day Dee Chidi came to the house.
He was a University Don, while my father was a headmaster.
My father was happy and impressed it upon me to see Dee as I fondly call him as a compass.
Trust most big men, they are always in a hurry.
My father called out all my siblings to say goodbye to our big uncle.
Dee Chidi’s advice was simple and short.
“My brain is my workshop. Develop yours and you will be definitely better than me”, he said and zoomed off.
After diner, I sat down to think about what Dee Chidi said and it never meant any iota of meaning to me. The more I think about it, the more confused I became. However, I committed the advice to heart till this day.
Remember I am talking about 1980s.
After graduation and consequent youth service in Lagos state, I went to see Dee
My request was simple.
“Dee, I have made my brain my workshop, what is next”
He asked what my plans were and the kind of work I will be looking for.
My answer was simple.
“Dee, make use of the workshop and redesign it”.
Just as the apprenticeship institution in Igbo land, most times, you will do what your uncle is doing.
Dee Chidi was the Editorial Board Chairman of the defunct Post Express Newspapers and, precisely, May 21, 1997, he employed me as a reporter.
Oh sure, I was a terrible writer.
I struggled all the way.
All efforts to sack me could not work. I was redeployed to almost all the desks to enable me to improve my writing skilled.
One day, I did a terrible story and my case was decided, sack him.
But, Dee Chidi was determined to develop and nurture me. As a former lecturer, he felt that my brain could be formatted, this time; he was the Managing Director of the establishment.
And as against sacking me, I was once again redeployed to the Proof Reading Desk.
I cried and cried, but the decision has been made. Going to see Dee Chidi will even complicate my matter as he will never entertain frivolities.
In 2002, Dee got me employed at Travelex Nigeria Limited.
Suddenly, my life metamorphosed.
My salary was good. I almost became an emergency big man.
I paid my bills effortlessly.
The sad this scenario was that my father was not there to see how Dee Chidi has transformed his son.
Let me warn here.
Dee Chidi does not give unsolicited advice and one day, he summoned me at his then Ogba, Lagos palatial residence.
I knew first hand that I was in trouble.
For Dee Chidi, those who can’t keep to time, he sees them as professional wasters.
He emerged after two minutes I was ushered in.
He wore an expressionless face, he calmly without betraying any emotion; you will be sacked on Wednesday.
My mind sank with a bang akin to neuro paralysis.
“Patrick, all I will do is to get you a job, It would not be my responsibility to keep it for you”, Dee said forcefully.
Tears came down in torrents.
It was as if my entire life was collapsing before me.
He excused himself to enable me to come back to life.
Many things crept into my mind.
My father was no more.
Who will sanctify and wash me with hyssop?
Who will appease and intercede for me?
Five minutes after, Dee came back with a drink.
“My friend, you need to take a sip, you are not looking good at all”, he handed me a glass.
Now listen, he thundered, you will be given a query on Monday. Use these lines. Start the second paragraph, with the word, ‘HOWEVER’ and end it with the subtitle, MY PRAYER”.
For the first time in my life, it came to my realization that ‘however’ was a powerful word.
As he made to the door, he smiled and said, extend my regards to Ebele and the kids.
Dede, I don’t think I could put it better than Albert Schweitzer, when he said “at times, our own light goes out and is rekindled by a spark from another person. Each of us has cause to think with deep gratitude of those who have lighted the flame within us”.
Another opportunity came, Dee as usual handed over a job to me at Daily Times Nigeria Limited as the Desk Head, Tourism.
Dee, I just want to thank you. …
You are still always willing to help me. …
You are always there when I need a pick-me-up. …
You show me endless love. …
You give good advice each time I come which is always frequent….
You also give me a lot of tongue lashing when necessary….
You have also shown me that I should never lose hope….
Dee Chidi, It is my belief that in no distant time, I will be able to have the opportunity to present my score card to you.
Kindly allow me to say that your investments in me are not entirely a waste of energy.
Before I see you, Dede, I have authored two books and currently on the third one.
Dr.let me end this thank-you piece with the thoughts of Melody Beattie.
Hear her, “Gratitude turns what we have into enough, and more. It turns denial into acceptance, chaos into order, confusion into clarity…it makes sense of our past, brings peace for today, and creates a vision for tomorrow.”