On 15 July, 2023, I ceremonially received the Chike Okonyia Award of the Dennis Memorial Grammar School (DMGS) Old Boys Association, Onitsha. This award is given annually to the most illustrious old boy for dedicated and meritorious services.
Chike Okonyia was of the 1939 set and former vice president and secretary general of DMGS Old Boys Association. Although I have received many awards, mainly from the healthcare sector, this one has come from my alma mater. Again, this award was the most celebrated one, and I was well represented because I was away in Canada.
This award caused me to reflect on how certain events work towards my destiny. Surely, God has concluded a wonderful plan for my life, even before I was born, according to Jeremiah 1:5. And He has been working out His purposes for my life for His own glory.
Sometimes, I make wrong decisions and choices but He still ensures that He keeps me on the right path. This is because He had determined the assignment I should carry out for Him in order to succeed in life.
Firstly, I could not have been a Dengramite but for my late uncle and guardian, Mr Dan Erinne, formerly the vice principal and senior science master of DMGS. God used him to affect my transfer to DMGS in 1955 from Merchants of Light School, Oba, where I had spent my first year of secondary school. Without this change of school, I would have been a completely different person today – and certainly not a Chike Okonyia Award winner.
Secondly, in our final year, 1958, we chose the subjects to offer in our Cambridge School Certificate Examination. I decided to exclude Physics from my list of subjects because I found it problematic. We filled our forms and submitted to the principal, Mr S. J. Cookey, before the deadline. He then processed and packaged the documents, ready for submission to the examination council.
The following day, my uncle, who had moved to Bishop Lasbrey College, Irete, Owerri, as the principal, visited me. The first question he asked was about my subjects for the school certificate exams. I named my subjects.
“What of Physics?” he asked, and I told him that I did not include it. “Why? You must include Physics!” he exclaimed. “It is too late to change now,” I murmured. “No, you must include Physics. Let’s go to the principal.”
The principal reluctantly brought out the sealed envelope of our completed forms. My uncle insisted that my own form should be changed to include Physics. Eventually, Mr Cookey yielded to my uncle’s pressure and cut open the big brown envelope for us to make the necessary changes.
That encounter with the principal caused me to give serious attention to Physics, knowing full well that it was a vital subject in the sciences. I sought the help of friendly and brilliant classmates to overcome my challenges.
That was how I offered Physics in Cambridge School Certificate, Higher School Certificate and even GCE Advanced Level. Having Physics enabled me to choose any science or medical course I desired, including Pharmacy. By implication, without Physics, I might not have been the person I am today.
If God had not used my uncle in the two cases narrated above, definitely, my conditions and circumstances of life should be completely different today.
Our responsibility in life is to discover and live according to God’s plans for our lives. We must be travelling along the destiny course. He provides certain people as helpers or counsellors to ensure we are on the right course, as a children of God.
But bear in mind that the Holy Spirit is your Helper and Counsellor. He is the only one that can safely take you to your destination. We must give Him glory and only appreciate the instruments He has used.
This Chike Okonyia Award is very significant in my life. It is remarkable that my uncle, Dan Erinne, and Chike Okonyia were mates in DMGS. My uncle was in the 1938 set, while Chike was 1939. Probably, they were friends. It is also remarkable that I was born in 1939.
It is also worthy of note that the first winner of this award was my professional colleague, Pharm. (Sir) Chris U. Efobi, in 1974. In the same year, 1974, Efobi and I were elected into the national executive committee of the Pharmaceutical Society of Nigeria (PSN). We were made the president and editor-in-chief of the journal respectively and we had a successful tenure.