REVIEW: Life Lessons from Mudipapa – Prof. Mark Nwagwu
Prof. Mark Nwagwu
I am a Roman Catholic, 82 years old and was married to my dear wife, Helen, for 55 years and 9 months before she passed on, on 30th March 2018. I was 24 and a fresh graduate from the University College, Ibadan, when I first met my wife, and we were married six months later on June 30, 1962.
My wife, née, Helen Anurukem, only 19, had just finished her secondary education at Cornelia Connelly College, Uyo, and after two days of meeting me would write: ‘I had made up my mind. I knew that I would marry this man.’
There was no book on marriage I knew of; and even if there was one, I would most certainly not have paid any iota of attention to it. I was far too taken in with Helen to think of anything else but to make her mine. You would say, well, that was in those days. Now things are different. Indeed they are: you most certainly would need to pay attention to what Mudipapa has to tell you before embarking on marriage. Life Lessons from Mudipapa by Francis Ewherido, Saturday Vanguard Columnist, is a vade mecum for everyone – children, adults, engaged or married – it is indispensable, solemn, and engaging.
You would need to learn how Mudipapa and EseOghene’s children live, behave and
relate to one another. If you are in school, you may be excused if you do not come near the book. But you might want to know how Mudipapa came by his name as it might just remind you what you called your own father in your childhood tongue. On my first day in school in 1942, I was asked my father’s name, I answered, ‘Sir, Papam’, that is My Papa. You might recall those cheerful opening lines of Charles Dickens’ Great Expectations: “My father’s family name being Pirrip, and my Christian name, Phillip, my infant tongue could make of both names nothing longer or more explicit than Pip. So I called myself Pip, and came to be known as Pip.”
What of Mudipapa? We meet his daughter, Tejiri and her daughter Temi : “Tejiri had indeed started dropping off Temi with grandpa and grandma anytime they were in Lekki from when she was a toddler. As she developed and learnt how to talk, she asked Chief one day, ‘What is your name?’ ‘My name is Mudiaga,’ Chief answered. ‘No, he is Papa, Grandpa,’ Tejiri, who was nearby, interjected defiantly. ‘You say your name is Mudiii…(She could not pronounce Mudiaga), but mummy says you are papa. ‘So you are Mudipapa,’ Temi said with finality. Everybody roared into laughter, but it became his nickname and stuck.”
To me the name Mudipapa sets the tone of family love, attachments, and accomplishments in this encompassing book. An adolescent might find Chapter Four intriguing and wonder, ‘so this is how I came to be a boy’ after reading Mudipapa’s notes (pp. 36-38 ) on naturally selecting boys and girls by the timing of sexual intimacy, and how one sperm beats out millions of others in this exhausting race for fertilization of the mother’s ovum. I think this would help an adolescent to better appreciate the earliest miracle of life in pregnancy.
We meet Mudipapa’s children in Chapter Eleven. Ogbenetejiri, a girl, fondly called Tejiri, who wanted to be a model and was counseled out of her budding ambition by Mudipapa; Emesiri, a boy, who showed early signs of low self-esteem to which Mudipapa took great exception to and counseled, ‘A man achieves not by his height but by what’s he’s got between his two temples.’ Oghenemado, a boy, simply called Mado, gives us the first taste of a crisis in the family when he put Cynthia Collins-Madu in the family way (pp. 82-89). Mudipapa and EseOghene demonstrate remarkable understanding, patience, forbearing and grace in handling this challenge amicably and generously to the satisfaction and relief of both boy and girl. Edirinverere, fondly called Edirin, was unstoppable with his interest in social media such as Facebook, Intagram and Twitter. Here you meet Mudipapa in his strong and unchangeable beliefs which you might not agree with, but which make him an unusual person, compelling your attention. Listen to this: ‘He was not one of those parents who believed little children would outgrow bad traits or habits. His philosophy was that problems grew bigger if left unresolved’ (p. 90).
Omoghene, child of God, was conceived in fortuitous circumstances. She was the only child who called her father, ‘my daddy’. Her tongue was acidic and drew negative reactions from her siblings. One day Mado decided to let her have it: ‘Do you know you were born by mistake…How am I even sure you were not another person’s baby who was exchanged for mummy’s real baby on the clinic?’ Omo was wailing when her parents got back and in their consternation managed to calm her down.
Mudipapa was a real Papa when it came to his children to whom he, together with EseOgnene his loving wife, gave all the love in his heart and reason and knowledge he had in his brains. He gave them his all, at all times, and attended to each of their needs as was necessary.
What do you make of your life? What is the purpose of your life? What do you seek in your life? Purposeful Living covers all of Chapter 12 where Mudipapa lays it thick, giving his children extensive counseling on what life is all about and, therefore, the kind of life they should each endeavour to live. He draws inspiration from the acronym, SWOT, for Strengths, Weakness, Opportunities, Threats to emphasize purposeful living.
Mudipapa encourages his older children Tejiri and Emesiri to marry early and have their children in their youth. You may not agree with his reasoning, but he would have achieved his purpose if his beliefs challenge you to come up with something better. In this regard Mudipapa’s handling of Tejiri’s affair with Swanky is a classic exemplar of parental love, understanding, support, and forgiveness in the face of atrocious behaviour and we must give kudos to Mudipapa for coming full out for his dear daughter no matter what.
‘I gave him my body…’, Tejiri tells her father of her affair with Swanky, words no loving father would like to hear from his daughter before she was married. You might wonder how many parents would do what Mudipapa did? Well, that is what makes the book of inestimable value: it shows you a loving, caring man who would give of his best to his children at all times. Take your time to absorb this story into your flowing blood and be eternally wary of life’s beguiling dangers.
Mudipapa spends ample time talking with Tosan, Tejiri’s fiancé, on what marriage is all about, especially that he must be certain he can live happily with his daughter in spite of her faults, her caustic tongue, in particular. He makes it clear it is a habit of hers from childhood and how hard both he and her mother had laboured over the years to get her to change, but to no avail. Tosan agrees that indeed he finds her tongue quite sharp, that it can be unnerving; but that he loves Tejiri more than anything he can dream of and would certainly be able to live quite happily with her in spite of this defect. It is important to point this out because in the encyclical ‘Amoris Laetitia’, The Glory of Love, Pope Francis lays great emphasis on engaged couples knowing each other, their faults and all. In particular he warns, “Nothing is more volatile, precarious and unpredictable than desire. The decision to marry should never be encouraged unless the couple has discerned deeper reasons that will ensure a genuine and stable commitment” (#209, 210).
Mudipapa, in his talks with Tosan and Tejiri, takes all necessary steps to guide his children to happy wedlock. With binding and loving sternness, he tells his son-in-law, Tosan: “Both of you, like any couple, will disagree, you will get on each other’s nerves, you will drive each other up the wall, but under no circumstances should you raise your hand against Tejiri. The day you think you can no longer tolerate her sharp tongue or other bad attitudes, bring her back to me. Don’t you ever beat my daughter! For me, that is a sin against the Holy Spirit; it can never be forgiven.” There is no room for violence in marriage: husbands should please read Mudipapa with great care and adhere to its tenets. Mudipapa had a similar counseling session with Emesiri and Uzoezi and led them through managing conflicts in marriage.
It is interesting that Mudipapa himself has his own faults well demonstrated by his act of indiscretion in his sexual encounter with another woman, Chantelle, during a meeting in Geneva. The woman was the seducer and Mudipapa fell for it hook, line, and sinker, reminiscent of Eve and Adam! Wondering whether unfaithful husbands ever admitted their infidelity to their wives, he recalled promiscuous Joshua, a school mate, who would often say that even if your girl friend catches you in bed with another woman, you should deny and deny that anything happened. Still he was disturbed by this falsehood, but he let matters be and accepted it as a distraction not worthy of attention.
Mudipapa gave his wisest counseling outside of the family to a friend of his, Jacob Emoregbe and his (dear) wife Bose, who were in the throes of serious marital conflicts. Jacob visited Mudipapa in Lekki complaining about his (dear) wife: “Bose has gone completely gaga” he started. “Jacob, that is a very harsh way to describe your wife. Is she walking the streets naked,” Mudipapa asked. Jacob continued his vituperations for quite a while. Mudiaga listened attentively, even if disturbed, and suggested the conversation could continue when he and EseOghene came to visit in their home in Agbara, where Jacob also lived.
Two weeks later Mudipapa and EseOghene were in Agbara with Jacob and Bose. The conversation then continued: “So what has been happening to you?” Mudipapa probed.
Bose said she was now doing things on her own, including attending the church of her choice, even to the chagrin of her husband, because she and Jacob were not communicating with each other: “Not when you are meant to be seen not heard”, she said. Mudipapa now shows his mettle as a loving and accomplished counsellor to help his friend solve his problems. After Jacob admits he still loves his wife and Bose the same, Mudipapa pours it out: “People who love each other do not inflict so much pain on each other the way you have done. In marriage, differing opinions are inevitable but they need not graduate to irreconcilable differences or you would be courting break up…… No matter how the incompatibility comes about, they must be managed if you desire a happy and successful marriage….Managing incompatibility is one of the most difficult aspects of marital life.”
He counseled further: “In managing incompatibility, one party should not behave as if his/her position is superior to the other. You are both prisoners of your nature and nurture and see things from your ‘prisons’….That is why empathy is very important in managing incompatibility.” “I am guilty of this,” said Jacob apologetically.
Mudipapa continued his counseling session in a most friendly and appealing conversational style that brought out the truth in Jacob and Bose and enabled them, for the first time in a long time, to recognize their failings and their willingness to make amends. The ending of this counseling after a delicious, heart-warming dinner, is quite tickling. Jacob said, “We need to get home and confirm whether the hottest sex actually takes place after a confrontation.” “I would have offered you the spare room, but after over six months without sex, I am afraid you might break my bed”‘ Mudipapa added. I am certain that from now Jacob would address Bose as my dear wife. All is well that ends well.
This, of course, is not all that Mudipapa carefully and rigorously attends to in the book. His notes on house-helps are extremely useful and in many ways revealing. And every chapter has nuggets for easy digestion of its contents
I am 82, and the times of my marriage in 1962 are far apart from today’s goings-on. Every man and woman thinking of marriage, even before engagement and all young couples should do well to absorb Mudipapa and make it their companion in the quest for joy and fulfillment in families.
Mark Nwagwu, a retired Professor of Cell and Molecular Biology, is a poet and author
NB: You can read more on purposeful living in Life Lessons from Mudipapa Readers interested in getting copies of the book can contact us on [email protected] or 08186535360 or get it from https://www.jumia.com.ng/family-relationships-books/?q=Mudipapa.