Reviewer: Prof. Godini G. Darah
Meandered Path is the story of the exciting and dramatic life of Dr. Francis Folorunso Oghenero ABUDU, a teacher, scholar, researcher, banker, investor, venture capitalist and administrator. It is the odyssey and testimony of a couple –
Francis and Rosaline – whose brave endeavours, adventure, professional careers and work of philanthropy have positively transformed the destinies of numerous families, individuals and the fortunes of diverse private and public institutions.
Meandered Path is a celebration of lives well-lived and divinely directed to add value to the Nigerian society and humanity in general. It is a swift-flowing narrative marked by breath-taking episodes and exploits full of refreshing lessons and philosophical reflections on the great drama called life. The book is a compendium of knowledge about family hood, daring enterprise and determination to triumph over obstacles and challenges.
The story of Meandered Path is told in 18 chapters covering 470 pages. Meandered Path is an autobiography, the story of an individual told by himself or herself. This tradition of literature is ancient and well established, yet it is a tricky and delicate work to handle. The author has to balance multiple tendencies and pressures. The author must be honest and candid in relating events and experiences; the autobiographer also assumes the position of judge and jury in commenting on numerous persons connected to him or her. An autobiographer does not aim at perfection, yet he or she strives to produce not a failure or caricature but a credible, honest, and humane personality that can inspire others.
On these scores of autobiographical craft, Dr. Abudu has performed excellently.
A good story is also a journey of discovery and revelation for the reader. Dr. Abudu ignites this quest for the readers by first dealing with the puzzle of his family name – Abudu. The author is of Urhobo parentage from Oguname community in Olomu Kingdom of the western Niger Delta. The Olomu trace their genealogy to Igboze and Alaka from ancient Benin roots. The lexicon of Urhobo common names does not include “Abudu” or “Abdullahi”. The puzzle in the name is resolved as the author relates how their grandfather, Obrimah, traded with Nupe and Igala merchants on yams along the River Niger and its Forcados tributary. Francis’ father was named to remember the cordial relationship between the Urhobo family in Olomu and the Nupe/Igala traders. Dr. Abudu provides diagrams to trace the lineages of the Olomu people covering over 450 years.
Life in school from 1957-1980 is the focus of the next ten chapters. The most memorable experiences are recounted in detail. At each turn, there is only a narrow, sometimes miraculous escape from disaster owing to the stress of low income. One near-tragic instance occurred just as Francis prepares to enter secondary school in 1963. The father had saved the fees and handed over to Francis for safe-keeping. Francis, in turn, gives the money to the mother for “safer keeping”. The mother lends the money to a desperate borrower who defaults in repaying as agreed. Premature tragedy was narrowly averted. There are other tension-filled episodes like this one, incidents that make the book read like a thriller or travelogue.
An adventurous spirit is evident in the family’s business transactions with yam traders that yielded the merger of Urhobo and Nupe ideas in the name “Abudu”.
This spirit also drives Francis to make breakthroughs in life. His undergraduate days at the University of Nigeria, Nsukka, fires this innate urge. He earned brilliant marks in exams and was selected by their head of department, Professor Okonjo as vacation research assistant. The experience kindles Francis’s interest to become an academic and scholar. The pursuit takes him in later life to universities in Manchester and Liverpool in the United Kingdom.
Nigerians have mixed feelings about the worth of the compulsory National Youth Service Corps (NYSC). But Dr. Abudu found a treasure during his service year in Calabar. Being a typical young man from the Ughelli-Warri axis, Francis and friends “strayed” into Calabar city to watch nocturnal display of masquerades. In the melle engendered by the antics of masked spirits, a frightened damsel runs into Francis’s embrace for protection. This stranger turns out to be Roseline; a friendship develops and results in a marriage that has blossomed into one of the most exemplary instances of “inter-ethnic” marriage in Nigeria.
Postgraduate studies in the United Kingdom naturally leads to academic employment in the University of Benin. Luckily, the couple recognizes early enough that an academic career in Nigeria is another name for being wedded to penury. The flight from this “famished road” takes the couple to Lagos where their dreams and endeavours blossom into the epic story of the book.
On the surface, Meandered Path is the story of a couple born and raised in humble circumstances in the Niger Delta, but like the River Niger and River Benue that originate from different sources to form a confluence at Lokoja, Francis and Rose have “flowed” together, weathered many storms, faced grim challenges and tribulations and emerged in radiant and resplendent colours of heroism. Sound education background, industry, determination and faith in God have served them well. The book will benefit diverse interests. Children and students will find it a companion when they encounter difficulties in their educational career. Academics and scholars may analyse the choices made by Dr. Abudu and reflect on the future of their vocation. Married couples seeking matrimonial stability and harmony have valuable counselling in the book. Dr Abudu’s encounters with Christian dogma, his meander from the Catholic faith and eventual return to it, are lessons that any member of the modern elite should ponder. No less significant are the years of material comfort offered by the sojourn in paid employment in top-class finance institutions. This is contrasted with the traumas and uncertainties associated with being a serious investor in the real sector of the economy in Nigeria. Dr. Abudu’s attempt at being a “Jack of all Trades” in business offers sobering lessons. He displays managerial ingenuity and acute intellect of a scholar and researcher. The diverse investments are reduced to concentrate on areas that are less prone to instability and failure in Nigeria’s economy that is notorious for weak institutions and technological infrastructure.
Perhaps, the ultimate tribute of the story goes to Lagos, Africa’s most populous megacity. It is in Lagos that Francis and Rose find career fulfillment. It is in this clime that their enterprising gifts manifest; the Ascension School in Badagry signifies the budding citadel to train future geniuses. Lagos is the socio-cultural setting where they learn how to survive and thrive in competitive ways. It is appropriate therefore that the family established its home in tranquil and beautific Agbara Estate. Smaller replicas of this “garden of eden” are in Oguname and other Urhobo areas. These physical symbols, the vivacious children, liberated siblings and associates as well as a litany of honours and recognitions are a testimony to the triumphant arrival of the sojourn along a “meandered path”. In this sense, Dr. Abudu’s book enjoins us to join the family to chorus the biblical lines “We are more than conquerors”.
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