Sunday Dec 04, 2022

Owanate D. Max-Harry

Finally I’ve dusted my keyboard in 2014.
I thought I would end my “great-people-I-know” series in 2013, but with Oyinkan’s birthday, Owanate and Dumebi’s birthdays this month I just cannot skip this.
In My Birthday speech of 2012 (Bros over Cutlasses) I talked and talked about how I needed to reduce the amount of female friendships I was cultivating. And it turns out I was right- women aren’t really here to stay- no matter how close you are, it ends at the marriage altar and if you do not marry them, you WILL lose your place. For example, in the last one year, about  5 of my female friends got married and either lacked the courtesy to inform me (or they just wanted to spite me, lol).
But today is not about friends who forgot, its about the new era. In 2012 I started law school, and Enugu Campus was a new beginning. I cut down on the way I talked with people (a lot of people saw me as a quiet person in law school). But my first set of friends- Dumebi Nwabudike, Belema Fyneface, Faith Adebo Kenechi Eze-Nwosu and Chikwesiri Obisike-Orji  saw me for who I really was, a weird, noisy human being (Chixy would argue that I’m an Alien). These guys made the first few weeks go pretty fast for me. I prayed in the mornings with Dumebi, Belema and KC, Faith was in my study group and my seatmate.
After lectures ended the first week, Dumebi asked if I’d bought my books (we’d just received the recommended texts). She joined me to get them outside the gate, and on the way back she told me there was someone she wanted me to meet. It sounded weird that it was a guy she was talking about, but she said “you’ll thank me for this, once you get to know him”. That night, we (Dumebi, Debby and I) met Owanate on the first floor. We were talking about random stuff- THEN it branched into music. For the first time in a looooooooong time I was talking to someone who knew more SwitchFoot songs than I did. Of course he knew most of the other bands that I called out (but none of the Thrash/Metal/Screamo bands, I’m still the king of that). And he knew more Jesus Culture songs than I did (as at then I knew only “Rooftops”, “oh how he loves” and “where you go I’ll go”). Immediately I sensed within me that this man was a child of God. I tested my assessment with a few questions and I knew I wasn’t wrong about him. Within 10 minutes, we had separated from the rest of the guys and were talking deep things (while the rest were laughing over something Barrister Afolayan (Proceed to the dock!) had said. I invited him to our morning devotions and he agreed to come.
From a distance, he seemed unusually calm- a rare quality in students about to face the toughest psychological battle of their lives. Even the few times he joined us for morning devotion, he seemed a bit detached from what was going on. It would take me almost a year to understand what happened during devotion 😉
We didn’t see much until I noticed that he was hanging around with Dumebi a lot. I didn’t want to ask what exactly was going on- afterall I was hanging out with Debby, Lanre and Oyinkan a lot at one point or the other. Dumebi herself seemed pretty evasive whenever I joked about it. I didn’t even pay much attention to them, until the evenings when I spent more time on ground floor than 3rdfloor (my room). He teased me so much about lanre that Jerry picked it up; I had no choice than to retaliate and start teasing them back (and mine was stronger. Revenge is best served hot)
His academic abilities were never in doubt- having come from UNIBEN with a second-class upper, I had no doubts that he would do well in the exams. When I told him I was considering staying in school for the externship period, he said it was a good idea. Before we knew it, almost 30 of us stayed back. I CAN say it was in this period that I got to know Owanate. We walked to court in the mornings, compared notes sometimes too. He came up to my room sometimes, and I think that was when we started swapping music and messages.
Because of Owanate, I started paying more attention to Jesus Culture, Kim Walker and Chris Quilala. He introduced me to preachers like Todd Bentley, Bill Johnson and Kobus (hope I spelled that right!). we had deep discussions on the Holy Spirit, about whether some things were right or wrong. I remember the alcohol discussions. I remember the times when some unusual things were happening in the hostel during those 3 months. On one night some guys said they couldn’t sleep because of sudden headaches that lasted through the night. That same night I was walking from the classroom block to the hostel when I heard footsteps behind me- I turned and there was nobody there (the road was well-lit, the ground was damp so there’s no question of whether it was my imagination). I remember when stranger things began to happen and I joined faith with Owanate in prayer- and answers came instantly.
I learnt from Owans that nothing is too big OR too small to pray about- whether it’s a dangerous mission in Iraq or a football match in your backyard. He prayed if he noticed he liked a girl, he prayed if he wanted to date her. And I remember his dramatic weight losses- he’d just pray whenever he wanted to lose some weight. I remember one time when I referred him to a message from COZA he said “people pray when they’re travelling as if the devil’s power is determined by distance. The same devil that can kill you on the road to lagos can also kill you between your bathroom and your bed. The same God that is protecting you at home will also protect you on the road. If God is protecting you, the devil simply CANNOT harm you”.  There were times when I was coming back from Enugu town and I felt the leading of God not to enter certain buses. Sometimes I’d have already bought my ticket and sat down when I’d hear in my Spirit “come down NOW”. I’d obey and nothing untoward would happen. Owanate said “it’s better to be in the centre of God’s will- you’ll be fully covered. Nothing may have happened to you if you didn’t obey, but following God you can NEVER miss it”
After externship, I heard God warning me not to sleep on my bed. It was a weird thing because I felt whatever was wrong God could protect me. But Owanate’s words came back and I just obeyed. I slept in Owanate’s room- and I slept there till the last day of law school. While I was there, I never had cause to regret the decision. I was challenged to study by Jerry and Owanate’s attitude to work. They didn’t exactly seem like the bookworms but I noticed that most of the studying was done IN the room, in a relaxed, lighthearted manner, and they asked each other questions. I joined them, and I CAN say that God used them to help me succeed in the Bar Final Exams.
Owans encouraged my writing during law school. I think he’s the person that has expressed the most interest in what I say. Like the Friendzone series, he always gave me feedback on what he thought were the strong and weak points (and grey areas too). When I took up active instagramming, he also encouraged me to do more. He pushed until I designed a photo stamp- he told me “I’m seeing your photos everywhere. They’re too good for you not to take credit for them”. The photo stamp…well, I’m still working on that.
The last day of law school was fun. I went with Dumebi, Owans, Lanre and Tirnum to the Park Lane Mall. Lanre and I were having some heated argument or the other, and I was being particularly insensitive (well I WAS right). Owans saved the day when he said we should come along. It was pretty last-minute but we made it. Owans’ selflessness came up again- he paid for the drinks and snacks while I paid for the movie tickets. When I looked at the receipt, I saw that he’d spent MORE than I did.
The last time we met, was at the Jabi lake (with Dumebi and Adaora Nwajagu). That evening was one of the best in November and I kept wondering why on earth I didn’t think of hanging out there before that day. I had my guitar with me and we did a few songs like “oh how he loves” and “cry out to Jesus” (Third Day).
I still feel like I haven’t painted accurately the young man’s portrait. But I’ll stop here. You have to know the guy yourself. The bible says something that a neighbour in time of need is better than a brother in a far country. I can say that Owanate is not just a friend, but a brother.
Happy Birthday Owanate.
PS: Thank you Dumebi my Madam.


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