Inside the Houston Zoo
Inside the Houston Zoo

A mission to Texas (2)

Last week, I narrated how my work as a chronicler of the lives of the famous and the rich had me agreeing to write the biography of a famous Nigerian politician and how that experience landed me in Houston, Texas in the USA, where my subject was being honoured by his alma mater. Read on.


However, as we landed at the George Bush International Airport in Houston Texas, on that overcast Thursday morning, the warm and smooth immigration reception was an indication that the matter of the Ebola pandemic would not be counted against us.

It was my first visit to Texas and I was immediately captivated by the beauty and grandeur of Houston, a city named after former General Sam Houston, who was president of the then Republic of Texas. 

Houston was founded in 1836 on land near the banks of Buffalo Bayou (now known as Allen's Landing) and incorporated as a city on June 5, 1837.  It is the most populous city in Texas and the fourth most populous city in the United States. 

In the mid-twentieth century, Houston became the home of the Texas Medical Centre- the world's largest concentration of healthcare and research institutions – and NASA's Johnson Space Centre, where the Mission Control Centre is located.

Award ceremony

The award ceremony from one of the most famous universities in Texas took place the following day, at the Westin Galleria Hotel, 5060 West Alabama – Houston, Texas 77056. Basking in the euphoria of the moment, my subject, who was the only non-American among the six alumni who were honoured, was the cynosure of all eyes. 

And when he was asked to respond on behalf of the other recipients, he took his time to thank the university authorities and his former teachers for the honour done him. The ceremony was then followed by a dizzying array of activities such as photographic sessions, toasts and impromptu speeches. 

This generous spectacle continued the next day which was our last day in Houston with breakfast, lunch and dinner events sponsored by friends, Nigerian organisations in Houston, as well as the university. All through the activities, my subject kept reminding me to note everything. 

“They said I have criminal records in the US, but you can see how I am being treated like a star. They said I didn’t go to school, yet I am being honoured by my a­lma mater,” he reminded me for the umpteenth time.

Tour, departure

Towards evening, we did a quick tour of the university facilities before proceeding to the airport for our departure to Nigeria. As we waited for our flight, I took up my subject on the litany of allegations against him, especially those that came up during the course of my interviews and some from my internet research. 

He tackled the issues with the mastery of a professional boxer blocking some punches, throwing some back at his detractors, deflecting others and sometimes weaving his way out of trouble. 
All the while, his trademark smile never left his youthful face as he occasionally sipped his hot tea which he was using to nurse a minor cold. 

“Check my records. There was no single instance during my long and brilliant political career that I was found to have embezzled money, unlike some of my detractors. Not once!!,” he thundered. It was a masterful act and I could not help bursting into laughter at some of his postulations, which will be well captured in the book.

As we later boarded the aircraft, I was looking forward to using the 12-hour trip to Nigeria to finish the first draft of the book. However, as I settled down into my seat with my laptop, pen and paper at the ready, an elderly white lady sitting next to me looked up and smiled; “Are you a writer?” she asked. I was quiet for some seconds as I racked my brain on what to say. I did not want to make the mistakes I had made in the past by revealing my true identity and getting distracted. 

On one occasion when I had acknowledged my literary profession, my guest had brought out a sheaf of badly written poems and asked me to analyse them for him. On another occasion when I had agreed that I was a medical doctor, one woman had assailed me with a barrage of complaints, diagnoses and medications, which spoilt my trip. However, my most unforgettable experience was when I confessed to being a politician. 

Before I knew it the two passengers on either side had launched into long-winded political postulations laced with derogatory remarks about politicians; thus, ruining my peace of mind. Now faced with the same dilemma, I was determined not to be distracted from the work at hand. I did some quick thinking and quickly mimicked some hand language signs to my neighbour. It worked and the lady agreeing that I was deaf and dumb left me alone. 

Immediately, I launched into the biography, working at a frenetic speed to finish before the laptop battery expired. So engrossed was I that when the hostess later asked me what I wanted for dinner, I merely waved her off.  The work at hand was enough food for me. 

In view of the popularity of my subject and the copious amount of interesting and controversial material hitherto garnered, I knew I was working on a masterpiece. So riveting was the story, that on several occasions during the course of my writing, I had to suppress my laughter. 

However, at a point when I came across my subject’s caustic answer to another provocative remark from one of his several opponents, I couldn’t hold myself anymore as I burst into a raucous laughter that must have reverberated around the aircraft. For some moments, my startled neighbour kept staring at me probably wondering how a supposedly dumb man could have laughed out so loud.

The End

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