By NBF News

• 75-year-old calligrapher

When he was young, Mr Ogbonnaya Okereke, 75, from Apuanu Item in Bende Local Government Area of Abia State had dreamt of becoming a lawyer. But circumstances beyond his control as a young man led him into becoming a tailor. It was borne out of frustration and desperation having failed to achieve his ambition of going to the university to study law.

This was so as his parents who were then of the First Century Faith Church had thought that his advancing beyond Standard 6, as was the belief among people of that faith, would lure him into learning about Satan.

So, faced with the hard fact that he would not exceed Standard 6, Okereke out of annoyance, opted out of school and became a delinquent ostensibly as a way of registering his displeasure.

As a way of assuaging him, his parents in 1956 sent him to learn tailoring which had been his source of livelihood until later in life when 'God revealed to me how to use cloths to document and preserve important events for posterity- otherwise known as cloth-documented calligraphic art'.

The Calligrapher whose works included 'the beginning of the struggle for Nigeria's independence, inaugural addresses of Presidents Obama and Jonathan and our ordeal by the four journalists and their driver kidnapped at Obingwa local government of Abia State', narrates his experience thus:

The beginning
I was listening to a clergy man as he was preaching the word of God, then at a stage, he said the mission of Jesus Christ on earth was to redeem sinners and that if somebody recognizes he in a sinner, and then decides to have God's forgiveness, then Jesus would take over his life and use him for great works. After hearing that, I gave myself up to Christ. Immediately, I heard a voice that told me he was going to give me a gift. I never knew what the gift was all about. But the voice told me that with the gift, I was going to do something that would astonish the world and take care of my old age financially.

Few days after, as I was sewing with my machine, there was sweat all over my body as if sun was beating me, but I was inside my workshop. Then I picked a piece of cloth and put on my machine, but instead of sewing something straigth, the machine was writing something readable. It wrote, 'I am God, I purposefully made the nation of Israel to be small in population, I also purposefully made enemies to surround them so that when they are winning battles, mankind will know I am fighting for them'. I became afraid. This was so because although I was paddling the machine with my feet, I was not in control of what it was writing. Immediately, I went to my pastor with the piece of cloth and what was written on it and narrated to him what happened.

Then my pastor told me it was the Holy Spirit of God that was working and he prayed for me.

My turning point
Not long after, I got a letter from the then Chief Justice of Nigeria, Dr Taslim Elias, thanking me for the sample I gave to him because I had earlier sent him a copy of what I did for him. In the letter that was signed by the Chief Registrar, Mr Ibidapo-Obe, I was asked to do two more copies for him. I did and they paid me. The letter encouraged me and I started making research and produced important events as a way of keeping our history alive. I use the Daily Sun to do my research. I get factual stories from the newspapers, which make my work easier.

After the chief justice's job, I received a visitor to my house who introduced himself as His Royal Highness (Eze) Thomas A.O Obiefule, the traditional ruler of Umudioka in Orlu Local Government Area of Imo state. He told me he came back from a tour to see the wonderful art works I drew for him when he was away and that it was an answered prayer on his dream of how to immortalize the late Sam Okwaraji, the international soccer star. We entered into an agreement and I did something remarkable for him as my works were used to stock the Sam Okwaraji Sports Museum.

Financial success
Presently, although I would say I have not made much money from the art work, but all the same, it has been helping me to take care of my family. All our work carry individual price tags, but on the average, a piece costs N150,000. My art work is rare and meant for the kings. You know art works fall into the category of gold, they are rare and costly. Although I need money, but my art works are not for everybody. I only sell them to those that have integrity, who have history of character in order to preserve the value of the art

My desire
My desire is for government to know my work and help me to establish art museum or for them to come and acquire some of works that relate to the history of this country and put them in their own museum.

At present, I have over 300 artworks which with the help of government agencies and corporate bodies can be exhibited. I am not talking of what I have in mind to do, I have done it already.

Some of my art works include 'the beginning of the struggle for Nigeria's independence, the inaugural address of president Goodluck Jonathan, the presidential address by US President, Obama and our ordeal by the four kidnapped journalists.

Educational background
1 opted out of school at Standard Three in 1954 because my parents where members of the Faith Century Gospel Church and they were taught it was a sin for one's child to study beyond Standard Six, that he would go to secondary school to learn about Satan. I was highly annoyed because I had wanted to study law in the university, but knowing my bar was Standard Six, I had out of annoyance, left at Standard Three and became a delinquent and disturbed my parents seriously because they denied me education. In order to pacify me, they sent me to learn tailoring. But most of those who deceived my father that time, their children are now overseas and highly educated and doing fine.