If there is one thing that TV personality, radio presenter and writer, Emmanuel Ugolee, has continued to hold on to, it is hope. His life preaches hope. His messages and attitude to life have been nothing short of being hopeful of living a normal life again, having suffered a kidney failure five years ago. In spite of his health problem, Ugolee continues to teach, write and inspire lives on many platforms that he finds himself. In fact, it will almost be impossible for anyone who meets him for the first time to know that Ugolee’s kidney is failing. With pains that only he can feel and constant reminder that his life could one day be over, the media personality has found unusual strength in the midst of his travails, which according to him, could only have come from God. After several weeks of back and forth on when to hold the interactive session, he finally agreed to speak about the story behind his bad kidney, the N50 million target and how he hopes to bounce back afterwards. SEGUN ADEBAYO brings the excerpts.
When one considers how you have managed to remain positive and strong in spite of your current health challenge, it is hard to believe you are actually battling with a kidney problem that requires urgent transplant. What do you think has been working for you?
I can’t deny the fact that I am sick but one thing that has been working for me is the God factor. There are financial and physical challenges, especially when you have to go for dialysis every day. It can be hard in an everyday capacity but I just have to keep moving on. I don’t want to stay down. I want to try as much as possible to keep doing the things I love to do, even though I know that my body cannot go as far as I wish I could go. But, I have never allowed that to affect my thinking. Once my mind is made up, I get up to work and I don’t look back. Apart from that, I am a very spiritual person and I put my faith in the hands of God but that does not rule out the fact that I go through pains. In fact, sometimes I don’t want to see people because the pains are just so unbearable. So, if you ask me what has been working for me, I will say that it is just God and my spiritual being.
No matter how hard you try to convince yourself that you are fine, you can’t deny the fact that your health is failing. How do you reconcile that with your faith in God?
I have never seen myself as being sick. I depend on God alone to keep me strong, despite my health challenge. I keep a very strong mental attitude that will not permit me to look at myself as being sick. I am not denying the fact that I am sick. I run my everyday life as though nothing is wrong with me. I still anchor my TV and radio programmes and also write my books. You need to see how much love people have shown and still show me because I have never allowed my condition to deny me of my everyday living. I believe in the power that is not normal, which comes from God. No matter how happy or excited I am, there is a constant reminder that all is not well. I wake up every day with a very strong feeling that I will survive this, no matter what. I think that’s the essence of this experience. I want people to know that no matter the situation they find themselves, they can survive. I am a very conscious person but I will never allow the feeling that I am sick deny me of living the life that I want.
You were said to have nursed this ailment privately for five years until recently when you publicly announced that you needed N50 million for a kidney transplant, How hard was it that moment for you?
Coming to the public for funds was a very big challenge for me, because all my life, I have always been a private person. I am not one of those guys that would blow millions of naira at club houses in one night. I don’t spend money lavishly. Yes, most of my friends are entertainers and the tendency is that I will do what they do, but I am not that kind of person. I had to come out to ask for funds when the doctors told me that dialysis was not going to help me anymore. It is either I go for the transplant or I die. When they told you if you don’t do this you will die, then you will know what I mean.
When you think about your condition and how things have turned out, would you blame your predicament on the kind of life you have lived before now?
My lifestyle as long as I can remember does not permit me to spend my money uselessly. If I tell you that I have been driving the same car for the past seven years, how would you react to that? I don’t live an extravagant lifestyle and that is one of the things that helped me to take care of myself privately for five years since this sickness started. I am not that kind of celebrity that would blow away millions of naira in one night at a club. That’s not the kind of life I have lived before I found myself in this condition, so nobody can say that I have not lived a normal life. If you ask my friends, they will tell you that I am not extravagant. Many of my friends are exorbitant s but such things have never appealed to me. I have coped well with this ailment because my friends and family are incredibly great and nice, so it makes it easier for me to cope. It was not easy coming out to ask for funds but the reality of what was coming forced me and the pains I am going through to follow this path.
It has been said over time that one does not know his true friends until he finds himself in a difficult situation. How would you describe your experience with people, especially your friends since you found yourself in this state?
Let me tell you one thing, an average human being is selfish. When you find yourself in this situation, you will understand the nature of people better. If you continue to look at the number of people who ought to have come but never did, the shock will kill you faster than anything. What you need to do is to appreciate those that go out of their ways for you. They are human beings too. I must tell you that a lot of my friends have been very supportive and kind. They really surprised me and I am grateful for their show of love and generousity. I receive a lot of beautiful and touching messages on my social media platforms every day. Some people will send me Bible verses to read so that I can remain strong. Some will say, ‘we remembered you in our prayer today.’ When you keep hearing things like this, you feel very happy and even stronger. I have been disappointed a lot of times by those who you thought would be there for you but never did. And, I have been blessed by many great people that you never knew they could be there for you. You need to understand the nature of humans. For somebody to come to you and give you a million naira or half of it, they are just extraordinary people. The first thing the person will think is that how can I part with so much money because he’s sick. So, it is the nature of people to be selfish and I hold nothing against anybody because I understand these things and they don’t get to me. Let me explain it this way, if I throw a picture of yourself in SS1 to you, the first thing you will do is to look for yourself. You don’t start to look after others when you have not found yourself in the picture. The same thing applies to humans. They take care of themselves first. If you ask me how I have handled the experience, I will say I have come to understand the realistic nature of people.
How would you describe the support of Nigerians in this trying time?
Let me first say that the love I have received from Nigerians has been shocking. Of course, I can’t rule out the God factor because that I am still living is simply because God loves me. You don’t know what it means to sit down and credit alerts keep dropping on your phone from different people. God has humbled me with this sickness. I have learnt never to castigate a stranger for anything. The love is so overwhelming. I have received utmost shocking blessings from Nigerians and I am very grateful.
OJB and the likes suffered a similar health challenge and never survived, have you at any point felt like the end may have come?
My faith has been challenged several times. The height of it was when I lost my first kidney. But I have left everything in God’s hands. I pray He helps me reduce the pains I go through. I have had my faith challenged and queried. I have remained strong because so many people suffered this ailment even after I had mine, but they have all passed on. The fact that I am still alive is a big surprise not only to me but even my doctors. I have had complications and surgeries. The doctors always tell me there is no connection between what is wrong with me and the strength I exhibit; they don’t know where I get the strength from.
How did you feel when you were first told you had kidney disease?
I saw a movie recently at the cinema about how a lady was told she had a kidney failure. She was in the car with her boyfriend and she started yelling over him. It was very hard for the girl to believe that her kidney was failing her. She cried uncontrollably and ran off into the bush to cry. That day, I broke down at the cinema after seeing the movie because I could relate it to my situation when I was told a similar thing. Of all the things that I try not to remember, that day when I was told of the calamity that I had suffered, I don’t ever want to remember or talk about it again. I was depressed for the first three months. I felt like ending my life for about three months.