The most challenging article ever written by me was published in Time magazine.
It was one of the many friends of mine who had been asking me to write my autobiography who wanted me to tell him of the most difficult article I had ever written in my chequered journalism career.
When I mentioned the esteemed Time magazine, my friend got hopping mad and asked: “Are you telling me you’ve ever worked in Time?”
I told him coolly to relax his nerves to hear out my story, but he would not cool down at all, hollering: “I have not asked you to tell me some fanciful fiction!”
I smiled briefly and said: “I actually wrote the article in question inside Time & Life Building…”
“I know you have been to the United States,” said my friend, interrupting me, “but I doubt that you ever ventured as far as a sightseeing visit to the Time & Life Building.”
“It’s not only in America that there’s a Time & Life Building,” I said. “There’s one in London, England.”
“Whether in Britain or America, you did not write anything published in Time!” My friend was beside himself with aggressive disagreement.
Instead of boring everybody with the back-and-forth yo-yo of me my friend, let’s make progress on how I appeared in the Time & Life Building to write a piece that was scheduled to appear in the magazine the very next day.
Back in time, when Nigeria was still Nigeria, the Nigerian government used to publish supplements in Time magazine.
Nduka Obaigbena, former publisher of THISWEEK magazine and the present-day chairman of THISDAY and Arise Television Network, used to be the mastermind of the Nigerian Supplement published in Time magazine.
Nduka took me along on a great London summer in the course of which I felt there was ample time to write the supplement without hassles.
There were aspects of the supplement that had not been ready to hand, so time continued to pass and steal in on the deadline.
Before one could say “Time”, the penultimate day for the publication of the magazine dawned on us.
Nduka showed no panic whatsoever as he took me to the Time & Life Building in London on a cool evening.
We were met by panicky white Time magazine workers who kept mouthing Nduka’s name in their peculiar accent: “Nduka! Nduka! Nduka!”
It was obvious that the printing of the magazine was being held in thrall, but the workers could barely hide their adoring attitude to Nduka’s maverick ways.
One of the white ladies met Nduka and said that she needed the supplement materials as the magazine was already on the press.
Nduka pointed at me and said: “I have The Poet with me here, and it will be done immediately.”
The white lady asked me to sit on a chair while she put some sheaf of white papers on the table and gave me a pen.
I started writing in earnest, and once a page was done, she would take it upstairs to feed directly to the machine that could translate handwriting to print.
She made the trip a good number of times, sending my written stuff to their machine up the stairs of the building.
After doing all the writing in a hurry, I asked if I could get the chance to do final editing only for the pleasant lady to tell me not to worry because my handwritten materials had already be fed to the printer.
I could not understand the magic of it all, but I put on a straight face so that I would not be looked at as yet another bushman out of Africa!
Nduka exchanged pleasantries with the Time workers as though nothing extraordinary had happened, and we left the building – me to my Arabella Court abode, and Nduka to Intercontinental Hotel.
Early the next morning, Nduka woke me up with the news that the magazine had arrived, and we were due to take copies to Gatwick Airport for onward airlift to Nigeria.
It was with bated breath that I beheld the sparkling Time magazine, and I went straight to the supplement pages.
It was magical that the printing machine read my hurried writing accurately except for places where I wrote “Abuja, Nigeria” that got printed as “Arabia, Nigeria”!
Anybody who wants to read the rest of the story should wait for my autobiography or memoir or what-is-it-called!