Pa Ubong Hanson also known as Super Dragon was recognized globally for his extraordinary abilities in weight lifting during the 60s and 70s. Nobody could dare his magnificent skills when pulling stunts to thrill the crowd. He was one of his kind and this fetched him remarkable names like “the World’s Sampson”, “Strongest Man in Africa”, “and Most Powerful Man in Nigeria”.
His exhibition of strength in carrying heavy objects always left his spectators in a state of bewilderment. His body language while performing his shows depicted fearlessness in the strings of his hair, horsepower in his muscular arms while his stamina was deeply staunch, indeed he was no mean man.
Born on March 12, 1939, the heroic oak was a son to an army man and a mother who was a petty trader. He was the first child out of eight children. As an indigene of Ikot Eyo in Nsit Ubium Local Government Area in Akwa Ibom State, Nigeria, he grew to love soccer which was his first flare.
Ubong Hanson, who was formerly called Eseme Hanson Etukudo, attended one of the rural schools in his community where he obtained his Standard Six educational qualification. In olden days, education was not as significant as it is now.
Interviewing one of his sons, Universe Hanson, on Crystal Express, he revealed that his father at adolescence had to travel to Lagos after his primary education to get a better life.
According to Pa Ubong Hanson in Punch Newspaper, 2017- “I trained to be a mechanic. I was very useful to the workshop by lifting solid weights but I was always breaking things because I was not patient.” Just as Sampson in the Bible, Pa Hanson’s strength grew daily as his tangled dreadlock grew and this made him stronger. Acknowledging his continuous inner strength, he knew it was time to entertain the world with his super power stunts.
In the early 60s at his 20s, Ubong had to let go of the job in 1964 to pursue his dream as a performer. Through developing his natural potential, which was lifting weights and body building, he was able to thrill students with his incredible performances as he toured schools to make a living. His capacity to perform feats eventually increased tremendously and this gave birth to his stage name “Super Dragon”.
In his words, “I started to stop moving cars and lift weights in my early 20s. At that time, I could hold up five of my mates at the same time. Right from that time, I realized that there were many things I could do that others could not. My fame started growing. Whenever I was to perform, it was like I was possessed, the hair I used to pull vehicles never hurt, I felt nothing.”
Pa Ubong Hanson’s public show went beyond Nigeria’s shore to overseas and he was able to stage his demonstrations in various countries and this included Ethiopia, Kenya, Egypt, Algeria, Uganda, England, the United States of America, Germany, Switzerland, Italy, India and among others.
As reported on Saturday Punch, 2017, Ubong Hanson noted, “I went to Cairo, Egypt, on a tourist visa and performed in public arenas. From there, I went to Ethiopia and established my headquarters there for a while. After, I left to Kenya and also performed there. I was always motivated when I saw crowd of people coming to watch my performances.”
In the course of his tours, he was called the ‘Strongest Man in Africa’, a name he accepted with confidence. He was also identified as the strongest man in Nigeria because of his feat of strength.
His performances included pulling vehicles with a rope tied to his dreadlock; standing on one spot and daring any strong man or men to push him to another spot; he was also able to hoist a man up by his teeth. The stunt man halted any movable car. According to him, “I told the driver to hit the accelerator and drive the car forward while I pushed it backwards. My strength won against the car, it could not move forward at all”. “People around the world were astonished in his manner of potency,” the son added.
In African society, such super power is believed to be associated to ritualists and when asked the secret of his power, he disclosed while interacting with the Punch, “My tangled hair is the source of my strength and I was born with it. I have never done anything I understand to be rituals; I do just breathing and meditation. I don’t use herbs and I don’t consult with juju men. I rely on my mind, physical condition and inspiration of my watchers”.
One interesting thing about the Super Dragon was during his tour around the world, he was never hospitalized. His son revealed this when he said, “My father never believed in drugs, he never complained of being sick let alone being hospitalized. I will like to say that my dad was a very strong man.”
During his last stage performance at age 77, the Super Dragon was still as strong as a steel gate. Unlike people in his peer group who were drained by the venom of old age; the world’s most powerful was still involving himself in rigorous activities.
Because of his fitness, he was able to entertain his community in his compound at Ikot Eyo in Nsit Ubium LGA with some of his amazing extraordinary abilities. He actually pulled a car with a rope tied around his neck; he also defeated most of the community’s strong men by daring them during one of his stunts. He was not your everyday old man, as he was quite agile!
Apart from his exhibition of public strength, Super Dragon was an amazing father to his nine children and a loving husband, although he married twice due to complications in his first marital affair. According to his son, Universe, “My father was not just a good father, he was the best. To me personally I doubt I will be that good a father. The kind of fatherly love he had for his children was so unconditional.”
Despite his supernatural strength, Universe emphasized that his father was not a violent man to his wife. “As powerful as my father was, there was never a day I saw him engaged my mother in a domestic violence regardless of any kind of shortcomings, aggressiveness, anger that may have emanated from my mother. He was patient not only to his wife but to his children as well.”
In terms of helping the family financially, the son said: “My father was able to meet our daily and our educational needs and through his sacrifices, we are all outstanding in our different fields of endeavour.”
The wife, Evangelist Imaobong Hanson, also disclosed to our correspondent of her experience with the then world’s favourite stunt man. In her words, “I met him while I was a young girl and love was the centre of our relationship. He was a gentle, loving and caring husband. He had a big heart because he also cared for his extended family members.”
Interestingly, the legendary heroic man was a low tempered individual. According to the wife, “My husband attended to his family tenderly, he was not easily infuriated by people’s actions, it was kind of rare before he touched anybody because he knew the power he had on his fist.”
When asked how she coped with Super Dragon, Imaobong said she knew the man she was marrying and had to learn to cope in his absence because sometimes he would be aware for six months or more. She added, “I just concentrated with my hairdressing business then and took care of the children to fill up the gab of loneliness. I had to live with it.”
One exceptional trait about the late African hero was his ability to communicate in Queen’s English. He was admired worldwide due to his efficient intonation that would make one pass him for an American or British citizen. The son described it as a “marvelous intonation”.
He added, “My dad had an opportunity to be a commentator in a football match held at Los Angeles in California, USA, but he was denied because he did not meet up the required educational qualification. My father’s manner of speaking was that good and it was one of the things I adored in his lifestyle.”
Unfortunately, Pa Ubong Sampson’s desire to pass his inherent skills to the next generations was limited because there was no support from both the federal and state governments – just as Jesus Christ in the Bible says, “Truly I tell you, no prophet is accepted in his hometown.”
Universe noted that his father was keen to be a coach to upcoming athletes so that they could compete worldwide but his efforts to affiliate with the state government went down the drain as his plans were not welcomed. Despite the odds, he still mentored younger athletes into pursuing their dreams in sports entertainment.
Pa Ubong Sampson’s last days were phenomenal as he was still delighted to wake up around 5am to jog into his hometown with his wrestling panties after retiring from his showman business. Indeed, he was not your everyday old man; he actually switched into farming to continue fending for his family.
According to an adage that reflects death as not being the opposite of life but a part of it, the only African Sampson was conquered by death at the age of 81 due to brief illness.
However, Akwa Ibomites will not forget him anytime soon because they will always remember a man who determined in his heart to swim with the sharks and this made him dare the impossible during his lifetime on earth. He held the world in his fist regardless of the hurdles that challenged his public shows. As his son emphasized, “He dared to be different and never listened to what people said.”
His hard work, consistency and faith in God made him conquer the world with his bare hands and even though he is gone, his legendary strides shall forever warm our hearts.
Rest On, Adieu Our Super Dragon!!