Not many of his kind existed in those days. So, he was a colossus of a kind bestriding the continents of the world performing feats similar to the Biblical Sampson before Delilah’s unravelling. However in the second week of September 2020, Pa Ubong Hanson, popularly known as Super Dragon, kicked the bucket and left the sports and entertainment world gasping.
He was Africa’s foremost Superman. In the 1960s and ’70s his diary was always full of invitations to perform locally and internationally. His fame travelled faster than his legs could take him; but he tried to keep pace with the outstretched arms that were ready to receive his performance. He was born in Ikot Eyo, Ubium in today’s Akwa Ibom State, shortly before the Second World War started. He also died there at more than 83 years. He was a legend.
In his hey days he had a number of titles and names, his real name was no longer of consequence. At age 20, he started making use of his muscles, which he noticed were an extra-ordinary gift. He ventured out as Super Dragon when he did shows in schools and communities around the Eastern Region. As his fame grew, people started calling him African Sampson, linking him with the Sampson in the Bible. He became World Sampson when he conquered the world and his rising profile assumed the status of an international citizen in the world of power sports, as a Superman. He was also known as World Dragon because the Dragon was his symbol of strength.
The banner which he displayed anywhere he was performing carried his image on top of a huge Dragon; his hands pulled up in a power jack revealing muscles that looked as if they were carved out of bricks. While performing, his legs were never at ease because they carried the weight of a man as bulky as a concrete effigy. As he performed his numerous feats, one would assume he never eats; but even if he does, the storage area would most likely be the huge muscular chest region and hefty shoulders, and not the stomach. His waist was constricted like the Hour Glass and the strength equated the monstrosity of his biceps. Saying he was muscular would just amount to stating the obvious. Offstage, an unsuspecting fellow might want to challenge him to a duel. His huge muscles responded more to challenges, not when he was at rest, certainly not when the dragon was not spitting fire.
Although he never really ventured into professional wrestling or boxing, these were nonetheless activities he engaged himself when not lifting or pulling weights, or performing feats that were easily appreciated in the realm of magic. He did not go full blown into these because it would amount to a suicide mission then, for anyone to dare challenge him to a bout. Defeat was not in his lexicon. He packed so much power that even the Mack truck dreaded him. He would pull a Mack truck with the strands of his hair the way a toddler would a toy on string. He would stop a vehicle from moving just by using his body as a wedge. He would carry a 5-ton lorry on his belly the way a mother does her baby in her bosom. He would pull cars with his teeth and chew bottles as groundnuts. Fifteen hefty men will try in vain to pull down his folded arm, not to talk of bringing him down. “Whenever I was to perform, it was like I was possessed. The hair I use to pull vehicles never hurt. I felt nothing,” he once said.
I knew him at close range. In fact, his country home in Ikot Eyo, is a stone throw from my mother’s paternal abode. He used to stay in our home in Agbokim Waterfalls whenever he was performing in and around Ikom. That was the first time I saw a man with dreadlocks. We always felt on top of the world each time he was around; that a superman was not just our relation, but staying right in our home while on performance tour of the area. Whenever he stayed with us, I and my younger brother would be carrying his bags when performing at the recreational grounds in Agbokim.
He had strict rules then. He never ate anything prepared by a woman; no woman must wash his hair and no woman does his laundry or removes his clothes from the line, no matter how late. My mother unknowingly removed his clothes from the line once when he did not return after dark and got a stiff reprimand. He said if not that she was a relation who only acted innocently, a dragon would have visited her. The terrified woman had to apologise profusely. He laughed it off and dismissed it as a joke.
Super Dragon won many laurels in many countries and continents where he performed while alive. He toured a number of African countries and performed in Europe and Asia in the 1960s and ’70s. He spoke Queen’s English with British accent.
Although at 77, he was still performing, he decided to limit his acts to his local environment. He returned to his hometown long before then, and started organising sports and social competitions for the youths in the area. These became avenues for youth mobilisation, recreation and community development which had great impact in his hometown and surrounding communities.
James is a communications consultant and Chairman, Editorial Advisory Board of Naija Times.