At the age of 17, with a body mass that was fast resembling that of a wrestler, Pa Ubong Hanson discovered he had strength that was unrivalled by his peers in Ikot Eyo in Nsit Ubium Local Government Area of Akwa Ibom State.
Lifting objects that made his friends’ jaws drop, quickly earned him the monikers“World Sampson” and “Super Dragon”.
Then at the age of 20, he did the expected.
That day, Pa Hanson planted his two stout feet in the ground in front of a car and asked the driver inside it to engage the gears.
“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,” he said.
That was the beginning of exploits that took Pa Hanson, now 77, across different countries in Africa, where he pulled cars with his dreadlocks and tested his strength against multiple men in unmatched tugs of war.
In his heyday, Pa Hanson was a hulk of raw muscle. Pictures of his younger self show him as someone in the league of world renowned body builders and wrestlers.
Today, with a head of grey dreadlocks and a face encircled by a tuft of equally grey beard neatly bound together at the chin, he is like an old soldier that never dies.
Thanks to social media, more than 20 years after Super Dragon retired from active strength performance, his pictures surfaced, showing him in a tug of war with 10 grown men, who strained unsuccessfully to pull him by his arm.
The most shocking of the pictures, was the one showing him pulling a car with a rope tied around his neck.
Old age has certainly told on Pa Hanson.
“In those days, I used to pull cars with my dreadlocks. My hair was the source of my strength,” he told our correspondent, when he was tracked down after his pictures went viral during the week.
According to Super Dragon, when he discovered his strength, he was in an auto mechanic school, with the hope that he would make his living repairing vehicles.
But fate pushed him in a different direction. He said he quit being a mechanic in 1964 and went fully into body building.
“I started to stop moving cars and life weights in my early 20s. At the time, I could beat up five of my mates at the same time. Right from that time, I realised that there were many things that 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,” he said.
Pa Hanson told Saturday PUNCH that through the 60s and 70s, he ventured outside Nigeria to perform and spread his fame.
He said, “I went to Cairo, Egypt on a tourist visa and performed in public arenas. From there, I went to Ethiopia and established there for a while. I used Ethiopia as my headquarters for about seven years.
“After I left Ethiopia, I went to Kenya and also performed there. I performed in stadia and was always motivated when I saw the large crowd of people coming to watch my performances.”
While Pa Hanson, went around the continent performing, his wife of more than 40 years, held forth at home.
“I married my wife very young and she is now in her 60s. So, she was there at the early stage of my career. All my children were brought up and educated with the proceeds of my performances in and outside Nigeria,” he said.
Pa Hanson reminisced about his time in the stadia of Ethiopia and Kenya, where he challenged anybody in the crowd who felt he was strong enough to come out.
He said with just one arm, sometime up to 15 men could not move him.
Finally in the 80s, he decided to come back home.
Between the 80s and 90s he performed in schools in Akwa Ibom and surrounding states, as pupils paid a token to watch him.
With an extraordinary strength at his age, one might think that Pa Hanson has a special lifestyle or diet which keeps him in great shape, considering the fact that he lived in Ethiopia.
This, he said, would be a wrong assumption.
“I don’t have any special food or diet. But I do not smoke or drink alcohol,” he said.
But Super Dragon is not your everyday old man.
One could mistake him for any agile 50-year-old man.
In fact, our correspondent asked him to clarify the truth to his age claim because his physical look would make many doubt that he was indeed 77 and he simply laughed.
“Why would I lie about my age? What do I start to gain? My parents were literate and had a record of when I was born, but such records are long lost. I was born just before the start of World War II. Shortly after I was born, he went off to fight in the war,” he said.
Pa Hanson’s daily exercise regime would humble a lot of fitness enthusiasts.
According to him, he takes a walk every day, which sometimes goes on for up to 20 miles.
He said, “Apart from taking a walk, I jog around my compound on a daily basis. When I jog, I engage dynamic tension. (a process that involves tensing the muscles of a given body part and moving the body part against the tension as if a heavy weight were being lifted).
“I also lift weights every day. Men of my age group always marvel when they see me. Most of my peers cannot even walk due to old age. I have never had any illness like diabetes or arthritis that affects old people of my age and I have never been hospitalised.”
But Pa Hanson is not the only one with his kind of strength in the family. One of his brothers – Tarzan – went on to become a renowned wrestling champion.
None of his children tows his path because they simply could not match their father’s strength.
He said they made do with simply copying some of his workout regime for personal development and not professional use.
One of his children, Koko, told our correspondent that their father’s popularity actually made them an envy among their peers.
“People fear us because we are Super Dragon’s children. They were always afraid of taking us on in fights even though we don’t have his strength,” he said.
With an education that stopped at standard school level, Pa Hanson speaks good English, which he ascribed to his travels and exposure to many countries.
But despite his physical strength, he said his talent has been wasting away since he retired because government does not think he has anything to offer.
“There is a lot I can still offer young people in terms of sports and strength training. But I don’t think the government cares so much,” he said.
Pa Hanson currently keeps body and soul together through farming.