Austin isn’t totally fair and square. He is neither flawless nor impeccable. He’s a stereotypical Nigerian. He wanted change so badly. He didn’t like most of the things happening around the school, he wanted to change a lot of things but he was, by a long chalk, incapacitated. More like him against the world. I felt his pain. I saw through his eyes, countless times, the agonizing torment and disappointment he was passing through. At the end of each staff meeting, he had to succumb to the final decision(s) made by the school’s Dictator even if he doesn’t agree with them. In democracy, the crazy ones can win as long as they are the majority.
Another place, another time, we would have been best of friends. Time and other factors deterred us from having a personal relationship but I can swear that deep down, we had utmost respect for each other beyond the expected camaraderie. He knew I frown at exam malpractice, yet he gave it a long shot to have me on his team but my ideology drew us apart and I never succumbed. In some way, it must have hurt him a little or maybe deeply especially when I turned down my share of the proceeds from the “help” rendered for the Chemistry practical, but we both moved on, pretending to be cool.
Our Oga, “Elder” Uduma, a sleeping partner and carbon copy of our beloved Ebora Owu, isn’t totally bad after all. Though agelast, I caught him smiling twice during my ten month stay. I can careless about what people think of my opinion, but that man is the most tribalistic, “Yorubaphobic” person I ever met in my life. But he was not a hypocrite, at least in that perspective. He never hid his deep rooted distaste for us. Somehow, Anu found a way into his heart as he gave him the title cum epithet “Chief Anu“. He was almost close to Maryam too but due to Maryam’s naturally talent for rudeness; he had no choice than to hate her. Yes, he hated her and he never hid that too. An unfortunate incidence shed more light on it and brought to the fore what we all have been guessing. The incident removed all existing doubts.
May, the ever-active, zealous Business Studies teacher was, at one of the few staff meetings, “begged” by Oga to teach Commerce “for the mean time” pending the time he “gets a teacher”. She wasn’t her usual self that day, so she accepted. I’m not a clairvoyant but somehow I knew it won’t end well. The normal rude Maryam I know and have come to love would have rejected the offer there and then without batting an eyelid. The arrangement, however, went on smoothly for a complete term. She shuttled between teaching JSS 1-3 Business studies and SS1-3 Commerce without an extra pay or worse still a “thank you”. Then there came the day in the new term that she hinted me she wasn’t going to teach Commerce again, I knew she was reaching for the hot water yet saw reasons with her and gave her all the needed confidence and support and all hell was let loose. Oga, in his usual temperament, felt disrespected and without blinking twice, fired her on the spot.
Confused as we all were and in solidarity, we boycotted teaching for few hours before returning back to work. Well, that was after Pastor Okali came in as a mediator.
Oga wasn’t satisfied with just relieving her of her job, he went as far as addressing a letter to the ZI (Zonal Inspector) and also copied the State Coordinator of NYSC; thanks to our timely intervention, he never got to post them. His aversion for her was so obvious for all to see as he kept screaming at the top of his voice, spewing spits and venom that he will “teach her a lesson she will never forget”.
Though I love both the truth and my friends, piety requires me to honor the truth first. Of a truth, May should have acted less rudely and should have gone to him directly to inform him of her decision to breach their earlier contract instead of boycotting class and ordering the hapless students to go meet Oga to “give them a new teacher”. If I were him, I would be angry too but yet act maturely since the claim that Maryam “isn’t as old as his children”; a claim I never got to verify even after I met the children. I simply forgot to ask them to present their original birth certificate to buttress Oga’s claim.
He threatened me too that I can leave the job in solidarity with Maryam whom they all thought to be romantically involved with me due to our closeness. Hysterically, I laughed at his folly but went on to plead with him, not to retain May’s services but for him not to go the extra miles of reporting to the authority as it was not needed. Luckily, the case got resolved and we all moved on like it never happened.
Our path crossed again; me and the principal, this time it was almost violent with harsh words and vituperations flying everywhere, freely and uncontrolled. It happened while I was trying to assume the duty assigned to me as the exam (WAEC) invigilator for Lit-in-English. I wasn’t going to accept bribe nor tolerate any malpractice. I seized a paper brought in by one of the mercenaries and went on to have a word with the supervisor that I won’t be a part of the usual business.
Mistoka, on seeing my seriousness, ran like someone under the influence of some local charm to Oga’s office and reported me. Oga rushed in screaming, shouting, crying and wailing like a prophet who after saving the whole world saw his name in block form on the A-list of hell. He mumbled some words in a language I don’t understand. Then one of my ears caught the words “stupid” and “fool” used together in same line with his finger pointing at me. Hell no, I couldn’t take it. I told him “I’m not the stupid person here as I was only trying to do the job I was assigned to do, an exam invigilator”. I knew it was going to hurt; nobody has ever had the effrontery to reply Oga anytime he’s angry; not even the very old guard whom he, as a hobby, insults every day. I opened the gate of hell. He shouted, screamed, sweated, lost some water and maybe some blood dried up too as he watched my beautiful behind walk majestically out of the hall, leaving him in his own pool of sorrow.
Little said is soon amended. There’s always time to add a word, never to withdraw one. I saw no point trading verbal jabs with him because, frankly, I don’t have to attend every argument I’m invited to.
In the words of Aristotle, suffering becomes beautiful when anyone bears great calamities with cheerfulness, not through insensibility but through the greatness of mind. We all chose to make fun of everything. And special thanks to the students, especially the brilliant and the responsible ones who made teaching a beauty, the stay was enjoyable. I mingled with them all as I usually do anywhere I find myself. I made friends with quite a number of the junior students and some responsible ones in the senior secondary. The undiluted friendship almost got misconstrued by one SS 2 female student who got my number from my favourite student in the junior class. She called to familiarize and later sent a text declaring interest in becoming my “friend”. “Well, I’m everybody’s friend” was my honest reply before I gave her a long boring talk about “friend”-ship the next day.
One, I’m not her type, she ain’t mine. What makes up the whole part of my body isn’t up to half of one of her laps. Two, it’s an abuse of position to be intimate with my student and Three; we are talking of a dirty, unrepentant, not-so-intelligent nor brilliant, nineteen-year-old-mother-of-two. No disrespect to her, she lost focus a long time ago and got too busy for a search and rescue mission. Well, even Guilder Ultimate Search team will come back empty-handed from such mission.
Other students didn’t cross the “red-line” again; at least as far as being “friends” was concerned. We maintained our “how are you?” – “Ka sir” relationship and we were all happy. Ka in Ohafia is a “gbogbonise” word that denotes all forms of greetings known to man. It ranges from Good morning/afternoon/evening/night to thank you, well done etc. It’s simple “Ka”.
Like every school, from Cambridge to Yale to Harvard to Ivy League schools with equal students, it’s a norm that some students are more equal than the other. Though I don’t discriminate, well I hardly do, except you’re on a path to self-destruct.
One of the brightest minds, Chukwuemeka, who later and quite sadly so, became a religious bigot caught my attention. He had the zeal, the focus and virtually all that was needed to be a bright student but for the uncomfortable environment. Then another one, this time a female, Uka Chidera Igwe, caught my attention. Though not equipped with the best learning paraphernalia, she simply was a primus inter pares. The way she speaks the lingua franca, though still a bit tainted with the “oyel” accent, was clear and simple. She’s the most brilliant of her classmates and had a fine face coupled with a very beautiful smile. Enough said. Like twice or more, she offered me water leaves, which I gladly accepted and added as my edikang ikong integrant.
Eke Sunny Eke is the brightest and most promising mind in the school, my opinion though. His inquisitiveness, though most times piss Maryam off, is one of the qualities I like. It reminds me so much of my childhood, I was like him. He is intelligent, brilliant, focused and quite hard working. Myriad times, I’ve had to wonder what such promising lad is doing in the paradoxical international school. Though in JSS 1, he’s about the neatest student in the school and his handle of the Queen’s language aced Chidera’s by a mile.
Nobody is useless, not totally. A lot of students, most especially the ones in the hoosegow they chose to call “boarding house” were very useful and I’m eternally gratefully to them. Likes of Obioma Frank and Emmanuel Eke. They filled my boring, idle, long weekends with games – sports mostly. Either we are balling on the field, dribbling and scoring like a maestro or slamming on the volley ball court like a super star. Unknown to them, I had no prior knowledge on anything related to volley ball. All the skills I displayed or they thought I possessed were garnered there on the court while most were mere flukes.