Tuesday, 29 July 2014

Tale Of A Nigerian

Iheanacho! Iheanacho come out here now!! Was the sound I heard from the confines of my little room. You see, i was only called Iheanacho when I was in trouble and yes this was one of those times. This is it I thought, quickly I put on my extra shorts and a thick shirt afterall it would be suicide to go in there with only a singlet on. "Atleast I have padded small" I said to myself in my Nigerian accent. To understand this story I have to take you a little bit back. Only yesterday was the last day of 3rd term. It meant that most secondary schools had closed and mine was no exception. I was a student of Kings College Lagos, Nigeria. It was one of the greatest schooling institutions in the country. Founded by the British in 1909, it had produced several great names both good and bad. I had passed the exams and got a direct place to the surprise of everyone. After just a year of being a 'day student', my aunt decided I would be sent off to the boarding hostels. I would now live in the school premises, 3 months a term, 9 months a year! "What?" I asked in fear because the 'boarders' had often told us tales of how the senior students mishandled them. I was terrified because I was not a rule keeper. Oh no! I knew I would break every rule and get into trouble. "Yes Acho, you are going to board. It's too far to travel everyday and this fuel scarcity is making transport fare too expensive.. and I think you need those boys to handle you small because you are just too stubborn" was my aunt's response. She had decided and I was doomed. "Chei my own don finish" I exclaimed in pidgin English simply meaning 'wow I'm finished'. Reluctantly at the start of my 2nd year I went into the boarding house. However after a few days i discovered a very lucrative opportunity right there on my 90x 90 mouka mattress pretending to be asleep. Yes pretending! Senior Sola was on his bed and he was quite a restless senior who was crazed with his new found commanding abilities. I heard him say shout to his friend "old boy hungry wey dey wire me ehn..i don hung".. His friend Gbemi (a round chubby fellow who loved food. In Fact he only used his seniority to get junior students in the line for extra portions during our meal hours) replied and said "i wish say person fit scale go westi for me". In proper English, Sola was hungry and was a little bit tired and gbemi wished someone would go out of school to buy him food from the famous western house kitchen. No one dared to leave the school gates for the fear of Mr Ibironke is the beginning of wisdom. As I think back in retrospect, we all feared that man. He was the boarding house master. He was extra tall, slim and walked around with his 'panla'.. A wooden stick as thin as himself which he used in serving justice to guilty students. But for some reason, I had no fear in walking out of the school gates. I knew how to work it, it was how you walked out and when you came back, you just had to look like you were upset at your driver for not coming on time. It worked almost every time! "Excuse me senior?" . "What?" was his instant reply. "I can scale for you tomorrow and buy you westi". His face lit up and he replied "are you serious? Ibironke can catch you ohh..I'm not there". I smiled and said "don't worry about Ibironke, i want commision 20 naira and you have to protect me from your mates because i will have to miss lunch tomorrow". He nodded in affirmation and honestly you could almost see him drool a little bit at the thought of delicious jellof rice that had made ‘westi’ so popular among all students. He reached for into his locker and pulled out 200 naira note. He paused for a few seconds and then made his order. “Rice 50, dodo 20, beef 50, fish 50 and pure water 2. The change is your commission an if Ibironke should catch you, well you’re on your own. By the way go and get me a bucket of water, I stained my shirt during lunch today”. I ran quickly not knowing which was better maybe it was skipping lunch and the dreadful sanitation that followed afterwards or my 20 bucks which I was going to buy a sachet of ice cream after class the next day. Whichever way, my joy was full. After class I scaled and came back with all Gbemi had asked for. The food was wrapped in a plastic bag and once I opened my school bag, a powerful aroma filled the whole dorm room and before you could say ‘westi’ it was more than 20 boys begging for a spoon each. Gbemi was now very upset as his portion was now reduced to only a few spoons. “ If you want westi find that new J-boy, He’ll scale if you pay him 20 bucks “. When I finally came back from my night prep, it was 6 seniors, money in hand with the promise of 20 naira each if I would scale and buy westi. I gladly accepted took orders and that was how I became known as a Westi. I even expanded my trade as far as Obalende market to buy foodstuffs for the boys. Before long, I didn’t have to be bullied as long as the seniors wanted their supplies, I was kept happy. Time flew fast, 2 terms passed, exams came and finally the term was over. We had gathered for the final assembly to be conducted by the great principal Mr S.I Balogun. A well dressed gentleman with a moustache and a british accent. The assembly hall was packed, hot and to tell truth, there was no point complaining because we knew the drill. All the top five and bottom five students from each class would be called out. That was a lot. It was Jss1 , Jss2 and Jss3. Each class had 8 arms with no less that 70 students in each arm. You do the math, it was a long list of names. Somehow we made it through an Mr Balogun said those words we had been dying to hear…. “Floreat boys” he said with a beaming smile and we cheered “FLOREAT” and dispersed. I quickly ran to my hostel, picked up my ‘Ghana-Must-Go’ bag and proceeded to the bus station. My good friend ‘Oshe’ as we usually called him asked me if no one was coming to get me. “No my brother, i go find my way. No wahala” I replied in pidgin. We shook hands, said goodbye knowing we would meet in about 2 months to resume in Jss 3. It was a hassle getting to the bus stop with my bags but even that didn’t dampen my holiday spirit. I thought to myself “ wetin I go do this holiday sef.. I go play ball well well if dem go gree me play na”.. My thoughts in pidgin were just mind rantings of what my holiday activities would comprise of. Football was the only thing on my mind. While in boarding school I had learnt new tricks that I couldn’t wait to show my neighbours. You see I wasn’t physically strong as a boy so i learnt the hard way in boarding school three major things. Think fast, pass the ball to the nearest man and be accurate when you choose to shoot. This made me a choice in my hostel team. Not because I could do step overs or many skills but I could hold the midfield easily and spread the ball to the forwards. When I woke up from my nap on the bus, we were already turning at Berger bus stop. Good thing I woke up otherwise I would have ended up at another place. I quickly took my things and walked down our street. Smiles of my friends, neighbours followed me and I had 1000 thousand questions to answer. “Acho Acho!! “ i heard someone screamed from behind. It was Oyibo(Oyibo is how we refer to the white man and when an albino was born we sometimes called him/her oyibo but this guy’s parents took it serious and named the boy Oyibo. It made sense, he was an albino). A kind guy whose mom owned a roadside shop. “ How far na?” he continued. “ My guy I just dey “ was my reply. He couldn’t wait to tell me that he was on his way to buy a ‘kaka’. Kaka was a word for real leather football. Tomorrow was a new holiday football season. He asked me if I would join them. I replied in the affirmative and he told me I had to contribute 50 naira for the kaka. I obliged and he gave me all the information I needed. Time was 12 at the field a few blocks away. Finally I got home, greeted my aunt who had just downed a bowl of egusi soup and pounded yam. “ How are you? Let me see your result. What was your position? Did you take first?” . Questions upon questions I thought. I had come 12th out of 86 students in my class but I was prepared to hear the national anthem for every Nigerian kid who didn’t come first. “ When I was your age, I always came first! Its because you don’t read. The people who come first do they have 2 heads? ehn answer me?” “ No ma” I replied, “ I will try harder next term “. “ It’s for your own good “ she said as she turned away to pick up the starcomms landline which was beeping incessantly. I was her husband, my uncle who was calling. He moved abroad to Canada a few years back and had a calling tradition every evening. I ran in dropped my bags and descended on my portion of egusi and eba.