My overall performance in the first year endeared students to me in the second year. Many students that never as much as said a “hello” to me in the first year were now coming around me and seeking for space in my schedule. Maduka was the only friend I had in my first year but in my second year, “Omo” became the “man”. I was not carried away though because so many friends meant distractions.
There were two guys and a girl that were being viewed as the best three in the class while we were in year one. They were quick to answer questions in class; they were always handy to give assistance to students who had problem understanding certain topics. They were good but the overall result at the end of the session showed that I was better. I was a recluse because of my Yoruba accent; people laugh when I speak so I do not ask or answer questions in class.
The trio became my rivals in school, they watch out for the kind of books I read, they monitor the times I read. Whenever I am asked a question by the lecturers who have now known me, they interfere and want to show superior knowledge on the subject. One of the boys called Chukwuma even told me to my face that any brilliant person who cannot teach others is not worth the name. He said I was hoarding knowledge. I did not reply him, he did not know that outside the school, I was a teacher and my students are proud of me.
In my last letter to my mentor, I had updated every happening at school to him including the rivalry. He replied and said it was very natural, he then advised me to make friends with one or two equally good senior students in the faculty, a year and two years above my level.
I went to the four hundred levels and met with Samuel Ajibo who was the overall best student and Jane Nwankwo in three hundred levels. To these two I took academic problems to and I gained superior knowledge from them.
Towards the end of the first semester, I had just come out from the examination hall and was walking towards the hostel when Maduka cornered me and handed a bag to me and walked away.
Maduka na wetin dey inside? I asked but he did not reply, he simply waved me to go on.
I opened the bag and saw clothes, I called him to ask what it was meant for but he had gone far, he did not look back.
I took the bag home and emptied its content on my bunk. It contained three pairs on Jeans trousers, three Polo shirts, two Chinos short sleeve shirts and a pair of sandals. All were exactly my size. It couldn’t have been Maduka’s because while he was sturdy, I was lanky and the clothes matched me when I tried them on.
My bunk mate Chinasa, a weird fellow from Isialangwa in Abia state walked into the room from the examination hall, when he saw the clothes he started screaming “thank God o”! Thank God o! Bolaji don vex o! Make una come see o! Omo Yoruba don vex o! He don go charter Boutique o!
I hurriedly tucked away the clothes inside my box and locked it up, and then I ran out of the room as curious students started to troop into our room.
I went behind the hostel building and sat on the terrace to reminisce.
So people have noticed that I do not have clothes? Imagine Chinasa screaming and calling the whole dormitory to come and see my supposed new clothes! What a pity! What an embarrassment! How was I to know that anyone gave a damn about what I wear? I never gave a damn about whatever anyone wore so long it was clean.
I have a Jeans trouser and two shirts, a three quarter short, four boxers and two singlet. I wash anything I wear daily but for my jeans that I wash on Saturdays or Sundays.
My classmates also would have noticed my material deficiencies else Maduka would not have offered to clothe me. I wondered how much the Lad must have spent to procure the clothes for me, even though I would have preferred the cash equivalent because dressing was the least of my problems; however I was grateful to Maduka. I got up after thinking and soliloquizing for one hour and went to visit Maduka at his hostel.
There was as uproar when I walked into the examination hall the next morning. The hall was turned upside down. The hullaballoo was due to the new pair of black and red stripped shirt I wore on a new black Jeans. One of my class mates actually attempted to lift me on his shoulder and I ran out of the hall as the examination was yet to begin. That was when I shed tears. I cried because I was emotion laden by the fact that my poor condition was opened to all while I had thought that no one gave a damn!
I could not go back into the hall until the guy that tried to lift me up came to meet me under tree where I had run to, he saw the tears in my eyes and he hugged me. I cried the more.
Easy Omo! Easy! He said; I am so sorry for embarrassing you, but the fact was that I almost did not recognize you! You know I am so used to seeing you in your blue baggy jeans and green shirt! Seeing you like this today blew my mind and the mind of others as you could see in the hall. I am so sorry, please forgive me, he said as we hugged once more.
Wipe your tears; let’s go back into the hall for the invigilator has arrived with the examination papers.
Thanks a lot Godwin! I said.
But my guy, see as you fine! He teased; you be fine boy o! You come dey behave like a Jew man! Which babe you go toast now wey no go trip for you? He asked jokingly as he pulled me along laughing.
I got the same reaction from every where I went to that week. I used to be referred to as “Omo baggy Jeans” behind my back.
The first semester examination ended well and the school went on break.
I had no where to go to so I stayed back in the hostel and when the hostel was almost empty I went to town to the school where I taught during the last long vacation. There was no vacancy. Very few students registered for extra moral lessons so I was not needed. The proprietor told me to come back by the next holiday when students would have started preparing for GCE and JAMB examinations. The implication of what the proprietor told me did not hit me until I got back to the hostel and checked up my money. I was left with seven hundred naira only.
Seven hundred naira would hold me for one week if I managed it well by sticking to a meal daily and drinking enough water. I needed a job to take care of my second semester needs. I was tempted to sell off some of the clothes Maduka gave me but I immediately dismissed the idea. The embarrassment I got concerning those clothes was an eye opener. I even need money to get more clothes and shoes before these ones becomes like a school uniform also. I need another shoe, I have a wet looks shoe and a palm sandals. The sole of the shoe had worn off badly that I wondered if I was bow legged. It can not survive the next semester. I would need to change the sole or get another shoe. I also realize that some students must be waiting to see the day that I will change my shoe. The best thing was to get another shoe and start wearing it immediately.
I hit town once again. I walked through the length and breadth of Owerri looking for any job that could pay anything. I ended up at Executive Gardens Hotel at Okigwe road. I got the job of a Bar man on a monthly salary of two thousand naira. I was quite happy at first but after working there for a week I almost abandoned the job and run away. But run to where nah?
I resumed for work as early as 7AM and because people do not come out to drink in the morning hours, my job was to join the room cleaners in cleaning up the rooms and dressing the beds, we change toiletries, disinfect the toilets, scrub the tiles on the walls of the bathroom and so on. The kind of stains I saw on bed sheets in some rooms after the guests have checked out are better left untold.
After working in the rooms until 1PM, I go downstairs to the bush bar and begin to clean up and set the tables and chairs in readiness for the day’s business. I stock up the Freezers with drinks; I take record of the opening stock of drinks and cigarettes in the bar. It was a Bush bar with DJ and life band facilities.
At 6PM I go back upstairs to take my bath and change into the hotel uniform of white shirt on black trousers then I return down stairs to join my colleague to begin the night’s activities. I do not rest until 2AM or 3AM when the last drunkard would have left. What actually bring business to the bush are the girls that come to hustle. I have never in my life seen such a careless and shameless display of immorality. The girls come from every where claiming to be students of the several higher institutions in eastern Nigeria. They come in varied shapes and sizes dressing seductively to woo the male, any male, as long as he has got cash. Many students from my school, including my lecturers come to patronize the bar and the girls. The girls were on take away basis or short time basis at the chalet in our hotel.
By 9PM the bar is at the peak of activities with either the DJ or the Life band entertaining and customers dancing. Men and ladies drinking and smoking, bar men running hitter titter to attend to customer’s need. The girls dance to every music showing themselves while the men sit and watch and eventually pick their choice girl by sending us the bar men to invite the girl to their table
By 12 midnight, they begin to fizzle out in twos’, some go into the hotel to spend the night together and others to “God knows where”. I then sit down after the last person has gone to count my tips which I had tucked into my back pocket to avoid adding it to the company’s money that I collect from customers.
Till this day I still wonder how some ladies came to the hotel every night and went away with different men each night. Some would have had three to four short time sessions with men in the hotel before finally going home with another man. They called it hustling and they don’t give a damn.
An incident I will never forget at the hotel happened the night a fine gentleman was brought to the hotel by his friend just to prove to him that his fiancée was not whom he thought she was.
The so called fiancée in the company of her friends and five men were on a round table setting eating Nkwobi, drinking assorted spirits and smoking cigarettes. They were chatting loud and having fun.
The fiancée was high on spirit and she stood up to dance to entertain her client for the night. With her cigarette in her left finger, she zoomed into the client who was seated; she pulled his chair backwards so she could have a space between him and the table. She then came between him and the table dancing seductively and rolling her back side in his face. She then sat on his crouch facing him with her full breast under his nose. Her cream coloured mini gown slipped up revealing alluring thighs. The randy client dug his head into her bosom and did things with his mouth. Her mates on the table were cheering, we were watching.
It was when Mr. Randy grabbed her butt and squeezed that hell was let loose.
The gentleman fiancé screamed “chineke me ee”! awunanam ee! (My God, I am dead) the man screamed stamping his feet as he charged towards the table: Nkechi! He shouted: Nkechi! Ihe a, obu ilo k’ogini! Is this a dream or what?
Jesus! Jesus! Was all Nkechi kept muttering as she jumped off her client sending the client and his chair tumbling over and she ran out of the bush bar leaving her bag and shoes behind. They were engaged to be married in a weeks’ time
We did not resume for the second semester as stipulated in the academic calendar, we rather resumed into a long session of industrial strike action embarked upon by the academic staff union due to non payment of salaries and allowances accrued over five months. Students went back home after waiting for a week without resolution between the government and the academic union.
I continued my routine work at the Executive Gardens. I was paid my first salary of one thousand seven hundred and fifty naira after deducting the amount I incurred as loses due to breakages and forgetting to collect monies from some customers. Many cunning customers sneak away without paying for their drinks. Some would have finished drinking and eating pepper soup before remembering that they forgot their wallets at home. We also have the “book me down customers”, these are regular customers who drink through the month and pay off at month end when they collect their salaries.
But I was okay, my accumulated tips for the month was about one thousand five hundred naira so I had over three thousand naira with me.
We stayed home for two months before the strike was finally called off by the academic staff union and school resumed in earnest. I had worked for three months and I could boast of over seven thousand naira. I felt very rich and so I boarded a bus to the popular Ariaria Market in the city of Aba. I went with a colleague at the hotel, a cleaner who had told me a lot about how one could get very cheap commodities at the market.
I purchased four trousers, four Polo T shirts, two short sleeves shirts and two long sleeve shirts. We later left Ariaria Market and went to “School Road” street to buy a brown Timberland safety Boot and a black brock’s shoe. I spent two thousand five hundred naira on all the purchase. I never knew clothes and shoes could be that affordable even though the shoes were fairly used they were rock solid that one could easily take it for brand new from Italy. I bought a lot of food stuff too and I was ready for the second semester of my 200 levels.
Within two weeks on resumption of the second semester, I had redeemed my image. Maduka bought more clothes for me again, I told him I have enough as I narrated my holiday experience to him, he however dropped the three trousers, four shirts and one canvas on my bed. Chinasa watched as I changed into different clothes daily for two weeks stretch. He could no hold his tongue as he shouted again on a Monday morning when I wore white Polo shirt on a fitted blue Jeans and Canvas;
Old boy! Abi you go rob Boutique? Make una see Omo o! I just dey look you all these days I no want to talk! Omo na who provoke you nah?
Guy leave that yarn o! na God dey do am; I replied
There was also mixed reactions from my class mates, but I noticed that I got more friends, especially the ladies.
I stopped going to the Hotel daily except for weekends that I went to help out with work. I was not being paid salary but I earned my tips.
Our first semester result was released mid way into the second semester. My total CGP was 4.80. I was still the best in class. I wrote a letter to Mr. Adegoke and gave him update of what I did during the holiday till date. I got his reply after two weeks and as usual after reading his mail, I was charged the more. I dug into my books harder. He reminded me that I should never take my tests or assignments for granted. He said if I could score the whole forty points in my test and assignment, all I need is forty more point s out of the 60 examination points to make an “A”. He said majority of students take their tests and assignments for granted and begins to struggle to score the whole 60 points in examination which is always not possible. Those are the average students, I was a first class material, he had written.
My self esteem rose higher in the second semester as I got several compliments from Guys and babes alike when I dress. I had grown into a 6 feet 3 inches tall young man. I have good stature with hard hands developed over the years farming in the Village. I have a gap between my incisors and when I smiled or laughed my cheek dimpled. I have dark eye brows, dark shinny hair and moustache. My stomach was flat with six packs and my waist is narrow upon long tapering athletic legs.
Poverty had not made me to realize my natural endowment until in my second year in the university at the age of twenty three
Towards the second semester examinations, I became involved in several tutorial lessons organized by year one students. I was paid by the students at the end of each session. They imposed levies on all attendees to pay me.