By Awoleye A.Dominic
Four teenagers, Odiri, Kikelomo, Danjuma and Adaeze are childhood friends, all children of Soldiers living together in the Army Barracks at Abakaliki in Ebonyi state, south east Nigeria.
They all attend the Army day secondary school meant for Soldiers Children and their wards. The school is tuition free for soldiers while Civilian Children that attend the school pay school fees.
Their parents are non commissioned officers so they struggle to make ends meet.
Odiri thirteen years old is the sixth Son of Copral Onorode Johnson, an urhobo man from the Niger delta region of Nigeria. Odiri has two younger brothers making a total of eight sons in the family. The mother is still hoping she begets a female child. She augments the family income by selling smoked fish at the front of their block. Corporal Johnson is a diehard pool player who has vowed to win back all his loses to the promoters of pool someday. Odiri’s ambition is to become a soldier as soon as he finishes his secondary education. His first two brothers are in the Army already.
Kikelomo Ajose is the first daughter of sergent Bamidele Ajose, a military medical personnel from the south western part of the country. She has four younger ones; the last born Segun is the only son of the family. Kikelomo is thirteen and in JSS 2. Her father had told her that she would become a seamstress after her secondary education because he cannot afford to see her through to the University. The mother operates a grinding machine business in a stall built behind their block, The Shed is built with Zinc roofing sheets and ply wood, she wakes up very early daily to grind beans and pepper for the women that sells Akara for early morning breakfast.
Danjuma Dogaro is from northern Nigeria, southern Kaduna to be precise. His father is a private Soldier. He is fourteen years old. His mother is based in Kaduna farming and fending for his siblings. She had to remain in Kaduna when the Husband was transferred to Abakaliki so that she could live long. Private Musa Dogaro has been in the Army for sixteen years and has remained a private Soldier. He had been promoted three times and also has been demoted three times. All the demotions have been as a result of drunkenness. He becomes violent when drunk and he beats anyone around him. Danjuma wants to be a footballer; his father says he must be a Soldier. He is to try the Army recruit enlistment next year after his JSS 3 examination.
Adaeze Nwokolo is from the south eastern part of Nigeria, She is the first daughter of corpral Arinze Nwokolo of the Military Police. She has two younger brothers. She is twelve years old and in JSS2. The mother is a full time house wife who does nothing but to gossip from house to house. She is the unofficial minister for information in the barracks. Her elder sister is married to a Lawyer in Abuja and so she had put it to Adaeze that she must become a Lawyer. Corporal Nwokolo also wants his daughter to become a Lawyer. His focus is on his job and the bribe he collects as a military police officer, he is always in uniform in and out of the barracks looking for cases to settle. He is saving up money to train his daughter to the University to become a Lawyer. Adaeze got exposed to money early by stealing from her father.
The four teenagers boxed into a cocoon by virtue of being born to Soldiers are constrained to think and aspire within the limits imposed on them by their environment. Their Parents are poor and proud because of the power of the Army uniform. The Army provides their basic needs free. Free accommodation, free light, free medicals facilities, free water supply and tuition free from primary to secondary school. They live a life of contentment and forget to plan for their children’s future. To them life begins and ends in the Barracks because upon retirement from the Army, they are paid pension until their death.
These Kids must carve a niche for themselves and make a success out of life. But it has to be outside the barracks! They have to look outside the box if they must escape the life of self imposed servitude. But how will they defy their Proud Parents? Where are the opportunities? In a barrack’s life full of envy, sabotage, war, drunkenness, social vices, any child that wants to make a difference is brought down by jealous soldier’s wives and their husbands. Nobody wants the other man’s child to be better than his.