2023 GOVERNORSHIP AND
STATE HOUSE OF ASSEMBLY ELECTIONS
NSUDE (Episode 1)
By C.V.C Ozoaniamalu
The first time my belonging was robbed off me, it was Ofoedu, the guy that lived three bunks away from mine, that I suspected. My suspicion had no strong premise nor evidence, but I had rolled my suspicious eyes on him that very day because he seemed to have been, amongst every other person, the most notorious, right from the day other continuing students resumed school.
It was always easy for me to identify him from the older students, not because of his thinly veiled condescension, or his loud nature but because he looked so much like Odenigbo, a boy from my former school, whom I never talked with and whom the whole class avoided eating anything from because he had come from a family that attended Brotherhood of Cross and Star which was mostly known as Sabbath in my neighborhood. He was short, with a shoulder that tilted one side, just like scale, his lips so full that I imagined it heavy on him, probably resulting to his speech impediment. While Odenigbo was just a lamb, Ofoedu was a tiger, or I may have called him gregarious or a hero and not something dangerous like a tiger, if my judgement had not been clouded by the very way the system in my school labels what is to be called good and what is to be called bad.
The very first day I met Ofoedu and his father, it was on a Monday morning in the early days of the month of October, and also the resumption day for the older students. Notwithstanding that it wasn’t the rainy season, it however had rained so heavily a night before that I had taken that as a kind of ritual, washing off my old life and a preparation for the new journey in a new college. I was fueled with so much expectations as much as Ifekandu, a chubby happy boy, who was my bunk mate through the orientation period, who wore his glasses even to the bathroom, spoke in the most nicest accent I had heard, and whom our closeness only lasted for two weeks as we met other people on our way through the college journey. Though, that day was a Monday morning, it had looked more like a Saturday because the atmosphere was dull, and everything had that musty smell of old age. Ifekandu had dragged me to the school avenue just for us to see what the older students coming back were like. The tree lined avenue leading to the school gate stretched out so long that it was impossible for one to see the gate from the first building inside school, which is the chapel, having the gothic old layers and the most sacred ambience. The avenue was flanked in well seated symmetrical form by the school main field, which lay bare on the left side of the avenue with its sandy soil well heated by the sun, and the school orchid, fully alive with the gentle greenness of the many trees bearing the most appealing fruits I have known. Ifekandu and I settled down on the shade of one of the trees. He was looking lost, and I guessed he was thinking. I could see his eyes from his big lenses, soaked with expectations and naivety. From the way he talked, I guessed I was a bit older than he was, if not having more experiences than he had had. He told me about his younger brother, and the sort of game they invented to keep the house warm as they were not allowed to go outside after school. His eyes melted when he said “I know he would be lonely now”, his voice whispering care.
Not quite long, we were jolted up by a fierce sound. The sound came from a car, the name I did not know of, but I had remembered Ifekandu voicing out the words “Mercedes 230 flat boot (1990)”, in the manner I would do if it were to be novels. The car stopped in front us, as cars do at Police checkpoints, or more in the manner a driver whose intention was to ask for directions would. The driver of that car stepped out, he looked like a man in his early forties, but having that gruff impatient manner kids have when they see opportunities to wallow in praise. “You guys are the new intakes, right?”, he asked in the humblest tone. Ifekandu kept quiet, I guess he was observing what he would say later about the man’s outfit. I responded “yes”, as boys on apprenticeship in most of the markets in Onitsha would answer their masters, their voice whispering fear and respect. “That’s my boy in the car”, he said with an effable pride as he pointed towards a boy seated inside the car. He wore a well ironed sky blue shirt that the lines made at the sides were as sharp as blade, “He came the overall first in a class of 150; try to be like him”, he said, as he started towards the boot of the car to unpack the boy’s belongings. I looked at Ifekandu to see if I could make out what he would be thinking at the moment, but his face was blank and expressionless. The boy in the car alighted, picked up a handkerchief from his pocket and dusted his shoes and his navy blue trouser while his father drove off. “Why are you two there watching? Carry my things and follow me”, the boy commanded. He adjusted his collar and the name “Ofo” was written on it boldly, as I would later learn the full version of his name to be “Ofoedu”. At first, Ifekandu and I did not make any move, we had stood there, waiting, watching, unsure of whom the command was made for. It was not until he shouted the second time that we started moving towards his bags, which we carried to Emmanuel and Paul Hostel, as he instructed. The coincidence was that the very hostel we were instructed to carry the bags was also the hostel that we lived in , and that was where the bigger wahala started.
Ofoedu was on the list of every prefect as a defaulter, he would always be the one found outside during odd hours, he would always be the one wearing the wrong uniform for any activity, he missed coming for prayers and masses and if he managed to come, he would sleep all through, so, suspecting him on that first day my belonging got missing was not out of malice. I had wanted to approach him, but I thought maybe, since it was barely two days after resumption, everybody would deem it as a misplacement. Perhaps, he had told everyone that he was the best student in his class and they respected his commands, except for one boy, whose countenance was mild, whom Ofoedu had always exempted when he gave out punishment to all junior students in the hostel. The boy talked to him as if they were mates, but I knew they were not because the boy had been with us since the beginning of the orientation day for freshers. It was Ifekandu who found out the boy’s name was Mgbodile, which loosely translates to “Bullets are real”. Ifekandu had suggested that, maybe, the boy’s father was a soldier, for who would bear such name, and how would Ofoedu, in all his terror, fear his junior? “I would investigate more, and this time more thoroughly”, Ifekandu confided in me.
Two days after, a group of students had gathered at the hanging zone in the morning, a teacher standing beside them. It seemed the teacher was questioning one of them sitting down, who was still wearing his pyjamas. I started towards that place, only to be stopped by Ifekandu’s voice “Arinzendikwunnem, come and hear”, he called my full name as if he had known it for years. “They said Mgbodile is a wizard, he sleeps in the hostel and wakes up at the hanging zone”, his eyes filled with speculations, seeking for more validations and support from me. “Oh, that’s not wizardry. I have read that from a book, it’s called somnambulism, it’s an abnormal sleeping condition”, I said, raising my eyebrow as I always did whenever I used a big grammar I had learnt from a book. “What do you know? Forget your big grammar, Mgbodile is a wizard. Come to think of it, if he had no such powers, he would not be able to speak back to those seniors, even Ofoedu”. The teacher had told the eight of us standing there not to say anything that happened, that the matter would be handled by the school. Nevertheless, before noon, almost everyone had heard the news, and Ifekandu was the chief harbinger of that news that Mgbodile was a wizard. Everyone in class discriminated against Mgbodile, because nobody wanted to be classified as the wizard’s friend. Mgbodile shrank, I saw his courage and braveness melt away like candle-the power of discrimination. I had gone to him during the break time and explained to him that he was not a wizard, but that it was a disorder and could be treated. “You believe I’m not a wizard?”, his tone filled with gratitude. “Of course you are not”. “Thanks”, tears dropping down his cheeks.
Barely five days after that, another set of students had gathered, but now not in the hanging zone, but at the back of the classroom block, with no teacher standing there this time, and I had looked away, dodging the temptation of going there to have a look, but I saw myself moving towards that place. I was shocked at what I saw-it was Ofoedu with his foam, sleeping at the back of the class room block. I bent towards him and tapped him hard, he woke up almost immediately, he was looking confused. “How did I appear here? What’s happening? Please it’s a mistake, it’s not what you think”, he cried.
…to be continued
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