ON MY JOURNEY TO GOD: LEARNING THE LESSONS LIFE SERVED ME (Part 6)
NOTE: This will be the penultimate part, and though there are still 4 more parts (the series will have a minimum of 10 parts with each of those I have already shared here being further expanded and more detailed in another format) I will put up just one more after this here on the blog.
If you want to read from 1-11 you will need to purchase the whole thing in an ebook format after I have given you the next and final part for the blog.
The moment Ayo Vaughan saw me the interrogations he was obviously putting my friends through ended.
I had earlier agreed with Okwudili Agbo, Emeka Ngene, Ekene (aka Ide Nkwocha), and I.K Onu that we would claim that we barged into Precious Irubor while he was on the verge of unilaterally lynching Ekene.
I told them to say that Precious took a machete and was about to cut him up after beating him and then we came to his rescue as we heard him screaming.
Before I got apprehended I had met Mr. Adegoke, a House Master; I forget which House he was master over, but I felt I would get some sympathy from him because he had gotten me out of several binds in the past. But when I told him the lie we had scripted he saw through the facade faster than I could finish getting it out of my mouth.
“Ahh, Bishop, how can you say you did nothing to him? How can you say you only scratched him with your hands when I saw blood from machete cuts all over his body?”
I saw the lie was dead on arrival with Mr. Adegoke so I tried beating a hasty retreat. As I backed out of the space in which I was talking to him I stepped into the path of a waiting… and smiling Lt. Agada.
I didn’t even resist him. I mean, you could not reenact an Escape from Sobibor in that kind of situation.
You wouldn’t even think it if you knew Lt. Agada.
He beckoned on me and without saying a word to break the sadistic smirk on his mouth he indicated that I walked ahead of him. As I walked I squared my shoulders in tension as I did not know what to expect. A slap on the back of my neck or the crack of a koboko across my back, or both. I knew there was only one destination and so I walked ahead of Agada straight to the Commandant’s office.
The lie was probably gaining some traction before I came in because when Lt. Agada marched me into the Commandant’s office I could see Precious was sweating in his bid to disprove the movie script my guys had thrust on him.
“Ahh!! It’s a lie sir. Don’t mind them sir”
He was a prefect and so that must have counted for something in Ayo Vaughan’s undecided look.
But the moment he saw me he seemed to have his mind made up in the fraction of a second.
Lt. Col. Ayo Vaughan jumped up from his table and lunged at me. Before I could do anything I collected two punches.
They made us all lie flat in the Commandant’s office. Demo Olusesi was brought in for something else he had done. But Ayo Vaughan declared, “all of you will be expelled.”
He was expelling all of us.
Demola almost died of shock.
“I am not with them sir”, he shouted while raising his hands, “my offence was not like their own, ejoo sir”
“I know”, Ayo Vaughan responded, “but I am expelling you in advance so I don’t have to worry about doing it in the future.”
With that they brought us out in front of the whole school and they took our shirts off our backs as the soldiers scraped all our hair and marched us off to the guardroom in the presence of multitudes of students, some in astonishment, some others visibly elated, and others in consternation.
I was already used to detention in the guardroom and so I encouraged others as we trudged along. It was as we got there that I noticed right beside the sentry post my Command Secondary School Abakaliki nemesis- Staff Sergeant Kayode.
Staff Sergeant Kayode was a dark man with bulgy eyes, a thick Samanja like mustache, and a pot belly. He hated me passionately and wherever he saw me he became unduly animated. So it was that when my eyes fell on him I began to perspire profusely.
“Hey, you dia, double up”, he shouted as he saw us being taken into the guardroom by the corporal and lance corporal who were given charge of us.
We jogged instantly but apprehensively towards him. As soon as we had lined up in front of him he grabbed a menacing looking 3 tail koboko (horse whip) and gestured on us to come forward and lie down flat.
Everyone drew back, we were terrified. But I was the leader and had to show fear was not allowed and so I stepped forward and lay prostrate.
I closed my eyes tight while waiting for the sharp pain I was sure was about to sear through my back and jolt my nerves.
“Get up you bagger”, I heard Staff Sergeant Kayode bellow. I looked up as he gestured for me to step aside, I was surprised but very thankful as I leapt to one corner.
I realized I was not going to get horse-whipped because I had obeyed the instruction to step forward very quickly.
Once my guys saw I had been pardoned they all rushed forward in a cluster, each trying to get before the other to the floor in front of Staff Sergeant Kayode. Emeka Ngene got there first, as he jumped on the floor expecting to hear “Get up!!” the only thing we heard was the sound of the whip come down with intense fury as Emeka’s scream mingled with it.
The others had come forward too quickly to retreat and so they had to go in turn, each one feeling the brute force of the horse whip from Staff Sergeant Kayode’s sadistic hands.
As soon as he was through they ordered us to strip for searching.
That was a very big problem because I had my switchblade in my pocket.
I said a silent prayer then held it in my hands. The soldiers herded us into the sentry post and I saw that the floor was full of water. The windows of the post had blown out and the rain had obviously flooded the inside. They commanded us to sit inside the water while buck naked.
With my hands behind my back I sat down in the water and the moment I hit it I pushed my dagger behind my back with the momentum of the water towards Ekene Nkwocha who was seated next to me.
The knife sailed and stopped behind him where he was seated in the water.
Somehow none of the soldiers said anything as they asked us to get up, put on our trousers, and jog on into the guardroom.
I was to learn later that my switchblade was the subject of a fight between two soldiers who liked it.
The ranking soldier got it and that left the other one seething. He gathered us together and hastily scribbled something he called an agreement that stated we all would buy him another dagger or he would expose us.
He asked us to append our names and signatures…and so we did.
In the space for names we wrote all kinds of things as our minds went into overdrive.
Chinua Achebe, Oliver de Coque, and Wole Soyinka all made the list as we turned our motley crew into a stellar cast. All the while the soldier was smiling happily like he had us in a tight corner.
Yours truly was “Michael Jordan.”
And then we signed right beside those names we cooked up while the soldier was grinning from ear to ear at the “legal document” he had in his hands.
We were kept in the guardroom with its filthy and stinking conditions. We had no shirts on our backs and so mosquitoes were having a field day.
I could swear the mosquitoes in that guardroom had full sets of teeth because each bite felt as though Dracula had teleported from Transylvania to a military cantonment in Abakaliki.
Something interesting soon happened.
I.K Onu (aka Onyx) told us he wasn’t going to pass the night in the guardroom and that he was going back to the dormitories. We stared at him in disbelief but took him very seriously because for some reason he was always with us when we committed any atrocities but never fell into trouble when we did.
We suspected he had some sort of “jazz” he wasn’t sharing with us and so we were sort of relieved when he got caught and sent to the guardroom with us.
We concluded his “jazz had knocked” and he was a mere mortal like us…until he made that statement.
I told him it was impossible.
Soldiers were right outside the guardroom gate keeping watch, if he tried it he was going to get beaten like a runaway slave.
But he told me confidently that nothing would happen, and asked us to watch him.
He opened the guardroom gate and as we tried to watch through the very high and narrow window he walked out and passed right by where the soldiers were meant to be and walked right out of the main gate of the cantonment.
We couldn’t believe our eyes. I was to later learn what this “jazz” was and that served to be a major juncture in this story of my journey.
After Onyx left we were all gobsmacked.
While I was in deep thought as to how he pulled it off someone else got an epiphany.
There was another student who the soldiers had brought to the guardroom over some infraction he was involved in.
He was a year ahead of us, and while I cannot remember his first name I know his last name was Omagu.
Omagu saw when Onyx walked out the guardroom gate and the main gate of the cantonment and immediately decided that what was sauce for the goose was sauce for the gander.
He got up from the dirty guardroom floor where he had been sitting and told us he was leaving.
We asked, “Omagu, where you dey go?” to which he replied “I dey follow Onyx”
We began to prevail on him not to go anywhere but he insisted and so we left him. He opened the guardroom gate and stepped out; he had barely made five paces away from it when we began to hear cries and what seemed to be slaps and blows.
We rushed to the high slits that served as windows for the guardroom and we were barely able to make out the images and sounds of Omagu being pummeled by two soldiers.
If you have never been slapped by a Nigerian soldier I advise that you do not put that on your bucket list or you might not be far from kicking the bucket.
We recoiled as we heard the commotion and any other person that nursed ideas of a prisonbreak immediately perished the thought.
As we heard anywhere between eight and twelve slaps within a five minute span we also heard Omagu’s voice as he shouted-
“Yeeee!! Have mercy!!”.
“I am an orphan o!!”
“My mother is not well!!”
“I am a widow!!”
The slaps from the soldiers had driven Omagu into delirium. In the space of five minutes the young man had become an orphan who doubled as a widow whose mother was ill.
That was what a beating from Nigerian soldiers could turn a person to.
We all just respected ourselves afterwards and stayed where the soldiers had asked us to sit. Nobody tried any stunts again.
But I couldn’t just help but notice that not only did the soldiers not see Onyx when he passed but after slapping out okra seeds from Omagu’s mouth for attempting to escape they hadn’t noticed we were a man short in the guardroom.
I was to learn later an invaluable lesson from Onyx’s escape and this lesson was the beginning of my turning point even though it culminated only after I had gotten into the University of Nigeria Nsukka about two short years later..