He was one of the last people to leave the hall, he was making sure that his “Is” were dotted and his “Ts” were crossed. He had embarked on this new system to avoid any last minute hitches. Hitherto, he was always one of the first three to leave the examination hall. He never believed in wasting time. ‘If you know it, you know it, if you don’t, you don’t,” he would say. Whenever he was done writing what he knew, he would leave the hall. Staying in the exam hall for another thirty minutes wouldn’t do the magic of putting something he didn’t know in his brain.
The HOD had ensured that everyone saw his/her entire results from part one to first semester of part four. He knew he had no issues but the result had helped allay the fear of any hidden agenda whatsoever to hold him down on campus. His result so far had been excellent. He had never failed any course and to top that he was leading the whole class.
When he resumed in part one, he didn’t have high ambitions, he just wanted to be done on time. He had applied to study law but was short of the JAMB cut off score by just three marks. Saying it was painful was stating the obvious. He remembered his first year, he would cry and cry till he had no more strength to cry. Law was his love. If only his parents had enough money he would have suggested he enrolled at Lead City University, one of the few private universities that offered law programmes.
In his first year, he tried all his best and ensured his CGPA was great, his aim was to get a transfer to the faculty of Law. He had heard that it was almost impossible but he was going to give it a shot. At the end of the session, his CGPA stood at 4.64, the best in his department. All the attention, congratulations and accolades meant absolutely nothing to him when the dean of the faculty of law told him they couldn’t accept him. The day he was told, he nearly cried his eyes out. When he finally settled down with the course JAMB gave him, he felt it wouldn’t be nice if he allowed the CGPA he built to be wasted, so he kept working on his grades.
When he finally stepped out of the hall that day, he heaved a sigh of relief. His worst fears were over. The paper he just wrote was his most dreaded. Everyone dreaded the course and Jeje, as Dr Durosinmi was called by his students behind his back, because he did everything with a touch of ease. He walked calmly, taught quietly and failed people without noise. The exam was just like the man only asked questions on the portion he read. He knew he had hit the bull’s eye. Even if Jeje decided to outsource the marking of the scripts to the chief devil in the pit of hell, he would still pass.
He stepped out and joined a crowd of about forty others sporting the same T-shirt. It was their final year shirt, it had an inscription at the front – TITANS ’12, that was their class name. At the back was each person’s name or alias, his read – Morenike. That obviously wasn’t his name, it was the name of the best woman in his life, his mother. They were all ready to perform the ritual of dancing round the school campus, a way of telling everyone that they were the newest graduates in town. Immediately he was sighted, rants of ‘prof’ and ‘scholar’ filled the air. Many of his classmates were calling for his attention. He honoured every invitation and snapped pictures with everyone that wanted him to feature in his/her pictures. He felt loved. He would have loved to join them in the celebrations but he knew he couldn’t, he still had one more exam to write unlike many of his classmates for whom that was their last.
He left the Humanities Block 1 where he wrote the paper and headed towards the motion ground, a place where all the photographers had their stalls and served as the perfect spot for photo shoots in OAU. No one knew whether that was the purpose for the arena in the master plan but Motion ground was just perfect for the purpose which it served, with all the lush green grass that adorned it and its central location – having the massive Hezekiah Oluwasanmi library at the back, the magnifient Amphitheatre to its left, the three Humanities block to its right and directly facing the most popular and most used road on the campus, Road one re-named after the past Ooni, Oba Adesoji Aderemi.
He had snapped two days earlier and had an appointment with Shegzy the photographer to pick up his pictures. The place was a beehive of activities as usual. Several photographers were calling him for patronage but he just went straight to where Shegzy’s big umbrella was. Each photographer had a big umbrella for shade, the kind that GSM operators used. The big umbrella also served another purpose – a sign to show who owned what spot and like all such signs, the big umbrellas had loud inscriptions on them – KC photos, the best you can get anywhere; Mummy Ade, pictures that serve generations; Shegzy’s sign read – Shegzy, the star-photographer of the source. Kunle was disappointed when he got there and realised that Shegzy’s umbrella was not in its usual place. He had no time to waste and was leaving the arena when he was accosted by another photographer,
“Chairman, Shegzy o wa. (Chairman, Shegzy didn’t come today.)
“Mo ri be. E se gan.” (I noticed that, thanks.)
“Congrats o. E dun gan, ko ni da ke ma take bi 10 shots.” (Congrats. You look good. You ought to take at least ten shots.)
“E se, mo kan wa gba pix ti mo ti ya tele ni.” (Thanks, I just came to collect my pix).
He left the arena and faced Road one, that dreaded route which when used euphemistically meant being rusticated either for bad conduct or bad academic performance. He smiled when he remembered the stories he had heard as a freshman, stories that told of how many people who had secured admission to study in Great Ife, as the Obafemi Awolowo University was popularly called, but were shown the way out through Road one, the same route they had joyfully passed through when their sojourn in the campus began. His smile was one of victory, he would be going through Road one soon, not as a drop out but as a graduate, and not just any graduate but as his faculty’s valedictorian. He turned towards his right, leaving the staff quarters and the Health sciences buildings behind him, he headed towards Faj hall, his hall of residence.
He kept walking, accepting greetings from everyone who passed him by, he was just like a gold fish that had no hiding place, he didn’t need to tell people he was an FYB (Final Year Brethren), his T-shirt gave him out. He made a quick stop over at the buttery, he needed to buy bread which would serve as his dinner. He would not be able to cook that night because of the exam he would be having the next day. Even though the course would be a walk over for him because it was his best course and he had studied it so much during the semester that the few people he had revision classes with believed he understood the course even more than the professor who taught them.
He walked past the statue of Adekunle Fajuyi, the man whom the hall was named after. It often happened that people forgot that the stylistic name Faj was actually from Fajuyi, unlike the other popular male hostel, Awo which was the name Obafemi Awolowo was called by his friends and proteges in his days, Faj was clearly a creation of the youths, many of whom were born after the former Governor of old Western region was slain. At the entrance, the words – Hall of gentlemen – stood out clearly. He made his way through the stairs, passing by the hall wardens’ office spaces and the cyber cafe, Eldorado and walked to the buttery. He went straight to the rack where goods were sold, not paying attention to what the students in the TV room were watching. The attendant told him they didn’t have any bread in stock. Disappointedly, he badged out through the door. He couldn’t study with hunger in his belly. He quietly prayed that they would have bread at the lower buttery, if not he would have to embark on a journey to the new buka.
He was still walking along the corridor where the news board was, he didn’t pay any attention to all the papers that were pasted on the board, his whole mind was on the bread he needed so badly. Suddenly, he heard someone shout his name, he looked back and recognised the caller, it was Adeola Odeku. Adeola was at the point under the stairways where the hall’s barbers plied their trades.
“Igi iwe, eso A,” Odeku shouted. That was a common name for brilliant scholars in OAU, literally it meant “a tree of books that produces fruits of As.”
“Bobo yi, ma tan mi jo,” (Dude, don’t fool me) Kunle said.
After all the usual student chit chat, they shook hands and each one went his way.
Adeola Odeku was Kunle’s roommate back when they were in part 2. They had lived in the same room for several weeks before he knew that his real name wasn’t Adeola Odeku. He wasn’t the only one who was ignorant of the guy’s real name, many never even discovered the error. The guy was first nicknamed Odeku because of his love for Odeku which was what stout was popularly called in Yoruba. Somewhere along the line, someone decided to christen him Adeola Odeku after one of the popular streets in Victoria Island, Lagos, and it sticked. He had contested as the social director in Awo hall in his part three days and many believed he won his closest rival because of his nick name. On the manifesto night he barely said a word as the shout of Adeola Odeku rent the entire Awo cafetaria, the venue of the event. In OAU, you could win an election solely because you were handsome or because people just loved your alias, Adeola Odeku was far from being handsome but his nick name made up for it and with that he won the election.
Kunle stopped to buy a recharge card from one of the sellers and walked into the lower buttery, he was glad when the attendant told him there was still bread for sale, he bought a loaf and headed out from the door at the back, different from the one through which he entered, the one that faced Block 5. He went straight to his room in one of the Annexes. His roommates came out to celebrate him.
“Mr Kunle, bawo ni paper?” (Mr Kunle, how was the exam?) One roommate asked.
“Bobo ode, o tun ng na, baba ti sha A nah,” (Dumb guy, the man has written another A) another roommate put in.
Kunle just smiled, “A dupe l’owo Olorun.” (We thank God.)
He wanted to drop the bread on his mattress but discovered a fellow was lying on it. He walked over to his cupboard and placed the bread on it.
The guy on his mattress was one of the two squatters in the room. Officially, the room was meant for six occupants, however the room had ten occupants living in it. Two sets of two students had contributed to buy two bed spaces and two other occupants had squatters thus swelling the number of the occupants to ten. That was life in Ife. The condition of Faj hall was still better than what obtained in Awo hall where you could have up to fifteen students in one room. Kunle’s room had just two wardrobes which made students believe that the original plan was for just two students per room.
Kunle opened his cupboard and brought out a pot of beans. He had cooked it the night before and had eaten out of it before going to the exam hall. He would be eating the left over with the bread. He dashed to the back of the room,
“Bros, abeg call me when you don through make I warm this beans.”
He went back to the room and picked his note. Few minutes later, the guy he spoke with shouted from outside the room that he was through. He left his book and went to the backyard that served as the kitchen. When his food was done, he quickly set out to devour it. Without invitation, two of the squatters in the room brought their spoons and dipped it into the pot from which Kunle ate. He took no offence, that was part of the communal life that made school life sweet.
Not one used to reading outside the room, he went back to his bed and began reading, in preparation for his final exam coming up the next day. Few minutes later, his mum called him and he informed her he would be rounding up with his exams the next morning. She was filled with joy, who would not be? He returned back to his note and after some hours of poring over it, he was ready to hit dreamland. He looked around him, two mattresses were already thrown on the floor and people sleeping on them, across him two people slept on one 2 and a half inches student mattress.
In the morning, he met with two of his classmates and they quickly had a revision, what they had couldn’t fairly be called a revision because it was a case of Kunle teaching while the others made notes, it would have been better to call it a tutorial session but they still called it a revision. One of the other two students looked up at his wrist watch and realised the exam was almost starting. They hurriedly left the venue of their revision, the back of the social sciences block facing the zoo and made their through to the next block, Education where they would be writing the exam. They got there on time. They settled down and began the exam in earnest.
Thirty minutes before the exam was over, an external examiner came in, studied the whole class like a hawk looking for a prey and went straight to where Kunle sat.
“Stand up young man,” he barked out.
Kunle was startled. He dropped his pen and stood up as commanded.
“Bring out the papers in your pocket,” the examiner said. He said with some air of fulfilment.
Kunle wanted to tell the examiner he had no paper in his pocket. He dipped his hands in his pocket to prove his innocence and then, the sheafs of paper dropped to the floor. He was awestruck.
“Pick them up and hand them over to me.”
He picked the papers and gave them to the invigilator, it was his revision notes, the ones he hurriedly picked up that morning and forgot to drop with the rest of his materials.
At once, Kunle heard several voices. The invigilator’s voice was re-echoed a thousand and one times as he said,
“YOU ARE FINISHED.”
The invigilator went to the front of the class and returned with white papers and told Kunle to write that he was caught with incriminating materials in the examination hall, he did.
“You may leave now, the university authorities will get in touch with you.”
He felt like he was standing before a judge who was reading out his death sentence in the Common law format – “You will be taken hence to the prison in which you were last confined and from there to a place of execution where you will be hanged by the neck until you are dead and thereafter your body buried within the precincts of the prison and may the Lord have mercy upon your soul.” The invigilator’s words may not have been as lengthy or detailed as that sentence, but the weight wasn’t less.
He woke up on his bed covered in sweat, whether it was from the terror of the dream or because of the heat in the room was hard to tell. His eyes got used to the darkness, he was able to locate where he had placed his torchlight the previous night. He muttered some prayers of thanksgiving. He was confused, “was that just a dream?” he asked himself. He however felt he could remember some of the things he dreamt of having happened in real life. He felt like a farmer who had his wheat mixed with chaff and didn’t know what next to do. He stretched his hand to his locker and brought out his Bible, he wanted to read Psalm 91, the one his mum had told him to read always. He turned the leaves of the Bible and when he got to the psalm he was looking for, he saw an envelope there. It was the university’s official envelope and his name was written on it. His heart skipped two beats or more. With shaky hands and a trembling heart he opened the letter. It had the Vice chancellor’s seal on it. The letter informed him that he had the highest CGPA and so was the best graduating student in the school for that year. The letter ended with a congratulation on behalf of the whole staff and students community.
He sighed. He could now remember the details of the past few days now that the horror of the nightmare was cooling off. Its been two weeks since he wrote his last paper. He had stayed behind on campus to submit his project work and had gotten the good news and the letter the previous day. He had put the letter on the page that contained the psalm he had read everyday of his stay on campus, it was his way of saying – prayer works.
I am @seunalade