The students of St. Cornelius Methodist High School were on the assembly ground ready to exercise assembly activities. The boys were well dressed, looking attractive in their dark-blue shirt with shorts and the girls in pinafore. They do press their uniforms during the weekend break with some of them applying perfume to smell pleasant.
On Monday morning like this, they wake very early to arrive school in time in order to tidy up their school compound and then get set for the day’s work. This was what Mr. James Alfred had made obligatory for them since he resumed as their principal about two years ago.
Esulaalu was what the students had nicknamed him. He was short and dark like the outer surface of a local pot. He was strict and a disciplinarian. The teachers too knew him. He did correct them as if they were his students. Hence the cognomen.
This was name the students chorused when they saw him out of his office, coming to conduct the assembly this morning.
“He’s coming….is coming”
“Esu is coming…” They broadcast.
A long silence beckoned. At this moment, no one dare utter a letter. Even the teachers were wet as he approached.
In most schools around, Monday was a day that students usually look forward to, but in St. Cornelius the story was never the same. Their difficult times started immediately it’s Monday. At 6:00am, Mr. Alfred would have been in school, standing by the school gate once it’s 7:00am. Any student that came in a second afterward is a late comer. He had organized the number of strokes according to the minutes exceeded. His strokes started from five. No crime no matter how small can make him go below that.
Their hard times would soon continue on the assembly ground, especially on Mondays which he did conduct.
“Good morning…sir”. The students chorused.
“Good morning sir. Morning sir.” The teachers uttered. As if they had hot yam in their mouth, the only thing one could hear was ‘sir’
Like that of a roaring lion, slowly he replied ‘what is good about the morning! What?’ He asked.
With a thick mass of hair on his fore-head, he commanded the students to recite the national anthem after a thorough examination on their neatness.
“At ease”. He echoed.
‘The national anthem. 1, 2, 3…go!’
He stood like a general, so also the teachers. Reciting the song with the students with his eyes traveling all around. They were almost ending the anthem when his eyes landed onYakubu’s. The last boy on theSS1 line. Though he stood like others but what he was uttering wasn’t the national anthem. Mr. Alfred studied him well but did as if he noticed him not. After the recitation of the national pledge, the students hailed. Yakubu too. Had he knew, he wouldn’t have wasted his healthy voice on mere hailing as what would make him shout than he ever did was here.
“OkunolaYakubu, come out here”. The principal ordered.
Yakubu was no longer himself. The just merry of the national anthem had travelled at the speed of light. He had not gone for swimming neither had he ran a marathon but his body suggested he did. Sweats all over his body, down to his pant.
“This boy, while you’re all reciting the national anthem, he was there joining his mandible and maxilla together, pronouncing rubbish”.
He could not complete his statement when a resounding slap landed on his cheek.Holy-ghost slap. That was what the student called such and the recipient, holy receiver. For about one-to-two minutes, stars of kinds had let his retina. He began staggering like a drunk or rather one, searching in the dark. The students were lost laughter. They ought not, but they couldn’t help it.
‘What nonsense!’ roared the principal.
‘I was talking and you had the gut to interrupt. Oh! That I lied against you?
‘So let’s hear you then’.
Yakubu was totally confused. He knew he was now in two problem; that he could not recite the national anthem and that he had made the principal wear his original behavior.
He stood like a soldier with his hand visiting his face time without number, cleaning the frequent-dropping tears. He knew he cannot escape it.
What made him always at the back wasn’t because he was the tallest in his class, it was actually because of fear. He believed anyone stranding at the front should be bright as questions were often thrown to those at the front and he was never one.
‘Arise O Compation…’ he echoed, with a cracking voice.
The students again raised the laughter. Some of the teachers too showed their upper teeth in a jiffy. Yet all these could not move Mr. Alfred to even smiling, rather, he floggedYakubu eighteen strokes of the cane, instructing him to learn the song before the week ran out. Afterward, he addressed the students and they all marched into their various classes.
The classes were so noisy. Mr. Alfred would not exhibit annoyance that quickly. After all, they just marched in. he would think.
The football match played on Sunday night was the major discussion in SS1, where Yakubu belonged. The game that featured Chelsea FC against FC Barcelona. The final match of the UEFA champions league. The Barcelona football team took the early lead but their opponent eventually defeated them form 2-0 down. Hence the match ended 2-4 with the blues as they’re fondly called becoming the new UEFA champion
The result did not favour Yakubu. He could hardly sleep throughout the Sunday night. On Friday, before they went on weekend break, he had had a bet with Maduka that Barcelona would defeat Chelsea. He said Messi would bag hat-trick, Neymar brace so also Suarez. All that Yakubu said on Friday seemed true to Maduka. He knew Messi too well. Neymar and Suarez were as well dangerous, but with one mind, he believed anything can happen.
It’s Monday now and it’s Maduka’s turn to brag. Immediately he entered the class he had started shouting, hailing his team and punching his own chest. Everyone believed it was worth it except the girls. They did not know why he should be doing all those. Some of them were already saying they’d report him to the principal if he continued.
To avoid being ridiculed, some of the boys whose teams didn’t reach the final had joined Maduka in celebration. Whenever he echo ‘Up blues’ they would all chorus ‘For life’. All these Yakubu could not withstand but was pretending until Maduka did it to fault. He roamed to his seat, displaying the money they used as bet before him, making it touch his nose and other parts of his face.
No!Yakubu could not take that. He stood in annoyance and slapped him, immediately, they began fighting.
Mrs.Bankole was entering their class to take them English language when she saw the duo on the floor. All efforts made by their class mates to stop the fight did not materialize. But as soon as she entered, they voluntarily released each other.
‘It’s only fight that he knows, simple national anthem he could not recite’
He said all these with his heart beat beating like a drum. He was not happy with his performance for it was obvious Yakubu punched him more. Also, the rate at which their mates hailed Yakubu had revealed to him he lost.
‘Why are you fighting for goodness sake, why? MrsBankole asked.
‘Don’t even bother to tell me anything, ok? Just follow me to the principal’s office. Now!’. She said with her head moving as if it would fall. She was skinny and lacked adequate strength. All the strength shehad was to go to the class, fill the air with vocabulary and phonetics while teaching.
‘You again! Mr. Alfred roared.
‘In fact, the boy is now becoming a terror in this school’ said Mrs.Bankole with a light voice like that of a little child.
‘You know it’s not up to 10 minutes that I gave you eighteen strokes of the cane, you’re here again alleged of bad behaving’. Said the principal, pointing atYakubu on the floor where he had knelt.
‘Please, I want to know what actually happened. I’ve got a lot to do’. The principal enquired.
Maduka dusted his trousers as he stood to explain what he believed that happened. He said all in his own favour as he knew Yakubu is deaf to English.
When he finished, Mr. Alfred turned toYakubu to hear what he had to say. He was out of the planet as it was his turn to speak. He knew he need not ask whether he would explain in English. Yet, he had something to say.
‘Sir, he’s rude’. He said, confidently.
‘Rude?’ The principal said, as if he had not heard him clearly.
Yakubu thought he was incorrect so he changed his mind.
‘Yes Sir, he’s ruded’
‘What!Ruded? The principal said, amazed. Mrs.Bankole gasped. Maduka’s mouth wide opened.
In a short while,Yakubu had thought of many timesMaduka played rude to him and therefore he suggested to join them all together.
‘Will you speak good English! Mrs.Bankole roared.
‘Yes ma. He’s …he’s rudeded.
Mr. Alfred was totally frustrated. He did not know whether he was to stand or sit.Yakubu’s last statement almost cut his intestines. He later told Mrs.Bankole andMaduka to leave for the class. But for Yakubu, he gave him punishment after severe beating. He did not allow him enter the class room throughout the day. No food. Nothing.
‘No food for the idle’ Mr. Alfred thought.
When the ‘closing time’ time bell rang, it was as if Yakubu was thrown into an ice. He knew his suffering was over as it would be rare if Esu took him to his house to continue the punishment.
With a rocky voice but a friendly face, Mr. Alfred welcomed Yakubu back to freedom after six hours in discomfort.
He was very weak and sober. He fell as he practiced to walk. All his body parts could not obey him.
‘Who told you you’re not correct in the first place? The principal asked.
Yakubu was not interested in anything he had to say. He thought he had punished him for nothing and now trying to make plea. He sneezed constantly with mucus escaping his watery nose. His eyes red and back-bone, paining.
‘Your first sentence was actually right’ Mr. Alfred continued.
‘You lacked confidence in what you knew and you ended saying jargon which had made you suffer this way. Wellgoodluck in your endeavor. You can leave now’.
Yakubu could not believe his ears. He can’t just believe he suffered for something he knew. He pitied himself as he walked out of his office.
‘I never knew I ever know’. He said, weeping
I was born on 19th Feb. 1996. I hail from Ikire the land of Dodo, Osun state. I attended Holy Cross Catholic Primary School, Ikire. Having graduated, I was admitted to Saint Augustine’s Commercial Grammar School where I was elected as the Social prefect boy of my set. I was then one of the competitors group, a group said to be the community of the intellectuals. Having succeeded in the secondary school, I opted to study Medicine in the great citadel of knowledge; The Lagos State University, Ojo which was successful but to a different course, Physics.