Mama had just finished assuring Baba Ubgede of how that Ubgede will change and that it was only a matter of time. What however amazed me was the mannerism with which she spoke—she seemed quite certain that everything will be alright .It made me wonder if she negotiated with tomorrow before it came. During the Christmas celebration last year, mama warned me with accurate precision not to go swimming with the other boys but I vehemently refused to listen, thinking that I had come of age and needed not to take advice from a woman—that will probably make me a weakling, I thought. I however defiantly went swimming and also came back swimming, but this time around, in the pull of my own blood. I had slipped on a muddy soil and in event of that bruised myself. In fact, I lost a molar and had to be rushed to the village chemist where I received medical attention. It was that day I decided that even if taking my mother’s advice made me a weakling, I will still do so—better is a weak man than a dead man!
“Mama I think I need to start going so I can arrive Zaria early,” I said finally.
“Yes, my son,” mama said alerted, “please make sure you eat when you get there. Make sure you cook egusi soup this week and warm it before you go for lectures. If you can’t eat it in the hostel put it in your food flask and take it to class……”
“Ah! Let this young man be,” Baba Ubgede cut in as he dipped his hand into his pocket and brought out an old two hundred naira note which he gave to me.
“Manage it my son, God will see you through, you will sorely end well.”
“Amen!” Mama exclaimed.” God will bless you too” she added.
With my old pair of shoes I sat at the back of the class where nobody will take notice of me. I buried my head between the pages of my notebook and was less concerned with the buzz and frenzy that had taken away the class—they argued about fashion, football and social media and also took pictures they called selfies .Almost immediately, Dr Ahmed Kakaki stepped into the class .You could tell by the characteristic silence that enveloped the class whenever he stepped in—he was a core disciplinarian and you dare not step on his toe.
“Who is Arome Omatiga?”Dr Ahmed Kakaki asked. By now, the class was as silent as a graveyard and I was too afraid to identify myself.
“Class rep, don’t you know him?” Dr Ahmed asked, this time with a little temper.
“No sir. He’s probably not in this class sir.” The class rep replied. By this time I knew I should have stood up but was too afraid to do so. They would laugh at me and make jest of my shirt that was tucked in up to my abdomen, they would also laugh at my pre-colonial belt that looked like crocodile skin and my deep-rooted Igala accent.
“I’m the one sha,” I said finally not bothering about who would laugh at me because I said “sha” instead of “sir”.
“Then why didn’t you stand up since?”
“sha,sha it is………”
“What is your registration number?” he queried.
“Okay I see,” he said. His eyes running up and down as though he was running an x-ray on me. “Well, you have had an outstanding performance in the previous semester, reaching an academic high that has never been reached before in the history of this department—a 4.90.Hence,the department has taken it upon itself to offer you a scholarship which includes tuition, feeding ,accommodation and other allowances. See me in my office by 5pm to get the necessary documents.” He said briskly, leaving no sooner than he had said it. As he left, I could barely help myself back to my seat as my legs suddenly became as heavy as a log of wood and limp as that of a paralytic. It was unbelievable to conceive that a countryside boy like me would attain such a feat and I was totally flabbergasted by that. I needed only to tell mama that her son Arome Omatiga may not have a sparkling personality but sure has a functional brain and also that I wasn’t chasing girls but chasing my dreams.