Friday, October 7, 2016

Memories of FGC: The CAIPO Dairies

Mankind's greatest and most ancient problem has been the law. Everything is normal until you make a rule out of it. We always prayed for an opportunity to sleep in the afternoon until the boarding authorities attempted to make siesta compulsory. Even naturally, erosion passes through your frontage to your neighbor’s until you choose to make a little mould by your gate…just in case…Worse still, Staurday morning inspections in F.G.C. Ikot Ekpene were like a walk in the park until the new Principal christened it “Marks-Awarding” Inspection and made it compulsory!!!
MPE sat on the corner of CAIPO that made it easier to realize that he was the new intake. Dark as charcoal, MPE rarely spoke. I always admired that aspect of him until, recently, I realized why: he could barely make full sentences in English Language. Yet, his Ibibio was far deeper than those I heard from my grandfather the few moments I spent with him in the village. Most times, MPE was compelled to sit alone, except where he was assured that the conversation in the group was done in vernacular. Severally, he reacted with so much rage whenever a member of the group attempted to switch the conversation into any other dialect than the deep Ibibio he was conversant with. His ability to churn out proverbs in Ibibio was second to none. The few times he attempted to make contributions in an English conversation, he would end up feeling like a stammerer struggling to complete a hanging sentence. This usually threw him into rage; the type that kept us all away from him.
I had made myself adapt to the company of “skippos”, myself being one of the greatest. It was a taboo to attend every activity the school had to offer, even if one had the capabilities to. For those who may not have been priviledged to attend F.G.C. Ikot Ekpene, skipping was the act of not attending a compulsory school activity…even meals. This Saturday morning was a core skipping day; Marks-Awarding Inspection was ongoing. Funny enough, the most unlikely place to have found a skippo was on this road; CAIPO. Yet, we all gathered here; gods, spirits and humans.
In my 4 years as a student here, I had discovered all the skipping routes and places. I even perfected the act by having resting places in each of the skipping routes. White Sand, Caipo, Back of Kitchen, Orchard, J-Staff Forests, Back of Soweto, Back of Library, Intro-Tech Lab, under stairwells, Pavelion, lawn tennis court, Back of Canteen, etc…were all beneath my feet. I knew where to go during any particular activity. Of course, you would not skip to the Intro-Tech lab during the Introductory Technology classes. In simple analysis, my skipping skills were legendary and only trailing behind the gods of skipping like Amanambo, Senegalle, Igboayaka, the Ideh brothers, Varlash, Sparrow and the few others. These were not humans, they were spirits.
Amanambo was raw legend. Even as a fellow spirit, I rarely met him. He could disappear at mere sight. Yet, what distinguished him from the rest was that he never missed his meals and he slept in the dormitory, right beneath the noses of the numerous seniors and, even his classmates (creditors), who searched day and night for him like the deer searches for running streams. He could hide in plain sight. He was rare enough a spirit we had to nickname him “the unfamiliar spirit”; he was everywhere, yet, nowhere!
Senegalle was human until his fingers came in contact with any two green leaves. His green Niger River House cheque simply blended with the leaves. I ignored this fact until one evening, while we sat together behind Ntinya’s house in the company of lesser gods, Ini-ini and Ayadu, Mr. Ntinya showed up almost unexpectedly and swore that he will turn “3 of us” over to the labour prefect. In shock, I turned around and realized that we were actually 3; Senegalle had disappeared and only the wind that trailed his demise waved the leaves around.
Igboayaka was much more of a name than a person. The person behind the name was far less physically present except that he left delible footprints anywhere he passed. Legend had it that where that name was mentioned anywhere near a locker with provisions inside, the padlock would vibrate. This figure preferred to be found where others are prohibited from; hostels during lecture periods, classroom during siestas, etc.
The Ideh brothers were almost demonized by those that knew them. I only saw Ideh(Snr) on Saturdays in Mr. Ntinya’s residence. I would rather talk more about Ideh (Jnr), who later became the Commander-in-Chief of Ntinya Boys Association (don’t ask me who we were) and MY PERSONAL TRAINER. He preferred to devise an escape than to hide ab initio. So, usually, he would sit around, get caught and escape. Ideh (Jnr) was once captured during a raid on Senegal one Sunday night by an age long enemy. The senior student was on his way to having a bath from Kampala to Soweto; Ekpato was fun of walking around unclad from post to post. “Mkpo Ufok”, one might be tempted to say. While the senior student had his bath with his fingers clasping Ideh’s wrist, Ideh came back to me! The senior student almost fainted when he realized that the moment he closed his eyes to rinse his face, the god has replaced his wrist with that of a JS3 student standing around, holding the senior’s towel.
For Varlash and Sparrow, I still intend to sue the College for ever giving out certificates to students that were never in school. These gentlemen knew more about Ikot Ekpene township than they knew their 2 times table. With permanent residency in Etokakpan Street, they barely had an idea of when school closed. Sometimes, they would visit the school days after others had gone home, only to discover an empty school. I will speak no more of them because, till date, fear of these men grips me.
As my thoughts trod around, so were my eyes. A small group of huge men sat some distance away; the Unamas. Varlash and Sparrow sat on CAIPO fence, facing town; only seen by fellow gods. Just ahead, lesser gods sat; Stone, Olu, Ofonmbuk, Ekott et al. I sat beside Ideh (Jnr). My confidence never wavered. My very soul could tell the time once it was 10 am. Right now, it wasn’t. The waving leaves had a particular rhythm that seemed to be registered in our brains. Anything faster or slower than the usual will be treated as a threat and reacted to accordingly. Speed was everything. For the sleek and tiny like myself and Ideh (Jnr), we had it all. I had even acquired an extra weapon in my skipping arsenal that I realised was only ever possessed by Unen, the little’un. A little taller than the enamel bucket we used, Unen could freeze and watch the threat run right past. One Saturday, after breakfast, we arranged the dinning tables into a table tennis board and began our games. It was prohibited, yet, we loved illegals. When Mr. Dimgba appeared unannounced, we all ran. Realizing that his size had given him up already, Unen simply carried all the balls and bats and stayed right there. Mr. Dimgba simply walked past. Whether he hid in plain sight or not, that was mind control. I had this too. Mrs Odiongenyi walked right past me severally on the canteen after break period, even though she only sought to punish those, like me, who had stayed out beyond the official break period. Yet, one must know when, where and against whom to use it.
Just as I turned to take the last look around, some change had occurred in the area. This could only have been noticed by gods. I was one, so I noticed. In split seconds, I calculated the speed and velocity of CAIPO leaves; they were faster by about 17 nano-seconds. This was unusual. I turned to warn Ideh(Jnr), he had vanished. I simply disappeared and reappeared in my resting place; beheath a little mound of dry grass, gathered just beside CAIPO fence. Then, I heard the scramble. The screams. MPE had been captured, I could hear him beg Mr. Ekumah. Ndibe was there too, I could decipher the vibrations from his pounding on someone’s back. Varlash and Sparrow were probably sleeping in their rooms in town by now.
The “NO-Movement” rule in resting places during raids was in place. Ideh (Jnr) lay by my side once again. We had selected resting places near each other. This rule had saved us severally from the arrows that flieth by day and the pestilence that walked around by night. It was sacrosanct. Something was not just right, Ideh (Jnr) had moved! This was unlawful and he, of all men, knew it. I needed to warn him, so I twisted a bit and starred at his direction. Oh No: Ideh was unmoved, something else had moved.
A slim muscular rattle-snake lay, coiled between myself and Ideh (Jnr), starring right at me. It displayed its fangs visibly and waited for my reaction. Trust me, this was not the problem. What I realised next was. The snake was feeding on the numerous termites that had flooded my resting place, and now, covered my body. The twisting of my head had alerted them that there was a biological object upon which they crawled. So, they began digging their pincers into my very flesh. Now, there was a problem. Something heavy stepped on my back just above the mound of dry grass, I could barely breath. It was Ndibe, the Labour Prefect! Whether to continue its sumptuous meal of fleshy termites crawling all over my body or to strike the impending danger above, the snake’s thoughts were unknown to me. I simply saw the darkness that followed, the moment the snake began.

I am i~Witness.

Shout out to all 2003/2004 graduates of Federal Government College, Ikot Ekpene. May your paths stay straight. And if you don’t belong here, you have not been tested by fire.
Grant eternal life to those ones who have gone to their rests with the hopes of rising again. Shine Thy perpetual Light upon them.

Names and places in this article are clearly imagined; with regrettable coincidences where any is found.

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Demons, Oracles and Testicles.

The problem with crawling on dry leaves is usually the fact that it screams like a dog in heat. Yet, my addiction for this spot in the deep forest was unparalleled. This was not boosted by the fact that the Oracle sat a stone throw away, no. Neither was my visit encouraged by my very love for nature; whose presence here was closer than the distance between the testicles in the scrotal sack. I would rather miss my breakfast than miss the sight of the Demon as she strode past towards the thatched building donated to new religion just towards the edge of the village. Morning mass, they called it, was conducted by the white lengthy-nosed figure of a man, who spoke through those nostrils while the followers answered AMEN, some earlier than the rest. Obviously, the later respondents were as dumb as the dry leaves that lay beneath my feet; laughing only when stepped on and moving only with the wind.
Enwongo must have been the most beautiful idea nature conceived. Of all a fifteen year old boy would want to see, her figure seasoned my worst nightmares with wet shorts and dreams of certain very erotic activities most nights. This never deterred me from hurrying the following morning to my spot of sight. Her presence alone at the new god's worship place attracted so much young men that married women needed some spiritual exercises to keep their husbands sane. I called her the Beautiful Demon.
Her barely clad buttocks moved as if they connived to deceive any starring eyes. Crafted in form of largely moulded akara balls, one would jump on the other in turns, while she walked calculatingly across the forest floor. I have resisted the urge to describe the two pointed moulds that decorated her chest for reasons that my infancy would be violated by the true words with which they can be defined. I was just fifteen: yet, the figure between my legs must have been much older. Of course, while my fifteen year old brain imagined why a human being should be this beautiful, my older third leg always responded much faster; it would kick and stay at an attention until some liquid left its peak. I was not ashamed to stroll home with patches of liquid around the penal region of my shorts. After all, Asuquo, the hunter, Affiong's husband, had far bigger patches than mine: yet, I was told he was born in the same yam harvest season with my father's elder brother. Of course, we met every morning, just that he never saw me.
It was unusual for the Beautiful Demon not to pass. The last time she didn't, masquerades raided the village and killed a Chief. Next, the Oracle was nowhere to be found. In fact, if Enwongo overslept, it was a bad omen. The white Preacher had insisted that those who don't attend the morning Mass will be kept in a special fire that burnt forever. At this thought, I took a quick glance at my skin and smiled. This morning seemed colder than usual.
The temperature stayed unusually low even as I sneaked out of Mama's hut. I could risk death just to catch my daily dosage of a glimpse at the Beautiful Demon...or, so I thought. There was no rain, yet, the clouds fought themselves angrily. I took the usual route, away from the village stream and resurfacing directly behind the Oracle. My hiding place was, as usual, unoccupied. Soon after I had positioned myself for the video, Asuquo followed suit. He placed his hand in between his legs, through the rags he wore, and, as usual, rubbed vigorously at whatever was left there...(I learnt any object that is rubbed with such intensity everyday for a period of about five years would gradually disappear completely) Asuquo had been doing this everyday. His very existence seemed to be dependent on this.
It completely occurred to me that the Demon had not passed on time as the signing by the white Preacher's followers begun. Suddenly, my heartbeat increased its pace. The morning darkness got darker as the clouds bellowed in sudden anger. My legs shook. Asuquo seemed more confused than myself. His activity was slowed down by whatever thoughts moved through his head. Memories of all the evil I had committed danced through my head. The elder between my legs folded to its normal age. Once again, I felt fifteen down there. The dry leaves around rose in unison, exposing the bare forest floor. The Oracle fell of the tree trunk it hugged. Something was wrong! I could smell it. Then it came out of the shadows: a Demon: this time, from the depths of doom...I rose to run, yet its claws took a long swipe at me. Asuquo produced so much urine that the figure got concerned. With this distraction, I jumped off the forest floor...
...rather, my bed.
The hotel attendants hurried to my door and knocked. I signaled that i was fine and rose from my sitting position. My bladder screamed the need to be emptied. I knew that relief I usually had when rising from nightmares...I waited for it, it never showed up. I felt an evil again...the nightmare was not over. I recognized the stench of the demon from that netherworld. I resisted the urge to believe that it was just an ordinary nightmare. My soul quaked. The very depths of my testicles pounded in unison with my heartbeats. Once again, my bladder blew an alarm within. I hurried towards the door to the toilet. As I opened the door, I realised fully where it all began. Well balanced on the WC, was the demon from my dream. This time, I fell hard on the tiles and woke in absolute darkness.

I am i~witness.

Monday, June 13, 2016

The Birth Of The Christ

"Sanctus. Sanctus. Sanctus Dominus Deus Sabaoth!", we chorused in unison as the One took His Place on the Throne. Amidst the fluterring of wings and the silence that followed, I sensed the certain reign of Divine aura and density deep within my heart.
I prefer to call him "Boss". It felt safer for those of us who had chosen the path of light, not exactly what our former commander had chosen. This Name forced me into the memory that my very existence was His and I had nothing else to exist for.
"Mankind has gone astray!", the Boss thundered, sending most of us to our knees. Then, timelessly, He turned aglow while His feeble Voice reminded the gathering of how much He loved them. From the group of Seraphs who stood to the far right, Uriel spoke. He was the most outspoken, even above Mi-ka-El, who had immediately taken the war-path against the decision of our former commander. Uriel, lead vocalist and director of the Seraphs and Cherubs had been gifted with a voice like no other's. The Boss had mostly kept this for moments like this. Just like all of us, the Boss loved him...yet, One sat beside Him, whom He loved most since the One, too, was part of His God-hood; His Only Son. Above Them Both, hovered the Spirit, the final person that made up the Trinity.
''Master, You are most merciful and magnificent in Glory. Yet, the fate of the flood may need to be repeated on . . ." Before Uriel could finish, the One had cut him short. "Not again! Remember the rainbow? Look at the children of Abraham. See the sons of David. Hear the cries of innocent women. This is the work of Lucifer, the one who revolted from our midst." With these words, His voice dropped to a low tone. "I love them all", He concluded.
Again, the Boss thundered, "The land has to be cleansed. One must go down from here and pay that price. I am no more interested in the blood of their goats and sheep. Those have become an abomination unto Me. I need a perfect and permanent sacrifice. Only then, shall I desist from the destruction that I plan. Whoever decides to do this, know this; YOU WILL SUFFER IMMEASURABLY. Take your time and think." At these words, the Light deemed from the Throne and the Boss was in recession. Heaven was quiet. The question hovered, "WHO SHALL GO FOR US?".
"Gabriel!", the Boss thundered from His quarters. My heart sank. Have I been chosen to pay the price? I doubted as I strode down the corridor towards the Throne-Room. The Boss was much more democratic than that. He always allowed us to chose. The moment I stepped into the room, I felt it. Something was wrong, hugely. The One, His own Divine Counterpart-in-Godhood, had taken the challenge. He had chosen to die for mankind! In tears, the Father simply starred at me. "Go to Bethlehem, the home of Joachim and Anne. There is one I sent to them neatly 14 human years ago. My Son needs a channel of birth. I shall use hers." With this, I turned and walked away, towards Bethlehem's route."

The young lady sat by the Carpenter's workshop. Joseph, a man of extreme decorum, a carpenter, under whose care Mary had been put, for tutorage and subsequent marriage. 
The conversation was short. She simply listened on her knees, asked a few questions and concluded with a statement that shocked the Angel out of me; "I am the handmaid of the Lord, let His word come true as He wills it!"

The next string of messages was to follow on the appointed day. Some human months later, amidst hugs, tears, fears and excitement in heaven, the Son stepped down from beside the Boss. While I left to announce His coming to mankind, the choirs rang out again in unison.
First, I met some shepherds sleeping in an open field. Before I revealed my full self, they all vanished. It was the major problem of mankind; fear. I simply reappeared ahead of them, cornering them to a standstill. While I broke the news, I heard the shrill cry of a baby in a manger somewhere ahead in Bethlehem. Then, I realised how unknown the Master's ways are.
I simply walked away, screaming in joy and excitement. I can tell this story firsthand, because my name is Gabriel; the Archangel and Messenger!

I am i~Witness.

Thursday, June 9, 2016

Stripped ~ 1 (Series)

Just sitting in my birthday gift to myself, a Mercedes Benz GLE and with a Chris Aire engagement ring for the love of my life in my right hand. Tonight I’m taking Tomi out and putting this ring on her finger. It is long overdue. You don’t want to know, trust me.
“Akin you better drive with your body, spirit and soul in this traffic because I will not take it lightly with you if I see any scratch or dent on this car. You better face the road and stop smiling like a goat that just got his lips shaved off”.

It’s my 28th birthday and no one sent gifts, cakes or even greetings my way. Even Tomi my girlfriend of 14 years and all my friends. Wow, does everyone just hate me over night. I hope this is not the beginning of my Job experience “shut up O2, you take things too personal. Just get home man”. Well I just can’t wait to get this ring on her finger.

Oh sorry for not introducing myself, this birthday thing is getting to me. Osasere Osagie is my name, my friends call me O2 because of my initials.  An accomplished young entrepreneur is who I am, don’t make that face jooor, I am pretty much accomplished. My team and I are responsible for “Group Study” and “Living waters” besides I made it to “Forbes 30 under 30 individuals changing the Africa”. I’m not usually this proud but a man’s got to blow his trumpet sometimes. Wait I didn’t tell you Tomi calls me her tall glass of dark chocolate milkshake, yea I guess it’s expected when you are six feet and five inches with a sexy body. I am not vain. I just love me.

For some reason, with all my accomplishments I still feel empty. There’s a void that needs to be filled. A lot of times I pretend not to know what it is, that makes me feel this way. Trying to get rid of this feeling, means going to look for that missing slate and that is something my pride and anger won’t let me do. It is just hard. Today will be a significant day in my life. These kind of days are to be shared with friends and family. I dread days like this. No no no no wait, you don’t understand. Days like this remind me that I have no family left in the world. My parents separated when I was 14 years old, my Dad passed on ages ago and I have no clue if my mum is still alive, all my grandparents kicked the bucket too. Growing up as a kid in Lagos, Nigeria was so much fun. Dad taught me how to play soccer. Every Saturday morning, we’d drive to the beach to play soccer, then have breakfast while enjoying the sea breeze and watch the waves. My dad was my mentor, my role model. On some Saturdays mum would come with us, she was my biggest fan. When I joined the soccer team in school, she would come watch me, she never missed any of my games. My mum was my biggest cheerleader and the best chef. My mum was Ibibio, if you know women from that area you’ll know they are a natural when it comes to cooking. There was no soup she couldn’t make, was it Afang, Atama abak, Ikon, Edikai nkong name it. Every soup was stuffed with a variety of sea food and well roasted goat meat. I really miss those days.

Finally home. This is my Victoria Island home, it is a beautiful five bedroom duplex, with a three bedroom boys quarters or guest house like Tomi always calls it. It has a basketball court, a pool area, a gym and a garden. Babe seems to thinks it’s a big property but I think it’s just ok.

Everywhere is so quiet, did Tomi leave me already or did something happen, different thoughts going through my head. Walking into the living room, it is pitch-black and quiet but I feel the presence of humans in the room. I switch on the lights and then voices just start singing happy birthday. I almost ran out but looking across the room I knew everyone in there. Tomi just stood there smiling at me like the angel that she is.  I was close to tears but I did a good job fighting it. My closest friends were all present. I hugged Tomi so tight. The party began, I didn’t even want to get out of my work clothes. There was a lot of food. Dj Sagie my friend, was there to deliver good music. I danced my ass off. Trust me I got moves from Azonto to Shoki to Nae Nae, I’ve got it all.

After what seemed like hours the music faded out and my all-time favourite person in the world had something to say about me and my journey so far. Tomi’s words got me all emotional and brought tears to my eyes. We’ve been best friends before we decided to start dating 14 years ago. So she has been there through it all, in plenty and scarce she stayed put. She believed in me when I didn’t even believe in myself. When she was done with her speech, it was my turn to go all John Legend on her.  This wasn’t the plan but it was more perfect that what I had planned, after adorning her with the crown of every beautiful adjective, I couldn’t bring myself to ask her the life changing question “will you marry me?” After my unprepared speech, we danced a little more before our guests began to leave one after the other, till everyone was gone and it was just us two.

Babe made me go up for a shower, she said ‘by the time you are done with bathing get in your pyjamas and come down your birthday gift will be right here waiting for you.’ Filled with so much anxiety, I hurriedly had my bath got into one of my old Chelsea jerseys and a pair of pyjama pants. I ran down the stairs like an excited kid who can’t wait to unwrap his present. Tomi was there in the living room sitting with a woman. I was confused as to who this was, or what she was doing here, is she the gift? Could Tomi be considering a threesome just after I proposed to her, well let’s see. Walking towards the living room, babe gave me that flashy smile from across the room. This made me more uncomfortable. The lady will not turn her face towards me, so I walked up to her closely. Then she raised her head and I almost had a heart attack, WHAT! I fell to the ground...

Uduakobong Etukudo writes from Gold Coast, Queensland, Australia.