”All stand! Greet” thundered the class captain.
”Good Morning sir, you are welcome to the Arts class sir, God bless you sir,” chorused his class mates.
Ola was sitting in front of the class. His dis advantaged height was the cause but it also benefitted him in more ways than one, though, when it came to the time of cane rainfall, he receives it the worst because the teachers’ energy is always at the fullest bar and starts with him.
He had looked forward to this day when he will start wearing the much coveted trousers which literally mean he was a BIG BOY! Immediately after his junior WAEC, he had known he wanted to be in the Arts because he loved reading and also because he knew he would fail Maths. Hence, the science class is out. Commercial is also out because he cannot face the rigours of financial accounting, calculating the money he won’t see or handle! Tu fia kwa! He thought.
So, here he was in the Arts Class! All through his journey to school from home as the bus snaked its way to school slowly but surely, he had been fantasising about who and what it will take to prosper in the arts. He had toyed with different professions in the arts. He had thought of being a lawyer, an educationist, an actor, a writer, and even a professional debater! If anything like that exists…
He had also looked forward to having what he didnt have in the juniors, a girlfriend. At the thought of this, he had grinned then frowned. He thought of how to approach the girl, the money he would spend, the girl’s response and lots more.
”I am Mr Frimpong, your Literature in English teacher. Many of you would have heard about me from your senior ones. I don’t have room for mediocrity in my class. If you can’t cope, then you can leave. And luckily for you, you can’t pass through the arts without this subject. So you just have to co operate with me. Am I clear?” The teacher said, bringing Ola back to the class from his thoughts.
”Any question before I continue?” Mr Frimpong offered.
Hands shot up. He pointed to a girl seated in the middle rows.
”Your name and question.”
”My name is Adetutu. Sir what is the meaning of Mediocrity?” the girl said before sitting.
Her voice was what captured Ola’s attention and he wondered whether she had been in the school since their J. S. S One days. He thought to himself, ‘this will be my girlfriend.’
”Who can answer that question among all of you?” Mr. Frimpong diverted Tutu’s question to the class floor.
Ola knew the answer because he had been reading a lot of books and had even started reading the dictionary! The only thing he lacks is confidence in a new class. Only a few of his class mates in J. S. S Three A were in the arts class with him. Tunde and Biola, his pestilential bullies and friends were among the few. Others were faces he had seen only once or twice.
But something spurred him to raise his hand. It was the desire to create a first and lasting impression on the minds of those who are new to him, the teacher and especially, his would be girlfriend, Tutu! His hand shot into the air…
He looked around the class and found that he was the only one raising his hand. Ol boy, this people will give me a run for my money o! He thought. Then,
”So no other person can answer this question? Okay, we shall see! Short boy, your name and answer. Fast!” Mr. Frimpong spat out.
Ola was jittery, but he opened his mouth and luckily for him, he found his voice.
”Sir, Mediocrity mean something of low quality. Or the act of performing poorly. It is gotten from the word Mediocre.” Ola said and made to sit when he heard…
”Your name, or are you nameless?” That was Mr. Frimpong again.
Ola thought he was wrong because the look on the teacher’s face can cause forced labour to a nine month pregnant woman!
Hence, he shakily said: ”Sorry sir! My names are Adeona Olaoluwa Ibrahim.”
”Sit down Ola”, Mr. Frimpong eased his tension, yet his heart was pounding furiously.
Then he heard yet again: ”Clap for him. He got it right. And I hope you have learnt that. That shows he has been reading and studying.” Mr. Frimpong praised him.
The class rang with the clap and Ola could feel himself in the ninth cloud, he heaved a sigh of relief. Then he heard, ”Obe Kote! Obe Kote!!”
There were only a few people who knew him by that nickname, it’s only people in J. S. S Three A that called the name. He looked back to see his bully friends, Tunde and Biola, grinning from ear to ear like one who just won a jackpot.
The name came from the butcher’s knife he had brought to school in his junior days for grass cutting since his mother couldn’t afford to buy him a new student type cutlass. The name had stuck ever since.
Class was over and he had become a star. Everybody became his friends, especially the girls. He knew it would happen, they were around him just for his brain.
He went for break and came back to the class to find a note waiting for him
The break time bell rang and everybody trooped out to do their businesses. Some to eat, some to gamble and others to play. Ola
was not left out. He left the class, though he had no Kobo in his pockets since his mum only gave him Five Naira for his morning
transport, which he had spent on same. He decided to go to the school playfield to watch those playing football. There he saw some of his mates who knew of his goal keeping prowess and they called on him to come and
keep for them.
He joined them and kept out ferocious shots to the best of his ability.
Game over, he was given five Naira.’What for?’ he queried.
‘It is betting jare, abi o fe ni ko mu wa (or don’t you want it?)’ said Ismaila, a boy he knew in J. S. S Three B.
He collected the cash and pocketed it. That will serve another purpose. ‘Thank You o
baba God’, he muttered under his breath.
He was too tired to stand for long, so, with the remaining strength in his short body, he staggered to his class.
In the class were those who had returned earlier or those who didn’t go out at all and those who had sent the juniors one food
item or the other. The class was a mumble jumble of different sounds and noises.
Inspite of the noise, Ola decided to rest a little before the next subject they had. His own way of resting is quite odd. Rather than sleep or just sit idly, Ola had his rest by either reading anything readable or copying notes. He can read in any condition and still understand.
He dug his hand into his whitish yellow second hand bag which had been housing his books since J. S. S One and brought out Wole Soyinka’s The Lion and the Jewel. As the book slides out of the bag, a folded piece of paper fell out of it!
Ola was puzzled. Which paper is this? The paper was different from those that his books were made from. He bent and picked it up. He opened it and read its content.
This was what was written in it:
Hi Obe Kote, (fish knife) [Ola’s nickname] I know you will be surprised that I called you that. My ears are very good at picking things and sorry, hope you don’t mind my calling you that henceforth?
I just want to tell you that I wish that we could be friends. By friends, I mean study mates with no strings attached cos I have heard that you are very brainy and you proved it today with that display in the Lit. class. I also heard that you aint good at Maths. I hope I can help you with that. I just don’t know why I didn’t come across you even for a second in our junior school days. No qualms, people meet somehow, and we have met. I hope you will accept this offer of friendship from a well meaning heart. Waiting for your reply.
N. B. You might need to know it cos I already know yours.
I am Jeje Adetutu.
He heaved a huge sigh of relief of relief after reading the note. He just saw part of his dream come to pass. Who is he to reject the hand of friendship? A girl who he was still thinking about how to talk to. A girl who he was still thinking of seeking professional advise from Tunde and Biola to ‘psyche’ her up. Ol boy, Ibi ti a fe gbin obi si, Obi ti hu nibe bayii o! (the place we want to plant kolanut, it’s already germinating there). He thought and smiled as he scanned the whole class with his eyes seeking to see her face. But she wasn’t in the class.
Ola just wondered when she had put the note in his bag and who those that told her about him were.
‘Those are inconsequential,’ he said to himself as he closed the book and tore a piece of paper to write his reply to the note that had just made his day…
…to be continued