- Hello folks. This is a two-episode series premiere, subsequent episodes will appear on Tuesdays and Fridays. Don’t forget to like, share and comment as you read and enjoy the story. Thank you.
The University of Ibadan main campus was teeming with humanity. Like busy ants streaming from their disturbed anthill, students hurried to and fro with different looks on their faces. Some with harried looks, others were confident, and the ones who could afford cars looked smug enough in their comfort. The hot sun burned down on them all, the attendant common denominator of stress and sweat. The wind had a feel of wetness to it. Though the clouds were clear, it did not need a weatherman to predict that the rain wasn’t so far away, and yet it could not come soon enough.
Down the main thoroughfare, a hawker sold her cold drinks to a thirsty crowd, wiping the dirty sweat which had accumulated on her face with the edge of her wrapper.
‘Se awon drinks yin tutu?’ A young student, dressed in a navy blue shirt and sky blue tie with black pants asked. He looked like someone that really needed a drink as the sweat stains under his armpit was clearly visible despite the dark nature of his shirt. As he waited for her response, he brought out an already soaked handkerchief to wipe his face. The handkerchief though white, had lost that spark of whiteness and was more of a dull cream colour now.
‘Won tutu gan.’ The elderly woman replied quickly as she juggled different orders from different people at once, never seeming to lose track of what everyone wanted.
‘E fun mi ni Teem kan.’ The youth called out. She responded by stretching out the required drink to him, and he gave her the new 100 naira note which the Central Bank of Nigeria had just released to commemorate the Centenary celebration of the creation of Nigeria in 1914.
The woman readily accepted it, mumbling her thanks as she stuffed it in her waist pouch and moved on to the next customer.
Without any prompting, the youth unscrewed the cover of the drink sharply, a look of anticipation on his face, and his throat worked furiously, as he gulped down more than half of the chilled drink at once. He brought his hand down, a look of relief on his face, as he quickly hurried towards the car pack to get a shuttle out of the campus, as he knew the relief was only going to be temporary. He needed to take a shower to cool off.
As he was departing the school, one of the transport shuttles arrived, a white bus with the bold University of Ibadan Students Union Government painted on its sides. The occupants alighted and immediately scattered as they went their separate ways. Two of their number set out for the Student Affairs building. Both slim young men, the shorter one wearing a purple native ‘buba’ and ‘sokoto’ without the cap, while the other, a little over average height wore a blue shirt and black trousers with pam slippers. They walked with eager steps, discussing what they expected to see at notice board of the student affairs building. The postings of the recent graduates for the NYSC program had just been released and pasted.
‘Where do you think you’ll be posted to?’ Tolu, the shorter one in native asked.
‘Don’t really have any preferences. This program is supposed to expose us to other parts of our country as well as meeting other people. I actually want to go to some distant place, you know, see some things that I might probably never see again, go to places I might never go of my own free will.’ Bade replied.
Tolu chuckled; ‘My friend, ever the idealist. I do not intend on leaving these Yoruba states, with people that I understand their language, and popsy has taken steps to guarantee that.’ He concluded with a wink.
Bade just smiled at his friend and shook his head. The boy was always going for shortcuts, that still niggled at him.
‘Where’s your sense of adventure? Exploring outside your comfort zone, testing yourself, pushing your limits, where’s that desire?’ Bade asked intensely.
‘That’s for high-minded people like you. Some of us prefer things to be easy. But you know that already.’ Tolu retorted. And indeed Bade did, it was the same reason why Bade had used five chapters in his long essay and Tolu had used four. Bade believed in the experience, Tolu believed in the end, though it didn’t make him duller, on the contrary, he was what people called ‘street-smart.’
They continued their journey in silence, and upon getting to the Directorate of Student Affairs, they both quickly sought out their names. Though they were in the same department, the distance between their names usually meant they were posted on different sheets.
The sun continued its relentless beating on them.
Elsewhere on campus, students sat in their lecture theatres, with the smell of stale sweat and perfume in the air as they received lectures in the sort of heat which the rolling fans could not totally dissipate.
Needless to say, it was a hot day, but as Bade stood in front of that notice board, a cold shiver went down his spine as he looked at his best friend for many years, Tolu, while he declared like a prophet of doom;
‘Jesus Christ, they have killed me!’ As he slumped dejectedly into one of the wooden benches around the notice board, a sinking feeling in his heart.
Tolu found his name, he had been posted to Ondo State, but on hearing the anguish in his friend’s voice, he quickly sought out Bade’s name and on seeing what was typed there, he went to join him on the bench. Raising one arm across Bade’s shoulders, as Tolu was slightly shorter than his friend, he said;
‘Come on, don’t be so dramatic, weren’t you the one that was just talking about adventure and all that?’
Bade raised a hand in frustration. ‘Yeah, I do want to travel, but that doesn’t mean they should go and drop me in the lion’s den. I could get killed out there.’ Tolu sat back, acquiescing. That was the truth.
Several thoughts were running through Bade’s head. For the first time in his life, he has come face to face with a problem of which there were no immediate solutions. He had always believed that through sheer force of will, he could overcome any challenge that life threw at him, and there had been many. But this time he was stumped. This time, he was reminded that most of the things he went through were easy compared to what he was now facing. He has finally seen an obstacle that could break him, strong enough to bring him down from the euphoria he had been feeling as a graduate of Business Administration for the past few months, he knew without a doubt that things were going to get tougher.
Vaguely, through his thoughts, he saw a shadow fall over him and Tolu where they were seated, as another former classmate joined them.
‘Bade Alabi and Tolu Orekomaya,’ he said in the way of greeting, a heavy frown on his face. Tolu stood up to his full height, though the new comer still towered over him.
‘James Ilori.’ Tolu replied, also with a straight face. Then Bade finally looked up and butted in;
‘Oh would you guys cut it out, how many times are you guys going to play this game.’ Both Tolu and James looked at themselves like ancient gladiators facing themselves in the arena, then they both burst into huge smiles and hugged each other with a lot of back-patting going into the mix. For they were all good friends, though Bade and Tolu had been closer, James, was like an extension of them, an auxiliary limb.
‘Why is he being such a spoil sport?’ James asked Tolu, with Tolu’s reply being a nod towards the notice board. It was a testament to their friendship that James checked Bade’s name before he had even checked his own. When he saw what was posted there, he whispered to himself ‘Oh!’. Quickly, he looked for his own name, breathing a little sigh of relief when he saw where he was posted.
Turning towards Bade, James had a calculating look on his face as he said; ‘I know a way out of this.’ Bade looked at him confused, like he could not wrap his head around the words.
‘I know a way to stop you from being shipped to Kano for NYSC posting.’ James repeated. Bade knew his steady friend would not make such an assertion lightly. Immediately, a ray of hope blossomed in his heart.