SECOND COMING TO EZEBAJA (a short story by Evans Ufeli)
That morning I sat across a moulter at the kitchen devouring Isege soup with pounded yam. It was tasty especially because I had not eaten such native savoury for a while. Beside me were cooking utensils, a pistil laid close to my legs, yam pills and some pots weighing different sizes. I enjoyed viewing everything bit of these things around me as it reminded me of childhood. Growing up in Etua at some point in my life was fascinating. Though I wasn’t born there, but when providence took us there we had to bear with the joy and pains prevalent at that location of the earth. Behind the kitchen was a pineapple orchard. Each time I wade in there, memories of childhood rejuvenates in me in such an indescribable vividness. I am actually a moving story, one of which the world needs to hear. I thought that morning. Within the orchard I observed how squirrels locked around the branches of trees scouting for ripe pineapples. They knew which was ready for consumption. They are so smart that once I moved my feet they took to their heels and the orchard returns deserted as if no squirrel came in there. I went further into the orchard- the birds whistled sonorous sounds, the crickets’ chirped. Then came the sported mouse called ‘’Oguno’’ a male one was chasing the female through the footpath that led into the orchard before the demarcation; where a group of bamboo trees clustered hysterically.
This was the very display that brought home dear to my heart .
when I succeeded in getting some pineapples I sat at the parlour pondering over the memories and journey of life so far. It was fifteen years ago I witnessed this and fifteen years after I sat lost in thought; in the rich past of my life. This past made strong impression in my heart so I felt how fifteen years of my life had triggered fifteen years of my recent past.
In making a choice between this two fifteen years I found pleasure in the first which bore me memories of sincerity, innocence and vulnerability. These were my formative years, when my mind was transforming. ‘’You have not taken your bath yet’’ my sister bawl at me. ’’Not yet I need to meditate first and perhaps read some lines from the doctrine of mean’’; a Korean philosophy I said. My sister nodded amidst a captivating smile one which made the morning a veritable one. I stood up and walk to the window as I gazed at passerby. Etua, arguably, is where the most industrious people on earth dwell. People trooped out to their respective trade in multitude. They share a common philosophy -‘’Hard work’’ the wine tappers had already returned from the bush as early as 6am. Palm wine is a special drink in Etua. It extraction from the palm trees dates back to antiquity.
The local technological process for which it is brewed is cherished by the people. It is only cultural to drink ‘’Maya Uzu’’-palm wine. Which represent a purity of some sort. As I stood at the window at that time of the day the cassava harvester were already preparing for the day’s business. The main road that led their way looked rough. It had actually undergone repeated grading process without remedy. The politicians had turned it to a bate for which they use to solicit for votes only to abandon it immediately they assume office. Deliberations on how to put the road in order has been ongoing as long as I can remember. They have all flogged the issue to comma.
As the sun began to rise, the school children walked briskly to school. I watched as they trooped out in large numbers on a blue and white uniform. Some looked very neat on the uniforms and others appeared untidy. Perhaps I should say some are wise and some otherwise. The serious ones walked so hastily as if they were in a race competition, others walked nonchalantly.
This was the school I attended as a child. I had made up my mind earlier on that day to visit the school again, perhaps I will be allow to teach English language or English literature. I eventually left the window to the bathroom, I did the washing swiftly and returned to my room. So I took the doctrine of mean; the Korean philosophy which happens to be my favorite. I needed to bestir my thought deeply in philosophy that morning before I set out to Ezebaja. The doctrine of mean is a text rich in symbolism and guardian to perfect oneself. The ‘’mean’’ is also described as the unswerving pivot. The goal of the mean is to maintain balance and harmony from directing the mind to a state of constant equilibrium. It represents moderation, rectitude, objectivity, sincerity, honesty and propriety. I read all through the thirteenth verses, I stumbled on one of those dignified quotes which I would usually underlined and it reads ‘’what heaven has disposed and sealed is called the inborn nature. The realization of this nature is called (the process; the understanding or making intelligible of this process) is called education’’ I did memorized it that morning as I had done in the past to incisive thoughts from the doctrine of mean. As I walked down the road, a lorry driven by an old man passed by perhaps they had gone to Etua Oliogo to carry some bags of garri and they are headed for Etua Ukpo where the final loading is done before it is transported to Lagos or Port-Harcourt. Someone had called on me from the lorry but the old man didn’t wait for me to see who it was,so I walked faster so as to get to Ezebaja on time. There were white lines across the road which showed that snails crossed over the road in their large numbers overnight, but the deeper signs on the sand were rails of millipede. This was common place during the raining season. The ‘’Oguno’’- ‘’sported mouse’’ kept running across the road, other insects gallivants around the edge of the path hiding under the grass. I saw some isege trees with their newly grown leaves ready to be plucked for the market. People who passed by riding bicycles stopped to greet me each of them inquiring when and how I came into the village. Some even went as far as asking after my brother who I had not seen for the past seven years because he chooses to live oversee. I observed how concerned my people where about their own. They are deliberate; believing that a child of one is that of all. At this point ,I sighted the Ezebaja’s gate. The signboard read ‘’Ezebaja secondary School Etua-Utagba Uno, founded in 1980’’ I stood and looked at the gate. The signboard looked smaller. ‘’perhaps it had sank into the ground! ‘’I thought.’’ No maybe I have grown taller, either of which may supply the lack of the rest.’’ I thought. I felt thrown back into time as a student of Ezebaja, a glowing memory came to me full of ambivalence. How we were locked outside the gate by Mr. Osike; a teacher whose sense of discipline knew no bound. He disciplined us by his excessive malign approach to issues of late-coming, absenteeism and truancy. He was a ferocious young man whose appearance brought us trembling. I stared at the double footpath that spread into the school premises .It has not changed! I remembered how we swept it every morning as early as 5am before we return home in preparation for school proper. I felt a nostalgic sensation cast down memory lane. It looked like it was yesterday. My imagination brought fifteen years back to me as if it all happened just a week before now. The whistling pine were still standing only for a few that had long fallen off, some had ruptured branches. The whistling pine swayed as usual to the route of the wind amidst it whistles which brought that natural serenity most suiting for learning. The guinea and elephant grasses looked grown but the students have cleared them severally during labour time.
The relics of cutlasses showed at the new shot-outs of the grass spear. Ezebaja bore an aura of a legendary institution one of which the entire world should know about .It has produced the high and mighty. It still retained its natural ambiance of tranquility. Much of which have changed is the new buildings now seen in the premises and the reduction in the size of the studentship. I accosted the gate-man; he looked paled that morning perhaps he had been at his duty post overnight. It was only natural for him to come into sight worn out at that time of the day. ‘’yes what do you want?’’ He said. I want to see the principal’’ I answered. ‘’Did he give you an appointment t?’’ he asked. ‘’No’’ I replied. He looked at me bearishly, removed his glasses and put it on again. ‘’So what makes you think you can just come and see him’’ he quarried. ‘’Are you from this village’’ he asked. ‘’Yes’’ I replied. I greeted him in my native tongue ‘’Ajieh Sir!’’ But he wouldn’t reply me. He wasn’t convinced. I could perceive from his facial expression as he subjected me to thorough scrutiny.
‘’Why the interrogation?’’ I thought. He told me to wait for him. He called his colleague who asked me of whose son I was. Then I told him, they were satisfied but not enough to see the principal. It was considered a herculean task. What do you want to see him for? ‘’I have come to teach the students. I was a student here fifteen years ago and I know how it was then and now. I only came to help’’ they quickly sent a message to the principal who ordered them to bring me in. I walked in with unbarred confidence as my intake of the doctrine mean kept vibrating on my lips. The students peeped to catch a glimpse of me- they were uncertain what my mission was. The messenger took me to the principal’s office to see him. ‘’Good morning sir’’ I greeted him. He answered while he wrote what looked like a letter on his table. Then he looked up with a cheerful smile and ordered me to sit. That was the same office we trembled when we were regimented by the principal fifteen years.
Mr Ekele was the principal at that time. Then he made sinister remarks at us as empty-headed students. We actually made mockery of him because he walked like a woman in our estimation. ‘’I will laugh you last’’ he bawl at us .One of his favorite phrases then was ‘’Unu ama li ife’’- you guys know nothing! He had often accused us of relying on examination malpractice to get good grades. But that wasn’t our attraction. We were studious, hardworking and persevering for we knew success wasn’t any man’s monopoly and that one does not understand the significance and value of success until one had failed. The case was made worse because there was a misunderstanding between us and the principal then. So what can I do for you? The principal asked. He was young, energetic and engaging. I told him who I was and what my mission was. ‘’I was a student here before’’ I said. ‘’Really? ‘’ he yelled. ‘’I graduated fifteen years ago’’ ‘’what !’’ he exclaimed.
I came in for my sister’s wedding and I will be around for a week or so, I will like to come around and teach the students English language and English literature. He was very pleased at my request which he granted instantly. We should have more of you around’’ he whispered ‘’yeah!’’ ‘’I just remembered. I will like to meet with the old boys association of this school. Please can you help to group them? I have some names here. You must all come together to create a strong union as old boys’’. He said.He opened a file and brought a list where I found some names of people I know. ‘’Platforms that will better your lives and that of the younger generation must be encouraged’’ He mused ‘’please bear it in mind and we will discuss it in details before you go ‘’. His suggestion pulled me to thought and I felt how docile we had been all this while. He, who is an outsider, is asking us to group up and form the old boys association wherein we can actually make a maximum impact in Etua.
I was taken to the most senior class. As I stepped in I remember vividly my days in that class. I stood at spot where I usually sat fifteen years ago as a little boy, eager to learn. I remembered it was there my love for literature steam out from. I was motivated and I thought like never before in such an unquenchable passion for my people. The desire to see the entire student at the top of their game instigated me to unfold my intellectual articulation on them. They were swept off by the lucidity of my explanation and the penetration of my ideas. Along the line I remembered I was only taught English language at that school once or twice. We had just six teachers in my days there. But today I taught them English language and English literature with such a dept that is next to none.
The student kept clapping and screaming in a loud voice. As I looked at the window all the teacher had gathered I became unrepentant at what I knew how to do best. Soon the principal joined the fray. I told the student how difficult it was in our time but we still studied. We have to get to the farm after school every day. But we still turned out well. We believed in ourselves and we worked towards it. The principal was stunned as he engaged himself on series of thoughts. As I stepped out the class the principal hugged me in appreciation of my good work! You too, can do the same. Service to humanity is the greatest treasure of life. My second coming to Ezebaja………………………………..


  1. I appreciate your good work Evanylaw. The narrative is so rich in imagery and suspence and savoured with local colours. I felt like am in the school premises as I read the story having attended the school. This is a call to service.

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