By Osa Amadi, Arts Editor
At some point, Freedom Ohaka’s elder brother, Charles Ohaka, the great footballer and former captain of Spartans FC, came to Lagos and joined us in the one room at Mafoluku. By that time Freedom’s work had stopped. So in the room, out of the four of us living there, I was the only one who was working.
Three times a day, Longy would go to his sister’s house and ate breakfast, lunch and dinner. But I always cooked food in the house for us – Freedom, Charles and me. Both Caro (Maxwell’s wife), Freedom, and Charles are all from the same family – the Ohaka family – but Longy and Caro were of the same mother and father while Freedom and Charles were from a different mother and father. I was the outsider in their midst but we are all from the same village.
Charles always reported to me and Freedom that Longy after eating at Caro’s house brings uncooked rice from there which he cooked anytime all of us went out of the house. I did not believe him. How can Longy bring raw rice and wait until his brothers were out, then he would cook it, eat everything and washed the pots while his brothers were struggling with hunger?
To prove it to us that he was saying the truth, one day when Longy went to Caro’s house, Charles used razor blade to cut open his travelling bag which he always kept permanently locked. Lo and behold, there was a big polythene bag of uncooked rice inside Longy’s travelling bag!
I was shocked.
Charles removed the rice. When Longy came back we were all watching him closely. He saw that his traveling bag had been cut open and went to examine it. “My bag has been cut open,” he said mildly.
“Your bag cut open? How come?” Charles pretended to be surprised. “Is anything missing from the bag?”
“No,” Longy answered.
“Are you sure? Didn’t you keep money inside the bag?”
“Then why are you always locking the bag?” Charles continued to interrogate him. But Longy never reported that his rice was missing!
If I had been developed spiritually at that time, I would probably have understood that my itenery and engagements were in those days, as they are now, divinely programmed. After Caro had asked the landlord to eject me from the one-room apartment from Mafoluku, I mentioned it to the other Alhaji, owner of the rental services business where I was working. By that time he had made me his chief driver.
He told me that I should not bother myself and gave me one room in his mighty residential storey building in the compound where we had the rental business. I put a mat and curtains in the room and ocassionally took some nap there in the afternoon, but I never really lived in the room. I had a strong feeling that it was time for me to move on. I had a strong feeling it was timeup for me with manual labor.
During one of those days, I visited No 9 Awofodu, Palmgroove. Collins Ebomuche, the poet, drew my attention to a job advertisement in a several month’s old newspaper requesting for the position of a music teacher to be filled at one newly established St. Gloria’s College, Onigbongbo, Maryland, Lagos. Knowing how scarce it was, even till today, to get qualified academic music teachers, I decided to visit St. Gloria’s College.
When I got to the school and introduced myself to the principal of the school, (I think his name was Mr. Fred or Friday) he told me that it had been long since the vacancy was published. I said I knew; that I just came to see whether the vacancy still existed because there are not many of us who studied music in the university.
“I agree with you,” he said. “The vacancy still exists.”
“Good. Then should I go and bring an application?”
“Write the application here and now,” he told me, giving me a foolscap paper.
After writing the application he asked me when I would be ready to start work. The following day, I became the pioneer music teacher of St. Gloria’s College, Maryland, Lagos.
I went back to Mafoluku to take my few belongings (all along, my mountain of books had been at No 9 Awofodu) and to resign properly from my job as chief driver at the rental services. When I got to Alhaji’s house, owner of the rental business, he had already retired to his living room for the day. He sent for me to come upstairs.