By OSA MBONU-AMADI, Arts Editor
“He is despised and rejected of men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief; and we hid as it were our faces from him; he was despised and we esteem him not.” – Isaiah 53:3
After the blind musicians had shone with me who had sight but could not use it, Jude my friend and I went home silently and shamefully. I had failed him, my students, the proprietress, and others.
When I got to school the following day no one spoke to me still. I was ostracized by everyone, especially the teachers. In the staffroom and wherever they gathered at that time, I always heard their raucous laughter. They celebrated and relished my downfall.
One day in the Assembly Hall, they staged a drama meant to further ridicule me. They had a meeting with the female school administrator (I can no longer remember her name) and convinced her that I should be compelled to be accompanying all the songs sang in the morning assembly. Sensing that the proprietress was no longer happy with me, everyone became willing to spit in my face and cast stones at me. After they had perfected their plan they brought it to the assembly one morning to be staged. The female school administrator who hardly came to the morning assembly came that particular morning.
As soon as the Social Studies teacher had raised a song, the Fine Art teacher brought a long stool and placed it by the piano and said, “Please Mr. Amadi, accompany us on the piano.”
“Yes, Mr. Amadi, please sit down on the piano and accompany us,” other teachers repeated gleefully.
I stood where I was, not moving. Everyone was watching me, and time was going. The administrator stamped her feet on the ground impatiently and screamed: “For Christ’s sake Mr. Amadi, sit down on the piano and accompany the songs!”
For the first time in my life, I yielded to pressure. I sat down on the piano, and after playing a few chords, I broke down. I sat silently on the stool until the songs and the assembly was over. Again they filed out of the hall, leaving me behind like a leper. The teachers laughed heartily as they danced out.
The following day the administrator put my name into the duty roaster as one of the teachers who would be conducting the morning assembly. My name was not in the list before – a prerogative I had as the music teacher.
I have never accepted defeat in my life. I could be ridiculed and spat on, but I can never accept defeat; I will always come for a return match; a day of vengeance. I went to my younger brother who was in Lagos and borrowed money from him. One Saturday I went to Alaba International Market and bought a piano keyboard. One good thing about education is that it helps you to know where your problem is and what you can do to solve it. The rest depends on whether you are prepared to pay the price – the drills and the sleepless nights.
For weeks, I locked myself up, working. Carefully, I isolated my problem and faced it squarely. First, I learned how to use the transposing function on the piano keyboard. This allows a pianist to use one key (C major, G major, F major, etc.) to accompany all songs. But the battered old upright piano in St Gloria had no transposing function. So I had to learn to play in at least 5 major key, plus A and D minors. I bought a cassette of recorded medley church music and used it to practice. I played back the cassette using the songs to practice extempore accompaniment. As I made progress I became happier and happier.
One morning, at the assembly, the teachers nudged me as usual to go and stand in front of the students and conduct the assembly. The female administrator was there that morning. I cleared my throat.
“That place you are prodding me to go and stand is not my proper place,” I said to the teachers.
“Where is your proper place, Mr. Amadi?” The administrator asked me.
I pointed at the piano. She raised her eyebrows. The entire hall fell silent.
I went and sat down on the piano and played a chord progression in key A major. One little girl who remained my only ally after everyone had ostracized me picked it up and started a worship song in that key. The other students joined her.
The buildup began. I pounded out appropriate chords for the song. Suddenly the Social Studies teacher changed the song, perhaps in the hope that I would falter, but held on, even adding a minor chord to the primary chords I was using. Excited, the students raised the tempo and dynamics of the song. Reluctantly, the rest of the teachers joined the billowing songs. I accompanied all the songs from beginning to end, then a thunderous applause. The female administrator came over and shook my hands.
My students laughed and smiled looking towards me as they filed out of the hall. Their smiles and laughs infected me and I started laughing too. I felt so good laughing that laugh. I was having the last laugh.
Until I left St Gloria’s College, I never missed accompanying songs during the morning assembly.
One Monday morning, the female administrator brought a copy of Weekend Vanguard to the Assembly and excitedly fluttered in my face, the centre spread containing the previous week’s episode of my novel, Rivers of Tears, which was being serialized. “Mr. Amadi, are you the person who is writing this!”
“Aaaaaaah, Mr. Amadi. So you are a great writer?”
All the teachers gathered around the administrator looking into the beautifully illustrated story in the newspaper. But the Social Studies teacher and Fine Arts teacher quietly sneaked out. From that day, whenever I came into the staffroom for one thing or the other, they would bend their heads down to their desks pretending to be busy reading. Now, it makes me recall a prayer attributed to Pastor A. E. Adeboye:
“Your success will make your enemies to hide their faces in shame whenever they see you coming in Jesus name!”
Until the Rivers of Tears finished running on Weekend Vanguard, the female administrator, the Agric teacher, and the Computer teacher never failed to buy and bring copies of Weekend Vanguard to school. In my life as a Christian and an ordained Pastor, I have never prayed to God to destroy my enemies. I tell God to bless me instead, because for me, success is the best revenge.