I became confused and with mouth agape, yet the words froze on my lips. Time stood still and every other sound paled in significance to the inaudible sound playing in my head.
‘My exam…no examination for me?’ I found my voice.
‘Nnenna, calm down and let me explain,’ she pulled me to a seat.
‘Do you remember that night your father came home with suya meat, with the size more than we’ve ever eaten in this house?’
‘Yes, that was just on Tuesday…oh mama, how does that affect my exams fee?’ I was already boiling within.
‘Well, he bought that meat on credit from Musa…and that was why he sent his son…’
‘You should have told him that papa is sick? How can you sacrifice…?’
‘Ssh! Please don’t wake your father up; he has gone through enough pains to accommodate any form of disturbance.’
‘I don’t care!’ I sniffed, ‘that man never wanted me to go pass through tertiary education in the first place…he is such a heartless…’
‘Come on keep quiet!’ she slapped me lightly, ‘you can’t talk about your father like that. Are you out of your senses?’
I became perplexed. Who do I turn to for help?
Lying on the floor, I cried like a baby.
‘Okay, it’s alright my dear,’ mama pacified and dragged me back to my seat, ‘Nne, I say it’s okay… listen carefully, I sincerely desire tertiary education for you, even though I wasn’t privileged to have one. But come to think of it, if you write and pass this examination and you’re granted admission, who would foot the bill?’
The words hit me hard and for the first time, the truth which she had not told me expressly came to the fore –Papa has no intent of spending a dime on furthering my education.
‘So…are you saying that I’m going to forfeit my dreams just like that? Can’t you just plead with him on my behalf; I won’t mind repaying him all the money he spent when I finally secure a job.’
Mama was speechless and with the look in her eyes, I knew she would definitely burst into tears if she dared utter a word.
‘I don’t want to be an ordinary Secondary School Certificate holder…’
‘No my dear, you won’t end up like me…there would definitely be a way; but for now, I can’t think of any,’ mama muttered glancing through the window as she rose to her feet.
‘Let’s face the business for the day, Nnenna. Please pick your things and be on your way to the shop. Fridays are usually my lucky sales day. Every single kobo counts in this family.’
Bayo had finished washing his uncle’s car and was waiting for me by the time I came outside.
‘What took you so long?’
I hesitated, torn between ignoring and replying him.
‘Your eyes are red. What’s the matter?’
‘Please Bayo, please, leave me alone…’
I was already on my way.
‘Hey! Please wait…Nnenna.What’s the matter with you?’
I turned deaf eyes and crossed to the other side of the road.
Although I felt sorry for him, being the unfortunate victim of transferred aggression, but viewing the whole picture from a different angle, I was convinced he deserved such treatment, after all, he was the secondary cause of my unhappiness.
I boarded one of the commercial buses and headed towards mama’s shop.
The traffic seemed light initially until we approached Boundary market where we passed several angry mob chanting: ‘Kosi Subair, Kosi bo!’
‘What’s wrong with those ruffians over there?’ our driver asked a motorcycle rider.
‘They are protesting over the killing of the mother of Honourable Subair, one of the political aspirants last night…’
‘Oh Jesus!’ one lady in our bus screamed, with both hands on her head.
‘Must be the handiwork of the opposition party,’ another commented.
‘Oga mi, there is no road here,’ our bus conductor motioned to the driver, ‘let’s pass through Orile.’
The bus had not gone past Nosamu axis when we faced a fresh set of protesters chanting the same slogan.
At that point, our bus conductor signaled to his counterpart from another commercial vehicle.
‘Is it true… that Honourable Subair’s mother was murdered last night?’
‘So what’s the cause of the protest?’
‘The man was disqualified over his submission of fake academic credentials…’
‘The whole political system is a sham!’ one of the passengers in our bus roared as he banged his clenched fist on the body of the vehicle.
All eyes turned towards the suit-clad young man who apparently would have passed for a complete gentleman a couple of minutes ago.
‘I know the pedigree of that guy very well,’ he continued, ‘Subair was my senior from the University of Lagos. The old cargoes in the system are just making up false stories to push the youths away from governance.’
As the young man spoke I realised he was carrying a long file with some documents sticking out by the sides. Who knows, he could be a lawyer…
‘I’ve been a graduate for ten good years, and with two Master’s degrees to my credit, yet I’ve been unable to secure a job. How long are we going to keep recycling unqualified, incompetent bunch of old cargoes when we have vibrant and intelligent youths just wasting away? They engage our young folks with TV reality show when in the real world, they have no stake in the society…’
The young man prattled on end with much fervor, trying as much as possible to gain sympathy from one or two of the passengers.
As we approached Sari Iganmu, we passed by small groups of students loitering outside the school vicinity.
‘What could these ones be doing outside the school premises at this time of the day?’ one middle-aged man remarked, ‘So-called leaders’ of tomorrow my foot! And yet some people would dare say the youths are not given a chance…whoever gives the throne to the unprepared?’
The suit-clad man sighed, and then stuck an earpiece in both ears.
All through the journey, excerpts from that middle-aged man kept resounding in my mind. ‘Whoever gives the throne to the unprepared?’
As I pondered on those words, a remote fear crept into my mind as I also recalled the plight of that young man, who despite his level of preparedness, has not been able to secure a job. What then was the missing link?
Finally, the bus got to Idumota market, stretching the journey of thirty minutes to three hours!
Three patrons were already at the entrance of our shop by the time I arrived.
‘Punctuality is the soul of business,’ one of them remarked, ‘this isn’t the way your mother runs her business.’
‘Our youth these days, don’t have any sense of urgency,’ another remarked.
‘I’m sorry for the delay.’
Sales transaction commenced in earnest. The outcome was just the way mama predicted. Old stocks mama had considered reducing their prices were cleared of the shelves that day. In the end, I felt a sense of fulfillment even though I had just forfeited my examination fee.
I could not wait to get home and announce the good news to mama.
Papa and his friend, Bassey were both engrossed in a conversation when I got home.
‘Mama guess what?’ I dashed into the bedroom expecting to find her in her routine bead making.
This is unusual, I mused in the semi-dark room, as I spotted her large frame lying on the bed. What could make mama asleep at just 6.30pm?
‘Mama, are you alright?’ I tapped her gently.
‘Who is that?’ an unfamiliar voice answered.
I gazed intently at the figure and discovered to my astonishment, that was not mama!