Restless!: The Story of a Survivor

Restless!: The Story of a Survivor

by Ayokunle Dominic Awoleye


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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781482861907
Publisher: Partridge Africa
Publication date: 07/25/2016
Pages: 282
Product dimensions: 6.00(w) x 9.00(h) x 0.64(d)

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Smelling a Rat

It was on April fool's day in 1993, I was a JSS 2 student at Command Secondary School Abakaliki, a total boarding school with military affiliation for boys and girls.

We have just had our last lesson for the day delivered by Madam Ezumah, the home economics teacher. It was almost time for lunch. Thursdays were very significant days at school back then because at lunch, we were served jollof rice, fish, and banana. We called it 'banana race' day, and it was serious business because you prepare for as if preparing for a Local Olympics!

Once the school's time keeper picks the bell to ring at 2.30 PM. The bell sends every banana loving student out of the class room at a 100 metre dash towards the dining hall. The race was for the swift. The aim was to arrive at the dining table first, and pick the biggest and most succulent banana; and if possible, steal from other dining tables en route yours. You could equally steal one or two from your own table and pass it to a friend for safe keeping before the arrival of other table members, thereby rendering late arrivals 'bananaless'! If you attended a boarding school, you will get the picture.

The dining hall was divided into boys and girls sections, and we normally filed into the hall during meals; but on Thursday, that rule does not apply as every opening like doors, windows, and vents becomes an entry point. Only do not be caught, you would be so sorry if you are.

I had my plans well laid out. My cutlery and that of my senior room-mate in my nylon bag, my mind set on the open window by my dining table, and on the main entrance as my plan B. My eyes focused at the class room exit, my ears drawn and stretched to capture the faintest sound of a bell. The sound of a spoon dropping on the floor would spring me out of the classroom. And that is the same mood majority of the students were at such period.

The clock was ticking! My heart was beating! One hundred and eighty seconds more and the anxiety would be over. Let this cup pass me by, though it is self-imposed, let it pass. I looked around the classroom; everyone was on alert, all eyes at the exit! The mood here was tensed. Some boys were already on their feet, some stood close to the door restless, and I wished I was a boy, I so wished I was a boy! But as a girl, I had to pretend. Pretend all was well until the bell rings, and all hell will be let loose as if a fire alarm had sounded. The only sign of anxiety I displayed was the tapping of my pen on my desk.

Suddenly, the boys at the door ran back to their desks and sat. Meaning that either a teacher or a prefect was approaching. What a time for an intruder to come into our class? At the eleventh hour? The bell would sound any moment from now, this is injury time!

Into the classroom came Madam Mbaneto, my house mistress as well as French teacher we all stood and chorused, 'Bonjour, Madam Mbaneto!'

'Bonjour te le monde!' she replied. 'Comment allez vous?' And we replied, Tres bien! Merci!'

'Asii! ' she said and we sat down.

She moved around the classroom looking at our faces. Ten seconds more. Be gone woman!

'Deborah Amadi!' she called out.

I sprang up as it coincided with the sound of the school bell. Did the school bell call my name or what?

'Follow me now!' she commanded as she turned, moving towards the exit, her hips swinging from side to side.

I always admired her rear view. I wished I would develop such hips when I grow up. But today, I hated her as I watched through teary eyes as students rush to the dining hall. No! She was not referring to me. I looked around and saw one of the classroom windows stood ajar. In a jiffy, I was out through the window dashing toward the dining hall. Only two of my class boys were already in front of me, Gbadebo and Usani, with these two, no one contests!

'Deborah! Deborah! Come back here!' Madam Mbaneto bellowed.

I stopped in my track, I knew better than to continue running. I had lost the race and the prize as well. All I could do was whisper to Cordellia, 'Cordellia, please help me keep my banana. You hear?' She said, 'Okay.' But I knew I would not get any banana that day because Cordellia herself has not had a banana since the beginning of the term, she will never rush for banana. I plodded back to meet my house mistress.

'To my office!' she commanded.

I stood akimbo panting, as I nodded affirming her command. I turned and staggered toward her office.

Uncle KC, Daddy's driver was in Madam Mbaneto's office. It was a Thursday and first day of the month. This must be somebody trying to play a prank on me on April fool's day. But how would Daddy go this far? To send his driver all the way from Enugu to Abakaliki!

Last Saturdays were the school's 'visiting days,' I wondered what was happening on April fool's day. However, I rushed into his open arms forgetting the pain in my heart. I thought my parents decided to send Uncle KC to me at the beginning of the month because they did not visit me in the month of March. His presence pacified me, and I let go of the grief over my banana loss. My goodies would be in the booth of whatever car he came with.

The door to the office opened and the Administrative Officer (AO) of the school, Captain Salihu, entered. 'Is this the girl?' he asked Madam Mbaneto.

'Yes, sir! Deborah Amadi,' she said.

'Derby, how are you?'

'Fine, sir!' I replied.

'Yeah, emm ... you are needed at home. You will go with your daddy's driver, and you are expected back here by next week, Monday! Is that clear?' 'Yes, sir!' I replied more out of confusion.

Just like that? What are my parents celebrating that so much needs my presence? I pondered.

Well, I have nothing to lose, I thought. After all, I was going with the AO's approval. It is not easy to get an express permission to go home when it is not mid-term break or close of academic session.

'Your house mistress will accompany you to the hostel to pick any of your belongings you want to take with you,' he stressed.

'Okay, sir!' I muttered.

He left the way he came, while we drove to the hostel to pick my traveling bag.

That was the last day I saw the gates of my beloved secondary school. A school that was moulding me positively in character and in learning. A school which would have changed the course of my life for good. A school that taught me how to manage hunger, how to be independent, I learnt discipline, I learnt decorum, I learnt how to focus and read to understand. A school that exposed me to children of the rich in the country, children of senior military officers and top politicians, children of the middle-class that are up and doing, children of the poor that entered the school through scholarships, and have resolved to better their lot in the face of oppression from the children of the rich by facing their studies squarely and topping their classes in academic activities. Command Secondary School had set in me a natural 'fighting spirit.' And that was the only property I took out from that school, and it has kept me thus far.

I left the school with only my traveling bag. Every other property I owned was abandoned in the hostel because I thought I would be back by Monday, as directed by the AO. My friends, my hopes, my aspiration to be a medical doctor, my dreams were all left in Block B Room 5 and 6 Dragon House! That was how the only sweet phase of my life faded away. I was barely 12 years old, young, chaste, and innocent!

On our way to Enugu, I started to suspect that something was wrong. Uncle KC was gloomy and barely talked. I remembered that many times any student was picked from school in this manner, something tragic must have happened at home. I asked after my mother he said she was fine. I asked about my father he barely uttered a reply. I then asked him why he had come to pick me from school, he did not do a good job trying to lie to me because the death of dad affected him too. The old man suddenly burst into tears and started wailing like a baby. He had to park the car by the roadside.

He told me he had travelled down to our village with Daddy and spent two days. It was a family meeting to settle some land disputes. My daddy had a lot of lands he bought in our home town in Obio Akpor, Local Government Area of River State. He said my daddy must have been poisoned during the meetings because he started stooling and vomiting during the journey back to Enugu. He advised my dad to go back to the village for alternative medicine, but Daddy insisted he drove to Enugu.

Daddy did not survive it, as he died three days later at the hospital when everyone thought he had stabilized. Dad was said to be talking and was in high spirit on his hospital bed in company of Mummy when he suddenly passed out while laughing to a joke he had cracked. Daddy had died, and that was why I was being taken away from school to attend his burial. I did not cry then. I did not understand.


Reality of Life

After the burial of my father, things happened so fast in the family; and after a year of his death, we were living in a "batcher"! A make shift house built with zinc (roofing sheet) and plywood in the army barracks at Abakpa in Enugu. This was a privilege given to my mother because she was a teacher at the Army Day Secondary School.

Daddy had no written will at his death, and had not changed his next of kin to my mother or our only son Chinedu, so his younger brother, Uncle Amaechi, naturally inherited all my father had because he had been my father's next of kin in all documentations made by my father before he married. My father had not changed it because he had no son until Chinedu came, and I guess he was procrastinating on changing it before death came calling.

Uncle Amaechi is six years younger than my father, and his only brother. Dad had three siblings. He trained his younger brother through school till Uncle Amaechi graduated from UNN (University of Nigeria), got a job with Union bank and married. He is blessed with four Children, all male. We grew up loving Uncle Amaechi as a member of our family because he virtually lived with us while he was still in school. He was around us and he watched us grow into teenagers. His first son is the same age with our third born.

At the funeral scene of our father, Uncle Amaechi took to center stage, as every good brother would do. My mother was ridiculed by the women of the family. She was tagged a witch and a murderer of their illustrious son. Insults were hurled at my mum for bearing six girls. They even doubted the paternity of my brother, Chinedu. Only Chinedu was allowed to pour a handful of sand into my father's grave during the interment. My mother and her girls were 'persona non grata.' I have never seen my mother cry so hard! None came to console her, not even my uncle. She was told to her face that she is a stranger, and should go back to where she came from with her league of prostitutes.

Some of our family friends that attended the burial were warned not to intervene, as they could incur the wrath of the villagers. My eldest sister Caroline became a mother figure to us, and protected us from assaults from hostile relations during the burial session because my mother lost her sanity at the scene, and was behaving like a deranged woman begging everybody to have pity on her and let her bury her husband. She told them that she was properly married to their son, thus, cannot be a stranger. She reminded them of how she met their son as a student, and how they had nurtured their relationship to fruition. She told them that she was ready to swear any oath to affirm her fidelity and innocence. I saw my once elegant mother on her knees, cladded in black robe, begging no one in particular, but shouting that the world would hear her plea. The reply she got was to be spat on by relatives, and insulted by those who once saw her as an icon. Relatives that do come to visit us in Enugu to seek assistance, relatives who were calling my mother 'mummy' now called her by her first name 'Ada' and accuse her of killing their brother. She was forced to drink the water used in washing my father's corpse, as this was supposed to bring instant judgement upon her if she was guilty. Mum drank two cups without flinching and was asking for more to use and bath.

My mother was dragged to an open space, and surrounded by the family women with canes. They were flogging my mother telling her to confess! I watched my mother being humiliated in the most inhumane manner, and when I looked at the faces of her persecutors, I saw anger, I saw pain, I saw bitterness, and I saw determination to kill. To kill my mother! I went straight to the kitchen and got a knife, an unusual knife with both edges sharpened. As I came out from the kitchen, I heard my mother screaming. She screamed for my daddy to come to her aid, she screamed for her late father to come to her rescue, she screamed for Jesus to come down and save her. I was jolted into action by her cries because of all she called to help her, no one came.

In their quest to unleash pain on my mum, the women were upon each other trying to get a better portion of my mother's body to whip. I was within them, stabbing my way through to reach and save my mother. There were screams from those I stabbed, but all I could hear was my mother's voice. All of a sudden, I felt a pull backwards, but I struggled to push forward stabbing viciously at a buttock in front of me. Then I heard Caroline's voice begging me to let go.

It was at this stage that Caroline took us all, and sneaked out of the family compound. We ran straight to the motor park and boarded a bus heading for Enugu. Chinedu was not with us, he had been taken from us by Uncle Amaechi.


On getting home, Caroline immediately set to work. She went into my parents' room and collected certain document. I watched as she hid the document in her travelling bag. She took so many books too and hid them in her bag. She asked for the keys to the cars, and I reminded her that all the cars were driven to the village for the burial. She then took me with her to visit one of Mummy's friends and colleague, Mrs Joana Chinedu. She explained all that transpired in the village to Mrs Joana, and she agreed to keep the documents for us.

Mummy's friend tapped their military connection, and a team of soldiers were dispatched to our village.

My mother was brought back and admitted at the military hospital. She was given a private ward because of the influx of visitors and sympathizers. She spent two weeks at the hospital before being transferred to a psychiatric hospital in New Haven District for treatment.

She spent two months at the psychiatric hospital by which time she was evidently stable and ready to go home. She was discharged on a Sunday. We went after church service in company of Mrs Joana to bring her home from the hospital.

We got home to see a strange padlock on the gate. We were still deliberating on what to do when our security man, Musa, limped toward us. He looked liked someone that has escaped a deadly stampede. 'Musa! Wetin happen?' Caroline asked.

'Madam! Na Oga brother come here with plenty boys and motors come pack all the load wey dey for the house! Everything fa! Even my load too! Dem beat me well, well as I dey try to tell them to wait until una come back. Dem even remove two of my teeth! See! See my teeth! How I go take de bite goro (kola nut) now?' 'Haa!' my mother exclaimed and she became quiet suddenly. She started to laugh hysterically jabbing at us, and uttering incomprehensible words. Mummy did not recover from this madness till she died.

My mother was taken back to the psychiatric hospital, while Mrs Joana helped us to secure the batcher in the barracks as we waited for Mummy to recover. Meanwhile, we were left with nothing! Nothing at all to start with, saves for Caroline that had some money on her. Madam Joana tried her best by getting us some old clothes, a giant size mattress, cooking utensils, and some foodstuff. She was there for us until her husband had to warn her to choose between her own children and us he told her when he came to our batcher to pick her on his way from work. He said we were a burden too big to be carried. He was right and I bore him no grudge. We were six girls, the oldest was eighteen and the youngest was 8 years old. We were not working, we were not schooling, all we did was wake up, eat, and pray that our mummy recovers. Madam Joana has been helping us to collect Mummy's salaries, but the bulk of it goes to offset her medical bills.

On the first of April 1996, it's been three years after the death of my father, another 'April fool's' day. We were all in our batcher reading novels when Madam Joana and her husband came to visit. The bags under her eyes told me something was wrong. It was the husband that addressed us.


Excerpted from "Restless!"
by .
Copyright © 2016 Ayokunle Dominic Awoleye.
Excerpted by permission of Partridge Africa.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Table of Contents

Acknowledgements, vii,
Prologue, xi,
Chapter 1 Smelling a Rat, 1,
Chapter 2 Reality of Life, 7,
Chapter 3 Fifty Thousand Naira Apart, 14,
Chapter 4 Man Alone!, 21,
Chapter 5 The Apprentice, 29,
Chapter 6 Money and True Colours!, 37,
Chapter 7 Things Fall Apart, 49,
Chapter 8 Rose Petals, 56,
Chapter 9 Love Blues, 63,
Chapter 10 Ile Ife, 84,
Chapter 11 Back to Base, 94,
Chapter 12 2004, 106,
Chapter 13 Chinedu the Millionaire, 113,
Chapter 14 Baba Ifa (Ifa priest), 127,
Chapter 15 Feeling at home, 137,
Chapter 16 Back to Base, 141,
Chapter 17 A Day Out at Chinedu's, 145,
Chapter 18 Ceremony, 159,
Chapter 19 Love Rekindled, 165,
Chapter 20 Happiness!, 170,
Chapter 21 Dark Cloud, 176,
Chapter 22 Resurrection, 183,
Chapter 23 Mourning, 192,
Chapter 24 Funeral, 196,
Chapter 25 Going forward, 206,
Chapter 26 Enugu, 214,
Chapter 27 Chinedu, 221,
Chapter 28 Regulation Time, 232,
Chapter 29 School Runs, 238,
Chapter 30 Auntie Carol, 242,
Chapter 31 The Fear of Pauline, 248,
Chapter 32 Business, 255,
Chapter 33 Auntie Carol's Blues, 261,

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