Caretaker. Landlord. Landlord’s son. Potential landlord. Call him whatever you like. His father entrusted the care of the house to him and a room for his accommodation. This responsibility, Segun handled with an iron fist. “This unifasity boys cannot come hia and do anyhow. Did their fada build house? I’m not a student like dem but I give dem house. Am I not senior?”
Thus, if it so happened that your hostel is Anuoluwapo Villa No. 12 Olukale street, Isolu, be prepared to worship Segun Alelojo.
” The last item on the agenda is a reminder of the teacher’s seminar coming up on Monday the 23rd of this Month at Owerri Town Hall. All teachers should endeavor to attend.”
With those words, Mrs Agwu Brought the meeting to a close. As the teachers filed out she called back Mrs Emenike, Mrs Onyema and Sylvia.
“You can join me in my car to Owerri for the seminar.” She said officiously.
Mrs. Emenike and Onyema chorused “thank you ma” and left.
“Thanks for the offer ma, but I will go with my husband to Owerri. He sometimes goes there to work.” Sylvia said, in a voice a bit jerky.
“Its OK my dear, just make sure you don’t miss it. Teacher’s seminar don’t happen often and on the zonal level they select attendees. I have attended one in Port Harcourt. Have you ever been to Port Harcourt?” Mrs Agwu asked.
“Yes. Four years….” Before Sylvia could complete the statement, she added,
“And even fewer persons will attend the National Teacher’s Conference in Abuja. Have you ever been to Abuja?”
” yes, more than… ”
“My dear it is good to travel. My son Chimela is in Lagos. He has promised to take me to Cotonou when he settles. He’s a university graduate. We will travel. My dear try to travel.” She said and broke out in her mischievous smile. Stella the secretary came in with a stack of papers and demanded for her attention. It was convenient for Sylvia to leave.
Sylvia took the back route of the school. It was a footpath. She loved the serenity. Birds chirping from the nearby bushes. Fresh breeze. This was one of the many reasons she chose to stay here in Orlu with her husband. He, Clarence Ani-Njokwu is an international aid worker. After two years of training in selected countries in other parts of the world, his present assignment in Orlu is to understudy the system and proffer ideas for creating sustainable support systems for public health infrastructure and girl child education. He wanted her to stay in Owerri the City center but she loved it here. She even teaches at one of the local primary schools albeit without pay.
She hoped she hadn’t tripped. Declining the first kind gesture of a car ride from the headmistress may not be a good way to start. But that was what her gut feeling dictated. That was her fourth day at the school but she noticed that Mrs Agwu was the only one who came with a car. If she thought right, the logical and orderly thing would be for her to ride with the next most senior three or four teachers. Mrs Nwaneri asst. Headmistress was obviously a woman with fragile health. Over the elderly, she picked Emenike and Onyema, late thirties and early forties that could stand in a bus till they got to Owerri.
Sylvia was right. Logic and order are natural human tendencies but not with Mrs Agwu. She acted on the principle of reward and punishment. Any asset in her domain was to be bestowed as a reward. You have to earn it. Depriving you was her punishment. Her two greatest weapons were Stationary and her car. Each month, every teacher is entitled to two sets of blue, black and red pens. Mrs Agwu gave out a set. You got the other set if during the month you did something remarkable, that is, outstanding, that is, you pleased her. Now, pleasing her is very complicated matter.
Take the ride to Owerri for an instance. Sylvia got a spot because she is new. She needs to know and feel power. Clara Emenike won 2nd place because she called her mummy last week. Benedicta Onyema was the darling in first position. Two days ago, she wished success for all the children of teachers both at home and abroad. Abroad. Mrs Agwu liked the sound of that word. Chimela is in Lagos. Ehen? From Orlu to Owerri, is Lagos not abroad? From there you can enter Cotonou, then Ghana, then abroad. That woman deserves a ride.
And that car. It had a life of its own. It was her accomplice in terror. A red 19.. Volvo. Everyone in Orlu Elementary Primary School except Mrs Agwu called it ‘Agu uhie’ meaning ‘red tiger’. A most befitting name. The car roared a lot. Mrs Agwu had the habit of revving it up when she started the engine and doing that three times before turning it off. And if she ever picked up passengers, it was a maximum of three.
“This car is made for four persons only. Two in the front, two at the back. If you follow the manufacturer’s instructions, it will last.” One of her famous quotes. But for the Agwu family outing, the manufacturer increased its capacity to six persons. Before Chimela left for school, all four children squeezed in at the back.
Sylvia had been working for ten minutes now. She took a right turn and saw the house in the distance. Still wondering if she had done the right thing or not, she remembered her mother’s words:
“Whenever you get to a new place, be observant and cautious. If something doesn’t feel right, it probably isn’t.”
To Be Continued…