It took a lot of “lobbying” for Asshir to acquire that room among girls. It was at a period when he had almost lost hope of getting accommodation. Being in the midst of girls placed him at fluctuating advantages. It brought him closer and closer into his shy-shell.
There was a period when the girls around him struggled to please him with tantalising, home-made food, but he quietly turned down each offer. There was another period when a small group of girls tried to entice him with mesmerising clothes that exposed more than enough skin. Even one attempted outright seduction. But Asshir showed absolutely no interest.
Asshir was so full of laughter, of refreshing nourishment of soul, clean of body and mind, pure and natural like a morning spring. Nothing daunted him. He would look you straight in the eye, no matter who you were, without hidden motives. He was also both evasive and outspoken. Apart from being a born poet and talented cartoonist, he was very handy when it came to fixing electrical appliances from bulbs and fluorescent tubes and rechargeable lanterns to walkmans and radios and VCD/DVD players.
At first, girls were very awkward around him, which was always the case, but as time dragged on, they began to like him. They usually come to him for advice and he even helps some of them in their take-home assignments. Even one girl secretly fell in love with him, by mistake.
There was a time when the FESTAC president took in more tenants than he could accommodate. It turned out that more than ten people filled up almost all the shared rooms where normally, they were to accommodate only seven people each, and almost all one-man rooms became two or three. This created bitterness among the old tenants. Even the FESTAC female president complained to him about this.
Asshir did not utter a word. He believed more in action than words, and he controlled his actions. All he did was to draw and to write. He drew a caricature of the hostel president collecting money from students as they trooped into FESTAC with their individual baggage in a single file while the hostel itself was over-populous with students sticking out their heads from windows and students on the roof screaming obscenities down at him. The poem that followed this was extremely implicating and openly insultive. Asshir made several copies of this extraordinary work, distributed them to every room, pasted it everywhere and finally destroyed the original. And of course, he did not hide the fact that it was his handiwork. The FESTAC president then sent secret agents (who were obviously “inmates” of his clique) to warn him seriously about what he was doing. But then, the damage had already been done, and the president thought twice about exploiting students through accommodation that was not there.
Students complained about how the school authorities extort money from them in various ways apart from their exorbitant school fees and yet, there has been no positive development in the school for the eyes to see. Students further complained about the apparent laxity and downright exploitative nature of the Students’ Union Government meant to represent the students’ interests. So Asshir went ahead and wrote this poem:-
Old cargoes rust
Beautifulness is skinned
when handled by the porters
Injury caused, healed by pension
Then resumes another old cargoing –
The creative minds of the school, not only from the English department but from other departments, would definitely read between the lines of the poem and get its meaning. It was published in a self-sponsored school magazine and most SUG officials did not find it funny. In that magazine, the views of several politically-oriented students were written in articles, and Asshir’s poem really hit it hard and big.
A girl in 300 level reading Marketing was publicly disgraced just after she was crowned the beauty queen of the school. It so happened that two smart guys unearthed the information that this girl accidentally killed her best friend while trying to surprise her on her birthday. As evidence, these guys had a radio-tape recording of her somewhat pompous confession she made to her unsuspecting boyfriend. As the humiliated girl left the pulpit in tears, almost everybody jeered at her and looked at her with scorn. Some baptised her with water in sachets. The following day, Asshir expressed his disgust with this poem published in that same magazine:-
After the announcement, they honoured her with helium-filled balloons. But after the discovery, they stoned her with plastic flowers.
She is the weakest vessel of the place
a simple yin
Tears refuse to fall for her, and the
Hunt for vessels has ended.
After a few weeks, rumours had it that she was rusticated after an interrogative Senate meeting. The first runner-up replaced her as the school’s beauty queen.
At Election Day, Asshir went for the post of the secretary-general. All his campaign money came from his sponsor, Ajaj Hashur, an extremely wealthy business tycoon and the next richest man in Akwa City. Asshir’s radicality was further shown when he created a colourful and eye-catching banner and hung it along the road where vehicles came into the city:-
WELCOME TO AKWA CITY
THE CITY OF EGGS
“There are eggs and there are eggs,” so Soyinka says. There is “the sacrificial egg” in Achebe’s poultry. But beware of the magical egg, born out of Tutuola’s hen. If it breaks, it shall scourge with whips and leave behind a famine. So, be eggy.
CREATED BY ASSHIR
Almost all the students in his department, English, supported him. His friends from various departments backed him up and even got more students to support him. Asshir even went to the powers that be and won their hearts, including the heart of the Vice Chancellor. So, it was obvious. When the people in charge to the ballot boxes opened them to count the votes, Asshir got more votes than his two opponents, who showed great sportsmanship and even congratulated him. So, Asshir became the secretary-general-elect of the Students’ Union Government. After the Election Day, he won the hearts of many and he celebrated his victory with his friends who supported him all the way, promising them posts in the SUG. Two days later, with his own money he gave a banquet in his department, thereby declaring that day lecture-free. The students there were visibly impressed. Students from other departments were invited and all ate and drank to his/her satisfaction.
After he was sworn in, all celebrations ended and work began. He fulfilled his promises, his friends being fit for the SUG posts he gave them. Apart from mandatorily attending all executive meetings and taking down accurate minutes, he launched off several projects on his own with the help of two of his reliable friends, Austin and Kamau. One of these projects was the construction of two aesthetically colourful solid signboards placed at the entrance to the temporary and permanent sites:-
AKWA CITY UNIVERSITY
OF EGGS AND DRESSES
“There are eggs and there are eggs.”
Kamau barged into Asshir’s ‘office’ one intense afternoon and informed him about a small pressure group of irate females surrounding the Deputy Vice Chancellor’s office located at the bus stand. Asshir left whatever he was doing to attend to this matter. When he got there, the situation was intense. When he inquired, he was told that a girl in Law wanted to adjudicate over a case of a notorious rapist caught RED-HANDED in his act, but she was bluntly denied this duty. The excuse was that she was susceptibly going to use a feminist point of view to give the final verdict and convict the accused. Pleas made to this effect fell on deaf ears. But when the case came up in the mini-Supreme Court situated adjacent t the Law library, it took on such a sexist viewpoint that tension reigned among all females that attended, and the accused was finally acquitted. The Law student herself was present at the time. When the final verdict was given, she got up from her seat and objected violently to it. Almost all the females there did the same. The Law student openly accused the rapist of bribing “the necessary people” for his freedom, which had been the reigning rumour all around campus. There was uproar in court. Order could not be maintained. In anger, the Law student and almost all the females stormed out of court in a large mass and entered different buses which took them to the temporary site. When they got there, they assembled again and headed towards the DVC’s office in order to make their demands known to him.
Asshir listened to this story with absolute calm. Afterwards, he was introduced to the Law student, who was in her third year. He then climbed on top of a small hill and called for silence. Then, all he did was to utter a sentence, which became his famous words that reigned in the entire sphere of the school: “You people had a real KC where they do JJ.” At first, confusion reigned as to what KC and JJ meant. But after a few minutes of whispering and side comments, everyone nodded and understood the message. (For your information, readers, KC means “kangaroo court” and JJ means “jungle justice”)
Asshir descended the hill and entered the DVC’s office. With his famous honey tongue, he was able to convince the Deputy Vice Chancellor to look into the matter. Within a month, the case was shelved and the verdict nullified. Probes were made. Asshir handled the investigations himself with the aid of his “agents”. Finally, it was discovered that the accusation the Law student made against the rapist was true. Everyone jubilated and every girl in campus became confidently strong and safe. The rapist was rusticated.
Asshir’s fame grew tremendously. The president of the SUG confided more in him than in any other official. Even the VC loved him. Asshir fondly called him “the Lion”. There was a time when Asshir had brief access to the school authorities’ account (the one at First Bank). He discovered that a huge chunk of money was sliced off. The amount was unmentionable. A week later, he got to know about a certain luncheon the VC held with his relatives and friends. He also knew about the VC’s campaign moves for governorship of Akwa City.
So, Asshir put two and two together and got five. He confronted the VC with his findings. The VC told him that he (Asshir) was in school to read and learn, not to indulge himself in such matters. But one night, an anonymous person, sent by the VC, gave Asshir a colourful Ghana-must-go bag of crisp two-hundred-naira bank notes and a small computer-typed message. The message read: “Use this money wisely, Asshir. I need the support of my students. I believe you can mobilise them. If you do this well, more shall come. THE LION”
Asshir was visibly shocked at first. He could not believe his eyes! He could not believe that this was happening to him! It was like a dream.
Two days later was rally day. The bus stand was jam-packed with students as they listened with rapt attention to the SUG president’s eloquent oration. While he was still speaking, Asshir came in with the Ghana-must-go bag and the message. When the president finished speaking, he summoned him to the pulpit during the ovation. There was quiet as Asshir mounted the platform. He placed the Ghana-must-go bag in front of him, summoned the SUG treasurer and cleared his throat deliberately into the microphone. He read out the message to the hearing of every student present. An apprehensive atmosphere was created afterwards. But when Asshir revealed the identity of “the Lion”, all hell was let loose. Students shouted obscenities into the air. In order to “back up” this awesome discovery, Asshir opened the Ghana-must-go bag, dipped his hands in, threw two handfuls of money into the air, closed the bag again and handed it over to the stunned SUG treasurer. There was total pandemonium. Students were scrabbling about for the money in the air and on the ground, thereby incurring injury among themselves.
Asshir whispered to his president. “I have found us more money for the government, Mr. President sir.”
With a neat and clean smirk on his face, the president whispered back, “Good job, Asshir.” When the chaos died down, everyone went home, half of them with free money.
Four days later, the self-sponsored magazine published an article which gave a detailed report about the entire happenings of that rally. This article was written by the editor-in-chief himself. The same magazine published Asshir’s poem entitled “The Lion Has Farted”:-
What an animal!
With its mane rich and strong
When it emits its consumes
from the back
for all to smell,
this separates the king from the beasts
and calls for a violent exodus
Let’s evacuate the forest!
The VC seemed finished, because this incident created a dent in his integrity and reduced the strength of his campaign for governorship. But nothing deterred him. He won a court injunction and recovered back the money he gave Asshir. But the milk had already been spilt, and that was how the VC’s love for Asshir died.
TO BE CONTINUED…