Olumide Ashaolu didn’t mind the midday sun that burned him, like it was intent on turning his chocolate coloured skin to a charcoal black. There was much gaiety in the air and he continued to wave the new flag in his hands. It was of a green and white colour, not the Union Jack. He was one of the pupils selected to witness the Independence Day celebrations at the Racecourse in Lagos. He was head of his class at CMS Primary School, and was in a position where he could observe the proceedings closely.
He waved hard at the Queen of England as she inspected the Armed Forces parade. He thought she looked his way and smiled. He smiled back at her. He listened with rapt attention as Nnamdi Azikiwe delivered the Independence Speech, although he didn’t understand all that was being said. He only made out words like ‘new’, ’nation’, ‘opportunity’ and ‘development’. Patriotic pride filled him when the new green and white flag was hoisted. He sang the new national anthem, ‘Nigeria we hail thee’, at the top of his voice.
Miss Oyetunji, the young Arithmetic teacher, had told him there were going to be more local teachers after independence. He was pleased, for he always had to strain his ear when Mr Rajav, the Indian English teacher was teaching his classes. It was as if Mr Rajav’s words came out through his nose instead of his mouth. He wanted to be an English teacher, and he endeavoured to learn all he could.
He became an English teacher. He rose through the ranks to become a secondary school principal before his retirement two years ago. He was a silent observer of all the happenings in the country; he never partook in politics. He was more interested in imparting knowledge on young people, and his pain was how the standard of education kept falling in the country.
The sound of Mr Olumide’s radio woke him on Independence Day. He had forgotten to turn it off last night when the electricity went off. The Head of State’s Independence broadcast was on. He got up from the bed and turned off the radio; he wasn’t ready to listen to empty promises.
He sat down on the recliner. He was soon recalling with nostalgia Nigeria’s first Independence Day celebrations.
A knock intruded on his thoughts. He walked to the sitting room door and opened it. Bunmi, the last daughter of his friend who lived nearby was at the door. She was a fresh graduate.
‘Good morning sir, my father asked me to bring these documents to you,’ she said.
‘Good morning, please come inside,’ he said, ‘but your father told me he would bring the documents himself.’
‘Yes sir, but he has went out this morning’
Mr Olumide was shocked.
‘What did you say?’ he asked her. He assumed she made a mistake.
‘I said he has went out this morning Sir,’ she replied.
Mr Olumide burst out laughing.