I am writing this letter to you, sitting in the confines of the drab and ugly corner of the hostel room where I reside on campus. Apart from me, this small room contains eighteen other grown up boys. This is perhaps the first reason why I cannot make a first class. However, I would not like to precede the more serious issues that birthed this letter with inconsequential details and unnecessary notifications.
I don’t want you to take me for a milksop
Forgive me Father. Yes, forgiveness is the first thing I should ask for, for I know even the minatory heading of this letter must have hit you like bamboo sticks on leather drum, they must have swilled your balance like the the crackle of the African thunderstorm. You must wonder by now why your first son would pen such silly, pessimistic words, and fearlessly, carelessly and openly dash your dreams.
That was never my intent, father. Please forgive me.
You always taught me to aim for the stars, you taught me to respect my elders, you taught me never to give up on life, and also to have faith in God.
When I got on campus, I tried to do as you said. I studied hard, burned the midnight candle precariously, soaked my feet in cold water to stay awake, even chewed kola nuts till my jaws felt like a woodpecker had slammed its beak on them since my infancy. I was aiming for the stars.
The first test result I saw made whatever stars I was aiming for to fall from the sky. I had four out of twenty.
I was bewildered, then angry, then flummoxed. The test had been a doddle and I had expected to ace it big time, hitherto, the sheet before my eyes with my name on it scoffed at me openly.
It was only when I began to make my rounds and consult friends and fellow classmates that I realized the failure had been malignantly and malevolently doled out by the prude lecturer to all and sundry. I learned that the man was a Cambridge first class graduate who believed students needed to pluck out their eyeballs before they could clinch even a ‘C’ grade. The highest score in the test had been five.
The man’s name was Prof. Tremble, or Trebo…or something that sounds like it. I say ‘was’ because he is now dead. He died early this year and my friends and I had a swell time at his wake keep.
The rice though, tasted like cattle feed.
Don’t get me wrong father, I didn’t pray for him to die. Certain campus fellowships though had him on their prayer list. Their ‘to-die’ list.
This Professor was the first obstacle to my dream of making a first class. Still, I was determined never to give up on life just as you taught me. I strove harder.
For the next few weeks, I did my best to attend classes regularly and punctually, persistently pushing against the odds that had seemed poised for my take-down. I even avoided being overly gregarious, almost becoming a hermit in the process.
Still, I never minded. I was aiming for the stars, even though I could barely see them by now. There seemed to be an unfamiliar haze obstructing my path to academic success everywhere I looked. Yet I kept the faith up until second year.
Second year came with the freshness of a new born child and the pristine nature of newly pollinated flowers. I was in high spirits, Father, I was. I had covered over half of the texts I was to use that year during the holidays.
Then, a week after the session resumed, ASUU declared a 100-day strike. I was dumbstruck.
For over three months that year, I was at home with you Father, washing your clothes, cleaning the car, doing housekeeping, and preparing the pap you loved ever so dearly. For over three months, I lost touch with the reality that was supposed to be my education.
After a full month went by without any of the parties in the strike tussle pulling through, I suggested to you that I take up a job producing biscuits at a nearby industry. You discouraged me and said that was not the future you wanted for me. You asked me to keep studying and praying; to have faith that the next day the strike will be called off.
The next day came 75 days later.
And so that was how the universities resumed 105 days after the strike action. By then, there were no stars in the sky for me to aim at, or maybe they too had embarked on a strike.
However Father, you kept encouraging me. I decided to push some more, to press on.
I was doing well so far. At the end of two years, I had come out with two first class results in two semesters and two strong 2.1 results for two semesters. What was painful about the results that were not a first class, though, were that they edged too close to a first class.
The gods of grades and exam scripts that lived in human bodies, had receding grey hair and used bottle-thick glass lenses that hung down their noses, had done their work again. They had deducted those tit-bit scores that could put me on the so desired first class.
Still, I refused to back down.
I resumed for my third year with a new resolve. I battled the chemical equations like I had some personal grudge with them. I read my books till they took on multiple dog ears. Candle wax was an order of the day on any property of mine, a candid testimony to the overnight study I so religiously did.
In June of that year, I fell sick. I was terribly sick to the point of delirium. People said it was because I read too much, others said it was because I slept so little. Some even tossed blames defiantly at me, saying I had brought it on myself.
The doctor said I was malnourished; that is actually the short form of the entire crap he said. True to it Father, I had spent a little over half of the money you sent as my monthly allowance on buying books, and more books.
And candles too.
When I recovered from the sickness, I assumed too soon that catching up with my studies won’t be a big deal. I was wrong.
I had never been good with other people’s handwriting, for this reason, I had always attended classes regularly, and many students had referred to me for notes a few weeks to the exams. Now, my predicament was that I had to leaf through another man’s (or woman’s) note
Unfortunately, the note I got belonged to Idiagbon. Idiagbon was a hyperactive Goth –dressing classmate of mine
Father, allow me to define Idiagbon in two words- Terrible handwriting.
And so father, narrating the rest of the tale in a few words- Reading was terrible that year.
That semester I made a lower second class grade. That was just before the on-campus life began to get queasy- Lack of sufficient and toad-free water, toilets overflowing with faeces on weekends, slimy-floored bathrooms, generous early morning rain of mouthwash and spittle on my head, pissing bunkmates, and disappearing foodstuffs.
Even my Tommy Hilfiger boxers were constantly vanishing.
School life was now a torment. My grades began to fall, my reading hours were sloppy. I would pack loads of textbooks to the reading room at night, and after arranging them neatly together, they would form a makeshift pillow for a dreamless slumber till the first cock crow of morning. By then, the pages of the book would have been smeared with stale overnight spittle which would still be clinging to the corridors of my lips by the time I awake.
This was all until I found Uche. Uche made me find music. And then, like the strike of a match, I found my purpose in life. I was born to sing.
Forgive me Father, for I never really wanted to read engineering. I never really wanted to read anything. I had just lived my life to please you, because I loved you.
I chose music now because I loved you also.
You had always advised me to be happy for me, to live my life to the fullest. Only music can do this for me, not a first class. I realised that in my fourth year in school.
Now I just feel comfortable to glide through school and graduate with a certificate. Then I will plunge quickly into music.
I will go to school no doubt, I hope to graduate too, but I hope you also see why I cannot graduate with a first class.
One day, though, Father I will be like P-square and you will take me personally.