Hi everybody, welcome to this weeks post! You can check out last week's post if you missed it here. This week, one of my favorite writers (I promise I'm not fanning out) Chukwuemeka is contributing. I met him while I was a university student. Emeka reminds me of Chimamanda and Achebe. He writes with such finesse, and his talent is hard to miss. I hope you enjoy what school was like for him.
Final year at the University of Nigeria came with rather too many struggles. Finance was very tight. There were classes that I hardly understood what they were for. There was a Project to write. The deadline was close by and I had no laptop and of course, no money to use a Business Centre. Then they released the exam time table with quizzes in between. It was a mad house in my head. I could not think straight. Then father died. Suddenly, everything did not matter anymore. Only his funeral. Constant calls from home and shuttling between three states – Abia, Enugu and Imo.
As my father laid to rest, my fears awoke. Suddenly, I became afraid of not graduating with a Second Class (Upper Division). I also worried that I would not even graduate at all because my Project was still lying fallow. I had missed quizzes and exams were just around the corner and I hadn’t read a page of any course.
Others complained, I did not. I also had carnages to clear and I must clear them. Or so I thought. My friend Temple could not travel back to Lagos in such uncertain times so he had to stay with me and my best friend, Toby at our off campus apartment. Temple just came with two small school bags and plenty loads of stories of law school that he had heard. He constantly told stories of Kenneth Okwor and how he graduated with a frist class and thus, changed his life forever.
Prior to Temple’s coming, I had cared little or nothing about law school. Suddenly, I wanted the first class. Suddenly, it seemed like the only thing that would help me escape the mental torture of the feeling of nothingness I felt then. It became my only goal and objkective. I felt inspired and even more afraid.
We resumed. I wrote my exams. I defended my Project. I graduated. I went home. To rest and to worry about law school. There was no money to even prepare for it. I was afraid of being sent to the northern part of the country. Then one day, I received N50,000 from Mr. Nonso Azih, whom my friend Chisom Ozoemena had told my story. The next day I went to the market to get a suit for law school and buy basic things I believed I would need at law school.
As I stood in the queue at the Union Bank branch at Ariaria Market, Aba, I received a call from Chiderah Azodoh
“Chukwuemeka, law school posting is out.”
“Where were you posted to?” I asked.
“I don’t know yet. I have not checked.”
I asked her to check hers and mine and call me back. She sent a text.
“We are going to Lagos.”
I called Chisom later in the day and she was going to Lagos as well.
Law school is already starting on a good note, I thought. The tales of the stress at Lagos Campus of the Nigerian Law School did not matter to me. I would make a first class and stories of all that stress would be told with happiness.
The taxi drove into the campus in the evening. I admired the exterior architecture of the hostels. We (I was with some friends from Aba who had been posted to law school as well) asked for accommodation and we were asked to go upstairs, choose an empty room and come back for documentation. We chose Room 410.
It was not long before Tochukwu started complaining about the coloured water, the malfunctioning sockets and dead bulbs. I waved them all off and told him we were going to survive. I was more concerned with my first class goals to care.
Monday came with the registrations at the Students’ Affairs, hostel and the clinic. Of course, the processes were difficult and tedious like every other thing organized by the Nigerian civil service. The registrations could not be completed in a day and we had to juggle it with induction classes that served merely to bark out directives at us. Dos and Don’ts.
I eventually concluded my registration. I was placed in Group 10 by virtue of fact that my serial number ended in “0”. This also meant I was condemned to sitting at the back of the class – with my bad eyes. I finally got a permanent room – 306, with Tochukwu.
In class, I sat with Viola, my classmate from the university, Eyituoyo (a pretty girl from UNIBEN), Marcus (a real dude from DELSU), Obinna (another real dude from UNIZIK and also lived at Aba) and Bolanle (a pretty girl from OAU). We existed in peace and harmony.
I went to Law School with a resolve to face just my studies. That meant that I would have nothing to do withanything else asides my books. However, when politics came calling, I couldn’t deny my real love the attention it wanted. That was how I started campaign to join the Students’ Representative Council (SRC). I won my school’s nomination and also got elected into the Executive Committee. The post came with a room at the executive wing of the Hostels.
It meant I had to leave Room 306 and my 5 roommates behind to move into one I shared with just one person – John Sunday, who studied at ABU and was the Secretary-General of the SRC.
The room suited me. Naturally, I do not appreciate crowds in my personal space. So, a room of 6 persons was not ideal for me. Also, this room came with a television with cable subscription and an air conditioner that more or less functioned as a fan. Simply put, the room served as a sanatorium for me. The classes made me sick. The auditorium was a torture chamber.
Each minute, we are reminded that the air we breathe is for the “purpose of Bar Part 2”. They announced its imminent coming as if it was Armageddon. I started hating exams from the university and NLS made it worse. I also hated classes because that’s where I’d normally meet people that also had the same ambition to make a first class like me. I did not detest their ambitions but I detested someone talking about it with me. I did not talk about mine. I hated it when people would reel out names of those that had made first class earlier on. It made me more insane. My dear room brought back my sanity each day.
I attended group meetings sometimes. They were not entirely bad. Sometimes, ironically, it served as a stress reliever for me. To also ease off stress, I would take a walk around Victoria Island. I liked doing that alone with my earphones and music blasting at high volume into my eardrums. Oblivious of the world. Lost to the noise. Drowned in the melody. Transcending so far away from the voices of the lecturers, the agitated chatters of some of the students. Taking in the glory of the highbrow island and transported into the future I dreamt for myself – sitting atop the skyscrapers, looking down on a city I have conquered. All these would be made possible if I made a first class, some sinister voice would whisper to me. That voice only came when I walk back to the school.
I also tried to seek spiritual solace. I tried to get a church but I ended up getting churches. I became a church whore. I had go to a different church each Sunday. At a point, it became a sport for me. Island churches were quite generous to their first timers. So I became a serial first timer at different churches.
The Attachment period came. We had to juggle going to courts and assigned law firms with our studies. That period was quite a flux. It seemed free. But deep down you knew that it was your last chance at redeeming your ambition. The period was only a veil covering the bride – EXAMS. If it is misused, you would really find the an ugly bride. If you take it too seriously as well, your law school story would be drab and dull.
I took it seriously most times. I had fun sometimes. But the fun belonged just to the body. The mind did not participate. There was no consensus ad idem between the two parts of me. In all honesty, the court and chambers I was assigned to did not stress me but my room did. Yes, there were classes no more, so my room became THE CLASS. It was no longer a place to sleep and relax. It became a study chambers.
The veil eventually got lifted and the bride came. She did not seem as difficult as the lecturers made it look like she was going to be. However, during the exams, my eyesight decided that was the best time to tell me it was worse than I thought it was. The exams came and went. On the last day, I cried. I knew I had passed law school but I was no longer sure of the first class. But that was not why I cried. I did because I knew I was going to be a lawyer. My father’s dream and he had died a year earlier.
Like many other students, we went to the Chapel to pray for successful marking of our scripts. For our first class ambitions and for many other things related to our stay in law school. The next day, we were asked to vacate the school premises. I did. I went back home. I waited. The results came out on the night of my birthday. I made a Second class, lower division. I was not impressed. I eagerly fought being depressed by it. I succeeded. The result cost me a job at a top tier law firm. Well, I got another one. But the result depressed many people I know. Some are yet to recover.
We are all wiser in retrospect. Upon conclusion of law school, it dawned on me that it was a sham. I played myself. I did not do it the right way. The right way for me. The right way for the world. I realized the world hardly cares about the first class. It was just top law firms in Lagos that cared about it if you wanted to spend your NYSC year with them. And they only cared about it if you had no connections within. I realized so many things for myself.
For some, it may be different. But for me, if I went back to law school, I would spend nights on the rooftop with girls. I would seek out the parties and attend them. I would let my mind soak in the “Pass The Mic” show, I would have danced better at the cocktail parties, I would have spent my evenings watching football matches, I wouldn’t have joined in some of the prayers for exam success that I indulged in. I wouldn’t allow the lecturers words get at me. I would just listen to the lectures and bar out any “for the purpose of Bar Part 2” threats. I would have slept more. I would have just lived. I would just live. Just live. Live. That’s all I would have done.
NLS (Lagos Campus)
The person in the picture above is NOT Chukwuemeka, thank you.
You can follow me via:
You can follow me via: