The next day, we went to the school for our primary assignment. Students were already lined up for the school assembly. Suddenly, silence fell everywhere as a woman in her late thirties strode to address the students holding a very long cane. She could have been beautiful if she wasn’t stone faced and dressed like she had a problem with good clothes.
“Who is she?” I whispered to Bunmi.
Bunmi curled her face in distaste and a little intimidation.
“Nkechi Mba. But everyone calls her Auntie Obiakpor.”
“Auntie Obiakpor?” Debbie asked.
“It means ‘dry heart,’” I replied.
Debbie raised her eyebrow, “I thought you were Edo?”
“My mum is Delta Igbo.”
“Why is she called ‘dry heart?’” Dami asked.
Before Bunmi could answer that, Nkechi alias auntie Obiakpor called out.
The silence that replied her could be cut in half with a chainsaw.
Again, silence. She was visibly angry.
“Cletus, if I call your name one more time, just prepare to die before your time. Come out before I count to three. One! Two…!”
A frightened boy emerged from the crowd. She dragged him up to face the students and gave him a loud knock on the head, the type that could rearrange even the devil’s brain. We winced in sympathy.
“Why didn’t you come out when I called you earlier, you idiot?”
Cletus didn’t reply as his lips trembled with suppressed tears while he rubbed his throbbing head. Auntie Obiakpor held him roughly by his collar and turned to address the assembly.
“This stupid boy’s father came to my house yesterday to complain that his son is a thief. He stole some pieces of meat from his mother’s pot of soup and the soup soured.”
The Corpers and I exchanged unbelieving glances. Really? Since when did family matters concern the school?
Obiakpor continued, “Everybody shout, thief!”
“Thief!” the students shouted.
“Good. And a thief deserves his reward.” She turned to Cletus.
“Ngwa, show me your buttocks”
Cletus tried to get away from her pleading, “Auntie biko nu”
“I say give me your buttocks!”
And WHAM!… the cane landed on the poor boy’s flat buttocks.
“Chineke meee!!!!” he screamed and the next thing we saw, he literally jumped and flew down the school compound. I stared across Auntie Obiakpor. I didn’t like her already. She stared right back at me. The feeling was mutual.
After the assembly, we gathered at the Principal’s office. She was a bespectacled woman in her fifties who had the habit of peering at people above her glasses. At the moment, she was peering at our files.
“Itohan Godswill, you will teach English and Literature to SS1 and SS2 students. You will be replacing Bunmi who will be passing out soon. You will also be SS2B form teacher.”
“Excuse me, ma,” I said.
She peered at me. “Yes?”
“It’s about our accommodation. The one we have is not conducive for us. We want a better one.”
The Principal sighed. “My dear, we don’t have any other accommodation apart from that one. There’s no money. The government has ignored us. Please manage the one we have, oh nne”.
“But ma,” I insisted. “That place is a den of rats. It’s not even conducive for poultry farming. Please we need a better place. After all it’s required that every employer should provide a good accommodation for Corp Members.”
At that, she flipped. “Look, go and complain to the government if you don’t like where we have given you or go and rent your own place. Or better still, I can give you a rejection letter so you can find those that can put you in a palace.”
That finally shut me up. Not because I didn’t want a rejection letter. In fact, I craved it. But I also knew how difficult it was to get accepted in another place. I had known Corpers who got rejected and no school or organization wanted to accept them because there was no space. They were left stranded. Yeah, welcome to the south.
We left the Principal’s office looking like we’d swallowed Flagyl. Bunmi approached us.
“How far now?” she asked.
“No better accommodation,” I replied.
“I told you.”
“And I’m also replacing you as an English and Literature teacher. Oh, she also made me SS2B form teacher. It’s like my village people is at work. They want me to die in this Godforsaken place!” I ranted.
Bunmi laughed, “Don’t worry. You’ll get used to it.”
“You’re saying it because you’re leaving very soon. It’s not funny!” I shot back.
“I don’t like this place. I want to go home to my Bae!” Dami cried.
I rolled my eyes. “Go to that tree there and call your Bae na. Why are you disturbing us with this your cry?”
Bunmi sighed and we turned to the direction of the voice. Auntie Nkechi Obiakpor approached us.
“Where is your lesson note?” she barked.
“I left it on your desk this morning,” Bunmi replied timidly.
“I didn’t see anything. You’re lying because you’re a lazy youth.”
“I’m not lying.”
Auntie Obiakpor narrowed her eyes dangerously at her. “Are you calling me a liar?”
“Madam she said she left it on your desk,” I interjected.
Auntie Obiakpor turned her dangerous eyes on me. “Who is this rat?”
“I will appreciate it if you don’t call me names. I mean, you wouldn’t like it if I called you an expired cow, right?” I replied calmly.
She sucked in her breath, shocked. She stared at me with hate filled eyes. I could almost see the images of several ways she would torture me playing in her head.
“You have stepped on the tail of a tiger.”
She hissed and stormed off. Bunmi gave me a you-don-enter stare.
“You shouldn’t have done that.”
“Why? Who does she think she is?” I asked indignantly.
“She’s the HOD.”