Okparaoyibo Chukwuma Paul
© Copyright 2022 by Okparaoyibo Chukwuma Paul
Auchi Polytechnic School.. Photo by the author.
Mum sometimes refers to Dad as an archaic man, who don’t know that things has changed, but whether that is true or not, it is none of my business as long as it keeps me from helping mother in the kitchen or sweeping around the house.
To Dad a man should never cook, sweep, wash the toilet, go to the market to buy foodstuffs, touch or plait a woman’s hair, and touch her underwear or even do some general washing and cleaning of the house as long as a woman is around. Now, I know you might be wondering what a man should do? The hard task of course! That is only fetching water with a wheel barrow. That made Mum furious at odd days and she asked: “What if your sons stays alone, how will they cope?” Dad never thought about that and neither did I.
I am the last child of six, also a male; spoilt! Of course: but also intelligent, smart and playful. I always enjoyed being around Dad; listening to his sweet jokes and laughing out loud while my Mum and sisters boils from the heat of the kitchen.
When Dad is not around and I and my sisters are alone with Mum; she would try to lure me into assisting her in the kitchen. First, she would call me, then at the door of the kitchen – where I would stand – she would give me a lump of smoked fish and as I begin to devour it, she would start with a beautiful gist and I would drag a stool and start listening. Then, she would cunningly ask me to peel the wrapper of the seasoning and hand it over to her. First, I would pick it up and like déjà vu; I would stand up, hand her the seasoning and run towards the door. And when she threatens to beat me up if I didn’t help her out; I would run outside and wait.Once Dad returns, I would tell Dad and he would reprove Mum and everything returns to normal.
Then, the result of my Entrance examination into a polytechnic came and I was admitted. Everyone was wild with excitement; since I was the last child and very young, actually spoilt, I was told that I would be staying in the school hostel.
Then, Mum and my eldest sister –Theresa – went to the market to buy a set of pots – yes pots! – Spoons, stove, foodstuffs, toothpaste, provisions, toiletries, e.t.c. And when they returned; my eyes saw my new home.
My eldest sister was the one who shuttled Benin to Auchi – my school – to help me secure my hostel accommodation and did all my clearance. And all that was expected for me to do was to resume without hassles.
The night before my departure, after Dad and Mum’s advice, siblings show of love and all. My Mum asked: “Can you cook?”
After a brief silence, I spoke like the head chef of a five star restaurant and that settles it. When others was about to sleep, Ruth – my immediate elder sister and closest pal came into my room and dragged me by the hand to the kitchen; there she gave me a brief summary of the use of the utensils and how to cook beans.
The day came, amid several goodbyes; I left home in company of Theresa and Engr. Marcel – a friend of Theresa’s – in a brand new Honda jeep.
On getting to the hostel with the letter “G” written in white on a black square box, background, we walked to the porter’s office. Theresa (Sister) presented my hostel file, tipped the porter and she accompanied us along with another fresher to the common room where our bed and pillows were stacked.
The other fresher climbed the stack of beds, after selecting pushed two beds down. Sis chose the neater of the two; this made the other fresher to feel sad and our keys was handed over to us.
The porter even walked us up to the door of my room and later left. On the door frame was written “48”. So, my room number was G48!
Quickly, I took my things in; Sis gave me a huge sum of money and said she was coming back.
Later, she came with a pack of food from GT fast food and after her last words, she left and went back home.
After arranging my things, I was famished. So, I opened the pack, to my amazement, the size of the chicken was outrageous and I devoured the food. Later that day, my other roommate came – Emeka Anayo – alias Mekoyo and then the next day afternoon, my last roommate – Kelvin Aigbokhadion alias K-Black.
Mekoyo was a plump guy, shrewd, with bumps at the back of his head, extremely funny and helpful, gap toothed, fair and sweats a lot; so he hardly stays in doors or keeps hair. On hot days, he can bath like twice in the midnight. Unlike me, he was not a fresher. He was an OND 2 (Ordinary National Diploma two) student studying business administration. He was supposed to be the down bunk occupant, while I was supposed to be at the top bunk. Since we were closer by tribe, class and sleeping space; we became close friends.
While K-Black was very dark skinned, plump, stylish, handsome, keeps a lot of friends and hardly stays in the room. He was the president of both his departmental association and also the minstrel group – a drama group on campus; so the ladies flocked around him. The few nights he spends in the room; he always made it count – as beautiful females would escape the porter’s watch and pass the night with him in our room. He was a nice guy as the liquid containers, standing fan – which sings rather than breeze – and some dues paid on our behalf was from him.
He was an HND 1 (Higher National Diploma one) student studying political science.
Our room was at the last floor and last wing of hostel G. it has a window facing the boys hostel football field. The single space had its own bedroom and wardrobe that was mostly for senior student or rich kid fresher’s because of its privacy; this was the space of K-Black.
While the bunkers shared a single wardrobe which was partitioned into two; our room had no up bunk, so ideally Mekoyo was supposed to lie on the bed while I should make do with the floor. Rather, he chose the floor and told me to take the bed due to his good heart.
So when we want to sleep, he would take his bed and place it on the floor and once it is day time, he would stack it on top of my own.
So, my long awaited test came: “How do I cook my first meal?”
The moment I brought my foodstuffs out, it stung me that I had no idea about how to cook. You know that feeling that envelopes you, when you realize that oral knowledge cannot substitute practical? That was how I felt!
As I struggled to thread my stove, I never knew Mekoyo stood behind me and was suppressing his laughter. Then, he stooped and came over.
First, he plucked a broomstick from its bunch and broke it so that it mimics a bent arm. He told me that the wick was passed from top to bottom in the jack contrary to my bottom to top knowledge; advantages of his method was that the thread can be reused and transferred. He passed the narrower hairs of the thread through the armpit of the bent broomstick and pulled from the top to the bottom through one of the ten holes on the jack and when he was done threading; he filled the tank with kerosene and asked grinning:
“Can you cook?”
I nodded, smiled and thanked him. Then he went outside. Earlier I had seen him cook beans, so I decided that that would be my first meal coupled with the constant remarks I heard back home: “Beans is very easy to cook!”
Then, I poured the beans – chaff and all into a bowl, added water and went to the sink close to the wings restroom to sieve, my mind was still running on a charlatan approach, I would use, when a passerby from the opposite wing remarked: “Na Moi-Moi you dey cook?”(“Are you cooking bean pudding?”). So, I quickly sift it and returned back to my room.
When I presumed it was cooked, I brought the pot down from the stove and served it on a plate.
The first layer was red – palm oil in excess – and at the base was the cooked beans. I scooped a spoon and a seed slipped, on descending on the floor, the seed bounced like a ball out through the door.
Then, on my first bite, I knew I had to exert more force in my chewing than I had ever done in my entire life to mash the food. The taste – oh, come on! You know a little below insipid – that was it!
Mekoyo took me like a younger brother on campus; he restricted me from giving too much to my wing mates, who took advantage of me, guide me where to go and where not to go e.g roof tops where the big boys smokes and girls hostel at some hours, where to find and purchase things and everything I needed to know about hostel life and campus do’s and don’ts in general.
Like he knew what I was going through, he taught me how to prepare my first bitter leaf soup and I was overjoyed and mystified at the simplicity.
Hostel G was the pride of the boy’s hostel because it housed prominent students on campus. One of the most unmistakable figures was Segun alias Sege; he was the showman of the hostel.
Sege was plain facially; but muscular with albs that mesmerizes females. He was tall and walked with a gangster gait; sling low and sling high in a macho rhythm. He was uncouth and uses vulgar words to show his dominance.
Sege resided at the last room of our wing and the hostel was high enough with two layers; with a spiral metal stair case at the back of the hostel facing the female hostel.
Early in the morning, when the flaunting female or hot babes come to fetch water from boy’s hostel, they must go through a narrow foot path, whose trail is close to our hostel staircase. There Sege on sighting the girls coming would stand on the foremost stair case and jump down. Some of the females would be charmed while others would be both charmed and frightened. Whichever one he fancies, he would strike a conversation and help her with her bucket to and fro; needless to say what his good gesture would bring him at night if everything goes well. And also Sege never put on his shirt as long as the road would lead to the female’s hostel and the ladies love it – what they see!
When all the boys would be rushing to the balcony at the back of the hostel – just know it is time! This one was actually started and fueled by Sege. We call it hostel yabbings – actually trolling.
It would be so heated that some males would pull their trousers down with only pants on – they would use their hands to dangle their manhood towards the females; with the host of guys smiling and using sexually abusive vulgar words. The females would be so disgusted and infuriated that some would grab their breast with their hands almost revealing it and shaking it to the devouring eyes of the males and the others would start twerking with their bum shorts while abusing the males. This trolling is one thing I enjoy, since I am not bold enough to join, I just laugh and look at the drama of both parties.
Auchi Polytechnic, my school, is located in Auchi. Auchi is the administrative headquarters of Etsako west, is the most important and populated town in Etsako. The town consists of four villages (Usogun, Akpekpe, Iyekhe and Igbe). It is about 126 kilometres north-west of Benin City, Edo state capital (in Nigeria). A predominantly Muslim town, Auchi is spread out on two hills; its vegetation is savannah grassland.
The long and short of that encyclopedic tirade is that the land is made up of big red mud boulders with holes mimicking a rock inside of which can be found scorpions and snakes – mostly scorpions.
People of Auchi are warm, helpful, quiet, calm and un-forgetful, so don’t even think of offending the wrong folks because they are unforgiving and diabolical – though a handful. The environment is beautiful, but extremely hot in the day and when it wants to – it is extremely cold.
The school is opposite a highway. It is painted oxblood and yellow that makes it extremely beautiful and artistic. It fenced round by a great wall – not the one in China – with two campuses, the third is under construction.
The first gate leads to the road leading to campus one (first campus) on the right and on the left the second campus with the chaplaincy (Catholic Church) – which I attend. The valley leading to campus one is called VOD – Valley of Decision because as you struggle in ascending the hill, you decide whether to give your best and on returning, you decide to either try or give up.
The chaplaincy – St. Augustine’s Chaplaincy was presided over by Rev. Fr. Anthony Eriola. I must confess till date, it is still the most bubbling Catholic Church I have ever worshipped at. It was breathtaking!
Then facing the entrance was the second gate leading to the school hostel. At first stop is the post of the school’s security outfits – FAZAL – who takes charge of the security of the hostel and the polytechnic at large.
In the hostel and on campus, we have voluntary organizations; most notable are Man O’War, APSSO, Red Cross, SAVAN, Boys Brigade (BB) e.t.c.
In my stay as a hostelite, two jingles I would never forget; Moral song (paramilitary cadences) of the voluntary organization at exactly 3am and the sound of the hostel pastor at exactly 5am.
The former is during weekends while the latter is daily. My favourite moral songs goes like this:
Mama come and see ye, ye! (Leaders voice)
Wayoyo! (Chorused by followers with stamping feet)
Wetin boys dey suffer!
Wayoyo! (By followers)
Early in the morning!
Dem go say make we fall out ye!
Which kind suffer be this ye, ye!
Which kind morale be this ye, ye!
Then they go over it again.
Smo – ke, Smo – ke!
Smo – ke, Smo – ke!
Smo – ke, Smo – ke!
Smo – ke, Smo – ke!
If you never smo – ke dem no go fear you.
Then they go over it again.
While the hostel pastor call goes like this:
Wake up!!! For your morning devotion…
In the hostel, there are three prominent titles and the last is a name that is respected.
The titles are C in C (commander in Chief) – head of the voluntary organizations – mainly APSSO and Man O’ War; Chiefo – the head of the Kegite club (formerly known as palm wine drinkers association) – a socio-cultural group recognized by the school which is known by their love for fresh palm wine, slangs and jiration songs; Papa Catho – the president of Nigerian Federation of Catholic students (NFCS) and Pastoral – a man who has a wife in town but takes permanent residence in hostel M.
There he runs things; from games, snooker board, sales of hostel space and every good and bad deals in the hostel. He is a dark, handsome man in his early forties, clean shaved and reserved.
C in C is feared by all, Chiefo is respected – with ladies both cooking and spending the night in his room, he barely does anything but he is treated like a king in the hostel and Papa Catho is the spiritual head to all.
The first two words I learnt from the dialect (Etsako language) of the indigenes was Mo! And Ukpa!
Mo – means well-done or welcome – for salutation. While Ukpa – is an exclamation used to show shock – the meaning you don’t want to know!
On my first day on campus, I met Courage – a fellow course mate and he took me to our lecture room. And since he has already fraternized, he sneaked into the crowded class while I listened to the lectures outside with the crowd of other late comers.
Then, a girl with seductive eyes came, she walked through the crowd, with an entrance into the lecture room begging for her to go in – she started flirting with me; she ran her fingers through my arms absent mindedly and when she got my attention, she simply withdrew from the crowd and went away.
I was hypnotized, but shook it off and focused on my primary goal. I later found out her name was Precious and she was my course mate and the assistant course rep of my class.
With my constant late coming, bird eye view lecturing technique of lecturers and difficulty in adapting to a new environment; the concepts taught became vague and difficult for me to understand. I was tensed, not to let my parents down; so l kept late nights.
I made friends with Emmanuel and Moses – fellow course mates. Emmanuel was my best friend on campus and also the hostel pastor of my hostel – remember the morning devotion guy!
While Moses, I later found out to be the guy that Sis took his bed on my first day in the hostel – what a small world!
The scripts of the tests we did were out in MTH101 and EEE115, I topped the class on both and my status rose from a common guy to a celebrity. My female course mates wanted me to put them through in virtually any course to anything possible. Most notable was Blessing; a model, tall, beautiful and vivacious. She started coming around more.
But even with me crushing for Precious, my heart was stolen away by Sarah; a girl I met in my church group – legion of Mary society. She is the most beautiful black girl I have ever seen; calm, smart and when she smiles – oh, her innocent smile was enchanting! So I tried to befriend her.
After my first semester exams, with student’s leaving the hostel gradually. I sat down, took inventory and decided to prepare Egusi soup with bitter leaf (Ofe Onugbu).
I gathered the following ingredients:
1 cup of blended onions (about 3 – 5 and fresh chilies – pepper).
4 cups of Egusi (Melon seeds, grounded or milled).
1 cup of palm oil.
2 tea spoons of fresh Ogiri okpe (locust beans).
8 cups of stock.
Cooked meat and fish (Okporoko – three bundles).
1 cup of cut pumpkin leaves.
2 cups of washed bitter leaf (Onugbu).
Then I prepared the Egusi paste: by blending Egusi seeds and onion mixture and kept it.
Then I took the following steps in preparing the soup:
In a pot, heat the palm oil for a minute and then add the Ogiri okpe.
Slowly add the stock and let it simmer.
Scoop teaspoon size balls of the Egusi paste mixture into the stock (be sure to keep the ball size).
Leave to simmer for 20 – 30 minutes; so that the balls cook through.
Add the meat and fish and other bits to it.
Add cut-up pumpkin leaves.
Stir and put a lid on the pot and allow cooking for 7 – 10 minutes, till the leaves wilt.
Add the bitter leaf. Leave the lid off while the cooking finished for another 5 – 10 minutes.
Then, as I stepped up with my cooking spoon to taste, I nodded as the aroma pervaded the hallway.
I thought I was the only one in the hostel that afternoon until a door flung wide open and one of my wing mate walked up towards me.
“Boss, I dey oh!” he said salivating (i.e Boss I am interested.)
“Ok. When e done, I go hala you!” I said regretfully (i.e Ok. When it is ready I would call you.)
But he wouldn’t want to take chances, so he roamed around until the soup was taken off from the fire. I gave him his share on a plate and continued by making Eba (finger food), I would use to devour the soup.
days later, as I was journeying home, I was all smiles.