Prize and a Price.

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He was born into a middle class family sometimes in the early eighties.
Second in a line of 6 all male children.
His father a teacher by profession and a disciplinarian by inclination.
His mother a businesswoman, philanthropist and socialite of reckoning.
As a child he was sickly, weak, timid and never made good grades.
A reason his father beat him almost all the time, hoping he could somehow make something out of this “mango” that had obviously fallen far from the tree.
His mother a more practical person took him often to seek psychological examination.
Despite repeated assurances that there was nothing wrong with him, she resorted to spiritual consultations with Alfa’s, prophets and much later mediums of traditional means.
He endured rubutus, holy waters and all sorts of vile smelling concoctions, which were supposed to alter his deficiencies.
Not social, athletic or adventurous, he wasn’t popular in the all male high school he attended.
Diminutive in stature, he more than made it up with a mind that was an incredible storage of entrepreneurial acumen.
He it was that classmates, juniors and much later senior students went to for matters of financial implications.
He would bail out those among us who gambled away, misplaced or frittered away their school fees and levies at a percentage to himself.
His cash secure in the collaterals which kept coming in as Walkmans, Nintendo’s Gameboy, cameras and an occasional jewelry.
Collaterals which were pawned off whenever debtors defaulted on terms and pre-agreed conditions.
As his scope of operations increased, his grades fell and he got more beatings from his father.
The beatings increased and so did hatred for his father, till it became open defiance.
His business interest pitched him against the school’s authorities once or twice.
Subsequently he changed modus operandi and continued his business schemes through proxies.
Soon his money bought him power to influence decisions, decisions which brought him increased respect among the boys.
One day i went to him and asked if i could become an associate.
“Why” he asked?
“Extra cash isn’t such a bad idea” i said.
“Can you do dirty work” he shot at me?
“Of course” i answered?
So we fixed an appointment for after school hours.
Shook hands over our potential partnership.
At exactly 2:00pm later that day, the school bell rang, announcing an end to academic activities for the day.
We hooked up.
He, a couple of our mates with bulging biceps like bouncers and i.
We left and soon got to Iyana Ipaja near a refuse dump that had been piled high near the market.
It was 1996 back when Lagos was still an obnoxious eyesore and i watched petrified as they pulled off their uniforms.
Changed into ragged clothing and made their way gingerly to the top of the refuse dump.
Once at the top he looked down and saw me.
“What are you still doing down there? Come up here your task is to help us find anything thats made of metal”
“Why”? i asked with my left index finger and thumb holding my nose in a futile attempt to block out the nauseating stench.
“So we can take it to the iron mongers get it weighed before we sell” came his reply.
Not for me i said and off i went.
Next day he called me aside, chided me like one would a child and then told me he’d performed woefully in physics and might have to repeat the session.
I thought hard sensing an opportunity, then it hit me!
Teachers had not been paid for months and they were considering going on strike and our male teachers always met after hours at a nearby bar to unwind.
So i told my friend about the plan i’d hatched.
That evening after school we went home to change into mufti’s.
Came back to the bar were our teachers hung out.
Entered the bar, greeted our teachers who eyed us, disapproval in their expressions and sat down at a corner.
Then.
In a very loud tone.
My friend ordered two bottles of Maltina and peppersoup, which we savored, then asked for replacements which was to be delivered very fast.
Just before the second round arrived, our maths teacher’s baritone voice startled us.
“Have you no respect, what do you think you are doing and where did you steal money to engage in frivolities”?
My friend and i walked over to where they sat.
The questions were repeated.
Calmly my friend answered “with all due respect Sir, we are enjoying ourselves, surely there’s no law against that and we are not thieves”.
“Don’t get wise with me, where did you get money to come and squander at a bar”? queried the physics teacher.
“I work after hours at a refuse dump” my friend answered cooly.
“Is that why you have the temerity to come and show off to your tutors”?
“No sir o” i managed.
“We just came to enjoy with you sir” my friend quipped.
Without another word he dipped a hand into his pocket, brought out a wad of #20 bills and proceeded to pay for what he’d ordered.
Then he ordered two bottles each of whatever “masters” as we fondly called our male teachers then were drinking and complimentary bowls of steaming pepper soup, paid and we left.
Call it a bribe or philantrophic gesture a bargain had just being sealed.
Twice a week, Wednesdays and Fridays he repeated the gesture and soon he started bailing the masters from financial fixes.
By the third term of that session my friend went from being an academic ne’er-do-well to an above average performer.
His services now included upgrading an F grade to a C or a C to an Alpha at a percentage to himself.
Everyone was happy, his father, our masters, the dullards and most especially my friend who proved to me that everyone had a price…. you just needed to know how much.

  • Daniel Ibanga©


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