I loved it when it was at least two weeks to May 27th. Not only that on that day, Papa or Mama would give me 100 Naira and hand me over to an older fellow to make sure I’m safe, but also that the school dismissal time came earlier than 1:30pm.
When it was11am, break time, the band boys stationed at the middle of the school field, blaring into the air a firm sound of the band, and every pupil stood in line according to class and height.
With my lithely protruding stomach, projected by a lanky body I stood with elegance in the line as a tall fellow. Yes, fewer legs marched on my seldom white stocking since I stood behind most of the impatient and wanting mates. The shorter ones made lots of troubles.
“Hands forward stretched!” one of those teachers, usually Uncle Agu shouted to the myriad of pupils blooming in noise. But he wasn’t a real uncle anyway; we called our male teachers uncle and the females, aunty. No one tried to misbehave; else a painful blessing of cane would rain on him.
“Attention!” and “At ease!” followed, then “mark time!” At a much stressed command of “forward march!” we all marched at the same time with different pace, hence hitting with our fisted palm and chopping the hinds of who ever that is before us.
We wore seriousness since we wanted the teachers to see us qualified to join the marching team. But unfortunately, they looked for worthy arms that swung simultaneously in 90° and 45° with soldierly moving legs, and not our wasp buttocks, yet flat and confused steps.
Since the marching team had to practice daily for a good outcome, school literally dismissed during break. How can one learn when the intriguing sound of the band is piercing the soul of our vulnerable emotions? Some members of the class belonged to the team after all.
When life was golden, my school had no school bus, so we trekked to Unity Square. Life became soft when we started using the Abakaliki Township Stadium for the Children’s Day. At least we did not drink the dust of Unity Square anymore, or survive stampede trying to see the ‘Never-Seen’ State Governor. At the Township Stadium, we could see the Governor, at least from afar. My school also got a school bus, but it wasn’t for all. Trekking was still my portion.
My pocket would be heavy with 100 Naira and maybe in addition to any little savings I’ve made bearing 27th May in mind. At least, I will buy various rounds of 20 Naira Suya and Ice cream. Those were my favorite. It was a heartbreaking experience the first day I tasted what they called Meat pie. All I saw in that stuff was cooked vegetables and something that looked like potatoes.
Annunciation Schools Abakaliki has been a renowned school. We were the best. So I carried myself with assurance whenever I was in the midst of pupil from other schools. But students from Holy Ghost Foundation schools were different. All of them looked beautiful and handsome; they also appeared to all be from wealthy families. It was evident on their fresh skins and on the milk coloured suit they did wear. Their hat rested on their heads like eagle. They had the most sartorial look.
The march past competition began when the governor had arrived, always at noon. Every school marched along past the state governor who stood still under the shade of an elevated platform, with his face glaring with smooth smile.
The funny drama perhaps salutation that followed the loud command “Eyes Right,” just before the governor, I thought determined which school that came first in the competition. Maybe it didn’t, for Holy Ghost pupils were always quick in their march and their ‘Eyes Right’ weren’t dramatic enough to have always won them the first position.
I finally got to join the marching team in my JSS1. I was worn over sized shirt and undersized trousers. But it didn’t matter. What mattered was that I had the opportunity to see the governor more closely than ever. I cannot remember how else I celebrated the Children’s Day.