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For their tomorrow we gave our today (1)

“When you go home, tell them of us and say

For their tomorrow, we gave our today.”

John Maxwell Edmonds

It is a famous epitaph penned by the renown English classical scholar; John Maxwell Edmonds in commemoration of the fallen of the battle of Kohima and has remained evergreen years after the second world war. Ironically, this happens to be the title of a book on Nigeria’s former Head of State; General Ibrahim Badamasi Babangida, better known as IBB. It was a book prize I won in my final year in secondary school and was basically a compilation of selected speeches by the enigmatic General. I never could understand what IBB gave for my future and two decades after, I am still at a loss. Nevertheless, I liked the General and my affection ironically derived from, if nothing else, the frequent closure of the Universities those days. I looked forward to the frequent industrial actions embarked by the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU). It meant an escape from school, and an opportunity to head to Lagos and make some money.

School was boring. I studied Accountancy and by my reckoning it was the most boring course of study. Unfortunately, I couldn’t complain to anyone as I single handedly plotted my way to that discipline. You see, I was meant to study Medicine and was well on my way till I began to wonder why I had to continually prove myself and compete with my two elder brothers in everything I did. I was a full science student but after some discussions with some of my classmates on the prospects of Accountancy, I decided that it was the Course for me and that was how I set out to miss my Chemistry school certificate exams to ensure I achieve my plans. The plan worked; without Chemistry, I could not apply for Medicine and I eventually secured admission to the University to study Accountancy. The trouble with that Course is a story for another day… My creative mind could never fathom why I had to abide by the many rules and it never made sense to me why I was made to attempt all questions in an examination. I was used to reading the topics I fancied for an exam and sticking with questions from those topics, no matter how tough, but now I had to cover the whole syllables just to pass an exam.

Idumota, a bustling commercial centre in Lagos Island, was home to a thriving auto parts market that was the hub for the West African Coast. Peugeot, being the Car brand driven by the vast majority then, was the real deal. My Uncle was a big player in that market so I was presented with opportunities to work and make some money in the process. So, yet another strike action and here I was in Lagos hustling.

On this bright Friday, just some days before Christmas, the Accountant alerted me to hang around as I was needed for a transaction. I was delighted, I knew what I was needed for, I had handled that a couple of times and it was rewarding. Simple task… take some foreign currency to a fellow in Surulere, pay the fee provided for the transfer and make as much as N5,000 for myself. You think the amount was small? Think again, this was 1994. On that day the amount was 380,000 French Francs, converted from the day’s sales proceeds of 6.4 Million Naira. I had calculated my gain and was on a high. I was set to leave Lagos the coming week to enjoy Christmas with my folks. I knew no risk, I knew no fear, I just hopped on a bike when I realised using the Staff Bus for the trip made no sense due to the traffic. As we approached Carter Bridge, I drifted off in thoughts, what a way to sign off for the weekend… It shouldn’t take me more than an hour and I would be back, job done and more importantly, my pocket heavier.

That was the prelude to the most traumatic experience of my life, as at then. I found myself entangled in a case I neither bargained for nor was prepared for… Now the same liberty I longed for had come to haunt me. I held IBB inexcusably responsible for that harrowing episode, though by then he had stepped aside for his cohort; General Abacha. I should have been in school, minding my studies. What in the world did they give for my tomorrow? when they just couldn’t reach a compromise to keep students in school, where they were meant to be. It wouldn’t have required so much to meet the demands of the Lecturers. If things worked as they should, perhaps I could have been spared the horrors of that December.

About Kene Okoye

A creative writer, banker, pianist, composer and music promoter, Kene documents events and presents his viewpoint in compelling narratives. He sets out to create vivid pictures with his intelligent use of words and seeks to engage, thrill, educate and inspire the reader. Come on and enjoy yourself.

37 comments

  1. Ahhh! The story took me back to “those days” in living color. Why leave us at the edge? Oya, what happened next nah?

  2. Well articulated piece. Looking forward to the rest of the gist. Hope it’ll be hot on the heels of this one

  3. hmmmm…the writer in you is a delight to my reading senses! nice one! the cliffhanger is something else….finish the story jore. shuo. wetin sef?

  4. Mmmmh. A well written piece. Whet my appetite for so much more. Can’t wait to read the rest of it. Good job Kene!!!

  5. Amazing story. I believe the experience made you wiser, stronger and better.
    It taught you also that good things may come with challenges.
    Hoping to read the rest!

    Reply ↓

  6. We want part 2!

  7. Hmmmm, really!!! Was that what happened? Competition? Will be willing to read the story till the end, why keep us in suspense? Ride on dear and by the way you are such a wonderful writer. Your stories inspire me to read.

  8. Waoh. Your write up inspire me to read.

  9. That is great, but what next after. If u chould make such money then, think, if such exercise as been on buying and selling and you are so exited, what if u have spend such time and exercises on ur academic or something more productive. By now an industralist in this country and beyond.

  10. Prof Kene! Ride on abeg, let’s have the conclusion of the matter.

  11. The story is captivating. but why leave us to imagine what happened next?

  12. Beautiful piece! can’t wait to read the end of this story.

  13. 2 words to sum it all up, “well articulated”. I look forward to reading the other stories

  14. My first ASU strike was six straight months. Honestly, I did enjoyed it but looking back I wished otherwise.

  15. intriguing, i wonder where it is going. Whether fact or fiction, it doesn’t matter. it just goes to show you that the casualties of the strikes was not just the education of a a generation, but their “persons” as well.
    Salivating for the next one

  16. Was about to relax to continue then……. pls continue… well written Kene.

  17. Kene, you truly are a man of many parts, a modern day Renaissance man. An accountant with a strong background in science who writes with the skill and finesse reserved for gifted playwrights !!!!! And added to all these is your natural flair for commerce traceable to your genes as a true Igboman. We await the conclusion of your epic tale Brother!

  18. I’m in the mood for the end of this story. May be a few puzzles could be pieced together from my point of view. You know what I meant. Lol! Well done.

  19. A nice piece. Awaiting to read the whole story.

  20. Nice piece my brother, i still remembered the whole thing. How time flies, complete the whole story and don’t keep people waiting so long for the concluding part. I never knew the course (accountancy) was boring to you, because you excelled in it. Waiting for the rest of the story. Cheers and more grease to your elbow or should i say more ink to your pen. Ha ha ha.

  21. We nor go gree!!! We nor go gree!!! Where is the concluding part of the gist?…. Yet another strike action awaits u. Very well articulated. Interesting….. Kene the prof!

  22. wow, this is exciting and for those of us who love to write, inspiring. Thanks fit this us a great build up and I sure will follow it to the end.

  23. The days of mostly cash transactions. Thank God that we are gradually using money instead of cash. 6.4m cash? Mind boggling!

  24. Onyinyechi Ifezue

    Nice write up, Uncle… Ride on

  25. Its very cool

  26. Did I hear you say you are an accountant…? Well, you may have made some good money, but you can really make more money from your second profession:writing. Hurry now and start from short stories…

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