The Abandoned Child Episode 21

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I finished my clearance from school and collected my result. I still saw some of my mates who did not graduate immediately at school running around as normal students because they had carry over courses. Many thought I had carry over courses too when they saw me around the administrative office.

I traveled to the Army 82 division HQ in Enugu to meet with the GOC with a letter from Commodore Aboderin. He was expecting me and he gave me a hand written recommendation letter sealed in his official envelope “Office of the GOC 82 Division”. I was to submit the letter to the commission panel at NDA.

Amara and I had started to date naturally; she had spent most of her free moments with me. She is a very nice company and I wished I had consented to DJ Slams advice earlier, not to wire her o! But to enter a relationship with her because she was so different from Chioma and her crazy crew.

After two months of training at NDA Kaduna, I could not continue with the exercise, I was not fit to go on! I was not qualified to be an Army officer. I cried from night till dawn the day I was given my discharge letter base on medical complications.

It had started from the first day I arrived at NDA for screening, everything had gone well until it was time for medical check up. Everyone in the Clinic that saw me remove my clothes screamed when they saw my body. If not for the quality of my referee, I would have been disqualified immediately. The chief medical consultant was invited by the resident Doctor, a major in the Army to determine the progress of my screening. The Chief consultant, a brigadier general said I should be given a pass because of my referee. He asked me about the scars on my body and I told him how it came about and how Commodore Aboderin came to my rescue. He felt sorry for me. He said if I had incurred the injuries while serving as a Soldier, it would not be an issue, but to be so battered when I have not even joined the Army was unacceptable especially for the fact that I have been operated upon. He told me I would not be able to survive the six months training here if really my joints were dislocated and my bones broken. However I will be an exception because I have an outstanding result.

The Medical Doctor made his recommendation on my form and presented it to the panel but the members of the panel waved it aside and I was eventually short listed but the police brutality I suffered almost year ago had done too much damage to my body.

I could not stand for long on the parade ground, my ankles and knees begins to shake, it started gradually at first and I was enduring it but it worsened with time.

I could not do much “push up” exercise, initially I was doing up to forty push ups but as time passed, it reduced until I could not do more that ten push ups before my shoulder pulls off and I will just lie on my belly like a snake until some one pulls me up and my shoulder is pushed into place again.

On the obstacle crossing exercise where we cross over a deep ditch filled with bottles and stones by pulling on a strong rope tied across the ditch, we use our hands and legs and pull across the ditch without looking down into the ditch.

Every time I tried to climb the rope, I fell into the ditch half way because it reminded me of the day I was hung on the ceiling and secondly my shoulder pulls off the Socket midway and I ended up falling into the ditch and sustaining injuries that led me to the clinic. I was always in and out of the clinic. I was a complete mess and I was always in pains.

The Army had no choice but to call back the person on the awaiting list from my state to replace me and I was advised to go back home and take care of my self and avoid rigorous activities for at least five years so I could heal up completely.

To say I was sad is an understatement! I was broken down and out! I was depressed. Not after seeing the bright future the army had for me! Not after wearing the Army uniforms that fitted me so much like I was a model! Not after enjoying so much respect from soldiers and civilians in the NDA barracks! I had planned on going for a conversion course two years after I pass out so that I would become a regular combatant instead of a short service officer. Short service officers are those that joined the army after graduating for Polytechnics or universities to be come officers and cannot grow beyond the rank of a Colonel. They are mostly retired after spending fifteen years and not exceeding the rank of a Colonel, they stay very long at the rank of Lieutenant Colonel. But if such an officer goes for a conversion course and passes, then he looses one step seniority, that is, his mates move a rank ahead of him while he marks time at a rank for almost six years but after then, he begins to grow and leaves his mates at the rank of Lieutenant Colonel to become a general. I had it all planned out.

I did not write to tell Uncle Goke because I wanted to appear in my uniform to surprise the family. I had fantasized on marching into Ijan Ekiti in my military uniform. My God! I was depressed.

I returned every military property with me to the Army and left with my nap sack on my back on a Friday morning in December 1997. The only thing that reminds me of my sojourn to NDA was the pictures I took while I was there. Outside the premises I turned back and looked at the gate of the NDA with teary eyes, I sat by the gate and began to cry like a hungry baby and I cried my eyes out shamelessly. 

Why is my own luck different? Must I suffer gravely before I succeed? I am an Orphan by every right but I have not allowed that to pull be back, then why is life so unfair to me? Have I not suffered enough in this life already? From the loss of Grand ma to the death of Pharaoh to the humiliation form modupe and eventual rip off by modupe’s family. To the hustling for survival at Owerri, teaching, barbing, bar man, burning the mid night candle! All in the bid to dare to succeed and now that I think I have succeeded, this is where I find myself. I wish I could kill myself but I know that was not possible, I am not a white man. If I kill myself I would go to hell fire! So I have grown to understand.

I was seated at the NDA gate until 6 PM when one of the instructors Major Chudi was about to drive in and saw me dozing. He called me and invited me for a drink. We drove down to the Officers mess in NDA barracks. He advised me to go back to my school and pick up my NYSC letter as another bath of youth corps members would be hitting camp early next year 1998. He told me to take what has happened in good faith and move on with my life. He told me that I already had the military connections and my mates in NDA are my colleagues for life, he said wherever I am in Nigeria, one of them must be in a barracks close to me so whenever I need any military assistance, I should walk into any barracks close to me and asked for any member of my intake in the barracks. 

I drank six bottles of Gulder in the mess before he drove me to the airport to catch a 7.30 PM flight to Owerri. That was my first time in a plane, I wished the plane could crash and kill only me; at least it would not be suicide. But I slept off immediately the plane took off.

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I took an airport Taxi that drove me straight to the Naval Logistics training school at Owerrinta. Commodore already knew what had happened to me. He pulled me into a hug and held me close as I started to cry all over that night. He brought out a bottle of brandy and we shared. He reminded me that it was not the will of God that I become an Army officer. He said I should move on by going for my National youth service corps programme, he said he would call the NYSC commandant to post me to Owerri so I could be close to him, he said he can influence my posting into the Navy training school to teach or to work with their engineers.

I told him I would prefer the engineers.

I told him I could no longer stay with him in the barracks because all his boys that have been respecting me because they knew I was going to become an officer soonest would now be laughing at me when they realized I was sacked from NDA. He said we have many non-commissioned Officers in the barracks that have gone to NDA and returned without success, it was not a big deal but a way of life. He said I should not think about what people think about me but to focus on how to climb up to a grater height. He said that as long as I am a graduate, I will always drink in the officer’s mess and not the petty officers or soldiers mess! He felt bad though, especially for the fact that he had blown the GOC’s slot. The GOC will never give him any opportunity to recommend someone again. That is how it works. I felt worse.

I went o visit Amara the next day, she was at her off-campus home so I went to meet her at school, she was so happy to see me at first but there was no joy in my face so she knew all was not well. We went outside and sat beneath a tree and I told her the whole story and she became very sad too. She said she had told all her friends that when I would come to see her, I would come with a military uniform with the rank of a second lieutenant. I told her that that was my plan too. Some of her friends came around to meet her as we sat under the tree and when she introduced me to them as Bolaji her Boy friend, they saluted and stamped their feet in the military way “Shun sir” they said. These made me sad and I left her with tears in my eyes.

I suddenly fell home sick, I was done with Owerri for now, I needed to be where no one knew of my military exploits, I needed to go home and come back for my NYSC call up letter in January 1998. Meanwhile Oga Dan and co are being held at the state CID facility awaiting trial. They will definitely go to jail for murder and aiding and abating.

I told the Commodore that I was home sick and would love to travel home and return in January, it was already eight days to Christmas. He said I could go with one of his Cars but I declined. I do not know how to drive yet and it was not necessary. I did not tell Amara that I was going home. I felt I had let her down. Meanwhile with her brother and co about to go to jail because of me, there was not going to be a smooth sail future between Amara and I. how can you marry the man who sent your elder brother to jail? This is Africa. Her family will never accept me. Our people have a saying that “A bad wife is tolerable but not bad in-laws”.

To Be Continued…

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