DIARY OF AN ADVOCATE (EPISODE 2- THE VICTOR) by Ebi Robert



2007 was the year of my last days in secondary school. I was already in S.S. 3.  I had no seniors ahead of me in school anymore. I wasn’t appointed or, should I say, nominated as a school prefect, not because I do not want to but because I had traveled to the village then. Yes, the village. This period of my life made me a constant visitor to the village. It was quite tough for me as a young boy growing up. My father was in the village then, at a place called Nembe creek. I visited him often. Then, I and my dad would pull the creeks in the cold evening even down to the night casting and drawing nets for fishes. We usually had serious battles with the mosquitoes. There was no money so we needed to survive. As for my mum, that woman don try sha. She is one of the strongest women I have ever seen on earth. She is quite prudent in business. So I use to follow her to some islands where the multinational companies anchored to prospect and explore oil. We use to sell drinks to the workers, including the white men. As a young boy I couldn’t understand why my mum snubbed the fact that I was right sometimes and  then calmed the manerless customers. I remember the words clearly: “CUSTOMERS ARE ALWAYS RIGHT”. We had to snub them, since we needed money. There was no engine, so we had to pull a very far distance sometimes in the cold night for daily bread. Sometimes we pulled the creeks for up to four hours or more. There was this day we even missed our way. We pulled and pulled not knowing where we were going. Sometimes we had to rub crude oil to ward off mosquitoes’ bites. We pulled and pulled until mid-night around 3 O’clock before we were able to see a fisher man who helped us out. All these I encountered in other to understand life better. There was even a time I got bitten by some kind of flies. My mum felt so bad for me, because of my swollen face. Then I was very young, so young. Some of these events happened before 2007 proper. These and many more did I encounter just to have a daily bread. That is why, when people say, Bayelsans are lazy, I get so angry, because people do judge many with what they see in a few. I know what young boys; women and men pass through in the rich riverine areas. Sometimes, we go fishing but getting one fish into the boat was a problem. Fishes die, and you could see them floating. Of course Oil pollution caused it. My mum had to check some of the routine fishes, put them in boat and the day’s meal was done. But what pained me the most is how the multi nationals looked down on our people. They see us as bush people. When they give the women little bread and egg, to them they have given the people a heavenly gift. Sometimes they chase the women from going to sell goods to the workers. There was one occasion when the head of the workers asked the soldiers to chase the women. I was very angry. I think I once spoke of staging a riot, and funny enough they did. This compelled the company to create a place for the women to sell their goods. I wondered why they treated them that way. I wondered why the soldiers treated our young boys that way. All these were contributory factors that triggered my wish to be an advocate in later days. How can the people farm when their lands are polluted? How can they fish when their lands are polluted? The animals run away because of deforestation. There was no light in the communities, no water and no food, yet, enough treasure is taking away from the people. Well I couldn’t and can’t say much because even our leaders are a bunch of disgrace because they cannot even account for the little given to them.
Hah, I didn’t say why I left Port Harcourt in the last episode, right? Life had mercilessly beaten my family so hard, as I said earlier, and that made us to relocate to the village; my mum, dad and all my siblings except me and one of my elder brother. They had to because they couldn’t pay the bills anymore. My mum had to speak to one of our former neigbour, one lady who had an accident and broke her arm. She, after due consultation with her Husband, Mr. Robinson, allowed me to stay with them and finish my secondary school, but for my juvenile stubbornness, I spent my school fees on cartoons, short stories and novellas. My love for literature was there intact, only that it was misdirected at that time. Don’t be shocked, everyone must have a bad story to tell. After all, I wasn’t born a Christian from my mother's womb. I was once a black sheep after all. LOL!
Soon my mum got to hear about my ceaseless plays on a field known as six fields because I was chased out of class for failure to produce my school fees. You shouldn’t blame me much, I was quite young then. My mum was furious and threatened that that would be the end of my schooling. But after, much pleadings through the help of one neigbour, we visited my proprietor (BOB MANUEL) in the National Professional Secondary School (NPSS). Being a strict man that he was, he requested for the receipt of all the fees I had ever paid for since I gained admission into the school. Funny! I was the last person to keep such records, by then some of the receipts must have found themselves in the lungs of the house rats. It was obvious my days with NPSS had come to an end. My guardian was vexed at me. He never expected me to act that way, but I did. The entire beautiful smiles from Robinson turned to seasonal boning and scolding. As for his wife, she couldn’t help matter as she got herself drunk almost every morning as a hobby and end up raining curses on everyone in the house, and when she fixes her eyes on me, oh my God, It was hell! My happiness was that none in the house was spared, not even her son. That is definitely Ebi Robert, the one who traded his school fees for cartoons. They were sure spiriticism was responsible for my stubbornness. One Spiritualist with big belly was invited to make a seeing on me. After a due consultation with his spirits, he concluded that I have a spirit wife and that was the cause of my anger, and that if for any reason I get offended by anyone, that person will receive the punishment of his or her life. Wow! What a spirit wife, I thought. According to him, she was present while he spoke. In my mind, I was like: Wifey, can you hear me?
Sir Robinson lost his job and it became obvious all the children staying with him had to go. We were about 8 children in the house of which two were his children.
When hope seems to be lost, one of my uncles asked me to go stay with him in Yenagoa. I was happy because Uncle Deyinronyo actually loved me so well. I believed I would stay with him in peace. He liked me so much because I was serious with my studies, but as time went on, things started having a twist. My Uncle who had a tough youthful life wanted me to be hard too as well. I was told he had to train himself in the school. Every morning, he would walk a very far distance to school after he must have pounded fufu in the morning and hawked fishes. He wanted me to be like him and so he refused giving me transport fare, thereby expecting me to walk all the way from Ekeki to Biogbolo everyday as he did. Well, I was a combination of laziness and hard work. Trust me, I use to watch my cloths late in the night and dry them in the house, getting the floor wet for much, wake up very early in  the morning and bathe my kid cousins, sometime cook for myself and them and then walk to school late. There were only few occasions I did not get myself punished in school for late coming. It wasn’t funny anymore, so I had to explore other options. The beast in me was unleashed at last. My uncle’s pocket was fat with hard currencies, so I sometime took one slice or two and my needs were met. Over time it became a habit and I was sure it wasn’t good. I sold most of his movies to a neigbour who was willing to buy them all. As for my uncle’s wife, we were like cats and rat. My life wasn’t good, likewise hers. We clashed a lot and of course her husband supported her, almost in everything without even listening to my own side of the story in most cases. After some months, I was due for a stay. My uncle gave me little money and asked me to leave the house. This was exactly when I was about writing my third term exam for S.S.1, a class I had repeated. I didn’t go home to my poor mother; there was no way I should repeat one class for the third time. There was this Guy by name David who was actually a gangster. He was a member of the Boys Brigade and the son of a popular Bishop in Bayelsa State. I won’t mention the Bishop’s name. The young David normally stayed out late and carefully sneaked into the church to sleep on the altar. There was this day I was feeling so sleepy, so I entered into the church to sleep. I actually slept on the altar. Around 5:30 a.m or so, I was woken by the sound of a heavy cane all over me and David. We both ran out of the church seriously beaten. I was shocked as to why a man of God should beat up his son and a young boy he is seeing for the first time in his church. David father threw his belongings outside. According to him, his father asked him to leave and he had to put the blame on me. I felt bad, for sleeping in a church.

I crossed over to Ekeki and stayed with a scout friend of mine and his family pending when the exam would be written. My father arrived only to find out I was no wear to be found. I actually do not know what words my father told my uncle, one morning when I was sleeping, a man supposed to be a police man invaded the premises and bundled me away to the water front and boarded me in a boat. I was treated like a thief that day. I was filled with shame in my eyes. I was dragged out with everyone looking at me. I reached home and explained the story to my parents. My mum felt sad why life was so unfair to me. I appealed to my mum telling her my exam is near and that if she can only talk to my father’s brother, I can stay with him and write the exam, after which I will return. My mum, who never gave up on me, listened to me and spoke to my dad. Uncle Sunday, the said uncle of mine was spoken to and that was how I returned to Yenagoa. I wrote the exam. Although, I didn’t do so well, I passed. It then became obvious that my stay in my uncle’s place would go beyond just writing my exams. 

School life continued after the previous competition. I was prepared for any match that would come. All those who participated in the last competition spoke about OSUNDU BEN. Remember him, right? An opportunity would surface so I thought, and when it comes, we will fight; a fight of academy of course. Not long, our school received a letter that another debate competition would be coming up. It was organized by the NYSC. We were all enlightened about the completion and I was happy about it. I believed it was an opportunity to face BEN. The topic was: “Youth restiveness in Niger Delta, who is to blame, the government or the community?” Myself, Abraham Dolor and Peter Igirigi Dienamiero, the DSP boy of my school then, prepared. We were part of those who experienced the last outing. We all went to our respective homes to do research. I had no phone by then so I couldn’t access the internet. The only phone in the house was my uncle’s old Nokia 3310. The phone was as big as an elephant and as heavy as an iron.  You dare not consider it for a research, it will research you instead. The phone normally wore a brown rubber band round it, in other for its part not to fall out. There was no how such phone could help. So I was forced to work on logic, task my brain to argue. My uncle never cared, or I should rather say: he never knew. I worked very hard until the panel was set. We presented our arguments before a panel of about five or six teachers; the social head, literature teacher, commerce teacher and others. For some reasons they were interested in me. My commerce teacher was even angry when he found out I had already presented my arguments in his absence. He even said it to the hearing of all: “I wanted to hear this young man speak”. We prepared for and against the topic and I guess better than the first outing. The time eventually came for speakers to be chosen, and surprisingly, I was chosen to be the first speaker. It was a wow: FROM A BENCH WARMER TO A FIRST SPEAKER. But being a first speaker was not enough, I had to prove to them they were not wrong to choose me for the task. 

Our first match was against the Community Comprehensive Secondary School, Opolo. We were on the opposing side. The match took place in our school, so it was like we were playing a match in our home. The pressure was much on us for sure. The day came and our opponents arrived. One fair girl, a fat one, and a guy represented our opponents. The match began and their first speaker spoke. She was quite good and a little better than me at the advocacy stage. She had eloquence too but not like BEN’s. All the speakers spoke and it was time to counter. She countered and sat and it was my turn. There is an ability I observe God gave me, and that is the ability to think on my feet. Good enough, most of the rebuttals I had on my finger tips were triggered by their first speaker. I can say she entered into the trap I had set for them. I countered all the major points they had raised; that I did one after the other as if it was a fight, and when I ended, what I observe were claps everywhere. I was shocked, so I asked a friend: How was my performance? He said it was fine. The marks were announced and we won. I was happy my first match was victorious; I was readily sure for the next. I am a VICTOR at last. My literature mistress said something I will never forget: “I like the way you counter. It is as if it’s a fight. But I don’t blame you, Nembe people are violent prone”. I had no reason to be angered for she is from Nembe too but somehow I was okay with her statement then, I don’t know why; maybe it was the fallacious believe of being a warrior.
A message came that we had qualified to the semi-finals, and we were to meet EREPA, another private school in Yenagoa. I was kind of curious. Maybe, Osundu Ben and his advocates had made it to the next round too, I thought. I had no reason to think less. I believed their school can’t just be terminated in the first round.
Preparations continued. Our team met to rehearse and this time in a bigger way. But it wasn’t that difficult cause we were already in the semi-finals. Somehow, I did not perform as much as I could to maintain the slot for the first speaker. One Abraham Dolor, the grammarian as he was called was made first speaker and I was either the second or third. I wasn’t quite comfortable though. I believed I performed less, that’s why. But we are a team, whether I am first or second, it is immaterial.

The day came and we were all settled in a big but conventional building around the sports complex/Prof Gabriel Okara cultural centre. Then I was opportune to know the four schools that were remaining in the contest. They were my school, EREPA, LISA MONTESORRI, and the St. Judes Girls Secondary School, Amarata. So it was like, two government schools against two private schools. I was disappointed Gate Way Success is nowhere to be found. Many thoughts ran through my mind: Maybe, they had been knocked out, maybe they were not invited. Whatever the case may be, I was sad I didn’t have the opportunity to have a match with him. Worse of it is that I wasn’t sure of a next time. But I had to put myself together; there was a match before us.
The first match between Lisa Montessori and S.t Judes began. The match was tough. Very tough indeed, but somehow the Azebotas could not stand the Azegpako girls of S.T Judes in the duel. The government girls must have filled their brains with enough plantains in place of fresh butter. So I guess their brains were full of iron.
The next match was ours against EREPA, but the EREPA School was yet to arrive. We had to wait for some time but all to no avail. Only God knows what kept them from coming. We were shocked as we didn’t know what to do. The organizers had no other option than to ask us to appear and debate all to ourselves. In legal parlance, it would be ex parte. So we did. Luckily for us, our marks were good enough and so we made it to the finals. I wasn’t really happy, because it was like a cheap qualification. How I wish we met our opponents. But to God be the glory, we were a finalist. We had to prepare for the task ahead. The final was a bigger task. Winning or losing was a big thing for sure. But I wasn’t sure about us, for the S.T Judes girls were good. We were three guys to three girls. Can we win them in the finals? Can we make our school proud? These were some of the question in my mind. But I must confess those girls are beautiful, more than beautiful. Sure I sabi better thing na. I know what I am saying. LOL.  But could their beauties and brains defeat us that faithful day?

STAR ADVOCATE OF THE EPISODE

There were three great speakers that advocated for the S.T. Judes girls Secondary School but among them was one Ebinipre Omolo. I call her “THE VOICE”. Ebinipre Omolo spoke like a man. She had the voice of a thunder. She was so confident with her voice. The command in her voice is beyond admiration, despite the fact that she was accurate in speech, her voice was something else. No wonder she was employed by Glory FM, in later days. Ebinipre Omolo was the reason I was skeptical about the finals
[SUSPENSE-  In the next Episode, You will get to know whether our Karl Popper team was able to defeat the S.T Judges Girls Secondary School in the Finals] 



And if you must know, the woman on the picture is my MUM, THE LOVE OF MY LIFE.

2 comments

TBN said...

Interesting one! Hope to follow up subsequent episodes

Ebi Robert said...

Thanks dear!!