It was 5pm and the lesson seemed to drag on.
‘If you cannot do ordinary quadratic equation, how do you want to pass the final exams? Ehnn?! You there, stand up! Come on, will you stand up now!’
I imagined in the most secret part of my heart the boy who was asked to stand up saying ‘no’ to the ‘will you stand up now’ part. After all, it was a question; at least, that’s what I learnt from Ms. Njoku’s English lessons. I sighed deeply, knowing he would never do that, but still imagined the drama that could ensue if he did.
‘You, Ayo, stand up and come to the front now!’
I looked up immediately and saw the whole class looking at me. I knew I was really in trouble now.
‘Me, sah?’ I asked. Stupid question, of course.
‘No o, me and your father. Get here immediately and solve the question on the board.’
“O boy, you’ve entered big soup now!” I heard my friend, Gbolahan, whisper.
I walked on shaky legs to the front, my heart beating loudly. I had not been paying attention to the lesson, day dreaming and writing stories in my head as usual.
As I approached the board, we suddenly heard a loud piercing scream from outside. Everyone’s attention moved from me to the windows immediately, my teacher included. The screams increased and soon sounded like an assembly of shouts. On further listening, they sounded like shouts of victory and celebration.
This was weird, evening lessons were usually always quiet with no unusual activities – save for when a student decided to disobey and give us something to laugh about.
My teacher asked us all to calm down and ordered those who had been brave enough to stand by the windows and check what was going on to go back to our seats.
As he started walking towards the door to find out the cause of the commotion, the door burst open and someone rushed in, frenzied and panting deeply.
‘You people are still here? Have you not heard?’ he asked.
‘Heard kini? Kilo n shele?’ my teacher asked, very curious.
‘Ah! Abacha ti ku!’
I will never forget that moment till I go to my grave. The class erupted in screams of jubilation, some people wept their hearts out. My classmates, too excited to even use the doors, jumped out of the windows to join the celebration in the streets. Some hurried home to spread the good news. Abeokuta was abuzz with the news!
Did I mention my teacher had screamed and fainted from the news? By the time we managed to revive him, he woke up singing of God’s goodness. ‘Oluwa ti se, Edumare soromidayo, Olowo ori mi…’
In the streets of my hometown, and in other places as the news would later show, there was celebration and jubilation. Shouts of freedom erupted suddenly in the air and parties were happening in every corner.
I remember running like a mad man home to tell my family and hearing shouts of ‘Abacha werey ti ku o!’
Kids, women, men – perhaps, even babies in the womb – leaped for joy and forgot their sorrows to celebrate the demise of a man, who at his best, had been a man of few words and a brutal leader and at his worst, a man of deadly actions.
There was an air of fresh hope everywhere, you almost could taste the joy of freedom and of new beginnings; no one knew what the future would hold, but as long as Gen. Sani Abacha wasn’t in the picture, oh the future was bright!