This Week with Aniedobe: Kogi People, Don’t Worry, the Pain will Go Away
August 08, 2012
Dear Mr. Chris,
Sir, my sister Hawa was a victim of the terrorist attack at the Deeper Life Church in Otite, near Okene on Monday. She will be buried today. She is survived by her husband and five children. Her Mother is still in shock from the pain. Don’t worry, Sir, the pain will go away.
As of this day, I have stopped being a Moslem. I do not understand these senseless killings in the name of Islam. Sir, this country needs you. How can you stay away like that?
Also Sir, Hanjara lost her life in a fatal car accident at Lokoja about two weeks ago. She is survived by seven kids. Her husband had passed away before. Don’t worry, Sir, the pain will go away too.
So read the email I got this morning from Mathew, my student back when I was a corps member at Ogevo High School, near Okene. Nearly three years ago, I received the following email from Mr. Andrew Osaso.
August 15, 2009
Dear Mr. Chris,
This is Andrew Osaso, former Principal at Ogevo High School. I got your email address from Mathew Audu. I am now residing at Umarin, my home town, where I retired seven years ago. I have been diagnosed with Prostrate Cancer. I have Hepatitis C and I tested HIV positive. My doctor said that my cancer has spread and that I do not have much to live. I feel pain all over my body and I have lost a lot of weight and I do not have appetite for food.
I want to beg you to forgive me for all the things I said and did to you and Jaja. In all my years of teaching, I had never met Corpers like you and Jaja and it was the devil that was ruling my life then that made me frame you people for all sorts of unmentionable vices. I even used Juju to try and kill the two of you. I am so happy that you survived.
I have written to the Commandant to correct any thing I said about the two of you. My life changed on that day I picked both of you from Okene. Please forgive me for everything I did.
Jaja and I, UNN graduates, met at the Orientation camp at Ilorin and we had one thing in mind. We were going to transform any Secondary School we were posted into a Model Secondary School. We both lobbied the Commandant then who incidentally was from the Okene area to post us to the same secondary school. He did.
Transforming Ogevo High School was worse than climbing Mount Everest. The students were not serious. The teachers skipped classes and looked lazy. The standard of education was abysmally poor. Many of the High Schoolers wrote and spoke terrible English. The school compound was dirty and the students were promiscuous. Most of the boys and girls smoked weed. This was more than we bargained for.
I offered to teach Math, Physics and Biology. Jaja offered to teach Government and Economics. I offered to be the Sports Master. Jaja became the Sanitation and Debating Master. Victor Edoho, another corps member offered to be the Spiritual Director. Jaja and I offered extra lessons in English and Math respectively. We went to work.
As the Sports Master, I had the football posts renovated, cleared the tracks, dug out pits for long jump and triple jumps and instituted cross country race every Saturday morning and refereed football games every evening after lessons. We divided the students into make believe Hostels and we instituted Inter-Hostel competitions in Sports and Debating. Jaja had the school repainted and the trashes picked up. Victor managed to get a Priest for the Christians to come every Sunday for Bible studies.
In the three months that Jaja and I were at Ogevo High, the place turned from a roadside brothel to a High School. Jaja and I became instant celebrities at Ogevo. Saturday morning cross country race had grown to become a carnival of sorts. We would race the ten kilometers to Maganga and back to chants of Nwaoni, nwaoni, nwaoni – as we raced past the villagers with our distinct looking blue bandanas.
Jaja and I began thinking that we could introduce Inter High School Debating and Sports Challenge and we approached the Principal of Ikaito High to see if his students were willing to be the first victims of our well prepared Ogevo High students led by Jaja and I.
All of that changed on a certain Friday morning at around 7 am.
“Knock, knock,” came the timid raps on my door back home.
“Sir, its me, Hawa. Please open the door.”
Hawa was a bubbly fourteen year old who commutes from Okene. She had become attached to Jaja and I as sort of a daughter figure. Most kids at Okene area do not have father figures since it was their culture that their wives stayed back at their parent’s house to raise their kids away from their fathers. Hawa was the last person I was expecting that morning.
Hawa was sobbing very audibly. I opened the door and Hawa collapsed into my arms. Jaja, my housemate, had heard what was going on and ran out of his room.
“Hawa, what happened to you?”
“Sir, it is Hanjara and Mr Osaso.”
“What did they do to you?”
“Sir, Hanjara told me that it was my turn to cook for Mr. Osaso. After cooking for Mr. Osaso, he told me to sleep with him. When I refused, he lashed me all over my body and raped me and this is my first time. My body is aching all over and I just want to die.”
Sure enough, there were lashes all over her body.
“Did you let Mr. Osaso know how you feel?”
“Yes Sir, he said I should not worry that the pain will go away.”
Jaja and I were beyond outrage. We had to get the poor girl to see a Doctor at Okene General. We both excused ourselves from school. Hawa hung on Jaja’s back all the way to the bus stop, unable to walk on her own. Hawa was inconsolable and cried all the way to the Hospital.
When we got to the Hospital, it struck us as odd that Jaja, Hawa and I were the only people who seemed outraged by what had happened to Hawa. The Doctor prescribed antibiotics and Panadol and wished Hawa well with the infamous phrase, “Don’t worry, the pain will go away.”
Going to the Police was, we felt, a waste of time. This was not that big a deal to these people. The police would have certainly told us, “Don’t worry, the pain will go away.”
We dropped Hawa at their house at Okene and excused her from school for a week. As soon as we got back to Ogevo, we ordered Hanjara to our quarters to find out what was going on.
Incidentally, Hanjara was a kind, gangly girl who had the famous tribal marks along each cheek that was distinctive of the Igbiras. Hanjara also had won the last rounds of debate and she had become attached to Jaja and I. We had worked on her self esteem and had gotten her to believe that she could go to University and become somebody if she works hard.
The Hawa incident had spread like wild fire, not to mention that absence from school by Jaja and I was news itself. Extra lessons were cancelled that day. I was not there to referee the soccer game. When the students saw Jaja and I alight from the bus on a way back from Okene, a throng of students followed us to our house.
“Nwaoni, Sir; Nwaoni Sir, “ they kept repeating as they searched our eyes wondering what we were going to do next.
Mathew, one of the boys had tears in his eyes and had identified himself as Hawa’s step brother. We asked Mathew to dismiss the boys and for them to comeback in the morning for cross country race and for Mathew to go and fetch Hanajara wherever she was.
Hanjara, when she came was all apologetic.
“Sir, I did not know that Hawa was a virgin.”
“Meaning exactly what?”
“Sir, some students don’t mind. Mr Osaso used to dash them a little money too. I thought she knew that she would sleep with Mr. Osaso. Everybody who cooks for him, sleeps with him.”
“Hanjara, how many students have slept with Mr. Osaso?”
“About three students each week. You know that Mr. Osaso’s wife stays at Umarin and he needs somebody to cook for him. As the Head Girl, he asked me to make sure that somebody comes to cook for him every night. Some people go three nights in a row.”
“How about you, Hanjara, have you slept with Mr. Osaso?”
“Yes Sir. He also made me pregnant and took me to go and get an abortion. I told him that I will never sleep with him again.”
“Hanjara, do you think it is wrong for Mr. Osaso to sleep with students?”
“And you still persist in bringing girls to him?”
“I am sorry, Sir. No one used to care until you and Jaja came here. I am very sorry, Sir.”
Mathew and his friend Abdul, the school goalie, had listened in on the conversation. Hanjara was genuinely contrite. We asked Hanjara to stop being the Head Girl, to never go to Mr. Osaso’s house and to make sure that no student ever goes to Mr. Osaso’s house. We asked Mathew to make sure that our orders were carried out.
The stage was not set for a showdown with Mr. Osaso. On Monday morning, he announced that no student, boy or girl, should assist the Corpers with any chore without his consent. He announced that Jaja and I were suspended for skipping classes on Friday without his consent. He announced that all sports and debating activities were cancelled and that Jaja and I were relieved of our duties as Sports and Debating Masters.
The next day, Mr. Osaso drove to Ilorin to allege all sorts of unmentionable vices against Jaja and I. We were summoned to Agari/Maganga, the hometown of the Commandment who was visiting that weekend. He gave us a royal tongue lashing, refusing to listen to us. He declared that our Service terms would be extended by four months and to come to Ilorin to be reposted immediately.
Jaja was re-posted to Ohimo, near Okene, and I, allegedly being the ring leader, was re-posted to Kpanya, very far away, on route from Kabba.
By the time I got to Kpanya, the Principal, Retired Air Captain Atimoh had been briefed to expect a domineering, vice prone individual who takes orders from nobody. Retired Captain Atimoh, probably in his late seventies welcomed me with severe apprehension of my alleged bad attitude. He made sure I understood that he was in charge and had given me a cold treatment my first two weeks. Two weeks into my posting, he had observed that I was friendly with the Corpers and the students and news about my cross country racing activities had gotten to him. I offered to teach Physics, Chemistry and Biology, three times the work load of other Corpers. I offered to be the Sports Master of the school and to lead the students to erect a sports field from the farm lands surrounding the school. I reported back to him on everything I did and I was sure he began to think that I must be an enigmatic fellow.
About four weeks into my posting at Kpanya, I was asked to come to the Principal’s Office on account of some visitors. I got there to meet Mathew, Hawa, Hanjara, Christiana and Grace, all former students of mine at Ogevo High School. Jaja had told them how to trace me to Kwara hinterlands where I was being punished for bad deeds done at Ogevo. The students were overjoyed to see me. I was pleased too. Hawa wouldn’t stop holding me and giggling like the little girl she was. Her friendly eyes were darting all over the place and she had come with a basket of Cashews all for me. I introduced the kids to the Principal and they let their mouth run. When Hanjara got to how Mr. Osaso had procured abortion for her, Captain Atimoh had heard enough.
Tomorrow, he announced to them, you people are going to Ilorin with me to go and clear the good name of your former teacher. As fate would have it, Captain Atimoh was an ex Commissioner for Education at then Kwara State. During that time too, news of the departure of Jaja and Chris from Ogevo hit the entire Okene area. The Principal of Ikaito could not hide his disappointment at how the Commandant handled the matter. Students began to transfer out of Ogevo High in droves to nearby schools as soon as we left. Mr. Osaso’s reputation as a rapist had caught up with him. When Captain Atimoh brought my former students to corroborate what had become news at Ogevo, Mr Osaso’s fate was sealed. He was demoted and transferred to a new school somewhere near Lokoja. The Commandant rescinded my extension. Jaja and I were offered permanent positions as teachers, which we both declined. I finished my service with flourish and was duly recognized for outstanding performance upon passing out.
You can imagine what a sad camper I am today dealing with the passing of both Hawa and Hanjara –one to terrorist attack, the other to bad roads in Nigeria. This is not the Country that Jaja and I believed we could transform, one High School at a time.
Mr. Osaso died in February 2010.