THE UNTOLD STORY OF NIGERIAN LAW SCHOOL POSTING
…as told by Walter Abah
If I can recall well, the first time I heard or uttered the word “Yola” was sometime during my primary school days, it was under the mango tree in our school compound. We were learning the 30 states and capital rhyme. It was a sweet rhyme. So sweet that some of my classmates were able to recite the 30 states that day, some 20 states or less. But I guess it was not all that sweet to me or I didn’t like the sound of all the states as I found myself stuck with only two states that day. Our teacher then, now late (God rest her beautiful soul) made me to stand in front of the class and recite the rhyme.
So I started; 30 states and capital: Abia – Umuaya, Adamawa – Yoya, Abia – Umuaya, Adamawa – Yoya, Adamawa – Yoya; Adamawa – Yoya; Yoya… Yoya…Adamawa… and so my voice was breaking into uncontrollable tears. In my head I could hear my classmates bullying me with uncontrollable laughter. I could hear their tiny voices whispering: “nwa headi, amag’ ag’ ya o”, “obodo ugwu awusa d’ya oyi’” (Headmaster’s child does not know how to recite it o. He likes the land of the Hausas’).
Our teacher – even though I could see the disappointment on her face- not minding my already soiled green and white school uniform, carried me up in her arms and wiped my tears with her palms. She urged me not to listen to my classmates and reassured me that with time, I will learn it and recite it better than them.
Two decades later, somewhere in the capital city of Enugu, I found myself stuck with the same four-letter word in a tiny bathroom of a one room en-suite apartment of a bosom friend. This time around ADAMAWA – YOLA was re-echoing in my head in the bathroom; with beads of sweat rushing out of my body on a cold Friday morning.
I had just graduated from the Faculty of Law, University of Nigeria, with good honours and was waiting to be posted to any of the six campuses of the Nigerian Law School, for the one year vocational training for Nigerian Law Students. Knowing somebody that knows somebody, I was certain that I will be posted to the Headquarters of Nigerian Law School, situated in Bwari, Abuja. In fact, after the online registration, I bragged loudly to all that cared to ask…
“Which law school are you going to?”
“Abuja campus of course! Where else?” I would scornfully say.
I think my bragging was so irritating, that one day an acquintance asked me solemnly, “Have you worked your posting to Abuja?”
Before he could finish, I zoomed off; “Yes, I have. One of the lecturers in Abuja campus is my very good friend. I know one of the Directors in Abuja campus and my Oga and the main Oga in Abuja Campus are very close. I have forwarded my details”.
The guy just said, “Hmmm…” followed by a long silence.
Another person who overheard us asked, “You don’t like Enugu campus?”
I frowned at him and asked; “How can I? I am from Enugu. I did my primary, secondary and university education in Enugu. I need a change of academic environment biko.”
The boasting and trust on my Abuja connect continued on the eve of the posting, as I lay on the six spring mattress lying on the floor of the one room self contain apartment with two of my close friends and classmates. We kept vigil for the posting; empty cans of Alomo Bitters, Orijin and Hero bottles littered the room. I could see the fears written on my friends faces and I could tell why. But as for me, I was overconfident that I would be posted to Abuja campus because of the “somebody” I know; the only fear I entertained that night as we kept vigil together was that, these my good friends might not be posted to Abuja, as we all desired to be in the same campus together, to achieve this we all chose Abuja campus as our first choice during the online registration.
Mid way into our self imposed vigil, I slept off and was woken up by one of my friends, terribly shaken; he had slept off too and dreamt that he was posted to Kano. I shouted, “God forbid!”
The whole sleep in my eyes cleared instantly. The other friend there with us was awoken up too by the word, Kano. He shouted, Jesus! when he heard the word and sat up immediately.
I asked, the friend that dreamt, “Do your dreams come through?” and he said yes.
I told him sorry and started consoling him on his loss. “Boko Haram crisis is not that serious in Kano. You should be grateful that you are not posted to Yola; the headquarters of Boko Haram.”
I then made a dry joke about Yola campus and students there not been able to read because of sporadic shootings all the time and the regular bomb blasts. As a result of which, the campus has been unable to produce a first class student since the campus was established or any of the students win any of the awards during the annual call to bar ceremony. I equally told them that I heard that, lecturers are transferred to Yola as punishment or for not been in the right clique and those transferred there, either repost back to another campus or they resign. We laughed and drank more till we slept off.
Around 4:00 am, we were awoken up by the shouts of; “Yea! yea! Lagos, here I come!”
The friend that was posted to Kano in his dream had been posted to Lagos campus. He was over-excited and I could see the tears of joy on his face. I quickly unplugged my INNJOO phone from the socket and checked my status but I was not posted yet. I congratulated my dear friend but with mixed feelings. “He dreamt of Kano and his dreams come through, and now he is posted to Lagos. Which of his friends is now going to Kano?” I thought.
“Definitely not me.” I told myself and kept a straight face.
“My Abuja friend will post me to Abuja; he promised to do so. I can’t go to the North with all the killing of students and “Kopas”, and the poor performance of Yola campus every year. Mbakwa o! God forbid. It’s either Abuja or Lagos.” I thought to myself again
At that point I became afraid, my friends could see my fear but I pretended not to be afraid. I called Madam Obere, to warm her goat meat pepper soup and serve us with more cold beer. That was around 6:00 am. As we ate, drank and chatted about hopes and law school expectations, we had our phones handy and regularly checked the social media for updates about #NLSposting that was threading on twitter and Facebook. Twitter handles and Facebook timelines, was awash with the joyous and sorrowful posts.
@amarajesus twitted, “God has remembered my family and me. I don’t know anybody but Jesus is my somebody and He has posted me to Abuja. #PraiseGod #JesusMySomebody #NLSposting.”
@sassylawyer twitted, “My Abuja connect is on point. #TeamAbuja #flexingthingsonmymind #NLSposting”.
@kingsbench posted, “This #NLSposting does not reflect my wish and desire. It is a caricature of a supposed transparent process engineered by my Classrep. Why #KanoCampus?”
@Ichie_common_law twitted, “My enemies have finally gotten me. They have sent me to Bokoharam. How many days from Enugu to Kano bikonu? #SoberMood #NLSposting.”
@corporatelawyer twitted, “That awesome moment you get posted to Lagos campus as a budding corporate lawyer with months of internship in corporate law practice. #iRepLagos #NLSPosting.”
We laughed over all these amidst mouthful of peppery goat meat and cold beer. Months of internship indeed; spent, snapping pictures from different corners of the law firm and posting on Facebook and Instagram. Also, how can one accuse his Classrep of manipulating Law School posting? Not even the Dean of a Faculty can take such credit. We shrugged at the thought of how influential the accused Classrep could be.
Then came the sorrowful scream of; “Kano! Kano!! but why me?”
Our dear friend had been posted to Kano campus. Thank God the Lagos guy’s Kano dream finally came through and I was not the one going to Kano; I said to myself. I stood up from the floor, patted the Kano guy at the back and told him it may not be as bad as he thinks, gave my phone to the Lagos guy to keep checking my status; took a chunk of meat, gulped my cold beer and headed to the bathroom, happy.
After removing my clothes and turning on the shower, the Lagos guy called from the room and said…”Guy, you have been posted to Yola.
I stood; frozen, sweating profusely in the shower. I wasn’t hearing anything except the sound of the primary school rhyme of Adamawa – Yola, re-echoing in my head. Men don’t cry but I cried.
Slowly, with shock and shame, I walked out of the bathroom. My friends rushed and tied a towel round my naked waist. Aside the re-echoing of: “Adamawa – Yola?, why me?, what have I done wrong?” in my head; I could hear my friends saying; “Guy, calm down before you hurt yourself o. It may not be as bad as you think. Things have changed about Boko Haram fight since APC changed Nigeria.”
I collected my phone and checked my posting and truly; “you have been posted to YOLA!” was staring at me boldly. My friends suggested that I should call my Abuja friend and my Oga that knows the main Oga in Abuja so that they will repost me to Abuja or Lagos.
I then dialled my Abuja friend; “Hello sir!”
“Yes, how are you?” He asked at the other end
“I am fine sir and you?” I responded even though I was visibly shaken.
“I am good; have you been posted?”
“Yola.” I held the phone tightly.
A brief silence followed that word from the other end. “Hello sir?” I said.
“Yes, I am here. When are you travelling to Yola?”
I can swear I did not hear the question he just asked me or the question was meant for somebody else. I was shocked by the question that I didn’t know when I told him; “But sir, you promised to post me to Abuja campus.”
He then replied saying that he was not in charge of posting and that the person he knew in the ICT department had been transferred before our posting.
“Sir, please can you repost me to Enugu, forget about the Abuja; I don’t even like Abuja or Lagos and its busy traffic. I am more used to Enugu.”
“No, you did not say that on time besides, it is not possible because your orientation and lectures will start on Monday and today is Friday already. When you reach Yola make sure you call me…” and then came the hang up tone.
I looked at the phone screen and my friends, and asked myself; did I just call a friend or a boss? I called my Oga but the conversation was not different. He urged me to accept the posting in good faith and go to Yola. According to him, maybe God is planning to make me Turaki Adamawa. What he meant by that I am yet to find out. I told him that I don’t know the road to Yola and he said, “That’s why you have Google Map in your phone”.
That was how I packed my belongings and left the coal city of Enugu on Saturday morning before sunrise with the aid of Google Map. It was a long journey to the North that humbled me and reminded me, the vanity of trusting in men. As I journeyed, I discovered from the notifications pouring into my phone each time 3G breezed in that news of my posting to Yola was threading on BBM and Facebook;
@kingsbench posted, “The influential Classrep that couldn’t influence his own posting to Abuja or even Enugu. Shame! I hope he stays safe in Yola bombings. #NLSposting.”
I shook my head and smiled as my phone tripped off. It shall end in praise I promised myself.
Sixteen hours later I found myself in a beautiful milk coloured gate manned by fierce looking military men and boldly inscribed: WABBAMA – WABBAMA (WELCOME – WELCOME). Beside the beautiful gate is a big banner of Abubakar Shekau’s head surrounded by his comrades in arms, boldly inscribed; MOST WANTED DEAD OR ALIVE. I closed my eyes and prayed.