16 April 2011

Hafiz Adewuyi

Pushed to the wall.

It was the start of a new session and typically, most students had one common problem; how to get accommodation on campus.  In the three previous years, I’d been fortunate to be in the elite class of students – consisting of all freshmen, final year, first class, and ‘special’ students and sportsmen. This time however, the story changed since I didn’t have any of the qualifications needed to be lucky. The members of this elite class are always of top priority in the accommodation exercise, and thus, need not worry about securing accommodation on campus; the rest of the students are left to scramble for the remaining bed spaces after the elite have been duly satisfied. The people that come out of the scrambling successful majorly consist of those who have got “long legs”; I’m quite doubtful of the possibility of anybody getting a bed space here by pure luck.

Months before the start of the 10/11 session, I’d known what fate had in stock for me since at the end of year 3 semester 1, my CGPA didn’t rise to a 4.50; in fact, it dropped from a close 4.48 to a discouraging 4.40. This development should have been a really depressing one but for the fact the over 95% of my classmates weren’t in a better situation; that semester was indeed one to remember as it saw a drastic drop in the number of scholars (first class students) of the electrical – electronics engineering department.  Knowing it wasn’t going to be as easy as it had always been to get on-campus, I went for the only visible option: handing the case over to God. Indeed, instead of fall into despair each time I thought about next session’s accommodation, I just whispered a short prayer of faith. However, with time, my mind was tasked, thus, the number of options I had rose from one. I remember the most ridiculous idea that I had was to live in a female classmate/friend's father's house - which is quite close to school.

The 10/11 session finally kicked-off proper and I started attending lectures from home every day, and like the rest of the student body, anticipating the release of the session’s accommodation lists. Few weeks into the semester and the scholars’ and final year students’ accommodation lists were released. I dutifully went to the Student Affairs Division (SAD) notice boards, hoping that by some miracle, I would find my name on the scholars’ list. My miracle however was not to come this way, as proper examination of the posted lists only revealed the most likely. I walked away from the boards, less hopeful, and said another silent prayer; at least, I’d submitted my request letter weeks earlier – along with thousands of other students – to the SAD office and there was the prospect, however unlikely, that my name would be published in the forthcoming request lists.

I frequently went back to check the boards for an update, and on one of such trips, I met Owerri – my one year senior in secondary school – there. He’s a final year student and so, his name was on the first list. Fortunately for me, he was allocated to one of the – if not the – worst hostel(s) in the school: Sodeinde Hall and he sure wasn’t going to settle for that. At this stage, I definitely didn’t care about the quality of the hostel, so long as I got a space on campus; half bread is better than none, isn’t it? Thus, I quickly informed him of my plight and asked him to inform me as soon as he got a bed space in a better hall of residence: Jaja or Mariere. Fate had smiled upon me and there was a bed space that would soon be mine to inherit. My miracle had finally come; or so I thought.

One week, two weeks later and Owerri's runs still had not clicked? I didn’t lose hope however since he’d been successful with such runs in the two previous sessions; I just waited patiently. Almost daily, I communicated with him via Facebook to know if there were any developments, but all I kept getting was that I shouldn’t worry and that his runs would soon ‘click’. While I waited, I also met with a student who was helping a number of my classmates with their accommodation issue. His offer was this: I would pay N20000, just to have my name published in the next request list. And as if that wasn’t bad enough, the chance of a success was far less than 100%. I quickly turned down the offer and hoped that I wouldn’t be regretting my decision in the nearest future.

One fateful Sunday, the start of another long and stressful week, I was at home when my mum, on returning from my uncle’s, informed me that Mushin, my female cousin – a final year student of UNILAG – had been erroneously allocated to Jaja hall; a male hostel. The information didn’t quite surprise me as the two previous sessions had seen my friend, Bariga – who is male – allocated to Moremi hall – a female hostel. Also, during the last holidays, I’d helped her submit a “change of sex” letter at their office. The letter had requested that an error she noticed when she went on the university website for the mandatory hostel registration be rectified; the sex on the website was male, instead of female. Fortunately, the letter wasn’t acted upon.

On hearing the news, a new spark flew in my mind and a bright idea was ignited. The basic idea was this: I was going to take advantage of the error at hand. How I was going to do this, I didn’t have the slightest idea at the time the idea was conceived; all I knew was that I couldn’t let this opportunity, unusual as it might be, to pass me by. Night came and sleep grudgingly made itself scarce. I rolled around in bed unsettled as my mind carefully brewed the perfect formula by which this idea was going to be realized. Before sleep finally came, my plan was all laid out in my psyche and I couldn’t wait for the light of day to come so I could put it to play.

Midweek, the Muslims’ ileya festival created a public holiday which allowed me the chance to take my proposal to my cousin. On getting to her and sharing my idea with her, I realized she’d already decided to sell off the “useless-to-her” space herself. However, she had to reconsider. So, before I left her house that day, we talked business and agreed at how much the favour, which I’d assumed would be free of charge, would cost me. To me, it was a fair price as I was willing to pay much more to achieve my ultimate goal: get accommodation on campus.

The first working day after the public holidays, we met at school and I collected her school ID card. I was going to need this to identify myself at the hall of residence as my cousin. The challenge however was the face on the card; if you know what I mean. The first idea I got was to scratch off the picture and point accusing fingers to Mr. Wear-and-Tear. However, that sure wouldn’t have gone down well with the owner of the card, thus, I put my mind to work and eventually came up with a workable idea. I simply was going to have to create a photocopy of the ID which would bear my picture and of course, her name; thank heavens there was no sex on the ID card, who would’ve noticed anyways? Lest I forget, I made sure to memorize her matriculation number within minutes of getting her card.

First thing when I got to school the next day, I went to the one of the numerous business centres and made a photocopy of my own ID card. I then cut out the passport, bought gum, and stuck it to her ID card in such a way that it replaced her own passport on it. Then, I made another photocopy, this time of her modified card. I was kind of scared that the attendant at the business centre would notice foul play and refuse to do the job.
Next, I proceeded to Jaja hall after much hesitation due to myriads of unfortunate ‘what ifs’ that were coursing through my mind. This was not before I had shared my plan with a few classmates; some were really supportive, and a few, quite discouraging. I got enough motivation from the supportive ones anyway, and I had Akoka accompany me to Jaja. On getting there, the porters’ lodge was filled with familiar faces; I couldn’t risk having a loudmouth ‘put sand-sand in my garri’. Thus, I left and let a couple of hours pass before I returned to get the accommodation tellers. I got there, joined the queue and stood there, nervous. What if I got busted this early in the game? I said a silent prayer.

While on the queue, a laughable event unfolded before me. Another student had presented a badly defaced ID card for identification; defaced to the extent that it showed neither face nor information of bearer. This sure didn’t go down well with Prof, the porter in-charge as a debate broke out between him and the student. Time passed, my turn came and I stood face-to-face with Prof. I presented my fake ID and without being asked, proceeded to make an explanation: “I lost the original in transit”. Prof settled the case as ingeniously as he’d settled the other guy’s case and warned that if I didn’t want to waste my money, I’d better get a more concrete ID, as the wary facility manager, Mr. Salau sure wouldn’t take this from me when it was time for my final clearance. Bottom line, I got what I wanted: a stamped teller, yay!

As I walked back to class, I found myself thinking about the Mr. Salau threat. Mr. Salau was – and is – the facility manager of Jaja hall as I said earlier. He was almost always in the hall with us and me being a well-mannered boy (I seem to be predisposed to self-flattering when writing); I’d always greeted him whenever we’d crossed paths during my first two years in the hostel. “All those greetings can’t go to waste!” I thought to myself. Also, I decided to create a phony course form as secondary ID; as far as I could imagine, Jaja staff couldn’t be so tech-savvy to suspect trickery in this case. I got to class and announced my success to a few guys. The following day, I met with my accomplice to return her ID card and tell her I would be visiting her during the weekend to get the stuff I would need for the next stage. It was during this meeting with her that she said she must have been crazy to demand payment for the bed space, and that she’s decided to let me have it for free. Her conscience had probably just caught up with her and consequently, made life easier for me :-). However, I promised to compensate her for the favour.

Prof. Mowete, my HOD fixed an EEG 415 lecture for 8.00am on Saturday; and this was before 99% of students had moved into campus. Well, he being who he is, the class was quite well-attended. However, the lecture was prematurely terminated when someone’s cell phone rang; that meant we were left to teach ourselves the rest of what he had to teach us for that day. Non-studious students like me frowned at the development while the majority who were all the while, turned off by the lecture couldn’t have been happier at it. I waited behind a little to get a copy of the weekend ‘snacks’ he had for us and from school, I found my way to Akute where Mushin lives.

I got there at around midday and I had to do a lot of work to get her into business mood as she was in the typical boring weekend mood. We got to business soon after and I got a list of courses she was to offer for that semester for use in the course form fabrication. I also collected a number of her exam dockets; just in case they doubted the fabricated course form. There was going to be no space for loopholes. On my way out, she asked for her ID card and I thought it was a joke. A couple of seconds later however told me she was no comedian and I soon found myself in an iterative debate. She’d checked the purse where she keeps her cards in my presence and it wasn’t there. “What a fix I’ve got myself into,” I thought; I couldn’t be this careless! I eventually got her to check her misappropriated big bag and it turned out she was wrong and I was... Why on earth do they use fashion bags as school bags?

The start of the next week saw me giving the unfortunate ‘what ifs’ a last thought. Should I go on to pay the fees, knowing that I might be nabbed at the very last stage and thus, lose all my money or have to bribe my way out? What if someone snitched on me? As far as I knew, nothing like this had ever been done before; what if when I finished clearing and moved in, the SAD informs Jaja about the error and Jaja realizes that a ‘girl’ has moved into her abode? I was in dire need of a boost in confidence before I could proceed. This need got me doing some CIA stuff. First, I asked Bariga’s closest friend how Bariga’s Moremi space had been handled by the SAD; sadly, he told me that the bed space had been backtracked and the space reassigned from the top. I however was in high doubt for quite a number of reasons. Thus, I went on to ask Bariga himself the same question and yes, I got an encouraging answer this time; there was no backtracking. Finally, I interviewed Taraba, Bariga’s would’ve-been roommate and she also confirmed that the SAD didn’t notify the hall management of the mix-up. I was good to go!

I got all the necessary fees paid at the appropriate banks. Next, I went back to the hall, presented my tellers to the porters and was given the file containing forms, all of which I had to complete. One of them needed Mushin’s HOD to sign on it, so I met with and handed it over to her to handle. I also paid for the UNILAG SMS Notification Service and WAPIC Insurance scheme whose receipts were required in the clearance process; the receipts would be my compensation to her as they were in her name and she could use them for her own clearance too ;-). All this while, she had still not been assigned to a new hostel and my conscience was starting to prick me. I consoled myself however by telling myself that the she couldn’t have moved into Jaja anyway. By Wednesday, I had all the forms filled and documents endorsed except the one Mushin's HOD had to sign; the delay was due to the unavailability of the person whose signatory was needed. Finally, the form got signed on Friday, the 10/11 matriculation day and I was... euphoric, yes, that’s the word!

With untold enthusiasm, I moved myself to Jaja hall for my final clearance. There, I presented my file to Prof. He examined it carefully and gave me some dulling news; I hadn’t paid all the necessary fees. I immediately refuted the allegation but he was quick to direct me to the notice board. A new fee of N1500 had been introduced in addition to the ones that were advertised on the board last week – when I last checked the board. He advised me to rush to the bank and get it paid so I would get done with my clearance and move in that weekend. Was that good advice or what? I did as he said and in about thirty minutes, I’d been to the Intercontinental Bank branch in school and back to Jaja. There was nothing to stop me now; I had done it!

Getting to Jaja, I saw that the room which I’d been in just thirty minutes ago was now filled with other people who were there for the same purpose as I was. I found my way into the queue and waited patiently for my turn as students went into Salau’s chamber in twos and came out after about 4 minutes; cleared of course. After a while, mama Jaja, the acclaimed asst. warden of Jaja hall came out from Salau’s office to announce that he said he wouldn’t be able to attend to everyone today. The news, as expected, sparked protest from the students and I guess everyone just prayed silently that he should be the last to be attended if the news was true. Time passed and 4.00pm, the alleged closing time of Mr. Salau came and there was a break in transmission. Prof, not helping matters, asked what we were still waiting for and said that his boss definitely wasn’t going to see one more student checked in today. Neither me nor any of the other students budged as we were bent on getting done with this shit once and for all.

Moments later, Mama Jaja came out once again and continued coordinating students in and out of the manager’s chamber. She’d allegedly been interceding for us and apparently, she’d been successful. My turn came and I found myself in-front of Salau. I presented my file to him. He accepted it, checked through the documents and came across my fake ID. He asked for the original and I told him the same lie I’d told Prof, “It got lost in transit sir”. To my surprise, his next expression didn’t suggest suspicion. Rather, he just grinned and said, “You look familiar”, and I said, “Yeah, I’ve been here for the past two years”. He then said, “Oh, you’re one of our own; you won’t give us any problems”. Things couldn’t have gone any better. He browsed through the rest of the documents in the file and the deal was done; I was cleared! I got my file stamped and thus, the license to move in that weekend.

One face, two names. Which is valid?

We had another Mowete lecture the next Saturday and after that, I went back with Gombe to the hall to secure a locker as all the rooms in Jaja have inadequate locker facilities; no roommate had moved in. I moved in on Sunday and found that a roommate had occupied my dream bed space. There was nothing I could do, so I simply settled for the next best space in the room. Few weeks after I moved, my cousin also got a room in Moremi and all was perfect, except for the fact that I lived in the fear of having my name announced on the hall’s megaphones as an impostor. However, my fear did not come to pass as I stayed in Jaja, happily ever-after; not exactly, but  through first semester to the beginning of second semester which is the time I'm publishing this.

*Isn't it funny how my friends all bear names of places in Nigeria?

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Write comments
17 April 2011 at 13:40 delete

Gosh! What an elaborate way to get a simple thing

18 August 2013 at 16:08 delete

Ah Ah Ah... very funny story.You did not even gist me about it. You this my cunning brother, well i knew they were not going to catch you since God is always on our side(remember the Chi experience too). Keep up this blog!

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