6 mins read
S ometimes one's best moment can string along the most embarrassing bedlam ever.
When I think about the moments I am about to narrate in the next couple of paragraphs, I literally cringe inside.
When I think back about it, I am sure I swore to myself never to share it.
It’s been 24years since that blooper and I can still discern the disappointment on my teacher’s face that fateful afternoon.
I am yet to convince myself if it’s worth sharing, but on the flip side, someone might just find a real connection with the story that may become useful somehow.
So, I joined Mayflower Secondary School Ikenne as a fresh faced JS1 student. In the long line of current and former students, I was the eighth thousand four hundred and tenth student to ever pass through the school in that one instance in the year 1991.
That number-8410, was what I would be addressed by throughout most of my stay in the school. Just like hundreds of other green eyed-students, it was also our most unique identity that would later be reeled out proudly as a testament to being an exMay(a term associated with ex-students of Mayflower school).
One highlight for many students during the six long years in Mayflower school was the numerous extra-curricular activities that was compulsory for every student.
Every student had the option of joining the poultry club, the piggery, bakery, young farmers, JETS club, press club, literary and debating society, the music club, botanical club and a host of others too many to mention.
Well, I settled for the literary & debating club (The Lit club). I joined right from my first year and I would later become the president of the club in my final year at the school after a fiercely fought election.
In my second year, I started representing the school at inter-school debates and by the time I was in Senior Secondary Class 1(SS1) I was representing the school in more than one literary event.
I anchored the poetry, I partnered in the miming and expression game, I led the debate team and ventured into the impromptu speech event – which was my final undoing.
Winning in most of the competition for MayflowerSchool wasn’t much of a problem. We stood tall, far and above many of our peers. We wore our pride on our neck like a gold chain and would not settle for less until some years later when “a certain pretty girl” would dominate the competition much to our chagrin.
Mayflower had been invited to the literary day event at the Federal Government College Sagamu. This was an all-female secondary school.
Nothing excites us more than gracing the event at the school. Typically,more boys would populate the entourage and the reasons weren’t far-fetched.
I didn’t have any trouble being on the list, after all I was expected to do the dirty work along with only a few others in tow.
We were expected to take the other schools to the cleaners at the debate competition, poetry and impromptu speech.
We had a good team of six for the music performance/competition and they were miming one of Bone Thugs and Harmony tracks.
Everything was just as we wanted it to be.
We arrived at the Federal Government Girls’ school sagamu in our traditional truck, standing and leaning on anything we could hold firmly to. We called this truck “gbongboro”. It was no passenger truck. But we would ride in anything rather than miss the event.
For every guy heading to the event, the expectation was to come back with a new pen pal, a new girlfriend or be smitten by one. Not even the euphoria of winning any of the competition could beat that feeling.
Lest I forget, we were always accompanied to these sort of events by one or two of our teachers. And so my English teacher and one of my favourite, Mr Tetteh was our chaperone.
As we arrived at the multi-purpose hall for the event, we scanned for the girls. They were everywhere. Dripping like honey from every opening into the hall. We were the cynosure of all eyes. It was our show. Always our show.
The event started and I was first up.
It was the impromptu speech.
The rule of the game was simple.
You pick a folded piece of paper and then unrolled it to reveal the topic you are expected to speak on for the next 3minutes or so. You can only pick one and you had no control over what was written in those little pieces of papers.
I had done this countless times. It was so routine. There was nothing to fear about. I could speak on anything whatsoever. Just give me the microphone.
Two other schools had gone up for the speeches before Mayflower and the speakers didn’t do badly I dare say.
I loved a good competition, it brought the best in me. I couldn’t wait to make them regret coming into the event.
When I walked onto the stage, the hall was full to the brim. The hall was dead silent. I had an extra spring to my steps. I was riding high, no, literally levitating on confidence.
I approached the high table and picked a folded piece. (I would never gamble in my entire life again)
When I rolled the little piece of paper opened, the words written in legible ink biro looked like complete Greek to me. I had never in my entire life seen such words before. I had no clue what to say.
Oh my God! There I was holding this piece of paper and my confidence deserted me. I started a panic fit. My voice quivered when I was checking the microphone pretending it wasn’t working. I repeated my salutation over and over waiting for some sort of miracle to happen.
I looked at my school team, they were in complete shock. The look on their faces was complete disbelief. They couldn’t figure out what was happening.
There was no succour coming from them. I was all alone. Cut loose to face the reality of my brain fart.
Then the audience began to murmur. I started an uneasy pace. Walking in measured strides to the left and right of the stage repeating the same salutation and those “strange words” like a gramophone on repeat play.
I couldn’t even stare at the audience, alas the muscles of my neck had deserted me too. My face could only behold my feet as I paced the stage. Only my legs appeared to be functioning and they clearly weren’t controlled by my brain.
When the moderator asked for the microphone, I muttered thank you and walked away in complete shame to the boos of the entire audience in the hall. It was a devastating moment of shame and embarrassment.
When I got to the school team’s corner, I was welcomed by Mr Tetteh. He rose to welcome me. He was also yet to get over the shock but that was the least he could do and till date, I am still grateful.
I can’t recollect how I managed to remain in that multi-purpose hall until the next competition. But it took a lot of talking to and encouragement by my English teacher to get me ready for the debate proper.
I watched helplessly as other schools coasted to easy wins on the back of my self-implosion at the impromptu speech.
I was determined to make amends as the event wore on. I laughed over it later that evening, especially when some of my colleagues confessed to also having no clue what the words meant.
But that was a big lesson for me. Those words would forever remain in my closet never to be joked about.
When I saw those two words, it felt like I was condemned to death!