Elemide Benjamin: Plight of a perpetual latecomer [Nigerian Voices]

by Elemide Benjamin

The sun hung on the horizon, clothed in flaming gold, announcing the breaking of a new day to the ears of the living. It was a bright Tuesday morning. The screeching of car tires and hooting of horn from trucks told me I was getting late for school, so I hurried.

Life in the neighborhood is fun; especially if the street is blessed with civilian barracks like the house we rented a room and parlour.  I did not know everyone living in the house till we moved away to another area; it was a four-storey building built in face-me-I-face-you structure with other buildings forming a quadrangle which was gift to young boys like me, to exercise our bodies by riding bicycle, long jumping, playing football, lawn tennis and basket ball.

Trekking to school was a norm, and a way to get informed about what was going on in the country. I could not afford a transistor radio, but walking to school rewards me with information.

While taking my daily geography course on the road, some of my friends who could afford the fare to school called out and waved to me. I also saw some students being carried to school in different cars by their parents, others their drivers. I wonder when my father and mother would put their living together to get a 504 car; at least, they are tailors, and they are hard-working.

I love to walk pass the newspaper vendor. His stand always attracts the young and old of different tribes in the country, learned and unlearned, mostly males. Some men going to offices would stop by to join the congress, and men who hawks would drop their markets too. Argument would range from sports to politics, education to health, and business to society. The hottest arguments do erupt on politics-related topics.

Yesterday, there was a press conference by the president, and this morning, people are here again to debate his points. I walked by listening to rants, lamentations, and curses on bad leaders. I wonder if the leaders get to heard what the masses say about them. “Do they even care to listen to less privilege citizens? I thought.

The general hospital was another place where I learnt lessons from life. Life is full of cries and crises. There are two cries from the hospital, one of death, the other of birth. I saw the doctor walking into the hospital to resume his work of mending lives, lighting hope for dying men. I love it. Whenever I saw their white coats, I wished to be a doctor too.

After half an hour trek from home, I was almost at school. I was late already, it was five past eight. I thought of the convincing lie that would deliver me from the scourge of lateness that morning, but I could not find. I thought of the second gate, but I waved it off my mind because of school two students (senior students who play truancy, acts hooliganism, cause disturbance, and bully junior students. School two is the bush where they are usually found). They once collected my wristwatch; it was a painful experience. I was young and innocent that time, being a fresher.

At the school gate, poor students like me were there, kneeling. It was Mr. Ajayi, a popular teacher who is feared for his painful strokes. Some were crying already, but I remained dauntless. I was used to canes because I was a perpetual latecomer. The man recognized me; he gave me double for not changing. For me, change will come when father buy his dream car.

Getting to the assembly, the pot-bellied vice-principal announced that there was no class that day because the president would be visiting the state, and every student is entitled to a Nigerian flag and is expected to welcome him by standing by the road to wave to him as he passes. No one was allowed to go home, and besides, we were threatened with attendance after the grand welcome.

After three hours of waiting, standing under the sun like beggars, he came waving and smiling to us from under an umbrella. He passed without bothering about the lashes we were receiving from the sun. I remember I was beaten that morning for coming late. Though, it was painful that there was no class, but I pacified myself with the fact that Mr. President is a late comer like me. “I would be great too” I thought to myself.


Elemide Benjamin is a student of Biochemistry at the Federal University of Agriculture, Abeokuta. He loves to write poetry and short stories. Some of his works have been published both online and in hard-copy of journals and anthologies. He believes that happenings in our society are enough inspirations for any Nigerian writer.

This entry was submitted as part of the Nigerian Voices competition organized by YNaija.com.

We publish, un-edited, Nigerians telling the stories of their everyday lives. Read all the narratives daily on the Nigerian Voices vertical. You can also contribute your own story titled ‘Nigerian Voices’ to [email protected]

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