“Tony Igwebuike!! Come outside now!” The Principal called out on the Assembly ground, standing beside a gathering of debt ridden students.
The 13 year old bowed his heads as his mates started laughing and booing, deeply ashamed. He almost didn’t go out but he knew what Mr Osas was capable of doing to him. He stepped out of the line of JSS3 students as he heard his sister’s name also being called out.
When he had stood with the gathering, his sister also joined them, her head bowed down like his. He looked down at her and saw tears already gathering in her eyes. He wanted to hug but he knew the whole school was watching to see what would become of the debtors.
For 3 years, he had watched from the side-lines as this happened to other students all the time. He had never seen it as wrong or felt particularly sorry for those it had happened to until it happened to him and his sister. He felt so embarrassed, he just wanted to sink into the floor and die.
When Assembly dispersed, the Principal turned to the 20 or so of them who had been called out for defaulting on school fees payment. One by one, he addressed them. When he got to Tony and his sister, who was in JSSI, he had no mercy and spoke to them like they were professional debtors like Gbenga, an SSI student who was known to never pay any school fees until Exams.
Tony felt slighted. They attended one of the best Schools in Ibadan and they had hardly ever defaulted on payment. In fact their father usually paid their fees before resumption. However, in the past few months, things had been going badly for their father so he couldn’t afford to give them the standard they were used to.
He felt the Principal should have considered that before lumping them in with some of the school’s worst debtor. It wasn’t fair that the first time their father defaulted on timely payment, the school treated them like shit.
Principal: “Of everyone here, Tony and Susan Igwebuike, you are the worst of all! While other parents have put in something as a testament of good faith, your parents haven’t paid a dime. This makes me very ashamed of you and for you. You haven’t paid for school bus and extra lessons too. Your father has told me to exercise patience with him and I have tried but the term is running to a close and exams are starting in 3 days. I’m sorry you will have to go home till your father makes some payment.” He concluded.
Tony held his sister’s hand as she started to wail, deeply distressed for he had plans to study for his exams that particular day at the school library.
Tony: “Alright sir, we will go but we don’t know the way home by ourselves…!” He said in his quiet ajebutter accent.
Principal: “Don’t worry, because of the courtesy your parents have always provided by paying promptly, we would have the school bus drop you at home with a note for your father.”
Tony nodded as the principal ordered both of them and another student to wait for the school bus while he dispersed the rest with severe warnings that they wouldn’t be allowed to write the exams without complete payment.
They waited for an hour before the School bus picked them and dropped them at home. Their mother was in her shop that was attached to the front of their huge house in felele when the bus got there. She felt her throat close when she saw her dejected children step out of the bus.
Tony and Susan: “Good morning, Mummy.”
Seun Igwebuike: “What happened?” She asked.
Tony: “We were sent away from school for owing school fees.”
Seun Igwebuike: “Oh dear!” She exclaimed as she tried not to cry. For the past few weeks, Evan, their last child had also not being going to school too because they could no longer pay his fees. She couldn’t cry in front of her children though so she hugged them and sent them inside.
When they had gone, she opened and read the politely insulting note telling her that her children would not be allowed in school until they paid their fees. As it was, she didn’t know how they were going to get those fees to pay.
Her husband, Nelson was a very hardworking man who since she met him, always seemed to have more than enough for her and their children. She had been inclined to call her husband’s life charmed for there was nothing he wanted he could not get. He was into logistics and transportation and had had almost 16 trailers moving from one end of Nigeria to another carting goods, properties, petroleum resources and others all around.
He had made a lot of money and built his official base in Lagos. When she had gotten pregnant for their second child and he was due to be abroad for a training, he had switched their base to Ibadan so she could be closer to her mother, who hailed from and still lived in Ibadan. After his return, he had decided he liked the city and had moved his family there entirely.
From Ibadan, he visited his headquarters in Lagos once every week for he had trustworthy and knowledgeable people working for him. From Ibadan, he continued to run his business and make marvellous earnings. He hadn’t allowed his wife work since they didn’t think they needed the money she would make to survive.
However, the last 4 months had been jinxed for him. Not only had they lost 11 of their buses – 8 had been engulfed by mysterious fires, 2 had been stolen by their drivers and 1 had just broken down one day- 4 had just suddenly started rusting and 1 had been involved in an accident that killed 13 people. The driver had run away and her husband was being held responsible.
She was a dedicated Christian and she liked to think God was just testing their faith but this was just too much for her to bear. She couldn’t sleep at night anymore and she had lost so much weight. She knew it was the same for her husband. Their house in Lagos was being foreclosed by the bank over a loan Nelson had apparently taken just a month ago to branch into oil and gas. If not for the sudden problems, they would have made it but now they couldn’t even afford to pay their children’s school fees which totalled less than 4 million, how would they afford to refund a loan of 139 million?
Even worse was the fact that her husband hadn’t even enjoyed the benefits of that loan that he was being made to pay for. No one had told her before she quickly built a shop in front of their house with her savings and started her provisions business. This way at least, she could afford to feed her children without them begging.
If God wasn’t testing their faith, then she was sure it was some of their family members who were ashamed of their success. God would destroy them!
The sisters of Our Lady, Queen of Mercy sang hymns as they made their way back from Enugu in the compact Toyota hiace bus. They had gone on a medical mission to minister to the orphanages and widows in some villages in Enugu and the lord had taken control for they had shared love, help and hope to many people in children in need.
Behind them, their big bus plied the road leading to Benin. In the bus, Sister Rita was not singing. After her dreams all those months ago, she was constantly plagued by a great need to reach out to Ada’s family and tell them what she knew but it had been 20 years and she convinced herself to let sleeping dogs lie. Afterall, nothing she could say could bring Ada back and the people who she suspected were responsible for her death would not be so easy to find.
She sat down 2 seats behind the driver ruminating on her dreams. Just as the driver was about to make a bend, a trailer turned the corner and raced towards them with no likelihood of stopping. Their driver tried to turn their bus in another direction but he moved too fast and before they knew quite what had happened, their bus tumbled out of the way of the trailer into the gulley beside the road.
As it rolled down the steep hill and somersaulted twice, the sisters screamed for Jesus and the Blessed Virgin. And just like in her dreams, Sister Rita heard screams of agony and she saw blood, most of the blood was hers and she started crying.
When the bus stopped rolling, she saw that several of the women were okay, albeit scared. She heard voices outside as the windows were broken. She knew even as she lost consciousness that help had come, she just wasn’t sure it came for her in time.
Rita heard the voice in her head telling her to wake up but she didn’t want to. When the prodding wouldn’t stop, she finally opened her eyes. She felt rather than saw the man standing next to her. He held a flashlight and in his hands and was shining it in her eyes.
Doctor: “Rita, can you hear me?”
Rita: “Yes…… I can.” she answered groggily as she opened her eyes and saw she was in a hospital room.
Doctor: “Okay, that’s good. Do you know your name?”
Rita: “Yes, I’m Reverend sister Rita Elomien”
Doctor: How many fingers am I raising?” He asked as he showed her four fingers.
Rita: “Four!” She said feeling tired.
Doctor: “Do you remember how you got here?”
Rita: “I…. think…yes, yes…I do. There was an accident, right?”
Doctor: “Yes, you had an accident. You were injured. You had a concussion and you broke 2 of your ribs, your left arm but you’re fine now.”
As he said that, she began to feel the pain in her midriff area. She looked and saw she had been bandaged and her left arm was in a cast.
Rita: “Oh, thank God, what of the other sisters?”
Rita: “The other sisters? How are they?”
Doctor: “I’m sorry, there were no other sisters brought in here. I was told you were the only one injured in the accident.”
Rita: “Me alone?” So the dream was really just for me she mumbled to herself.
Doctor: “You have been out of it for a couple of days now so I’m going to do a quick test, okay?”
She nodded her head as he took a small thin iron and touched different parts of her body. Each time, he asked her if she felt the cold iron and she said yes. When he got under her feet however, she felt nothing and she communicated her distress to him. Quickly he moved it higher.
Doctor: “Do you feel this?”
Rita: “No. no, I don’t.” She said trying not to panic.
Doctor: “How about this?” He asked as he moved to her knees. She shook her head and he quickly rounded off the tests, a worried frown on his face.
Hours later after she had been taken to the Lab to have X-rays and some other tests done and then returned, Reverend Father Paulinus came to see her bearing bad news.
Father Paulinus: “My dear, they say you have lost feeling in your legs.” He held her hands.
Rita: “Oh, dear Lord, what does that mean, father?” She asked as she cried.
Father Paulinus; “It means you might be paralysed. Your spinal cord was affected in the accident, my child. The damage wasn’t seen quickly but they are looking at your test results now.”
Rita: “Is it forever?” She cried as she held on to his hands.
Father Paulinus: “They don’t know yet, I’m sorry, Sister Rita. Have faith in God, he will never fail you, okay?”
Rita: “Oh God, I had this dream.” She said as tears poured out of her eyes and dropped on the sky blue pillowcase. “I should have known God would punish me!”
Father Paulinus: “Do not say that, sister Rita! God isn’t punishing you, He is testing you!”
Rita: “He is, father, he is!” She cried out.
Father Paulinus: “What could you have done to deserve Gods punishment? You’re one of the kindest people I know.”
So she told him of her friend, Ada, of their quarrel, her disappearance and everything that happened since.
Father Paulinus: “Oh, Sister Rita, why didn’t you say something afterward? That was so wrong. Even if she wasn’t your friend, you should never have kept silent.”
Rita: “I’m sorry father, help me tell God that I’m sorry. Please father!”She cried louder.
Father Paulinus: “Sister Rita, the Lord is merciful, he knows and he hears you. You must restitute. As soon as you’re discharged here, you must look for her family and let them know what you know. You owe them that. Do you understand?”
She nodded still crying as the Doctor entered, coming in with another Doctor.
Doctor: “Sister Rita, I have good news.”
Rita: “What is it?”
Doctor: “We checked the damage to your spinal cord and we see you developed a cyst that gathered pus. We have assessed it and can tell you for a fact that it isn’t life threatening. We would perform a surgery and take out the cyst, it shouldn’t affect your ability to walk for too long. After the surgery, you would have a little physical therapy that will allow you to be walking in less than 3 months.”
Sister Rita: “Really?” She cried.
Doctor: “Yes, really.”
Rita: “Oh, thank you so much! Thank you, Lord!” She cried as she held tighter to father Paulinus’ hands. Glad for another chance to make it up to her friend she had betrayed.
Is Rita’s help not “Too little, too late”?
EXCLUSIVELY FROM ADELOVE.COM
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