Flash Back – JOB SEEKING

I spent the first three months of 1960 living with Mr Okeke-ifi and his family in the Railway Quarters in Kaduna and my preoccupation was writing applications for a clerical job while waiting for the results of the West African School Certificate examinations. The preferred job with many school leavers was with the Nigerian Broadcasting Corporation as a news caster or continuity announcer. It looked a very dignified and reasonably well paid job. But other than that applications were thrown at all possible employers. I also applied to the Northern Nigeria Civil Service with knowledge that to get a job one had to enter into a five year bond with their Public Service Commission since I was from the East.
I did not have money and my mother was rather offended that I did not write to her as often as she would have liked. There was the issue of my father’s pension which he did not collect before leaving Zaria and which was being handled by his in-law Mr Kenneth Igwe in Zaria. There was also the issue of my sister, Patience. She had failed her Standard Six examination and a repeat was obviously not on her mind. Girl education was very low on the order of priority in Igbo families especially as Moses had just finished Primary School and the issue of his further studies was on the table. Furthermore, Patience was now living with my mother and father at home having been able to extricate herself from Uncle Cyril’s religious set-up. From correspondence it was obvious that being idle and eighteen years of age marriage was now top of her agenda. She had visions of being a Pastor’s wife and ending up a prophetess!  
Things started happening at the end of March and early April. I decided to move from Mr Okeke-ifi’s house in the Railway Quarters to live with Mr Andrew Ike in NC 15, Muri Road, Sabon Gari, in the centre of town, nearer to companies and business houses. It was in a multi-tenanted bungalow tenement building. Andrew, a first cousin, was a lorry driver carrying load for people from Kaduna and back on the Maiduguri route. We lived in a two room apartment and I slept on the mat in the front room. The cluster of apartments had a common kitchen and a common bathroom which reeked of human odour mixed with soap. The bathroom had a hole made in the base of the wall from where the water flowed into the ubiquitous open gutter running at the back. From the bathroom one could hear the ducks tat-tat-tatting as they foraged for food in the mush. Next to the bathroom was the bucket toilet.
The results of the West African School Certificate examinations were released. I had four distinctions including English and History in which I was the only one that scored distinctions, and three credits. My results were less than I had expected as by my calculations I should have had at least six distinctions. Letters of congratulation poured in. The one from Vincent Ike was particularly encouraging. He was an Assistant Registrar in the University College, Ibadan. He was profuse in his praise and again raised the issue of what my ambition was. He suggested my studying Accountancy or Estate Management which he had done in an earlier letter. I really had no ambition. My going through Secondary School had been a miracle. How could I be thinking of higher education? Who would pay my fees?
I secured a job with the Posts and Telegraphs Department as a Technical-Officer-In-Training. I simply did not like the job and regarded it as a stop-gap while applying for other jobs. I had always known that I was weak in Mathematics and technical subjects. I liked the salary though. I later bought a bicycle to aid my movements.

During that April I got a letter from my father to check out a certain Bernard Okoli who wanted to marry my sister. Not long after I got information that my father and my mother got together and married off Patience to the same man. No other relatives were involved neither was my maternal uncle though the generally frosty relationship between her and her sister was a good explanation. Bride price agreed was #100 with #75 pounds down payment. My mother promptly seized the money and gave it to Omenukwa, our palm wine tapper neighbour, to keep. But that was a point of contention sometimes dangerous between her and my father. He had written me a letter asking whether the money should be used to zinc-roof the house or to be kept for Moses’ school fees.    

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