During that eventful month of April 1960 I took part in aptitude tests organised by the African American Institute in Kaduna. They were running scholarship awards for the Ivy League Universities on the East Cost of America being some of the best Universities in America including Harvard. Kaduna was the only centre in the North and secondary school leavers from the best schools in the North including those who were already in the higher Institution, Nigerian College of Arts, Science and Technology in Samaru, Zaria, took part. Once I saw the questions I knew they were tailor made for me. Even though I was weak in the Mathematics part of it my novel reading stood me in good stead. And I went through the questions in record time. In the end I was the only student from Northern Nigeria selected to proceed to Lagos for the semi final stage.
So I took leave of my employers and proceeded to Lagos through my home town, Ndike. It was decided that in Lagos I stay with an uncle, Christian Ike, a policeman, in Obalende. I travelled with the usual lorry sitting on one of the planks arranged in rows on which we sat facing backwards with tins of palm oil under them. The journey to Lagos through Agbanikaka took nearly two days. Christian lived in a two room apartment in the Barracks. Apart from the interview to enter secondary school I had never attended a serious interview before and Christian advised that I should go properly dressed. So he lent me his trousers even though he was taller than I was so I had to fold the trouser legs up. That was my first time of wearing trousers. He also lent me his tie and that was also my first time of wearing one. He helped me to knot it and it was so long down below my crotch and I went to the interview feeling like a goat being taken to the market for sale. I was not just nervous. I was frozen in front of the panel of about seventeen interviewers. The questions were quite simple but because of my state of mind I failed the most obvious. The panel asked, `Peter, you said you read a lot of novels. What is the name of the last one you read?’ I had it in my bag. But I simply forgot the name!

By the time I got back to Kaduna the news was all about in Ndike that I was going to America to study on scholarship. Either my over enthusiastic father or mother had spread the news. The letter from the African American Institute late in April conveying what I already feared, that I had failed, was worded to cushion my disappointment. They said I had failed at this semi final stage but should take heart in that of more than two thousand applicants only twenty four were selected. It wished me the best of luck. And that was that!

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