Archive for March, 2013

What had been my fault? I was the darkest among the dark. I was one of the poorest among the poor. I knew it was the work of God. I did believe in Him. I’d been told by some Churchgoers and some Muslims that, it was actually a trial from God. For all their assurances and acceptance, there were days when the thought of being the darkest among my school mates seemed unbearably cruel. I had often raged at the fact that having a lighter complexion meant being more intelligent and having more opportunities.

To me, too much religious talk worked well if they were tied to some advantages on earth—rather than promises of heaven. Despite the fact that I was neither religious enough nor matured enough to understand God’s purpose, I believed that God is beautiful, and everything that He creates is beautiful. I knew and clearly understood that, I was a stranger within my own country. There was another dimension to this problem—tribalism. At a very young age, I understood what tribalism did to tear us apart as a people sharing the same destiny.

As I stepped into the meeting hall, I realized how difficult it was for the majority of parents attending the PTA meeting to reconcile the color of my skin with the sharpness of my mind. In my own young mind, it seemed like there was an unwritten universal law stating that—the lighter your skin, the smarter you are. It was a rare occurrence for such a poor boy like me, who was being taunted due to the thickness of my skin to be honored in front of such an audience. As Mrs.

Ashiagbor tried to give a speech about the virtues of being responsible parents, her speech was interrupted twice by one Ms. Ayele—an ex-con—who had been jailed for seven years for drug-dealing. She was such a nuisance at the meeting that, she was asked by Mrs. Ashiagbor on two occasions to keep silent. She was nearly ordered out of the meeting hall at a point but for the sake of Mama’s intervention. Every parent was given a chance to make a point or two before the meeting came to a close.

T be continued…


“Who’s that Ayoma of a scholar par-excellence?” One parent shouted out jealously?
“Not that black boy?” She asked with a guttural voice.

The father of my closest friend, Fred, answered.This drew a snigger from the back of the hall.

“Yes. I did meet a student who was so dark at the entrance when coming into the school. Is that him?” Another parent inquired.

“Yes.” Mrs. Ashiagbor interrupted.

“He’s the darkest and the brightest.” She asserted proudly.

According to Mama’s account, the headmistress then instructed one of the teachers to go look for me. I had already left the school premises with Fred. He had invited me to lunch. He had more than enough to spend since his parents were well-to-do. I had less than required to spend since I was being raised by a single mother—who had been forced to borrow money from a night watchman in order to attend a PTA meeting.

He lived in a plush residential area—the airport residential area. I lived in a neighborhood where poverty, drugs and crime competed fiercely against one another to gain recognition from its besieged residents. Fred was lighter in complexion and I was unusually dark. He was sometimes embarrassed to admit I was his friend. He would ask me to stay away for a while when he had to meet some particular friends or invite them over to his home for a weekend.

All these were taking place in Africa—the landscape of my youth—the place from which I woke up to the world, and the place that stays with me.

To be continued…