I was wearing an earpiece and watching a movie on my phone as the students copied notes on the board, when one of my students ran into the classroom, panting and startling us.
“What is it, Chidinma?” I asked.
“Auntie please come. Auntie Obiakp—Nkechi wants to kill Ijeoma.” She answered, frantic.
“Ijeoma is pregnant. Her parents reported her to Auntie Ob—Nkechi and she’s flogging her now like nama.”
Ok, did I forget to mention that I hated flogging with passion? It was because of an unpleasant experience I had in secondary school when a teacher almost crippled my left palm with twenty-five strokes. I hadn’t finished recovering from the trauma. And now as a Corper, another teacher was flogging one of my students? No way. My teacher’s block was officially broken!
I rushed to the staff room. Chidinma was right. Ijeoma was wailing on the floor while Auntie Obiakpor flogged her like nama. Her parents stood in one corner and watched. None of the teachers and Corpers had the courage to stop her. Only a few made feeble attempts to mumble “it’s not fair o” to her. I was so mad. I ran and stood between them, effectively stopping the assault.
“What do you think you’re doing?” I demanded.
“It’s not your business.” She snapped. “Get out of my way.”
“That’s my student you’re flogging.”
“Do you know your student is the latest akwuna in town? Since you don’t know how to do your job, let me do it for you.”
“She’s pregnant, I know. That doesn’t give you the right to flog her like that. She’s not an animal.” I snapped back.
“Of course, she’s an animal. If she didn’t spread her legs wide like an express, she wouldn’t be in this condition.” She retorted.
“In case you don’t know. This is family business. It has nothing to do with you.”
“If you have small sense, you would have noticed her parents standing over there.” She replied. “They gave me permission to question her about who got her pregnant.”
I turned to Ijeoma’s parents in anger. “How could you let her flog your daughter like that?”
They looked at me like I was mental.
“Who’s this one?” Papa Ijeoma asked in Igbo.
“She’s the useless form teacher of Ijeoma’s class. don’t mind her. She doesn’t have any sense.” Obiakpor replied.
“Corper, biko mind your business.” He said to me. He turned to her. “Nkechi, flog this akwuna very well until she tells us who the father of her baby is.”
Nkechi smirked at me. “Did you hear that? Ngwa shift.”
She tried to reach across me to drag Ijeoma but I wouldn’t let her.
“You’re not going to flog her again.”
She glared at me. “Come this girl, what is your problem? Get out of my way before I descend this cane on you!”
“Try it and I will descend my hand on your face!”
There was total silence. Nkechi stared at me, stunned. I actually expected her to descend her cane on me. I was already imagining how my finger prints would look on her face if she tried. But she didn’t. Instead, she drew back and said with her poisonous tongue.
“I’m not surprised. Are you not a Benin girl? I’m sure you must have done more than ten abortions. That’s why you’re defending this one. Birds of the same feathers. Who even knew how you managed to graduate. And you’re here forming Corper. Ndi Corper!”
That stung. E enter well well. For her to imply that all my hard work to graduate was because I was sharing my precious cookie in high and low places was more than insulting. Ha! It was the height of it. But she forgot she wasn’t the only one with a poisonous tongue. I smirked rudely at her.
“Madam Virgin Mary! I dey hail. If you were so righteous, why aren’t you like your mates who are married to wealthy husbands and beautiful kids and living big in the cities? Instead you’re here, single, broke with a nonsense village teaching job and living with your mother!”
Everybody gasped at the outburst. Nkechi Obiakpor swelled like a balloon.
“What is going on here?” The Principal intervened, entering the staff room and saving me from what I believed would be my total dismemberment. Nkechi shook her fists at me in rage as she answered.
“This girl, this small shit that spoils the buttocks, this idiot, akwuna, ashawo, ewu, atulu, insulted me in front of everybody!”
The Principal raised an eyebrow. “Again?” She turned to me. “IT, is it true?”
“She was flogging my student. I had to stop her.”
“The girl is a confirmed prostitute! She’s pregnant and her parents want to know who did it. Is it my fault that they came to me for help?”
“It’s ok.” The principal said before a fresh quarrel started. She turned to Ijeoma and asked.
“Ijeoma, who impregnated you?”
Ijeoma sniffed back tears and replied softly. “Mazi Obum.”
“Mazi Obum!” Her father exclaimed, scandalized. “Is it the Mazi Obum I know or someone else?”
“He’s the one.”
“Hei!” The man shouted. “Obum, the palmwine tapper. That ugly old man who can only boast of one cloth. He’s the one that impregnated you? Chai! This girl will not kill me!”
“Ijeoma why?” Her mother cried. “Look at how you’ve disgraced this family. You should be ashamed of yourself.”
At that, Ijeoma forgot her fear and stood up to stare her mother in the eye.
“Mama, if there’s anybody that should be ashamed, it’s you.”
“Shut up!” Her mother gave her a hot slap to silence her. But she was too mad to be silenced.
“No!” she shouted. “Tell them how you forced me to sleep with Mazi Obum for money!”
The silence that followed was heavy. It felt like the air was literally sucked out of the room. If this were a Nollywood movie, this was the ghen ghen part.
Papa Ijeoma finally found his voice and slowly turned to Mama Ijeoma.
“Is what she said true?”
Shame would not let Mama Ijeoma reply. That got him angrier.
She looked at him squarely in the eye and answered with no iota of remorse.
“Ehen! And so? It’s your fault when all you do is to spend your money chasing all the widows in this village!”
Papa Ijeoma drew back, stunned. Double shock. He stuttered. “How—di—di–”
“You think I don’t know? Your story is everywhere. Anytime I asked you for money, you complain you don’t have. What did you expect me to do? Since you refused to do your duty, I had to get it somewhere else. And Mazi Obum was not interested in me. He was only interested in Ijeoma…”
The rest of us staff and students who were already gathered in front of the classroom watched the family drama. We glared at Nkechi for her stupid role in the family business. She couldn’t look at us.
And that was the end of Auntie Obiakpor’s reign.
For weeks, she couldn’t talk to anyone. Everyone shunned her. People who only gossiped behind her back because they didn’t have the courage to face her, now openly made insulting remarks and made sure she knew they were talking about her.
It was too much for Auntie Obiakpor. She suddenly stopped coming to school. Her excuse was she wasn’t feeling well. She wasn’t even available when the teachers shared their welfare packages. I was asked to deliver it to her house. I protested. Nobody listened to me. Once again, I found myself reluctantly going to face Obiakpor in her house.
But what I saw there was totally unexpected.
NEXT EPISODE: Broken