Today, I remember Uncle Ajayi, see we are not relatives, I don’t even know where he lives neither do I know anything about him apart from his name. But he was my teacher and you respect your teachers by calling them Uncle or Aunty. I don’t know why most schools in Nigeria subscribe to this form of respect between teachers and their students, perhaps it is because the teachers see themselves as extension of our family according to Dr.Alabi a lecturer in my department.
I remembered Uncle Ajayi, he did me no wrong you see, he just crept into my thoughts stealthy like a rat aiming for a pot of soup. I have my dictionary to thank for the remembrance and I am not kidding about that, you see Uncle Ajayi painstakingly enriched himself with knowledge. And he shows that with his use of words in the English Language.
Uncle Ajayi, a wistful smile is now curling around my mouth as his face dance around in my thoughts, the unruly moustache and beards that refuse to bow to the commands of his hands when he scratches the coily hairs and pats them to lie down. His hard chiseled face with almost aquiline nose, his hard dark mouth that forms a pout when he is disgusted and spews out hisses when he is angry. Uncle Ajayi of the hard hands that vibrates when he spanks your back and make it tingle for hours before it stops.
There were two Uncle Ajayis, the one that teaches Mathematics and the one that teaches Social studies or at times English Language. I never liked maths and my memory of the other Ajayi is his curled tongue which many people say could swallow fiery hot tea without scalding and ice-cold water without freezing, neither will his teeth ache, he has a Kola Tongue, they added. My Uncle Ajayi doesn’t have a Kola tongue, he has a Voca Tongue and he spends half of the time he ought to spend teaching reeling out humongous, magnificent, gigantic, bombastic words in English. Of course everyone will sit mesmerized, I wasn’t impressed because I hate it when he uses words we don’t understand, I would insult him inwardly because I believe some of the words could be insults. I eventually forgave him of his misgivings the day he boomed “What is the meaning of this hullabaloo” everyone went hush but I smiled triumphantly, I knew what hullabaloo is. Uncle Ajayi is not a deity.
Uncle Ajayi who had soft spot for my best friend Precious, brilliant Precious whose brain is as big as her head, or bigger, fair-skinned chubby Precious who refused to plait her hair even though we all told her she would look prettier. Precious who came and shook us all to our cores. The brilliant, the prettiest, the most talented all saw her as a threat. Precious who fainted and Uncle Ajayi almost cried as he carried her like a sack of Garri to the clinic in his wobbling legs.
Uncle Ajayi of the sky blue shirt on Monday, he doesn’t seem to have another, with his red tie. He looked like the students. Ever hungry Uncle Ajayi who yearns for knowledge he couldn’t afford, borrowing from me newspapers I took from my Grandfather’s table to read in peace in school, screwing his nose in disgust because I crumpled the pages. Ever hygienic Uncle Ajayi who wouldn’t eat groundnut that has been peeled.
Uncle Ajayi who had a soft spot for Aunty Christina that taught us Maths in primary 5. They would make a perfect couple I used to think because Aunty Christina is slim and soft while he is muscular and hard.
Uncle Ajayi who seem to hate us Muslims or me I guess because he looked at me somehow with his eyes that day as I decked myself in a big Hijab I got from my uncle’s wife. Then when I thought becoming a Niqabi was my calling.
Uncle Ajayi whom I saw around Unity road in Ilorin that day, in his sky blue shirt not tucked in, oh how he beats the boy in my class for doing so. His Palm slippers that has seen better days was coated brown with dust and his faded black trousers that has turned grey. He didn’t see me and I didn’t call him.