Sunday Dec 04, 2022

Learning Igbo

Ifo chakpii!
Chakpii!
Onwerem otu akuko m ga koroonu!
(now, YOU say “kooro anyi k’obi di anyi mma”)

I was going to post about how one visit to the dermatologist made me know that the source of my dry, cracked, blistered lips wasn’t kissing a spider in my sleep (or other similar ridiculous projection) but a simple allergic reaction to fluoride toothpastes. I WILL post about that, God-willing sometime this weekend.
Instead for today I want to tell you what Law School has turned out to be. A pleasure? A wonder? An inconvenience? Who Knows? I was posted to Enugu Campus although I chose Abuja as my first choice (as many of you know). Why people kept giving me a sympathetic “eh ya” I don’t understand. Enugu campus is more beautiful and spacious than Bwari. The highest temperatures for the year (30 degrees) is far cooler than the Abuja average of 40 degrees, so it’s more convenient. Food is cheaper (or so it seems) and the people here in Enugu are more friendly than anywhere I have been.
The first thing I noticed when I came to Enugu was that the moment you speak English, everyone knows you’re a stranger. And the moment that’s out in the open, the price of everything jacks up by 30%. The first time I went into the city (I had to sort something out at Zenith Bank, Trans-Ekulu), I paid at least 30 naira more for each of the buses I took (because I didn’t understand Igbo!) by the time I was coming back into Agbani I had picked up at least some bus-related Igbo. “O ju go?” (is it full?) “Law School ne ya!” (I’m stopping at law school). Or “O kwa ya!”. Even to get out of a crowded spot, you say “puta nu’ zo” ,  a rough equivalent of “excuse me” (literally “you’re blocking my path. Move over”). How about the ones you already know? “biko” (please), “chere” (wait), “wete’m” (give me), “ogini?” (what/why).
I also had to go console a friend who lost her mum and sister in a tragic car crash. I was so short of words that I could only say “ebezina. O zugo. O ga diri gi mma” (don’t cry anymore. That’s enough. It’s gonna be okay). She smiled back and said, “mba. I dinma already” (no- it’s already alright). Unfortunately, that’s as much Igbo I can teach you (you’ll have to pay me if I must continue 😉 ).
And unfortunately, that’s all the fun I’ve had. You see, I got here on Sunday even though school was to resume on Monday so that I could register early and avoid the accommodation hassles. In my eagerness to get here early I left my bank teller and eTranzact PIN printout I used to pay my school fees online. I got to the registration venue at 6: 30am to be the first. I met 14 people already there, waiting for an office that would open at 8:30am!! To avoid the potential scuffles when the crowds came, we took numbers.
When it was time for registration, I was informed that I would not be registered because I didn’t have the teller and PIN. I showed them the confirmation printout from their own website. Would I have ALL that without having paid? They told me to get lost, there was nothing they could do for me. One of the staff advised me to go to Zenith Bank just behind the bank to have my payment confirmed and stamped, (“azuya” as we say in Igbo). At 9:30am, the only bank on campus was not open! Fuming, I went to the branch at the Enugu State University (ESUT), paying 200 naira for a journey of 70. Same story- at 10:am the cleaner was still wiping down the glass security doors. When they finally opened at 10:30, I was told that the person who should attend to my request had just returned to NLS Agbani. I went back (it was at this point I realised that the fare was 70 naira).
When I went to the bank and made my request to the desk staff (the ONLY person working at that branch),  he asked me “so what do you want me to do for you?” . It was as if he had been struck by lightning and lost his powers of understanding. What did I just spend 5 minutes explaining to Him? He sent me back to the hall, the registration officials referred me to the accounts department, the accounts people asked me to go to Trans-Ekulu branch. That whole day was an adventure. Even at the zenith bank, instead of the people there to tell me they didn’t have the authority to handle my request, they just kept saying that there was absolutely nothing that could be done for me. I don’t know how but that day I received a new bullish grace and I insisted until the officer in charge of that account returned and signed my form (curiously refusing to stamp, asking me to get it stamped at the law school branch).
By the time I got back, it was already 5pm and they couldn’t attend to me. Meanwhile the people behind me on the line had already completed everything and got their accommodation. I admit it was my fault- I should have taken EVERYTHING related to law school just in case. As my father says, “there is no accidental success. Today was shaped by our actions and inactions yesterday”. And the cliché “If you fail to plan, you plan to fail!”. To summarize this long narrative, i had to wait till 10:30 on Tuesday to get my online receipt stamped.
My beef is with the registration process. While applying, we filled a long (7-paged) form online. They took all our details, down to next-of-kin information, home address, schools attended. We had to mail in copies of our O’level results, University Statement of Results and all that. While applying we were given application numbers. We were also informed on the site that we would be required to produce the originals of all documents submitted. So we all came expecting to be screened like in the university.
We were in for a shocker. The process was so cumbersome! In Enugu campus it went like this:
  1. 1.       QUEUE up to get school fees receipt.
  2. 2.       QUEUE up to submit medical forms.
  3. 3.       QUEUE up to see the doctor.
  4. 4.       QUEUE up to collect white, yellow and call-to-bar forms. It will surprise you that the white and yellow forms carry practically the same information! One asks for marital status and the other doesn’t.
  5. 5.       QUEUE up to get the white and yellow forms CHECKED and signed.
  6. 6.       QUEUE up to have white and yellow forms checked and submitted.
  7. 7.       QUEUE up to collect your registration number.
  8. 8.       Buy code of conduct, submit one signed copy.
  9. 9.       Collect the biodata, Student data, ID card form, Chamber+Court attachment forms. The biodata and student data form are exactly the same. Just marital status differentiates the two.
  10. 10.   Submit filled forms.
  11. 11.   Pay the Alumni Association fees at the overcrowded Zenith Bank.
  12. 12.   Queue up to collect Alumni Association receipt.
  13. 13.   QUEUE up to get hostel allocation form.
  14. 14.   QUEUE up to claim your accommodation.
  15. 15.   QUEUE up to get the keys to your room.

If you noticed, steps 8-10 did not require queuing up. That’s because steps 4-7 can take over 24 hours to complete! At first i was wondering why I was on a queue for 3 hours and i still wasn’t close to the registration table. There was so much pushing, pulling, cussing, and shouting that I began to wonder what kind of lawyers we were planning to become! I discovered that some people were jumping the queue, giving N2, 000 naira to the NYSC corps member to do theirs faster. If that guy took money from only 10 people, he had already made N20, 000! Sometimes out of “frustration” with the rowdiness of people, he’d leave the hall with maybe 2 unprocessed forms. By the time he’d taken lunch he’d return with 6 more! Even more annoying were the “senior” applicants. People who were like 40 years and above would want to skip the line and be attended to immediately, even though they know that’s wrong. At a point people began shouting at them to join the queue. One “Oga” insulted a girl for challenging him. “is that the way you talk to your father at home?”. I love her response “my father isn’t involved in this.” The silent retort which we all heard was, “my father would not stoop to such immaturity as to skip a queue”. Me? Anyone who tried to get in front of me got a beatific smile and a “sorry, the line isn’t too long behind me. Join the queue”
You know me well- when things like these happen i love to draw out questions, (if i must sound like a lawyer, “issues for determination”)

  1.  Did we not provide ALL this information on the online portal?
  2.  Did we not forward printed copies of our applications and credentials?
  3.   Did the staff not thoroughly inspect our applications before giving us FULL ADMISSION STATUS?
  4. With theN280, 000 we paid, couldn’t the NLS hire more staff?
  5. Is there no better way of doing this?

My father made me realise something- people simply create avenues to make money and in doing so create opportunities for corruption to thrive. In Kano Campus, My friend Chollom Chuntok says they were given the forms at the point of collecting their receipts. But here processes were multiplied, arguably to create frustration, to provoke people to cut corners, so that the “corpers” on duty would make money from it all.
Given the high ethical standard which the NLS upholds, i daresay the management is not aware of this. Afterall, the Director-General will not resume till next week. Thus the non-academic staff must make some serious money while the chance is there. to make matters more annoying, the clearance process is equally tedious.

What a sad, sad country.
PS:  I’m very, VERY  busy these days, so my posts will not come regularly. Bear with me. Oh, and i’ve started my studying. I have some free days, no point waiting for lectures that will begin in about 3 weeks. I’ll just study away. Have fun! (and hope i didn’t take too much of your time saying all of this).

Peter

3 thoughts on “Learning Igbo

  1. My dear, I totally feel your pain! You are beginning the nightmare that is your year in NLS! Enjoy x

  2. thanks Miss B 🙂 (sorry i couldn't reply earlier – WiFi isn't up yet on this campus)

  3. I'll tell Sifon,she was d one who replied dat old man. But come to tink of it,d registration was frustrating.

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