I hope you are doing great and the New year is setting off really well. My last two published articles on Bellanaija titled "It is common sense" and "Iyawo wa" can be found here and here respectively. Please check them out if you have not read them. Today's story is inspired by random thoughts, as often, lol. Enjoy:
The New Year had finally set in and even February was fast fading away. Annabel had been waiting for a long time now to launch her plans. She had initially wanted to do it during Christmas but she had been advised against it as the season was usually filled with pre-planned activities. Nobody would come for the program, her new assistant Mr. Pedro, had said. After Christmas, there was of course Valentine’s Day which she thought should have no effect on the plans but yet again, Mr. Pedro said it was a huge celebration in the South-South and so she decided to wait again. She had returned back to Nigeria from the US to pursue her own entrepreneurial schemes and one of them was to start a talent show for children. Her goal was to sponsor the top three finalists through the rest of their undergraduate education in a Nigerian University whilst performing their talent by the side. She thought this would be a perfect way to give back to her community whilst nurturing talents as well as providing higher learning for youngsters. So she thought first year University students would be the right population for her as they would have already gained University education and most of them will be young adults already but Mr. Pedro thought final year students in secondary school would be easier to encourage and would be more meaningful as their entire University education will be covered by the scholarship.
Annabel did not really like Mr. Pedro; she found a little too aggressive and domineering but she had no other choice as he was a native of the area and seemed to be the only one interested in her plans. He knew his way around the town and could speak pidgin English, something she was terrible at no matter how hard she tried. She also knew that he had some connections with key stakeholders who could be potential sponsors and so she was forced to work with him. They had a plan – to go to the government secondary school in the Ahoada region of Rivers State and obtain permission from the teachers to talk to the students about the contest. Mr. Pedro knew the school principals and assured Annabel that there will be no problem as long as they settled them, as he called it. “But why Rivers state?” he asked as they drove down the bumpy road to one of the schools. “Because I believe there is talent in the south. My mum is from Bayelsa and I knew a lot of talented kids whilst growing up. The plan is to start from here and hopefully expand in the near future” Annabel replied whilst eating some gala; she was starving as she had not had any breakfast. They arrived at the school and true to Mr. Pedro’s words, the process went smoothly as soon as the teachers were settled. They were allowed to make an announcement to the students about the show and the prizes and they promised to be back on Friday to start the auditions immediately after school. Talented students who were interested should inform their parents and wait behind for a couple of hours.
On Friday afternoon, Annabel and Mr. Pedro returned to the school with excitement. To her surprise, many of the students had stayed behind; some to perform and some to watch and even a few teachers were present. After sharing drinks and snacks to everyone present, Mr. Pedro asked them to forms queues according to their talents – spoken words and songs in one row, acting in another and other art work in the third row.
“I said arrange yourselves! Are you deaf?” Mr. Pedro was screaming and waving a cane. The students were quite disorganized but Annabel did not think it was enough to call for his yelling. She was uncomfortable with Mr. Pedro’s behaviour but the teachers did not seem to mind.
“We will start from this first row. One by one, please come forward, tell us your name, your intended stage name, your talent and then perform. You have 2 minutes each.” Annabel announced. Some of the students giggled and some imitated her American accent. She was getting used to the sort of attitude and barely took notice. The first student stepped forward, a tall light-skinned boy.
“My name is David, my stage name is ‘Rudoff’ and I’m a rapper” he said. There was cheering from his schoolmates and one could tell that he was popular.
“Rudoff?” Mr. Pedro cut in just as David was about to start his performance. “What sort of name of that? Are you a dog?” The whole school laughed. Annabel quickly whispered in his ear and the boy was given a signal to begin.
“Yo! My name is Ruddoff,
Some people call me hiccough
My shor’ies know I’m too tough
And haters want to piss off
Y’all wanna make me cool off...”
Annabel did not know how to stop him even though she wanted to, especially as the whole school was clapping and even Mr. Pedro was nodding to the lyrics. Eventually, two minutes ran out and she had to stop him.
“Come and write down your name here” Mr. Pedro said. “You have talent!” Annabel stood open-mouthed but could not manage any words.
“Next!” Mr. Pedro announced. The next was a girl who introduced herself and said she would be reciting a poem:
“What love can this be compared to
His eyes ever flourishing blue
His hands touching my breast so... ”
“Shut up there!” Mr. Pedro interrupted. “How old are you that someone is touching your breast? My friend, move out so that other people can perform. Spoilt brat!” the students laughed as the girl covered her face and ran. Annabel was not pleased, she whispered again to Mr. Pedro.
The auditions went on, the following person worse than the previous until almost three hours had gone by and they had to stop. They would return the next week to continue. She was beginning to feel like the whole episode was a joke as she could not stand any of the “talents” that Mr. Pedro had approved and the ones she thought she might have liked, he had always interrupted or called them boring. Her hopes of finding a genuine talent were slowing fading away until she saw a young boy holding a painting on the road as they drove back home. He was wearing the same school uniform but had not been present at the auditions or maybe she had not noticed him.
“Stop the car please” Annabel said to the driver. She jumped off to speak to the boy.
“Who painted that?” she asked him, he said he was the one. She also confirmed that he attended the same secondary school but had not waited behind for the audition because his mother had not permitted him. Annabel said that she would come to ask for permission herself from his mother and asked for the direction to his house, which she quickly memorized. At last, today was not useless, she thought to herself, smiling as she walked back to the car and promising to return the next day to see the boy’s mother with some very special settlements.
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Happy Lenten season!
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