Monday, April 3, 2017 6:40 am
By Ifedayo Babalola.
‘You are a bloody, stupid charlatan! How dare you? How dare you challenge the validity of my certificates? How dare you doubt my doctorates?’
All heads turn in the direction of the rage. The tall pot-bellied man, simply called ‘The Boss’ around here is on his feet, finger-pointing.
‘Calm down, John,’ counseled two of the three other men seated at the table. ‘He didn’t mean it that way. Relax…’
‘It was a joke.’
‘You heard him, didn’t you? He said a good WASC is better than my doctorate! Simply on account of my alma mater, he asked if I was dashed my first degree too. You call that a joke?!’
Like a flash, the Club Superintendent is standing by the table.
‘Sirs. Please we don’t want this here….. Enough sirs.’
‘Sup. You are fucking right!’ Thunders Boss, adding poetically, as if to prove his academic worth. ‘More than enough I’ve had. And outwards I sadly proceed!’
The ensuing peace is tepid. It’s the kind of quiet that precedes gossipy murmurs. Shorty and Lanky, like other patrons, turn attentions back to their green bottles and the no-longer-steaming pepper soup.
The Club Superintendent is standing beside their table now.
‘Good evening, guys.’ He gave Shorty a gentle back-tap while throwing a nod towards Lanky.
‘Hello matey. What was all that noise about?’
‘That’s why I came to you guys.’ He crumples on the edge of an extra chair. ‘I know you both like a bit of chatting; but please this evening, no talks about certificates.’
‘What?’ Protests Shorty, eyes rolling. ‘We are cultured men, well educated too. To debate is why we meet here, and we do so like gentlemen. Always.’
Lanky nods. ‘Besides, certificates and universities are the hot topics now.’
‘Shhhhh! I know that. You see the men who just left? They own between them more degrees than the entire Farenheit dynasty. Yet see their behaviour. We are discouraging certificate talk here for now, especially those awarded by that university. It’s very sensitive. Besides, the club hasn’t got five billions to spare in any currency.’
‘Ok Sup. We’ll abide. We’ll drink in agony of deprivation.’
‘Thanks Shorty. Well appreciated.’ With those words, he left to join his two pals at a table near the bar, where they can hold clandestine talks about all manners of certificates except theirs.
Shorty breaks the silence. ‘Should we move? I mean go somewhere else where we will not be in chains?’
‘No. This place inspires me.’
‘Ok. If I mention the word “certy”, will you understand me?’
‘Ali Baba Uni?’
‘I’ll read you perfectly.’
Lanky pushes the plate of pepper soup away. Draining the soup and leaving the goat innards for Shorty is his latest attempt at fitness.
‘Boss is not known for being aggressive,’ He mumbles. ‘Much like myself. And his choice of language this evening? Uncharacteristic.’
‘I agree. Not a heavy drinker too. But heaven knoweth no fury like an academically-challenged man.’
‘You mean a man whose academic qualifications are challenged.’
‘Same thing under the circumstances.’
Shorty gulps. Lanky sips.
‘I suppose you too passed through Ali Baba Uni at a time?’ Shorty half-enquires.
‘Yeah. On my way to Kaduna for NYSC. I stopped over to visit a lecturer-uncle.’
‘I guess that makes you a Visitor.’
‘Don’t be silly. I was there for just two weekend days.’
‘People have been offered more for less over there, you know…. Ok. What parting gifts did your uncle give you?’
‘Why the interrogation?’ Lanky was cautious. ‘You trying to catch me out on something or what?’
‘Well. I hear they are very generous over there….. Something like a diploma certy, for example or an academic gown or a result statement. You know…. A one-for-the-road kind of gift.’
They laugh. Shorty chews.
‘Come to think of it,’ Shorty begins with pretended thoughtfulness. ‘If a man stays eight years around a Uni, he deserves to go out with a degree, don’t you think? Wrap a leaf around a bar soap, and in eight years, it should become soap.’
‘Are you serious? Like if a civilian can stay ten years around an army barrack, probably selling cigarettes and goro, he’s earned for himself a Colonel rank? Is that it?’
‘That is different. Soldiering is serious business. Life and death sort of thing. But what harm can a honorary geographer or historian do? What do they do anyway?’
‘You may be right. But remember they produce medical degrees as well. Those Ali Baba people. What if they’ve been dashing out a few of those certies too? What if there are thirty-nine other thieves out there with scalpels and—?’
‘Probably more. Very possible.’ Shorty nods severally in a manner that translates a possibility to the realm of certainty.
‘No! They dare not.’
‘Why are you shaking?’
‘My family doctor is a produce–‘
‘No… I mean a product of Ali Baba Uni.’ Lanky is panting now.
‘Well. Long as he scrawls like a doc and quacks like a doc, he’s probably hung around their medical school long enough.’
‘Just like that?’
‘Yeah…. I mean….he should at least be better than a native doctor.’
‘What? Just like that?!’ Shorty is hysterical.
‘Calm down, pal. At least you are alive….For now.’
‘It’s not about me.’ He springs to his feet, rushing his words. ‘But the man has been treating my daughter’s malaria for three weeks now. In fact, the little girl is at his clinic with my wife as we speak. She was only taken there for a check-up, but my wife called to inform me the doc says she’d start a third course of injections today.’
‘What?! Three long long weeks? We must stop him right away! Who knows what he’ll do next?’
‘Yeah…… I’m calling my wife right away. What-the-fu..?….Not available!’
‘That is a bad omen o…’
‘Oh! It’s ringing now…..No reply.’ Lanky pants and shakes.
‘Worse omen. Madam is probably wailing…. Maybe your girl is having a Malaria surgery. Can’t answer calls in the theatre.’
‘Holy blood!’ Lanky tight-grips a neck. An imaginary neck. ‘I’ll strangle that guy if–‘
‘Is everything ok, gentlemen?’ The Bar Superintendent has rushed to their table.
Lanky works the phone. Frantically.
‘Are you guys ok?’
Shorty offers, slashing empty space in two like an axe warrior. ‘His daughter has been cut open by a doctor from Ali Baba University… Scary, isn’t it?’
‘No reply still! No bloody reply! Ha?!’
‘Com’on! Off we go to the rescue!’
‘We must go save my little baby now!’
Ifedayo Babalola, writer and satirist, writes from Ibadan (firstname.lastname@example.org)