I grew up with Ikpeadiamkpo (Mr. Jones) in the little village of Itieidung in Ebietland. We used to go to the stream together to fetch water. We used to jump from the tree trunk into the river together. We used to go to the farm together. We used to play local masquerade together. We ate from the same pot of soup and drank from the same gourd. If I could not be found and you wanted to know where I was, ask Ikpe, as we used to call him and if Ikpe could not be found and you wanted to know where Ikpe was, you asked me. Such was the strength of our friendship.
After graduating from the same primary school, we went off to different secondary schools. I went to a boarding school and Ikpe went to a day secondary school. I was privileged to come from a middle class family. Ikpe came from a relatively humble background. Despite the class differences, our relationship did not suffer in any way. Those of us who went to private boarding schools was because, our parents could afford it. I would have loved to have been in the same secondary school with Ikpe, but because of the fact that his parents could not afford it, I had to go alone. I was happy on the other hand, that Ikpe was going to secondary school as well. We both had dreams and continued dreaming big dreams. Ikpe wanted to become a writer, a well known writer, an author of international acclaim. I wanted to be a musician. This dream of becoming a musician wasn’t well welcomed by my parents. The question they often asked me was “How will you make a living?” To which I will always respond “From my music.”
“Nonsense” my dad would say. “How many successful musicians are there?” He would add.
“You better have a Plan B in case this music plan of yours does not work” He would always conclude.
This led me into taking the sciences in my senior years in secondary school seriously. I wasn’t particularly good academically. I chose science because I knew I would be able to scrape an easy pass due to the fact the science subjects did not require much writing which I abhorred. It worked out perfectly well for me, solving equations and balancing equations. We both finished our secondary school successfully. Ikpe aced his GCEs. He made seven A1’s while I managed to scrape 5Cs and two Bs.
My father could not watch such a brain waste. He offererd Ikpe scholarships straight away. Ikpe passed his University Matriculation Exams(UME) with flying colors and got his first choice placement in the university. My dad had to use his own connections to try to get me a placement in the university of my first choice because my UME wasn’t that great. On the one hand, it was a delight to see my friend do well while on the other hand I allowed bitterness to creep into me because he made things a little sour for me at home. My dad kept making references to him. My dad kept comparing me with him. This made me to start having a sense of resentment towards Ikpe but because we were good friends I hid it.
Five years flew past (for a 4 year course) because of the university lecturers’ strike year. It was a common practice to have university lecturers go on strike in Ebietland every academic year. This often distorted academic schedules and added an extra year of study for students. We both graduated. Ikpe graduated with second class honors upper division while I scraped a third class honours. Again, my dad was disappointed at my performance. I had everything any student could wish for at university but because I wasn’t focused, I underperformed. At this point in time after our graduation, Ikpe and I were not as close as we used to be way back. We had drifted apart gradually because when he used to come to our home to spend holidays, my dad trusted him more than he trusted me. He became my dad’s personal assistant. My dad told him stuff more than he told me and my dad found him a lot more responsible than I was. I didn’t like this idea. He was obviously a lot more responsible and accountable. I was heading down hill. The only thing I was skilled at, was spending my dad’s money recklessly. That was the main reason why dad didn’t trust me and also one of the reasons why I underperformed at uni.
In order to save me and make me more responsible, my dad bundled me off to the United states where I had to start a new life. I paid a heavy price to learn frugality, value and some semblance of direction in life. So, when Ikpe was coming to the States, it was natural that, he would pass by me, spend some time with me before re- calibrating himself.
Deep down me, I couldn’t stand the thought of Ikpe coming to the States. I knew that it would be just a matter of time, Ikpe would be very successful and create a prospering life for himself. I knew he would be more successful than me.
I guess I kinda liked it that, anytime I visited Nigeria, Ikpe would come to the airport to collect me and I would gift him some T shirts and pants. That used to give me some sort of superiority over him. We would go to the nightclubs together and I would spend the dollars. Again, this give me some level of ego over him. All the ‘losses’ I had sustained before due to his superb skills and abilities, I was able to get back at him now. Anytime I visited home I was treated like a prince and of course because I came in with my own money, I now had access to basically anything I wanted to do in Nigeria without my dad’s limitations or intrusions. My dad couldn’t moan like he used to do before, respect was restored to me. So when Ikpe told me he was visiting, I thought ‘darn!’
I had booked a holiday that was to start a day before Ikpe arrived the States on purpose. I didn’t give him any heads up, I just went on and boarded the plane and traveled to California and left him stranded. I knew that, being a smart guy that he was, he would get his way around and finally settle. I knew I would apologize to him and make up with him. But that sense of power and being in charge made me feel so good. I felt like, his destiny laid in my hands.
Obviously that was a foolish thing for me to do. We have since made up and we are in the best of terms now. What moved me the most about Ikpe’s narration was the fact that he never for once mentioned I ghosted him. That, truly was remarkable and gave me the impetus to write my story, so that people would know that it is not good to let those things like jealousy, envy, strife take a hold on you. I have since made amends and obviously I am so happy for Ikpe. like I foreknew, Ikpe has made massive progress and has even had to bail me out once or twice when I was stuck in life. That’s how it should be -watching each other’s backs, collaborating and being happy for anybody’s progress.