SUBSTANCE AND CHARACTER, NOT LOOKS

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I took a stroll in the estate and to the shopping precinct to buy bread. Finished, I walked back, thinking about lost opportunities as a result of the forced lockdown. I wondered why this virus – Covid-19 should make people who work for themselves feel so financially inadequate.

I love this estate with its well-arranged boulevard and trees. But I do not live here, my friend asked me to visit him and I came in few days before the lockdown.

I negotiated the bend to connect the stretch of road leading to my friend’s house in this highly protected estate. Then I saw two ladies jogging towards me, one very much older than the other. I do not stare at people especially women, so I looked away. Women love to evaluate men a lot, creating buffers and so I do not give them the chance to pigeon-hole me amongst all men interested in wanting to “get busy.”

They jogged past me then I heard, “hello! Uncle Simon Abah.” Who would know me here?
She called again and I had to look back and stop, the young lady walked up to me and the older stayed away nearby. You were my Head Teacher at Tantua International Group of Schools in Port Harcourt many years ago. I couldn’t make her out, she has changed now, looking so beautiful and well-formed but when she told me her name, I remembered her and her mother.

“I almost didn’t know you again, you have a pot belly now and you are not as handsome as you were as Head Teacher,” the young lady told me.
“Handsome?” I asked her. “Yes! Many of us had ‘crush on you’ and she went on to give me names of some who did, like her. They were 11 years old at the time. Crush!

“So what do you do now and here?” I asked her. She told me where she works and I was happy for her. Then the discussion veered back to how handsome she thought I should have been now. “Aren’t people supposed to get cool and handsome as they get older?”

How old are you now, I asked her. Twenty four years, she responded.
At that age, the world was my oyster. I was in fairyland. I thought the world was a pedestrian walkway but harsh realities later brought me back to my right mind. So I could understand why she doesn’t think me handsome. As people get older their beauty weakens, with age of course and pressures of life. But she countered it by telling me that she would get finer with age. I wished her luck. She is really beautiful.

I watch recoded speeches of General Yakubu Gowon as Head of State and find him very handsome. I saw the picture the other day of Ibrahim Babangida as a young Army Colonel and I found him really handsome. The same cannot be said about them these days. The Muhammadu Buhari that I saw as a child in Sokoto State is not the same as now.
I wished we discussed other things away from looks. I bade her farewell and the other lady who I gathered is her aunt.

I taught 33 pupils before I was installed as Head Teacher. I can give anything to see all 33 children and happier if what they discuss now are developmental issues, if they have become real thinkers, readers, ideologues, artists, and scientists.
It would pain me to no-end if some are carried away by how people look, and not their substance and character.
Simon Abah, Abuja