Bede Olo, a 14-year-old school boy is quite asleep alone in a deserted dormitory, while all the other students are watching a football match. A mysterious old man appears by his bed, makes small cuts on him without rousing him, and disappears into the forests. When he is awoken by some school prefects a little while later, he has changed to an old man. Against the backdrop of the school treasure hunt game, organized by the head boy to provide a diversion for the student body and avoid more confusion over this incident as instructed by the head teacher, a nascent student demonstration by a faction of students fearing the worst in this matter; and the poor boy's determination to take matters in hand, the race is set for realizing again a boy's treasured life.
A good omen? Perhaps. This encounter with the serpent appeared symbolic in that way. The sort of thing the elders would say bespoke of a good outcome for an impending event, say the treasure hunt or even resolving the debacle surrounding the changed Bede Olo. Thus the senior prefect reflected.
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There are thirty-two short chapters in this book. The book begins with the sentence, "Except for the somnolent Bede Olo inside it, Sapele House, a dormitory block was deserted and quiet" and ends with the sentence "And a day each of the other boys would remember all his life." There are several themes on life's conflicts embodied in this book, including the all important conflict between good and evil, life and death (or threat of death), and which of these triumphs in the end. Good or evil? The writing style is light, and sometimes humurous, but always thrilling. The words and language carry the story along.
Also, there is a sense of a community in disarray, but hidden behind a false facade. From this disarray will emerge the uncontrollable decay later (not covered in the book). W. B. Yeats poem "The Second Coming," though written in a different era and in entirely different circumstances, alludes somewhat to this;
Turning and turning in the widening gyre
The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity.
Something stirred deeply inside Stanley Osa the moment Daniel Oke scored the first goal for School House in the match. More especially because of the standing ovation it attracted. He considered matters afresh. In appearance, Daniel Oke was more frail looking than he, Stanley Osa. Yet, Daniel was more of a go-getter and he was unstoppable in the line of attack. What, by comparison, was he Stanley doing wrong?
Stanley, although sensitive, was seldom ponderous; thinking too seriously caused him to panic and abandon all thoughts. However, here was something worrisome. But he decided to stop the thinking about it for the moment as he ambled along languidly in the play.
Another thing, a phrase out of what Stanley had read in a recent "Nigerian Daily Observer" kept recurring to him: The bones before the meat and the dressing! Maybe he had not yet put together the bones or substance of his quest for soccer glory, and he was busy chasing after the meat or dressing, or call it the style, as a sensitive nature rife with imagination and fantasy made him prone to.
Thinking on this and the rest of what he had read in that daily eventually gave him pause, and he shelved all such thinking.
What he had read concerned issues of life in general and education in particular. A veteran educationist had written in an article to say that whatever was taught in secondary schools became obsolete by the time students passed out of school, and that the students were ill-equipped for their onward journey in the real world.
Hence this veteran's call for reform, engendered in his plea and theme: the need to give the students the bare bones and facts of life (the real substance), what they most certainly needed to survive, rather than the meat and dressing (the embellishments or style). After all, according to this veteran's viewpoint, education which is a preparation for life should teach about survival, first and foremost, especially survival in a rapidly changing world.
For Stanley, this one thing was certain. He knew he owed his parents, despite their recent demise, and eternal debt of gratitude: in that they chose for him to attend Government College. He was therefore wary of any viewpoints, whether or not held by expert educationists, which tended to diminish how he felt in this matter towards his deceased parents. No person, whosoever, could pass critical judgement on his parents, school or friends. It was a mark of the strong African streak in him. His reasoning and thoughts easily withered whenever they dwelt on very touchy subjects.
Now a ray of hope played on his mind. What would happen if he were to score a goal in this match? He fantasised gleefully. Of course, it would gladden his heart. People might stop calling him nicknames like "Comic Footballer". But what, he considered, would it actually take for him to score a goal? Now he wasn't sure. Sheer drive! He reflected. Sheer drive! He mimed. Bare bones! Sheer drive! Bare bones! He repeated this ditty to himself, with a quiet resolve to aim at scoring a goal.