When I first came across Eze Goes To School online, two things came to mind. I remembered instantly a slim novel with the same title that I read long ago, written through a collaboration of Onuora Nzekwu and Michael Crowther; any extensive Nigerian reader certainly must have read or heard about this book. The second thing that struck my mind when I finished reading the title was the instinct, the immediate and ignorantly final conclusion that the content must be something childish, mediocre. Perhaps it was a review of that slim book or something like that.
But I was in for a big surprise.
Although the title was familiar, the content was something entirely different. It was a story, but nothing like the one I’d read. This Eze Goes To School, an episodic narration, was something more fascinating and spell-binding. And its writer is Uchenna Walter Ude, who writes with the pseudonym Shakespearean Walter.
Walter’s Eze Goes To School is an alluring and intriguing tale that revolves round the lives of three friends and junior students of a Federal Government College. There is Eze Egwim, the principal character and the eye and voice through which the story is seen and told. And Joseph Amuluche, the daring fellow who is in the same class, JSS3B, with Eze, and whose bizarre, courageous deeds often lands and at the same time gets him out of harm’s way. Joseph, according to Eze “was the cool one in our group”, but in my estimation, this statement is quite ironical, for Joseph, out of the trio, seems to be the one with a bad temper. And finally, we see the light-hearted JSS3A boy, Ibuka Onyekwere, who is unarguably at once the most fearful and most intelligent of them all and whose adventurous spirit is something remarkable.
The story opens in a romantic manner, for in the genesis of the narration, Eze is seen in the dormitory, slumbering and dreaming of Anulika Egereonu, the girl of his dreams who, in the secrecy of his heart, he longs to kiss. In the dream, the girl, Anulika, made an attempt to finally give him the kiss he had craved for “in real life.” But Eze is in for a disappointment for the kiss didn’t happen; “the clanging sound of the school bell” rips into his dream and brings him back to reality, into wakefulness.
The bell is for the early morning jogging exercise. Eze complains bitterly when he wakes up that no student, except of course the SS3s, liked going for the exercise. “In that predawn period when the night cold is at its most delicious, when your dreams have perched on a precipice, before it sends you hurtling down into the cocoon of fulfillment”, the bell will unfailingly ring, announcing the commencement of the jogging exercise. Eze himself despises the bell ringer, Kelechi, and concludes that the ringer “needs to be lynched. Beaten properly in a corner of the Appian Way that leads to the staff quarters.”
In the second episode, the scenario of how Eze and Ibuka met for the first time is shown in an encounter that proves to be Eze’s first clash with the wrath of a prefect. In this episode, the narrative captures almost perfectly for the reader the thoughts of a heavily troubled secondary school student who has committed an infraction, a grave one to say. And who saw hope in the absence of the tool of justice – the cane.
The aftermath of his encounter with this prefect sees Eze claiming that the incident made the “Johnny-Just-Come scales fall out of my eyes.”
Indeed the scales left his eyes. But more troubles are on the way for him and his pals, term after school term: troublesome encounters with aggressive SS3 boys and School Prefects, the corrupt Youth Corps teacher Sir AA, Diplo the ‘homosexual,’ and many more. Noteworthy is Ibuka’s kisscapade with a female classmate who had a crush on him, Eze’s encounter with a snake at night in the dormitory, and Joseph’s penchant for womanizing.
Central to all this is the unexplored undertone of the story – the kiss Eze so dearly desires from Anulika. The kiss he has been asking of the girl since the first day he met her in JSS1. A request which she has adamantly declined, despite several acts of foolhardy and bravery the smitten Eze has displayed to impress on her the strength of his devotion to her. This part of the series is left hanging, a titillating segment which has the reader pondering the million dollar question: Will Anulika ever kiss Eze?
As the trio’s school adventures grow, they don’t know that fate is somehow steeling them for the darkness that threatens yonder. The one that comes in the form of two demons – Sisiri and Seetha. The evil spirits who dwell in the school environment, in human form, polluting the air with dread and confusion. It all sounds like some silly joke to the trio when the talk of a fellow student being haunted by an apparition on a certain night makes the rounds. Soon however, the events surrounding this revelation take a heart-racing twist that culminates in the vanquishing of Sisiri (the snake demon), and the impending threat of Seetha (the cat demon).
This part of the narration, I believe, is Walter’s way of warning people that the game of life is something beyond the capture of the naked eyes.
The latter stories are yet to unfold in the forthcoming episodes of Eze Goes To School. Undisputedly, Eze and his friends are in for a lot more ups and downs as time winds down to the end of their session as JSS3 boys.
Eze Goes To School is a tale beautified with humour, romance, adventure, a craving for justice and a thirst for triumph. This story is the best teenage fiction I’ve ever read. The characters are polished and convincing; the plot is designed suspensefully, in a manner that will keep you entertained to the last word. Reading it, episode after episode, has made me forget that it is in fact the longest running literary series I’ve ever read, a fact that on its own can be quite exhausting. If there is any fault in the story, I will point at the title. It is an inconsequential act of plagiarism for Shakespearean Walter to, in what I see as a deliberate act, entitle his wonderful work of fiction a name that a book already has.
Apart from this, I remorselessly call Walter’s Eze Goes To School series a masterpiece, a book for all times! Shakespearean Walter is a writer, a charmer, who knows how to control emotions with the magic of words.
Written by Olisaeloka Onyekaonwu