“Get up from my seat.” The addressed who sat alone quietly nursing a bottle of Guiness stout looked up to see who his addressee was. It was a tall but lanky fellow clad in the usual white tee-shirt, shorts, socks and canvass which was the standard parade outfit for NYSC members.

“How is this your seat? It was empty when I got here.” Dennis replied.

“Guy, arrange yourself! I was here before. Stand up before I burst bottle for your head!” He said roughly and confidently as two of his friends stood behind him.

Dennis was a quiet and reflective fellow with a mentality unlike that of any of his peers. It would be accurate to describe him as way beyond his years because from a young age, he behaved like an adult.  However, he didn’t like threats and never cowed to it.

He rose up from the seat in a semi-menacing manner despite his diminutive stature and asked with all seriousness.

“You will do what?”

The tall lanky fellow wasn’t expecting that so he backed away a bit but seemed to remember that his crew was behind him and once again, stood his ground.

“I go burst bottle for your head!” He said again.
Dennis considered the consequences should things escalate and decided it wasn’t worth it.

He smiled at the lanky young man and his body guards and strolled away, leaving behind a half drunk bottle of beer. As he strolled away, he overheard them as they asked themselves,
“You know who the guy be?” One of them asked.

“Forget am. No level!” The lanky one’s voice responded clearly.

Dennis shook his head as he continued to stroll.

A few weeks later…

“We need somebody who is tall to fill in for Majemite in the defense line-up. His roommates say he’s at the health center.” Sergeant Okoro said, his face filled with animation. It was the penultimate day of the NYSC orientation camp and a soccer competition was organized to commemorate the passing out parade. As the platoon commandant, his team were favorites to win and he was taking no chances.

“Any ideas Dennis? You’re the team captain.”

Dennis look around the eager faces and spotted a familiar one who was jumping about eagerly.

“Segun can defend very well.” One of the team members volunteered, pushing the familiar face forward.

“You can defend?” Sergeant Okoro asked.

“Yes. Very well.” Segun replied, stepping forward. The platoon commandant turned to Dennis.

“He never partook in any of our training sessions.” Dennis said quietly.

“And so? Haven’t we been jogging since the orientation camp began?” Segun asked arrogantly.

“You still haven’t learned any manners, have you?” Dennis asked looking up at him with unflinching eyes. Segun made to push him away but Sergeant Okoro stepped in.

“This is not the time to measure dick sizes here.” He said impatiently.

“You don’t remember me, do you?” Dennis asked. “Are you still planning to “burst my head’?” Dennis asked, smiling again.

Segun was taken aback. He suddenly remembered the face of the diminutive fellow he threatened a few weeks back.

“I don’t have time for this shit!” He said disgusted and walked away.

“You! Come back here!!” Sergeant Okoro bellowed. Segun retraced his step quickly. The platoon commandant was as friendly as it could get but he was greatly feared by his platoon…and loved.

“What’s the matter between you two?” He asked Segun and Dennis.

“Nothing sir. Just a minor misunderstanding.” Dennis replied. “We have a replacement already.”

Three years later…

“The tax people are here to see you sir.” His secretary called.

“Tax people?” He asked.

“Yes sir.” She replied

“What do they want? We don’t owe them anything.” He said, more to himself than to his secretary. “State or federal?” He asked.

“State.” There was a little commotion over the phone before she added. “Its Mr. Osamuyi.”

He considered the amount of work on his desk. He was friends with the state tax man who happened to be a fellow tribesman. He decided to see him.

“Send them in.” He said.

Mr. Esosa Osamuyi was an easy going fellow with an extremely loud voice and a rotund stomach which Dennis understood to be the outcome of regular intake of Gulder lager beer. They had met on numerous occasions outside the work environments and had even had drinks together on a few occasions.

“My able chairman!” His loud voiced boomed before he entered the office.

“Esosa, how are you? Long time.” Dennis said, rising up to grasp the outstretched hand for a shake.

“Yes indeed. I’ve been on leave. I just resumed yesterday and I was in the neighbourhood so I thought I’d stop by with my boys and say hello.” He said in his usual good-natured manner reserved for tax-paying citizens. He turned and saw that his companions were huddled close to the door.

“You boys should come inside and greet chairman.” He bawled impatiently.

The two men came in and greeted Dennis timidly, profusely and respectfully. Dennis waved them to take the sofa. No sooner had he done this did he recognise the taller of the two of them.

“Don’t I know you from somewhere?” He asked pointing at the taller one who had just taken a seat.

“I don’t believe we’ve met sir.” He responded respectfully.

“I thought we had. He looks like someone I know.” Dennis said off-handedly to Esosa and they both laughed. After a little small talk, Esosa rose to leave with his junior colleagues, it struck Dennis.

“Segun…your name is Segun.” He said with conviction.

“Yes sir, that’s my name.” Segun responded with a smile that revealed his surprise.

“So you have met chairman.” Esosa said, more of a statement than a question and was just as surprised.

“You did your NYSC in Lagos, right?” Dennis asked, very sure now.

“Yes…” Segun replied hesitantly, still not sure where he had met this man.

Dennis smiled and shook his head.

“What a small world.”

Based on a true story.

Never judge a man by his size, what he wears or even his status. There is a great difference between appearance and reality.

Never look down on any person except you possess the prophetic insight of Nostradamus. A slave today can be a king tomorrow and vice versa. The uncertainty of life makes it one of the biggest risks ever.

It costs nothing to be polite or nice so be polite and nice. It can etch your face in heart of a person for a life time.

Finally, its very easy to forget about the people you stepped on their toes. As easy as you forget is how easy they remember and God help you if they remember and are in a much better position to take their pound of flesh.

Malcolm O. Ifi.