While scouring documents and photographs for the past duty memoirs temporarily titled “Call to duty” I came across this piece which was written in 1991. It was published under the Campus Experience column of the Guardian about the same time.
It was a funny little piece in which I took some creative licence. I though I should share it with you.
I want to tell you a story a story about the University of Calabar. About a Campus experience – the greatest campus experience of all, both in its novelty and strangeness. Even for a University with a penchant for setting records, this one stands out unique.
The University of Calabar is well known for making history, good and bad history. Just to mention a few.
We produced the first President of NANS. We hosted the most expensive albeit must unsuccessful NUGA Games and just recently, we made a new record. We became the only university to be closed down for calling off a demonstration – not for embarking on one!
Before the last record, we had created an even more impressive one. The greatest record of them all. We celebrated a “Snakes Week”! You think am telling fiction? Just stay with me. Let me begin and let me end. But this I must tell you, what you are about to read is true, real like the pains of SAP. So tighten your belts and come with me on the flight to wonderland.
In my four years stay in the university, I have witnessed the marking of many ” Weeks” such as the “Students Union Week” , “Press Week” , Cultural Weeks, “Kparakpo or tribal weeks”, etc, etc, but never in the history of this school or any other school in the world that I know of had a “Snakes Week ” been marked or celebrated. We did it in UNICAL. Thanks to the undying resolve of successive unical administrations to leave the hostels and their environs dirty and to Great Malabites and Malabresses who never tire of making history.
It all began when the Students Union Government (SUG) made its now famous Ten Points Demand on the university authorities. Included in the 10-point demand were three “sub-demands ” closely related to the sudden appearance of snakes on campus. They are” (1) immediate repairs of dilapidated ramshackle facilities for improved sanitary conditions in our hostels (2) immediate provision of insecticides for spraying our hostels against noxious insects and symbolically (3) immediate clearing of the bushy hostel surrounding to forestall the advent of snakes.”
Prior to the making of the demands no snakes were seen on campus, but a day after the demands hit the walls, the snakes started appearing unabated. Nothing happens in unical without the press playing a key role. It quickly dubbed the four days of snakes the “Snakes Week” During the “Week” a snake attended the Editorial Board meeting of Echo Press (the largest press organization on campus) ” spitting Vernon on an otherwise respected press board” so reported witty Inyang of Malabor Press Organization (MEPO) in his gossip column.
The first “visitor” to the week was a back seven footer which was received in Hall Four amidst shouts of “malabites! malabites!! malabites!!!.” Before you could say cobra! The snake was dead, carried shoulder high and making its journey through the other hostels amidst solidarity songs. The wing in Hall Four where the snake was killed was promptly renamed “Snakes Avenue” Day two saw another black seven footer in Hall Six. Malabites! Malabites!! and it was dead – beaten to pulp. It was later taken to the Solidarity Point where it was buried in sea of saliva of venomous speeches. Day three was the turn of Hall Five. The snake visitor to hall could not get there. It was found dead in the back of the hall, on the road leading to the staff village – smashed to pulp by passing vehicles. Day Four: female hostels. Another black seven footer was found lying on the footpath that leads to the female hostels. Nobody knew how it got there but by the time Malabites got there it was dead – beaten to pulp.
So for four consecutive days our campus was invaded by long black snakes. What baffles most students till this day is why the snakes had to wait for the SUG to make its demands before making their appearance. Why make the Ten Point Demand a sine qua non for sudden invasion? Many theories have been formulated. Some believe it to be the “handiwork “of some reactionary law students who had demonstrated against the demands. The black colour of the snakes symbolises the black gowns that lawyers wear. Therefore, they concluded that the law students must have “invited ” the snakes to cause confusion and to block the smooth sail – through of the deamnds. Others have condemned this line of reasoning as “very unscientific and superstitious ” but in all, they all agreed that the marking of the “Snakes Week” was a history making event that will be unrivaled for a long time to come even in the anals of unical history.