In his first term in the new school, Iheme's resolute lifestyle already stood him out among others. He wasn't particularly interested in competing for the first position in class, he just wanted to learn as he believed he would always pass and be promoted. He was more interested in making people see life from his own angle, the ideal angle. He believed that the world would be a better place if everyone embraced goodness in the real sense of it. He didn't buy the idea of flowing with the tide; rather, he made sure he stuck out like a sore thumb amidst the crazy people around him. In class, he politely dared every teacher he found short of the level of probity he expected from them. For him, the goodness should flow down the hierarchy for the future generation to grasp well. One day, it was the turn of Mrs. Ude, the Mathematics teacher to receive her share of Iheme.
She was terribly late to class as always and couldn't finish a topic before asking the class to read up the rest of what was left unsolved. Iheme raised his hand and he was observed to speak.
“With due respect ma, we are not happy with your method of teaching. In two years we will be sitting for our Certificate Examination and if we continue this way, we are going to enter the hall ill prepared. I don't think it is in our best interest to keep cramming the texts into our brains without understanding any of it. You should teach us”.
The woman stared fixedly at him for a while.
“What is your name?” she asked.
Later that night, Iheme overheard Aunty Chi telling Uncle Ike that someone in Iheme's class had confronted Mrs. Ude and the teacher was not happy about it.
“I will talk to Iheme about it”, he replied. But he never did; not because he wasn't sure it was Iheme that confronted the teacher, he was just tired of repeating himself to Iheme.
Since he noticed his stereotyped view of life, Uncle Ike always talked to Iheme on the need to live a life based on balanced compromises. He told him that true virtue should lie in the middle of both extremes; how dangerous it was for him to have a rigid view of life from such a young age, and that he should always reconcile being good and being human.
Time flew past and Iheme grew into an activist. He influenced a lot of students and they started the campaign of bringing change to the school, such that before his class five, he had written twice to the state ministry of education on the abysmal level of dedication some of their teachers exhibited. The ministry responded once by sending emissaries to the school, but that didn't stop what Iheme was fighting. He wanted a topnotch service delivery, after all, what is worth doing, is worth doing well.
Few weeks to their West African Senior Secondary Certificate Examination, the principal announced an increase in school fees and examination fees. This was the height of wickedness, corruption and injustice, and Iheme would have none of it.
“Why should there be an unjustified hike in school fees just as the exams are approaching?” he roared while addressing his fellow crusaders. “Many parents find it hard to pay these fees; therefore, there should be reasonable explanations why they should be increased. We are freedom fighters, and we shall make it known to the principal and the whole school that we are not happy about the situation, that we need explanations; else, the decision should be revoked. We shall not suffer to enrich the principal and his cohorts”.
They started the demonstration, peacefully. They built placards and painted their grievances on them. Iheme led the group as they marched from class to class, to the staffroom and to the offices. The school was thrown into chaos. Students trooped from their classes and joined the bourgeoning crusaders. Before long, things escalated and got out of Iheme's control. Glasses were shattered, window panes were broken, and the principal's windscreen was broken. The teachers and the principal fled the staffroom and their offices for fear of being mobbed by the students. Iheme tried to control what he started peacefully but was lost in the crowd. These students were venting the frustration they had harbored for so long, thanks to him for giving them the medium.
“Who has petrol?” Iheme heard someone ask. Before he could find out whom and why, the principal's office was already ablaze.
The junior students were running home, shaken with fear by what they saw, while Iheme watched helplessly, as his good intentions turned sour before his very eyes. His legs became weak, like broom sticks under the weight of a giant. He collapsed. He was staring at the end of his secondary school education, at the end of Uncle Ike's sponsorship, at his return to the village. Then, it happened like a flash. Maybe, it was that the police chose not to sound their siren as they approached, or that he was too preoccupied in the calamity around him, Iheme was caught up in the mix once more.
Many students disappeared into the surrounding bushes and ran home. Few others who were not as lucky were apprehended by the policemen and bundled into their van. Iheme did not run, neither did he enter the van. He stood there, trying to explain to the officer what had happened. He was saying how it was not his intention, how things had got out of hand, but the policeman was impatient. He tried to force Iheme into the van but the latter stood his ground. Then, the gun went off. Iheme fell with a thud, and sprawled out on the ground. He didn't struggle it, maybe he was already weak from all he had seen that afternoon. He died before they could reach the hospital.
Many people heard what happened. They called it 'accidental discharge'. For the students, Iheme was their hero, yet for some others, he was only a victim of his own goodness. When the news got to Maazi Iheaka, he kept staring ahead of him. He didn't cry, he only shuddered and muttered to himself, “Ihemeremma, my son.”