As early as seven the next morning Kenneth, Marcus and Mathias headed for City College of Technology, just on the city’s fringes- a destination of about twenty minutes drive from the Gully. Each of them wore a crisp, starched shirt which was daintily tucked into trousers on a pair of leather shoes that had been painstakingly polished until they gleamed.
In high spirits, they alighted from the bus and crossed over to the junction that led to the institution and then strode into a path that was heavily thronged with smartly-dressed young people holding large parcels like a priced asset and moving hurriedly like combatants with sparks of anxiety in their eyes. The three friends exchanged uneasy glances as they nervously joined the multitudes treading the path. As they walked on, it quickly dawned on them that they, and the multitude at large, were moving exactly in the same direction – towards the main entrance of the City College of Technology- and the realization swiftly bogged down their spirits.
They stepped into the college premises and they became even more bewildered by the sight that greeted them: there was a sea of people milling about in assorted dresses. It was as if the whole city had gathered for a carnival, and with more people flooding in, every second. Every where they turned, there were bands of youths humming and squawking like hungry birds, and the flock extended from the main gate far distantly to a row of acacia trees that stood near the middle of the compound, with even more several heads sheltering under its shade. Stunned by all the flurries of activities, the three friends briefly halted their steps. Kenneth opened his mouth but no words came. Mathias muttered: ’’Incredible!’’ ‘’They couldn’t all have come for the test, some of them might be students here,’’ Marcus said, on top of his voice, amidst the tumult in the air. ‘’I would have thought the same except for the fact that the school is on its semester break,’’ Kenneth said to him, also raising his voice by a notch. ‘’Alfred was right,’’ Marcus said, making a mental note of what the slight youth had said about the test when they were discussing last night. Mathias shook his massive head from self-pity even as he began to sweat despite the fact that the day was still fresh. With frustration on their faces, they pushed their ways towards a decaying wall of a block of classroom with a rusty corrugated roof which was on the fringe of the compound and stood by it. From there, they despondently watched even more candidates trooping in, in torrents and moving about in quick spurts as though they had urgently come to uncover a treasure hidden in the school’s premises. ‘’This is sickening,’’ said Marcus, wiping off tiny sweat beads that were forming on his forehead while Kenneth was ruefully biting his lips.
Mathias stood reflecting on all the job-misses he had had in the city more than one-and –a-half years ago when he graduated, and now, had a strong urge to grab this particular job. ‘’We‘ve had an eyeful, haven’t we?!’’ he suddenly howled at the other two. ‘’We’re standing too far away from the centre, we must press our ways through to the centre of this compound, that’s where we can gather information. We can’t remain transfixed here all day, we’ve got to move now,’’ he said, wiping off the sweats on his face and walking away from the wall of the classroom block, he resolutely made for the crowded heart of the compound, around which were a circle of trees.
Kenneth and Marcus took a look in the direction which Mathias had pointed to and then exchanged glances, the crowd that separated their present station and the circle of trees was intimidating. Nonetheless, they reluctantly followed Mathias who charged forward using his brawn and might to press a way for the other two through. Soon they made an inroad to one of the big acacia trees that stood in the middle of the compound where dozens of young men stood talking excitedly and a string of young ladies in creased clothes sat on writing pads, peeping and peering with their braided heads partly covered in dusts and their facial makeup, smeared. A couple of them were fanning themselves vehemently with papers and notebooks. The three friends briefly eyed the girls and then settled in the silhouette of the tree in a sort of triad with several eyes briefly turning to look at them. ‘’You think we have a chance at all,’’ Marcus whispered to Kenneth exhaling a deep breath, but the latter gave no response and merely kept watching the flurries of activities with disbelief. Marcus too kept starring at the crowds all around him with his armpit already a well of sweat, and now, he unbuttoned his shirt from the top all the way down to his chest and then began to fan himself frantically with a notebook- the action elicited a soft giggle from some of the girls who eyed him strangely.