Of Bad Faith And Foul Play


The practice was to lay strategically some shards of broken mirror-glass on the floor, reflective side up, above which the unsuspecting ladies - the few of them who were among the teaching body - would walk.

Ladies and gentlemen of the jury, let me name names and sidestep the sparing of blushes The victims, poor Misses Orisasanpe, Neuhard, and including even the revered History teacher Mrs. Ogunode, who also happened to be the VP’s wife. And I implicate the masterminding miscreants, the machinating malefactors; Snoi (Osundolire), Ogunmoyela, Oyenuga, Kola Olat (Eledan), Wole Adeyemi, Sola Adeeyo (Omo-Eyo), Ajibade, Bajulaye. The rest of them know themselves.

The modules operandi; to summon these women under the guise of requiring proximal academic assistance, such that they would step unwittingly over the inconspicuous mirror, mirror on the floor. One probably doesn’t need to employ much explication as to the end goal of this charade. Nevertheless, in principle, reflection is dependent on a light source, and there is a reason that we employ the specific euphemism to describe places ‘where the sun doesn’t shine’.

As such, when the malodors would insist hysterically afterwards, coupled with vigorous thrashing of the arms to describe amplitude, “I saw far, far, far, far! Red all through! (or black, or blue, etc. varyingly), what was certain was that they only saw as far their imaginations extended. The catch was this: in such scenarios, there are the ringleaders, and there are those who must conform to save face and social credibility. I fell into this latter group, along with the majority of the class.

So when the instigators would ask what and how far the mirror shards have revealed, God save whatever soul who dared to say that he had not seen anything, or, even worse challenged what others claimed to have seen.

In fact, so strong was the apparent conviction of the surveyors that I (and I’m almost certainly not alone in this) felt that my myopia was surely due to some character defect on my part. By playing along with the game (“Yes, it was red! Far, far, far, far!), one could keep one’s peers from discovering any such defects.

An amusing game, indeed, but let me philosophize for a moment. Jean-Paul Sartre, the French existentialist, describes ‘mauvaise foi’ (‘bad faith’) as a kind of self-deception. Which is to say, when human beings, in denial of their existential freedom, buckle to social pressure adopt values they may not necessarily agree with. Is this so dissimilar to what we did playing along with that game in those days?

There’s an Andersen folktale which many of us will be familiar with. We are told of an emperor whose vanity leads to his deep embarrassment. He is duped by a wily tailor; misled into believing that he is wearing a coat of the most exquisite fabric - so exquisite that only the most refined eyes can see them. Unwilling to admit that he lacks this rare caliber of vision, he goes along with this ruse, and parades his special garb in public.

In fact, there being no such thing as a unique fabric woven to the privilege of a few eyes, his subjects, partly out of embarrassment, and partly of sheepish belief in such absurdity, refuse to admit their solecisms of sight and that their regent is in fact naked. In the end, it only a child who speaks up in the end to the obvious: “My lord, but you have no clothes on.”

Would that there was such a candid onlooker in the GCI class of ‘68! Well, as faith would have it, have only now to look back on juvenile instances of self-deception. But we must remember, that the adult world as well is not exempt from this foible of human character. It remains interesting that in that story, the emperor, having accepted the quite embarrassing fact that he was naked, after all, proceeds with the parade all the same.

To depart to a slightly less philosophical note, a certain humorous episode is as good an example as any of this tendency of ours to deception, whether of the self or of others. In this case, it concerns not the ‘68 Set in particular but the persons of the principal Chief J.B. Ojo, a student who went by the same name (though of no relation) and the Fine Art teacher Mr Oguntonade, in whose boys’ quarters the immediate aforementioned lived.

Mr. Oguntonade, an amicable of short stature and stout constitution was known to rear chickens in his yard. One day, upon a chance inspection of his brood, he detected that his chickens were fewer than at his last census. He set about scanning the surrounding bush for predator tracks, certain that the likes of a fox or a snake was on the loose. Finally, he came across some compelling forensic evidence; feathers of the dead hens which had been neatly gathered into a pile.

Oguntonade was taken aback. What unearthly manner of beast was capable of such clinical execution and clean-up? Common sense soon prevailed, nevertheless, and suspecting - excuse the pun - foul play, Oguntonade repaired himself to the kitchen of his boys’ quarters wherein he saw, sat in the open, a pot of chicken, freshly boiled. He proceeded to report the incident to Chief Ojo.

“Sir, I must report a robbery. From right under my nose too! I have caught Ojo red-handed, he’s been poaching and eating my fowls.”

“Are you certain of it? These are serious allegations. Well, not to worry. I will see to the boy personally.”

Chief Ojo was a very deliberate man, not prone to taking hasty action. Let me borrow Machado de Assis’s description to illustrate how Chief Ojo delivered himself to where the implicating pot sat: he strolled not with the lethargic gait of a lazy man, but with a logical, calculated slowness, a complete syllogism, the premise before the consequence, the consequence before the conclusion. This was how Chief Ojo conducted himself in most matters.

“Ojo! Boy, come here! How can you explain these pieces of chicken here?”

The younger Ojo came scurrying, gulped loudly, and thought rapidly.

“Well, sir... It was the mangoes.”

“Go on.” Ojo leaned closer, the picture of attention, encouraging the spinning of the yarn that was about to be spun. Strangely reassured, the boy continued.

“It was the mangoes. I went up the tree and as I shook the branches some of the fruit fell to the ground. The unfortunate chicken, sir, was standing in the shade beneath the tree – it was rather sunny, sir, and the glare obstructed my gaze - I didn’t see it there. Unfortunately, one of the mangoes fell on the chicken’s head, striking it dead immediately.

“Oh, oh, oh. Oh, I see. What a pity” Chief Ojo put on a rather remorseful face, pushing his lower lip down over his chin. The boy nodded in agreement. “But what of the second fowl? There were two of them missing.”

“Yes, sir. The second tripped over a mango, and sustained a concussion from the knock it had when it hit the ground. Discombobulated, it struggled to its feet and staggered around in the dirt before smashing its head unwittingly against the wall. And so....”

“….And so you decided to avoid further tragedy in wastage and made a meal of the pair.”

“Yes, sir. That was exactly the case.” The boy was confident now and nodded along, quite satisfied with the success of his narrative. Chief Ojo meanwhile leapt to his feet.

“My friend, will you shut up! You must think me a fool, expecting me to swallow such tales.”

Well, aren’t we all a little bit? Foolish, that is, if enjoying an amusing story is any indicator of that.

Chief Ojo, despite his theatrics, was evidently amused by the younger Ojo’s rigmarole.

Indeed, my aim in assuming the role of the raconteur here has been to entertain, all the while smuggling in some lay philosophic commentary on falsities, groupthink, and roguish creativity. Evidently, despite all patrician tutting, there is place a yet for the mischief to carry on. When we rebuke our children and lecture them, we should remember this. Yes, there is a place yet for the mischief, if only for the sake of laughing about the callow folly of it so many years later.

Culled from Camaraderie - 1968 Set Golden Anniversary Publication,

Submitted By: 

FOLARANMI Joshua Akintoye (formerly OKE)
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