By John Otim, creative writer, novelist

Love Blooming on Dream Campus

It was there in the mating songs of the birds. It was there in the air you breathed. You felt lucky to be alive in the world. It was just the kind of night in which true love whispers. Call me! Just call my name.

               If you need me, call me

               No matter where you are

               No matter how far

On the Ahmed Barak campus, right in the middle of the Islamic North, where upon leaving the Dream Campus, he studied, lived, and taught for a while. On this campus that kind of night never failed to materialize. It was always there at the feast of St. Valentine. It was then the good folks forgot all their troubles and the Ahmed Barak appeared then like a city on heat.

The big ball of the moon will be up. So huge and so luminous you could read a book under the open sky. All day long, in between classes, the campus prepared for action. Boys and girls. There was nothing any moralist could do about it. The message was written on the wall.

                    You are a child of the universe

                    No less than the trees and the stars

                    You have a right to be here

You had to experience it to believe it. The bitter cold of the harmattan that had wiped out the mosquitoes would be gone. Replaced now by a welcome chill that gently caressed the skin and made one long for company. Rays of moonlight streaming through invisible dust that linger long after the North-East winds were gone, transformed the place into a vast fairyland. ‘Oh, oh, oh, au, au, au!’ They were the last words you heard as you were sucked in, inducted, and became a part of the show.

Dream CampusHere on the Dream Campus, it was the middle of the Spring semester. Professors were demanding. A new Nigerian student all the way from steamy Lagos. Oppressed now for the first time by the long winter freeze, fed up with work, and now quite out of his wits, because he expected spring to have brought some relief, threw up his hands and walked away. In Lagos, Nigeria, his father was a rich oil baron.        

“I swear to Allah; these professors are sadists! They like to suffer people. I no go suffer o!” The kid banged the door and was gone. Headed for the welcoming arms of the night clubs. It wasn’t true what he said about the professors. He was just a spoiled kid. The new type of the young African elite for whom work did not exist.

Work was heavy on the Dream Campus, piles of it. It was very tempting to follow the example of the Nigerian. They pushed everything aside and obeyed the call of the tender night. They lay in bed together side by side, he and Clare, thrilled by the proximity of their naked bodies. Tomorrow, why wait until tomorrow! “John, you are wasting time.” His friend had said. “If you can do it today, do it today. Because you can always do it again tomorrow.”


                    Why wait until tomorrow?

                    Cause tomorrow sometimes never comes

Outside the weather rioted. The meanness in the elements played on their mood. The tension in the room was matched by those of the elements. Every word they spoke, every move they made, was a dynamo. To calm their trembling spirits, they lay still. Spoke little. And listened to the gamut of the music of modern pop. Then came this.

                    From a distance there is harmony 

                    and it echoes through the land

                    It’s the voice of hope. It’s the voice of peace

They listened. The cadence and the power of the lyrics threw a mantle of pure gold about the room. They listened. Till the sense of something divine came upon them. The amplified voice so tender threw a mantle so dense. The good old-time religion and modern pop found a unity so complete. In the tenderness of the night, they heard a voice whisper:

All music is holy