Plaintiff: Ms. Dumblone Coker, schoolteacher
Defendant: Mrs. Theresa Anolue, headmistress at Kingston nursery and Primary Schools
Counsel for the Plaintiff: Mr. Okhakumhe
Counsel for the Defendant: Mr. Patunola
Magistrate: Honourable Igunuoda
ACT 1 SCENE 1
The black-suited, angularly-built counsel for the plaintiff approaches the witness stand. In it stands a mulatto-skinned woman in her twenties, with pretty pert features and a head crowned with a sheaf of Brazilian flaxen-coloured tresses.
Plaintiff Counsel: Miss, can you state your name and occupation for the record?
Plaintiff: Yes, my name is Dumb Blonde, and I’m a schoolteacher.
Plaintiff Counsel (startled): You said your name is?
Plaintiff: Dumb Blonde.
Plaintiff Counsel: I’m sorry, but isn’t your name Ms. Dumblone Coker?
Plaintiff: That’s what I said.
Plaintiff Counsel: And you’re from?
Plaintiff: The United States of America.
Plaintiff Counsel: That would be your maternal home country, Ms. Coker. Your father is from Ogun State, Nigeria, is that not so?
Plaintiff: Jeez! Is it by force? You people are so black and I’m white–
Plaintiff Counsel: Actually, Ms. Coker, you’re half-caste, not necessarily–
Magistrate (leans forward with an expression of impatience): Counsel, are we going to get on with the case? Or would you like the rest of us to sit back and watch you two struggle to establish the actual identification and genealogy of the plaintiff?
Sniggers break out in the courtroom. A stern look from the judge silences them.
Plaintiff Counsel: I’m sorry, Your Honour. So, Ms. Coker–
Plaintiff: Dumb Blonde.
Plaintiff Counsel: I beg your pardon?
Plaintiff: My name is Dumb Blonde
Plaintiff Counsel: Very well, Dumblone. Would you mind telling this honourable court why you’re here today?
Plaintiff: Of course. (She points at the defendant table) That woman–
Magistrate: Could you just say her name and refrain from pointing at anyone in the court unless asked to do so.
Plaintiff (puts down her hand): That woman–
Magistrate: Her name, Ms. Coker.
Plaintiff (hesitates): Mrs. Headmistress of my school–
Plaintiff Counsel: Mrs. Anolue, the headmistress of your school?
Plaintiff: That’s what I said. She fired me for doing my job.
Plaintiff Counsel: And what job is that?
Plaintiff: For teaching my students –
Plaintiff Counsel: Pupils.
Plaintiff Counsel: For teaching your pupils.
Plaintiff: That’s what I said – for teaching my students in Primary 3 simple geography.
Plaintiff Counsel: And what was it you taught them?
Plaintiff: That the sun is closer to Lagos than Abuja.
A startled gasp rips through the courtroom, and condenses into a buzz of shocked murmurs and derisive laughter.
Bailiff (thumps on his desk): Order! Order!
Plaintiff Counsel: Ms. Coker –
Plaintiff: Dumb Blonde.
Plaintiff Counsel: Dumblone, could you explain to this honourable court the basis for that teaching?
Plaintiff: Well, it’s simple, really. I mean, from anywhere in Lagos, you can just look up and see the sun. But can you see Abuja from here? No.
Another bout of laughter breaks out in the court. Dumblone preens a little under what she presumes is the court’s approval of her testimony.
Bailiff: Order! Order!
Plaintiff Counsel: So, Ms. Co – Dumblone, after you taught your pupils this, what happened?
Plaintiff: Well, one of my students, Chidalu Mba, a bratty little know-it-all –
Defendant Counsel (jerks up in his seat): Objection!
Plaintiff (indignantly): It is true! The boy had the nerve, the other day, to tell me I got a nursery rhyme wrong.
Magistrate: What nursery rhyme?
Plaintiff Counsel: Your Honour, let us not –
Magistrate: In a minute, counsel. Ms. Coker, what nursery rhyme?
Plaintiff: The one about Humpme-Dumpme.
The responsive laughter is instantaneous and loud; even the magistrate battles to maintain a straight face. The bailiff stifles his laughter as he brings order to the court yet again.
Plaintiff Counsel: You mean, Humpty-Dumpty
Plaintiff: That’s what I said. Anyway, that boy – that very annoying little boy – went and told his parents that I lied. Can you believe it? That I, Dumb Blonde, teacher of a whole Primary 3 class did not know what I was saying. His parents reported me to that – (she starts to point, catches the look on the magistrate’s face, and drops her hand) – To Mrs. Headmistress, who queried me, and then fired me.
Plaintiff Counsel: What happened afterwards?
Plaintiff: I raked for the woman.
Magistrate (arches his brows): You raked?
Plaintiff: Yes, I…you know… (She gestures with her hands) …I raked for her.
Plaintiff Counsel: You mean you were angry and you protested.
Plaintiff: That’s what I said. I was angry and I protested.
Plaintiff Counsel: Why did you protest? What did you want from Mrs. Anolue?
Plaintiff: I wanted to be given a second chance.
Plaintiff Counsel: A second chance which the headmistress failed to give you despite your protestations, correct?
Plaintiff Counsel: A second chance which a professional such as you deserve, correct?
Plaintiff Counsel: Tell me, Ms. Co – Dumblone, how long have you worked in Kingston Nursery and Primary Schools?
Plaintiff: Four years.
Plaintiff Counsel: And in those four years, have you had anyone lay a complaint about your performance as a teacher?
Plaintiff Counsel: No?
Plaintiff Counsel: Not even a small report that you perhaps came late to school or missed a class?
Plaintiff: Absolutely not.
Plaintiff Counsel: So aside from this one time, you’ve never had any problems with the school administration?
Plaintiff: Not at all.
Plaintiff Counsel: So, really, your dismissal from your employment was premature, right?
Defendant Counsel (leaps to his feet): Objection! Your Honour, that was a presumptuous statement calculated by my learned colleague to mislead the court.
Plaintiff Counsel: I’ll rephrase. Dumblone, in your opinion, was your dismissal an unfair and premature act carried out by Mrs. Anolue?
Plaintiff Counsel: That will be all. (He turns away from the witness stand and starts back for his seat) Your witness.
The equally well-suited counsel for the defendant approaches; his pudgy hands rest lightly on his slightly-protuberant tummy.
Defendant Counsel: Ms. Coker –
Plaintiff: My name is Dumb Blonde.
Defendant Counsel: I’ll stick to calling you Ms. Coker, if it’s all the same to you. Ms. Coker, you said you’ve worked at Kingston Nursery and Primary Schools for about four years. In that time, have you worked using the recommended syllabus?
Defendant Counsel: You’ve never once deviated from it?
Defendant Counsel: And you’ve always being an exemplary teacher, you said…
Plaintiff: I have.
Defendant Counsel: Teaching your pupils the correct thing at all times?
Defendant Counsel: Like, for instance, the correct spelling and pronunciation of the main character in the nursery rhyme, Humpty Dumpty…
Plaintiff: Hey, that – I –
Defendant Counsel: And the accurate geographies of the sun, Lagos State and the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja…
Plaintiff: That was – I was…er –
Defendant Counsel: Ms. Coker, do you consider yourself so accomplished in your job to be above reproach from a mere pupil from your class?
Plaintiff Counsel (gets to his feet): Objection! Your Honour, he’s baiting the witness!
Magistrate: I’ll allow it. Answer the question, Ms. Coker.
Plaintiff (with a seething expression): That boy is just a Primary 3 boy. He doesn’t know anything.
Defendant Counsel: And you, of course, do?
Plaintiff (furiously): Yes! I’m Dumb Blonde, teacher of a Primary 3 class.
Defendant Counsel (smirking): Indeed. You are…dumb blonde teacher of a Primary 3 class.
Plaintiff: Yes, I am.
Defendant Counsel: But you’re no longer a teacher, are you?
Plaintiff: That can change if Mrs. Headmistress there will stop being jealous and give me back my job.
Defendant Counsel: So she fired you because she was jealous of you?
Defendant Counsel: Why, do you think?
Plaintiff: Look at me. (She waves a hand of acknowledgment before her body) Look at her. I’m pretty and young. She’s not. Ugly, old women are always jealous of young, beautiful women everywhere.
Defendant Counsel: Mrs. Anolue is hardly old. She’s in her forties.
Plaintiff: Her forties? (She scoffs) That’s like…so old.
Defendant Counsel: Ms. Coker, did you sign a contract when you were employed three years ago?
Defendant Counsel (brandishes document): Your Honour, this is Exhibit 1B, a copy of the contract Ms. Dumblone Coker signed upon receipt of employment at Kingston Nursery and Primary Schools. (He hands the witness a copy of the document) Ms. Coker, could you read that sentence right there – (he points at a paragraph on the page) – to the hearing of the court please?
Plaintiff: Dismissal from the teaching job can be exacted by the administration when the employee exhibits grievous misconduct like repeatedly teaching outside the syllabus and passing on incorrect information to the pupils. (She looks up) I didn’t do any of these!
Defendant Counsel: You did not willfully pass along incorrect information to your pupils?
Plaintiff: No, I didn’t.
Defendant Counsel: Tell me, Ms. Coker, why again do you believe the sun is closer to Lagos than Abuja?
Plaintiff Counsel: Objection! Asked and answered!
Defendant Counsel: I’m simply trying to establish the plausibility of my client’s right to fire this witness. Ms. Coker says she did not flout the clause for dismissal; I want it emphasized that she did.
Three seconds of startled silence elapses and the magistrate turns to the witness.
Magistrate: Ms. Coker, you are not allowed to object.
Plaintiff: Judge, I have to oh! This man is accusing me of what I didn’t do –
Magistrate: Again, Ms. Coker, it is not your duty to make any objections.
Plaintiff (muttering): Nawa for you people sef…
Magistrate (turns away from her): And counselor, your objection is overruled. Answer the question, Ms. Coker.
Plaintiff (slightly befuddled): Which question?
Defendant Counsel: Why do you believe the sun is closer to Lagos than Abuja?
Plaintiff: Are you kidding me with that question? All you have to do is look up, and the sun is right there. But you can’t see Abuja from Lagos, can you?
Defendant Counsel: No, Ms. Coker, I guess I can’t. That will be all, Your honour.
Magistrate: We’ll adjourn for a short recess and resume by 12pm. (And he bangs his gavel).
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