From Primary To Tertiary, Here Is My Diary (Part 18)

From Primary To Tertiary, Here Is My Diary (Part 18)

March 2, 2024 NewsOrient
Books, Arts & Culture
By Dapo Thomas

The driver came back two minutes later to know if I was ready for business. I said yes, I was ready. He took me to his bus and told me to start calling passengers into the bus. By this time, other conductors had started arriving looking for work. I thought he was going to replace me but he didn’t even contemplate it. Five minutes after calling passengers, no single soul entered the bus. My oga was furious because of the way I was calling passengers to the bus. It was very unprofessional and somehow “butterish”. He didn’t want to roil me with an uncontrolled outburst. He merely advised me to upgrade my voice to garage standard. Instead of upbraiding me for my amateurish display, he joined me in calling for passengers. While I spent close to one minute shouting “À-gù-dà wo-le”, my Oga shouted “Àgùdà wole” ten times in one minute. Meanwhile, I was dragging my own “Àgùdà” as a mark of respect for the commuters so that it wouldn’t conflict with the word “Jaguda” and passengers would not accuse me of calling them “jaguda”.

But the driver didn’t worry himself with the rhythmic effect nor did the passengers themselves care about being called “jaguda”. It was on that day I discovered that in the garage, expediency is the keyword not fastidiousness. In less than 7 to 10 minutes, the bus was full and we took off.

We were approaching Ojuelegba when he instructed me to start collecting money from the passengers. Even some of the passengers were smiling at the way I was collecting money. Between Yaba and Barracks, they called me several derogatory names. One called me “Osanyin” (the name of a local deity) because I used thin voice to ask them to pay. One called me “Apprentice conductor”. Another one used a Yoruba phrase for me: “Ogbologbo ti ko ti gbo” meaning “An unripe hoodlum.”

They all mocked me with conspiratorial pleasure . For the period of their collective initiation of a new “garagean”, I didn’t say anything. I just went mute. Some of them alighted at Ojuelegba while new commuters rushed to fill their spaces. They mocked me beyond reparation. As usual, omo’ta o gbọdọ sunkun. I refused to cry.

By 7am, we were at Aguda. After absorbing the barrage of commuters’ cheekiness from Yaba to Ojuelegba, so many things went through my mind. Before we got to Àgùdà,, I decided to show them my true colour by changing my voice and my style. What jolted me to action was the remark made by one of my gang members who had done it before. While talking about his experience as a conductor sometime back, he said: “Wo ore mi, kò sì training school fún ọmọ’ta, iwo lo ma jara e gba ni garage”. In simple language, there is no training school for hoodlums, your success as a garage boy depends on how smart you are. Immediately, we got to Àgùdà, I changed my voice from suprano to bass. My voice was so deep that my Oga himself didn’t know that I was the one talking. He thought it was another person that had pushed me away.

He came down to confirm. When he saw me, he didn’t know what to say. I saw the shock on his face and the fear all over him. Not the fear of physical assault but that of “my sudden transmutation”. I knew that when he came down to see who was the “new conductor”, and he saw me, he wanted to ask questions but there was no time for profile download. We would be doing that at Yaba.

 He was astonished again to discover that I called six bus-stops in quick succession. This time around, he didn't have to tell me when to collect money from passengers. I conducted the trip with professional  clinicality. 

To say that my Oga was dazed and awed was an understatement. He was filled with stupor and puzzlement. He couldn't wait for us to get to Yaba so that he could get to know me properly. But when we got to Yaba, we couldn't talk again because it was still rush hour. Only an irresponsible driver wastes rush hour opportunities in transport business.

  We moved again to Àgùdà. I had collected money from those going to Ojuelegba. As usual, new passengers entered. That was where the problem started from. I couldn't concentrate again. I told my Oga to collect the money with me, he said "mu da ni na". 

Hmmmm, hold on to it under this unfolding scenario? No Wáhala. I held on to it as instructed. On getting to Barracks, I opened the door for the passengers and myself as I sprinted through Ajoke Dosunmu street to Olorogun street and disappeared to my house.  As I was sprinting, I was calling the driver "Alakoba". 

At Ojuelegba, one of the passengers that entered was our family friend. Brother Lincoln was like a relation. He used to come to our house every morning. He was a jama-jama artisan in my neighborhood. He was close to both my father and my mother. 

He was going to drop after Barracks bus-stop and that next bus-stop was right in front of my father's house. Our house is right on Western Avenue.  He saw me as he was about to enter the bus at Ojuelegba but pretended as if he didn't see me. He was doing "Bad Man" for me forgetting that "emi gangan Actor". He thought I didn't see him. He was hiding his face not knowing that I knew his plan. He would get to the front of my house and dragged me down from the bus. Mo ya japa I was not ready to leave Iya Ibadan's house. 

Besides, if my father should get hold of me while doing conductor, my next conductor's job might be inside the Cemetery. He didn't like anything that would bring his name into disrepute. All my mates were in school, I was busy doing "Jaguda Wọlé".

  Confident that the two shillings plus that my Oga "refused" to take would be able to buy whatever number of louvers that I broke, I walked to the house majestically only to find different individuals in  front of the house. Some of them mobbed me,  jubilating that I finally surfaced. Iya Ibadan  was angrily excited. I was told they had gone to the Police Station to report a case of a missing child. The Police told them to come back if I didn't return after 24 hours. Fortunately, 

I came back home several hours before 24 hours. Few minutes after my return, Alhaji Raji came to my house to warn me never to do that again. He then apologized to my great- grandmother for the trouble I had caused her. Meanwhile, nobody was talking about the broken louvres again. They were more concerned and excited about my return. I didn't plan it that way, but the UNSEEN HAND had placed priority on life and turned material damage to incorporeal concern.

  It was almost 10am. Could I still go to school? I didn't love school  that much but I loved the flurry of pre-inter-house sports activities. With the two shillings from my danfo adventure, I felt like going to school on a spending spree with my gang. I was sure they would be worried about my absence just as I was eager to download my experience for them.

 My final decision was to go to school. But before then, Iya Ibadan suggested that I should go and apologize to Alhaji Raji for the inconvenience I caused him and his family. On getting to his house, his three wives, nice women and peaceful wives, descended on me. 

If admonitions could be packed into a sac, I would go back to my house with about five sacs just within the 15 minutes I spent prostrating for their husband in their house. All of a sudden, my mind just went to the window. I saw a man working on it. I felt like acting like a responsible boy by offering to pay for the repair with my valuable two shillings until I remembered that I was going to school to flenjor with my gang. 

Besides, I thought it was unnecessary to stir the hornets' nest when the status quo was in my favour. Nobody knew about the money. Nobody asked me to bring any money. So, what was the need for flexing?  I was later released by Alhaji Raji after spending about 20 minutes lying on the floor listening to early morning "waasi" (sermon).

  I was in school before 12 noon. My gang members had been worried about me. I was astonished when one of them asked me: "Where did you now sleep Dapo?" I shouldn't be surprised anyway, because I had so many classmates living on my street and also in my area. 

I gave them the details from the beginning of the film to the interlude and to the end. One of us, the one who had done this kind of business before, was so excited that finally, he had an associate in transport unionism. About three or four of us in a 6- member gang could not wait to finish our primary school education and join the Yaba Garage Union. Possibly, if we had followed our childhood ambition with relentless passion, we would have risen beyond the Oluomo title to become "Olu-baba" of Nigeria. See what education has done to me. 

Nobody  in Yaba Garage today even remembers there was once a Dapo Thomas who had a very brief stint as a conductor. I have completely become an alien in a land I should be reckoned with as Baale. Until I wrote this diary, the narrative of my 1971 adventure as a young tout was not even captured as a flash by History signposting the deficit of historicity. 

In essence, had I died in the course of that episode,  the same History would have treated me as an inconsequential individual of the society with mere biological value but  bereft of social significance. History would have treated me as one of the "vast impersonal forces" rather than conceive me as an individual with his own independent reality. Let's leave History and its controversies alone.

     With the two shillings well protected in my pocket, my friends and I gallivanted  and navigated the whole of Surulere painting the town red eating anything edible, drinking anything drinkable. We moved from Iya Laisi of Ilelogo to iya Musiliu of Iletunmi to eat  rice. Then from Amala Sanya to Amala Shitta.  From Samco and ice cream to Big Dip and  Fan ice. Name it. It was indeed an epicurean outing. Only the group leader took alcoholic drink. As the deputy group leader and the one paying the bills, I was qualified to take alcohol but I was afraid and I was not psychologically ready for its nuisance effect. In a nutshell, we had a joyous outing full of memorable imprints. Thereafter, we all staggered  with jumped-up arrogance to our different homes. On getting home, I dropped my bag in the sitting room and was going to the toilet  to do a major work after our glutinous consumptions when iya Ibadan told me that a man had been waiting for me in front of the house for sometime . The curiosity to unravel the identity of my visitor was more compelling than the pressure of nature. So, I thought until I opened the front door and saw my visitor dozing on the bench in front of the house. Without betraying any feelings, I walked back to the back door where I just came from and from there, "mo ya japa"  without looking back until I crossed the Western Avenue road to my grandmother's house at Akerele Extension close to Rabiatu Thompson Crescent aka Shitta. This time, I was not sprinting having seen that my visitor was enjoying his power nap, I decided to do  power-walk. As I power- walked on the road, I was just asking myself how did he get to know my house. I wasn't happy that I left my great-grandmother with another burden that was not meant for a woman of her age.  So, what would I tell "Iya Olojojo" that I had come to do? Disappointedly, I didn't meet her at home. I only saw a man in the compound wearing a jalamia and dorning a white cap on his head. I didn't know he was my grandma's landlord but with his dressing and slippers, you would know he was a big man. I approached him all the same to know from him if he had any idea as to my grandmother's whereabouts. 

    "I think she has gone out. What are you to her", he asked me startlingly. 

I replied: “I am her grandson Sir”. He offered me a seat beside him. “Who is your own mother”, he asked. “Fausa ,” was my immediate response. “Ah, omo Fausa ni e? Wonderful. When you get back home, tell your mother that you saw Alhaji Nosiru Durosinmi -Etti, the husband of Funlola Haastrup. I am married to your mum’s good friend. My wife was living close to your mum’s place at Ayeleto Street before I married her, ” he revealed with flourishing honesty.

He was such a nice man sitting down with a small boy and downloading his profile for me with incontrovertible humility. I was about asking him if I could use his toilet when he put his hand in his pocket and handed me a minted five shillings. What a life!! The fear of being forced to settle a circumstantial indebtedness sent my “major pressure” away when I was running away from my visitor in my great-grandmother’s house.

This time again, unexpected prosperity sent my “major pressure” away when I was leaving my grandmother’s place. Five shillings was a lot of money then. I went to my grandmother’s place to go and hide or at best, ask her to take me to my mom’s house in Lawanson -Itire and I came back with five shillings. Who says there are no angels.

  I still met my visitor on the bench but this time,  he was fully awake. He didn't go because they told him I was around. I gave him the five shillings to give me three shillings charge. He collected it but with some reluctance. He said he had a business deal for me. I was listening to his deal when I saw Brother Lincoln coming from afar. Ọmọ, mo tun japa ni o. (TO BE CONTINUED)

Dr Dapo Thomas’ From Primary To Tertiary, Here Is My Diary Is Serialized Here Weekly Every Saturday

~ NewsOrient