From Primary To Tertiary, Here Is My Diary (Part 19)

From Primary To Tertiary, Here Is My Diary (Part 19)

9th March 2024, NewsOrient
Books, Arts, Culture, News
By Dapo Thomas

This time around, I didn’t go far. I was very close to them. I couldn’t hear their conversation but I could guess from their gestures that it was all about me. Their meeting didn’t last 3 to 4 minutes. “Broda” Lincoln was a man of ubiquitous itinerary. His movements were unpredictable. He came into the street from Western Avenue end and moved towards the Amosu’s house which was the last house in the street.

It was on the left side of the street. He was such a nice man that was loved by so many people in the area. In the Amosu house alone, the three gentlemen living in the house were all his friends -Baba Sunday, Broda Abayo and Baba Rántí. There was no way he would pass the house without greeting all of them or even one of them. His two best friends in the whole area were “Broda” Nojimu and “Broda” Waidi. As I said, he was close to my mother too and called her by her first name, Fausa.

I came out of hiding after establishing that he was sitting comfortably in the ” Pool House”, a Betting centre owned by his friend, Mr Kwiz (sometimes spelt “Quiz”.) The “Pool House” was one of the shops built by the Lagos Estate Development Board (LEDB) in the street when resettling the displaced people of Richard Lane and Olowogbowo in Lagos Island in 1956.

There were two rows of shops by the left and by the right sides. The Pool House was second to the last by the right coming from Western Avenue.

The first thing I asked my “Oga” was the focus of their discussion. I had my reasons. My father was never happy with my rough life. He kept receiving negative reports on me. One of his friends, Mr Boye Brown, lived in Oyerokun Street beside the Afinihs at the T-junction that takes you to Onitana Street by the right and Asopọ Street by the left, that is, if you enter through Stadium Hotel on Iyun Road.

Mr Brown’s sister, a very fat woman, operated the last LEDB shop (by the left) in Ilelogo Street. She was selling assorted drinks with the ON and OFF licence. She was one of the people I suspected was giving my father reports on me. She liked me but abhorred my rascality. I used to help her buy cartons of drinks at AKINTUNDE BROTHERS STORES on Modèle Road.

Akintunde Brothers Stores was a major distributor for the Nigerian Breweries Limited (brewers of Star Lager, etc) and Nigerian Bottling Company, makers of Coca-Cola. Anyway, on one or two occasions, some concerned friends of my father had organised ambush for me, one in the night and one in daylight.

I was forcefully carried away to my father’s house. But trust me, I would always find my way back to my great -grandmother’s house within the next 48 hours, max. In my father’s house, there were many actions. There was comfort; there was food in abundance; there was organised life that would start with ” Wa s’adura oorọ” (morning devotion) and end with “Wa ba mi gbe, Ale fere le tan…”.(night prayer); and there was beating and koboko thrashing, call it discipline.

As far as I was concerned, the attraction of opulence and decent living was incapable of suppressing my desire for street life. The flame of exuberance that was inside of me was too strong for the civility of Christianity that was dominant in the life across the road.

I never wanted to be “Ọmọ get inside”. I was wired, or let me say, I wired myself to be “ọmọ igboro”. Besides, at that age, why must I begin my life with ecumenical and evangelical routines that were naturally designed for “Nearer my GOD to thee people?” In short, I was not ready for the life of “Let’s- Go- A-Fishing.” “Ko le werk. Mo ya tun japa”.

So, when I was asking my “Oga” about the nature of his discussion with ” Broda” Lincoln, I thought “Broda” Lincoln was plotting another ambush for me. Fortunately, my Oga told me there was nothing like that. He said he only asked him if he had collected his two shillings from me because my step-mother was organising how to pay it so that my father wouldn’t hear about it when he returned from work.

Now, back to business. “Can you repeat your proposal again Oga?” “I want you to be my permanent conductor every weekend and also come and work for me whenever you are not in school. I really enjoyed the way you conducted the affairs of the bus for me this morning.

Your pay will be 10 per cent of the total earnings for the day after removing all other expenses. Your feeding for the day will be taken care off,” he stated. For the fact that I had concluded to be a conductor after my primary school, I accepted his proposal unconditionally. I was not new to this kind of business because my father was a “CHECKER” (ticket inspector) or better still, traffic officer with the old Lagos Municipal Transport Service (LMTS) and had helped so many people into the company as bus conductors.

But which father at that time would draft his 11-year-old son into a transport outfit as a bus conductor? Definitely, not my father who was one of the Big Boys in Nigeria then. He was a prominent member of the famous “Monday Club” that started informally in Lagos Island before it was relocated to my father’s house in Surulere in 1956.

That was when they gave it the name “Monday Club”. Check out his friends’ list: Chief Ernest Shonekan, Oba Bayo Adejumo, Chief Victor Odofin-Bello, Chief Ìdòwú Ladipo of Motel Bonanza, the Derby brothers, the Benjamin Brothers, Mr Salawe, Mr Olorode, Mr Àjàyí, Mr Brown, Mrs Lawanson. I decided to move on in life on my own terms and in my own way. We parted on a happy note. My Oga didn’t “remember” to give me my own share of the two shillings. That was not a big deal because I had my three shillings with me. It was enough to “flenjor” for a long time to come if I decided to spend it alone.

As my Oga was leaving, my grandma who I went to look for at Akerele Extension arrived with "Aunty mi Nike" who would now be looking after Iya Ibadan as soon as I left for Lawanson to assist my mother in taking care of her new baby. My grandmother told me to get ready for the journey to Lawanson the following day but I called her attention to the fact that I had to be in school on the following day which was a Tuesday. 

She insisted that I should be ready for the journey. I entreated Iya Ibadan 's support to be allowed to stay till weekend. My excuse was that I was involved in the 100 and 400 metres races and I was the hope of Red House. Iya Ibadan's intervention guaranteed me the necessary reprieve till the weekend. Meanwhile, the inter-house sports excuse was a dissimulation. 

The real reason was that I wanted to go and see my Oga at Yaba and inform him about the new development now that it was certain that I would be staying with my mother in Lawanson. Immediately after school on Tuesday, I asked one of my gang members to follow me to Yaba to go and see my Oga at the Yaba garage. My plan was to discuss a new proposal with him. I didn't have anything in mind but I was thinking he would come up with a new plan that would take care of this development.


By the time we were leaving school for Yaba, three shillings had become two shillings. Myself and my gang members were still in the “Week of arrogance” knowing that we had enough money to buy what to eat and enjoy ourselves. Few metres to the Àgùdà Park in Yaba, we saw a crowd gathered around a man who was doing some weird things. We joined them to see what the man was doing. It turned out that the man was a magician called “Rondorondo”.

I had been hearing about him and his magic wand. Before our very eyes, the man was conjuring assorted items like wrist watches, fine shoes, necklaces and bracelets, transistor radios, black and white TV sets, etc. At the end of the show, he wanted some of us to try our luck, assuring us that we would win any of these items. Motivated by the string of luck that had followed me since the louvre misadventure, I decided to try my luck by gambling with one shilling out of the two in my pocket.

I had the option of playing with six pence but I loved taking big risks. By the time I picked the wrapped newspaper, it contained dry lemon grass and some “fulufulu” instead of wrist watch or shoe. There were some guys in the crowd encouraging me to try again.

Thinking they were genuine sympathisers, I listened to them and played big again. It was the same thing. I was about protesting that I was scammed when some of the guys asking me to try again started raining slaps on us from different directions paving the way for “Rondorondo” to vanish from the crowd.

By the time the dust of deception was over, myself and my friend left the spot in different directions. It was a rowdy scene of “Eni ori yọ, o di ile” meaning “let’s meet at home if you survive the “Rondocaust”. That was my first time of gambling and it was a collosal gamble worth recollecting for the rest of my life. It was much later that I learned that those guys urging me to play were members of the team planted in the midst of the crowd as innocent onlookers.

Under that kind of tumultuous situation, the natural place to run to was my house. I was there in “world record” time. It was “Aunty mi Nike” that made me realise that some realignment had happened to my face when she asked me: “kilo dé tenu e wò?” Why is your mouth dislocated?

The reality of my physical condition dawned on me when my attempt to open my mouth failed woefully as if a grenade just exploded in my mouth. I left home in the morning as a fine boy with three shillings only to return as a disabled with no penny, not even a half of it. Obviously, my grandma was not as nice as Iya Ibadan at all. She made sure that she packaged me to Ramoni Street that same day.

Thank GOD, we got there very late in the night. Even at that, the following day, all the fine girls of my age living in the house were looking at me as if I was “Ojuju Calabar”. See what my grandma did to my personality. She completely subdued and humiliated my ego by exposing me to public ridicule, in Ramoni Street for that matter.

Without sounding hyperbolic, the number of people living in that house was close to 60. It was my first time of living in such a house and such an environment. It was a strange bungalow with a 15- metre corridor littered with assorted aluminum and plastic buckets, some full of water, some, empty of contents.

The rooms faced each other and the doors opened outwards that most often, there were door and head collisions as a result of simultaneous operations. I was shell-shocked when I saw that a house which by itself should be regarded as Boys’ Quarters also had Boys’ Quarters at the back with multiple humanity of diverse identities.

The backyard was like a factory. As early as 4am, people had woken up to queue to use the convenience. The inconvenience that one had to go through daily to make use of the convenience made a mockery of the appropriateness of the word “convenience”. No wonder I saw people on the queue shaking their legs like soldiers on parade ground just to ease tension generated by bowel pressure.

When about 30 people would have to use two traditional toilets provided by the landlord, you can imagine the kind of chaos that was domiciled in No. 20 Ramoni Street. I said to myself that even rough life deserved some decency and dignity.

My little knowledge of CRK and of the story of the prodigal son showed that strategic “prodiga-retreat” was better than unlimited freedom in the jungle of bestiality. I had to go back to my father’s house if I could not stay with Iya Ibadan again. As for me and No. 20, Ramoni Street, it was my “Ebenezer”. (TO BE CONTINUED).

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

~ NewsOrient