From Primary To Tertiary, Here Is My Diary – Part 20

From Primary To Tertiary, Here Is My Diary – Part 20

16th March 2024 NewsOrient
Books, Arts And Culture By Dapo Thomas

After arriving Lawanson on Tuesday, I didn’t go to school again for the rest of the week.

The relocation was so sudden that there was no time to give any official notice to the school. Obviously, the school didn’t miss me but Red House did.

I was very good in 100 and 400 metres races. I was excellent in relay and possibly, one of the best in sac/sack race. By the way, where did this come from because I have never come across it in any serious international athletics competitions?

Honestly, the school just wasted my time by assisting me to develop the wrong talent. I wonder why we keep promoting a game that has more of novelty attraction than competitive potential. I almost expended my energy on another one called “egg and spoon race”.

But I was glad when they removed my name from the game after breaking about 10 to 12 eggs during just one practice. The yanking off of my name from the game was my House’s way of saying “Ma da wa ni gbese” meaning “don’t get us into debt.” I overheard one of my House masters saying: “Ara Dapo o balẹ rara”.

Why should I calm down when I was involved in a race? Is every race, whether egg and spoon or bread and butter, not about the fastest person or who comes first?

The truth is that the egg and spoon race is an antithesis of race itself for the fact that it slows you down in the race of life. I prefer the concept of hurdle race to that of “egg and spoon” if the idea behind it was to teach you calmness in overcoming the challenges in life. In any case, the hurdle race is more illustrative of focal concentration when it comes to overcoming life’s obstacles without losing focus.

On the day of the inter-House sports, my father was around. Obviously, I was not the one who invited him. All our parents were automatically invited by the school. So, he followed my younger brother, Kunle Thomas (aka One Way) who was also in my school. Kunle was living with him across the road.

In fact, all my other siblings were living with him. I was the only “rebel” at large. Despite making up my mind to go back to my father’s house on seeing the deplorable environmental condition in my new house at Ramoni Street, I refused to go with him to his house after the inter-house sports which ended in collosal shame for me and my House. While some of my friends like Lekan Adegbite, Damọla Kuti, Taju Alabi (Alhaji Raji’s son), Toyin Ogunbiyi ( Sammy Ogunbiyi’s sister), Muyiwa Kuti, Kolawole Newton, Kolawole Aladetoun, Yinusa Lawal, Nike Alugo, Dada Gbadebo won medals for their respective Houses, Dapo Thomas and his gang didn’t win “shingba”(nothing) for their own Houses. I would confess that I lost concentration the moment I knew that my father was around.

I didn’t want to be abducted and whisked to Western Avenue. I was busy looking here and there to avert abduction of any kind. I didn’t even wait to see the end of the event. As soon as I finished the sac race which was my last event on the programme, I vanished from the school without leaving a single trace of my existence.

It was true that I said I would prefer going back to my father’s house rather than live a day in Ramoni Street when I saw the anarchy in the compound and the compounded sanitary tragedy. The anarchy in the compound was that to bathe, to poo, to cook, you must queue.

And because the compound was full of multitude, queueing started as early as 3/4am. The sanitary tragedy was that the two toilets were not far from the general kitchen. A very terrible incident happened sometime. We were on the queue as usual, around 5am, I saw two men in hood masks with eye holes walking past us, each carrying a bucket and going to the front of the toilets. They muttered some words as if giving signals to the two people in the toilets to hurry up.

In less than one minute, the two people jumped out of the toilets half naked possibly afraid of the consequence of delaying the impatient men outside. Meanwhile, at this time, I noticed that people were coming from different directions of the house with assorted potties full of faeces (some covered, some uncovered). These two men went inside the toilets, did some routine rituals and came out again with their buckets full of faeces and right there before our very eyes, those who had their potties with them started pouring the faeces into the buckets which the two now put on their heads before walking past us again. Needless to say that a very horrendous assault was done to our hygienic sanity with the whole environment polluted with offensive odour of unimaginable proportion.

What was strange was that in the midst of this pervading malodorous emission, cooking and scrambling for toilet and bathroom positions was still being intensified. Long after the two guys had gone, people started talking about “agbepo” (shit carrier). That was how I knew that’s what they were called. In Surulere, it was not like that. A sewage disposal vehicle would come and drain the soak away with a long hose whenever it was full. This simply means that modernity did not start at the same time in most of the environs in Lagos State.

However, the paradox was that the same 20 Ramoni Street which supplied the disincentive to flee to my father’s house also provided the motivation to hang on at Ramoni Street. After spending almost 30 minutes on the queue before I successfully used the toilet, I was going to our room when I started hearing someone in one of the numerous rooms yelling: ” Daddy mi e jo. Daddy mi e jo.” It was a desperate shriek, yet nobody was interceding on behalf of the poor boy. Everyone was either going about their own business or gossipping about what could be the boy’s offence.

The only man who made any effort at all came to the door side and murmured: “Baba Monsuru, iyen na ti to o.” He was telling the boy’s father to stop beating the boy. Yet, the man did not stop until he had satisfied himself. In that house, there was nothing that was happening in your room that was not known to most of the neighbours.

You didn’t need to eavesdrop as the sound proof of the building had collapsed completely, if only there was one before. Sometimes, you would be walking or going in the corridor and you would be hearing sweet music that would make you keep walking up and down the corridor endlessly .

Lack of this essential feature in the house made gossipping a delightful vocation in number 20. When eventually Monsuru was released by his father after the thorough beating, his body was lacerated with different symbols of child abuse and unerasable hieroglyphs.

What could have been a child ‘s offence that would make a father turn his son to a pictorial evidence for historical reproduction and archival documentation. Fathers consider this a disciplinary exercise but truly, it is sheer violation of a child’s dignity and his infantile humanity.

Seeing Monsuru in this state of disfigurement and imagining myself in the hands of my father should I offend him on my return, I opted for life at Ramoni Street with its environmental deficits rather than embrace the torture of pleasure . No doubt my father was a disciplinarian, but I was not ready to mortgage my freedom for puritanical tutelage. I loved my life in the
streets for it guaranteed me vocational creativity, negative or positive. That was why I disappeared before the inter-house sports ended officially.

  A month after the inter-house sports, we had our exams. There was improvement in my performance. For the first time in 5 years, I scored a little above average in three subjects namely Handwork, Handwriting and Yoruba . At least, there was evidence that I was doing something serious with my hands by passing Handwork and Handwriting.  I was surprised that I didn't do well in English despite the coaching I received from Monsuru and her sister, Fausat. In their school, they spoke only English. All the same, I was promoted to Primary six, as usual, on trial. It was when we resumed that I discovered that about four of my classmates had been offered admission into secondary school  as Form One students. 

I was not moved by their advancement nor was I envious of their short cut to High school because I was not interested in academics. I had made up my mind on what to do with my life. All I was waiting for was to finish my primary school and then move on in life via trial and error. In life, every individual enjoys the luxury of choice opulence and galaxy of options. 

If we are not limited or restrained by nature which makes this  avalanche of choices a privilege, should we then conscript our options without being allowed the freedom of trial and error? All along, I had been promoted on trial five times in  primary school, therefore as a major beneficiary of the benevolence of the UNSEEN HAND, my life is constantly and regularly "On trial".  And the first trial in my new class was the death of a role model in my house and in my life. (TO BE CONTINUED).

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

~ NewsOrient