From Primary To Tertiary, Here Is My Diary (Part 22)

From Primary To Tertiary, Here Is My Diary (Part 22)

30th March 2024 NewsOrient
Books, Arts, Culture, News
By Dapo Thomas

I was playing ‘set’ at Paddington when my friend, Ibikunle Euba came to inform me that they were crying in my house.

“Set” is a game of football that you play in turns or batches. A ‘set’ is over as soon as one of the two teams has scored the required number of goals ahead of the other.

I immediately understood the implication of what Ibikunle said having experienced it once in 1971 when my maternal grandpa, Amusa Aroyewun died.

His residence at Alapafuja behind Super Cinema, was besieged by wailers of all shades. It was a very sad occurrence because the man was just 60 years old when he died and Iya Okun, his mother, was still alive.

My mind raced to Iya Ibadan instantly because as at that time, she was struggling with bouts of malaria. I started crying from the field without getting the details of the scene.

Ibikunle who gave me the information was coming to play “set” and only passed by my house. He didn’t bother to know why they were crying.

On getting home, I joined them in the sitting room by adding my own crying tempo to the extant room temperature.

People were coming in to mourn with us and people were going out after their condolence visits. It was a full house of indigenes and aliens, home owners and tenants, familiar faces and strange entities.

Suddenly, we heard a baby’s blubber from Iya Ibadan’s room. My mother beckoned to me to bring my 7 month -old baby sister, Kafila who was sleeping in Iya Ibadan’s room.

As I entered the room, I saw iya Ibadan beside her. I was surprised but I was not shocked. I was not shocked in that I didn’t really know what they meant when they said someone had died.

Yes, my maternal grandpa had died in 1971, there was nothing about his death that explained where dead people go.

Rather, his death complicated things for me. After his burial, my mother was mandated by her elder and younger brothers namely, Shamusideen, Moshood, Fábio and Alan Aroyewun to come and stay with Iya Okun, my maternal great- grandmother.

I moved in with her. This was after we had left Ramoni Street, Lawanson.

One day, Iya Okun asked my mother about the whereabouts of her son as nobody told her about her son’s death yet the burial ceremony was a society affair with Prince Adekunle, one of the big musicians in the 1970s at the bandstand.

The whole of Nigeria heard about grandpa’ Amusa’s death but the mother in whose domain the elaborate party took place. My mother replied: ” Won ti lo sí ilu Oyinbo.” So, I held on to that. My understanding since then was that any person that died had gone to ” ilu Oyinbo.”

Therefore, I told iya Ibadan that they said she had gone to “ilu oyinbo “. She didn’t understand my question. She only told me to carry my sister to my mother which I did.

This time I became so confused that I didn’t know what was going on and I didn’t know who to ask. I just kept wondering why people were crying because someone had gone to “ilu oyinbo”.

My confusion was premised on my ignorance of the kind of people living in “ilu Oyinbo”.

Meanwhile, I had stopped crying because my idol, iya Ibadan was still with me in the same house. She had not gone to “ilu oyinbo”.

There was a mild drama that happened in the house. Baba Mark (Mr Owhin), my mother’s previous husband walked into the room shouting: “O gbo Fausa, Sehinde ti ku?”

I heard that clearly. What I needed next was to know what that meant. I knew I couldn’t ask anybody in the room. I decided to go to the field to know if there was anybody who knew what it meant when they said someone had died.

One of the guys on the field broke it down for me: “Eni to ba ti ku, o ni ri mo” meaning “once someone is dead, you can never see him again.”

When I was talking about “ilu oyinbo “, they made me realize it was a deception. I rushed back to the house to go and start my crying afresh and properly too.

I still couldn’t understand why I wouldn’t see “Broda mi Sehinde” again. I wept uncontrollably at the thought of it that I wouldn’t see that nice guy again. I rolled on the floor several times because he promised to be visiting me and iya Ibadan regularly. No wonder iya Ibadan was crying. She didn’t know that I saw her crying. She so much loved him because he was too good, respectful, brilliant and adorable.

He was the exact opposite of me and Late-tua. I felt so empty and sad when I kept processing the reality of his death.

How come that the one that was breathing a new life into me stopped breathing unexpectedly? How come that the first death in the neighborhood since the Lagos Executive Development Board (LEDB) relocated those now living in Surulere from Lagos Island in 1956, was from my house? How come a 16 year-old was the choice of death and not an 88 year-old woman who preferred to die in his stead?

We were all devastated but Iya Ibadan was more distraught. Like any other child of his age, he made promises to his mother. “I will buy you this. I will buy you that”. He was in a hurry to make his mother happy because the suffering was too much for her to bear but he ended up not fulfilling any of those promises.

Not because he did not want to but because death stopped him from doing so. What kind of death was this that broke a covenant between a child and his mother by terminating permanently the life of an innocent child at a time he was studying towards the fulfillment of his pledge?

At that time, what was the meaning of life to a mother whose only hope of a meaningful life was the child that was doing well at a time the other two were straying wild.

Seeing how shattered my mother was, I resolved to be very serious with my studies so that my mother wouldn’t wait for long before she would start reaping the reward of her labour on all her children.

I made a solemn commitment to take care of our mother as pledged by my brother. The first hurdle to jump was to pass my first school leaving certificate coming up few months after his death.

Once I was able to pass that examination, the conductor’s job I was looking for at Benson and Oshinowo Transport Services would definitely be mine.

I started working towards the realization of this resolution by reducing considerably activities capable of distracting me from this new commitment.

I got closer to Mr Olaoye, showed a new zeal in academic activities, related more with the best guys in my class, shunned gangsterism tendencies and developed a rare capacity for tough mental exercises.

This new inclination was simply to confront the immediate challenge threatening the survival of the family with the death of its shinning star.

Surprisingly, this sweeping psychological revolution to redirect the destiny of a whole family was also supported by Late-tua.

He already gained admission into St. Timothy’s College, Onikẹ, Yaba and relocated to Ilelogo Street from Ajegunle where he was living together with my late brother.

To reinforce his seriousness, he chose Lola Ogunbiyi, a big area sister living at Ìbùkún Street as his school mother. Aunty Lola was a form three student in the same school and a sister to my classmate and my football friend, Toyin and Sammy Ogunbiyi.

To avoid a rekindling of any negative influence and a re-enactment of old habits between us, I had to move to Alapafuja, Shitta to stay with my mother and Iya Okun, my maternal great-grandmother.

My relocation to Shitta almost ended on a tragic note for me the same year that my brother died. At exactly 5am on April 2, 1972, the military regime of Gen Yakubu Gowon decided to switch to right hand drive to bring an end to the left hand drive introduced by the British Colonials in the late 19th century.

The government argued that since Ghana and French colonies like Dahomey, Cameroon, Niger, Chad were doing right hand drive, it was in our own interest to switch to right hand to halt the confusion faced by our drivers in the delivery of goods to some of these countries.

Though much enlightenment was done before the change, it took a lot of time before people could really get it right.

The spate of accidents at the initial stage of the introduction of the new road policy was somehow high. There were so many casualties and I was almost added to the stats when a Vespa bike knocked me down while trying to cross the Akerele road in front of the Abebe mosque.

My route had always been taking Abebe mosque through Ogunmola Close, to Suenu Street, Sanya or Olumegbon street before negotiating the Western Avenue road through Iyun road where my school is located.

Crossing the Western Avenue road at this time was a major challenge as many people, mostly students from my school, Salvation Army Primary school, Abimbola Shodipe Memorial Primary school (located inside my school premises) and Bishop Howells Memorial Primary school, Hogan Bassey Crescent were knocked down on that road while trying to cross it.

I thought I was an expert on road crossing until the Vespa machine showed me that road crossing in Nigeria is about grace not about skill. That was my first road crossing accident in life.

As part of my reformative packaging, I told some of my Christian friends in the neighborhood to always call me whenever the Apostolic Faith Church bus came for them on Sunday evening for Sunday school or whatever name it was called.

We all loved to go to that church because, for us, it was a pleasure ride from Surulere to Moloney street in Ebute Metta.

Though we enjoyed the teaching and the ambience of the church, what we enjoyed most were the refreshments of biscuits, sweets and drinks.

We turned evangelical itinerary to recreational helluva. The practice of providing buses to pick us from our different locations and also providing light refreshments for us while being taught the Word of GOD was an exact replica of the European Missionary strategy of the “Bible and the Plough”.

I also intensified my attendance at “Ile Kewu” (Quranic school) Hogan Bassey. But as a result of lack of edible incentives, I tactically withdrew. I tried to motivate myself but it was not working.

Though they were giving us “mosa”, the sugar was more than the “mosa”. Imagine being given 3 pieces of “mosa” and 150 grams of granulated sugar. While I conceed that sugar was one of the cheapest commodities in those days, it was inappropriate to exhibit an act of magnanimity via the indulgence of irrational superfluity.

Most of us protested this habit by not collecting the sugar when we knew that there was a penalty for it – forceful consumption of “agbo Jedi” by our parents.

I was surprised that despite all my determination and spiritual activities, I still ended up failing my first school leaving certificate.

That was a serious setback for me in life. While most of my friends in school and in the neighborhood passed the exam, I flunked it.

All my teachers, including Mr Cane and Mr Iroko tried for me but it was too late. My foundation was too weak for the excess loads of the last minute that were piled on it. My brain was unable to cope with the traffic of literary materials being offloaded into it. I tried for myself but my effort came rather late for it to have any impact on the outcome of the examination.

I was ashamed of my performance that I refused to go and collect the result. It was a painful development because I was desperate to pass it considering the assurance given to me by the people at Benson Transport Service and Oshinowo Transport Service that I should come after the examination.

Notwithstanding, I still went there but I was disgraced. One of them insultingly admonished mẹ to go and do something to my head because if I couldn’t pass ordinary primary school exam, how can I progress in life.

I was not in the mood for brickbats, otherwise I would have insulted him physically. He was a very ugly man. He could pass for the real character in the Humpty Dumpty story in my English book in primary school.

I wish he could see the middle of my head to see the extent of damage that Alfa Ligali had done to my head with scalpel and other ritual infrastructure. Nobody would tell me that “Mi o gbori duro.” I surrendered my head to the whimsical experimentation of an Alfa and his lazy assistant that was always following him about to tamper with people’s heads and gambling with their destinies.

The likes of Alfa Ligali and his lazy right hand man were merely exploiting the ignorance and meekness of people like Iya Ibadan by pretending to be destiny enhancers when indeed they were destiny destroyers.

What man would walk the streets of Lagos claiming to be helping children of other people when his own children were in dire need of divine intervention.

The Alfa had forgotten that we lived in the same neighborhood and we knew what was going on in every home.

One of Alfa Ligali ‘s children in Yaba Model Primary school repeated primary four two times while Dapo Thomas never repeated a single class.

What benefit would a physician derive from healing his neighbour of an ailment while he goes about with a similar ailment.

After intense reflections of my predicament, I decided to look for money to stabilize myself and give immediate succour to my mother so that she could stop thinking about my dead brother.

My brother was already dead. Late-tua was already in school. I had already failed. What we needed was to move on. Infinite lamentation is not the best prescription for eternal separation.

I was the only one in the position to make money for her immediate needs. Here was the list of jobs I thought I could do without being requested to bring any certificate:

Try Your Luck

Buying and selling

Cooking eggs and making coconut and selling it to people.

Bakery assistant

Danfo conductor

Ticket boy in any cinema house.

Barber’s apprentice

Shop attendant

Cinema hawker

Guitar boy to a musician.

Apprentice mechanic

Apprentice tailor.

Bar attendant

Ball boy etc.


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

~ NewsOrient