From Primary To Tertiary, Here Is My Diary (Part 24)

From Primary To Tertiary, Here Is My Diary (Part 24)

13th April 2024, NewsOrient

Having conquered the initial fears and anxiety about the direction and sustainability of my “Try Your Luck” business, my mind was set on expansion and possible diversification. For every business venture, there is always an ultimate goal. I had eliminated any form of distraction by convincing myself that business was it. Late-tua was in school, I didn’t need it. I was making so much money that I decided not to attend to students once it was 7:30am so that they wouldn’t be late for school.

Once you were in uniform, I wouldn’t allow you to play after that time. I was very committed to my business by making sure that by 7am, I had opened for business. Between 7am and 7:30am, I would have made about two shillings or two shillings, six pence. This was made possible by another marketing strategy I came up with.

For those who played early in the morning between 7 am and 7:30am, it was certain that one or two people would win a big toy of one shilling or two shillings. Meanwhile, I would do it in such a way that before a big prize was won, twice the money would have been made.

It was a case of the camel and the eye of the needle for any one to win a big prize in the penny section. Most big wins came from the three pence section. One thing with gambling is that you always want to win a big prize at a cheap fee. And, once your eyes are fixed on a very big prize, the thin line between greed and luck is removed and at that stage, you don’t know what is motivating you again- your greed or your luck. Gambling is not about effort but about a ‘mysterious’ favour.

I was surprised to see a delegation of four teachers from my school, Salvation Army Primary School, visiting my stand to discuss an “urgent matter” with me. Most of them were my favorite teachers-Mr Iroko, Ms Sanni, (the first woman to ride Vespa machine in the school), Mr Umeh and Mrs Oba. They said they just finished a Management meeting where they discussed my case and that they came up with some decisions which they were mandated to communicate to me.

They said they would have loved to discuss this issue in the presence of my mother but it’s okay if I would give her the message myself. Their first plea was that I should come and retake my first school leaving certificate examinations so that I could make it to secondary school. The second issue was about my “Try Your Luck” business.

They falsely claimed that I was defrauding the students by collecting their money under false pretences. Third, they wanted me to stop doing the “Try Your Luck business in the mornings as most of the students were always seen around my stand as late as 9am.

I started my response from where they started their kind gesture cum attribution . I thanked them for their visit and sympathy over my examination failure. I also commended their decision to give me a second chance in my educational pursuit.

But I told them pointedly that I was not interested in education and that I wanted to do business even though I had no role model to mention. It was a spontaneous decision necessitated by compelling circumstances of irreversible character.

I was to continue with my reaction when the leader of the team told me they had not come for discussion. He said if I had anything more to say with respect to number one, I should come and see the headmaster or the Head teacher.

I was disturbed for the rest of the day. However, I still did my business in the afternoon as usual. As a business person, the moment you get distracted by extraneous matters which will not allow you to attend to your customers for three to four days, you are exposing yourself to customers’ desertion. Inconsistency in business operations is capable of causing confidence downswing in Customers. Customers must have confidence in products availability and service regularity for you to enjoy their seamless patronage. Once these two features are present, there is little or no excuse for failure in business.

I couldn’t sleep well throughout the night. Thank GOD my mother was still at Super (Alapafuja). She would naturally know that something was wrong. She is a very smart person to hide anything from. A very good psychologist with powerful perceptive instinct to decode expressions, no matter how complex.

As for Iya Ibadan, she was so peaceful that even if she knew something was troubling you, all she would be saying was: “ALLAHU MOBI a kuku se eyi to da fún wa” ( GOD will always do what is good for us). She was an incurable optimist, a woman of solid rock faith. I rolled and rolled on the mat from dusk to dawn with only Late-tua beside me.

He was enjoying his sleep with some irritating snores to show for it. Such is life. Some people battle sleeplessly and agonizingly with some nagging problems throughout the night while others snore their way to cloud nine enjoying the peace of the night. I was used to not sleeping deep since I started the business.

I was getting addicted to collecting and counting money that I always wished there was no night. It was a sweet feeling that had now been contaminated by my school’s wild accusations. The part that annoyed me most and couldn’t let me sleep was: “You are defrauding students by collecting their money under false pretences.” This kind of paradox was intriguing.

One, I made sure that every student that played got something for their money. Two, about one week before they came, I had stopped students from playing. Once you were in uniform, I won’t let you “try your luck” at my stand. I was just wondering where this was coming from. Despite thinking about everything throughout the night, I couldn’t remember ever considering closing shop because of this development. I just wanted to continue to make money every day.

By 6:00am, I had gotten up from the mat getting ready for another business day. Making money on a daily basis from a business with little or no production cost is the sweetest grace and favour one can receive from above. I did my routine house chores while Late-tua was preparing for school.

Before 7am, I was at my stand to set up for business. I was getting my things from the cartons to the tables when I was assaulted by the three aunties that I met in the business. They said so many nasty and unprintable things that were worse than what my school said. I maintained my calm in the midst of the hoopla.

I hate fighting women because when they hold you by your shirt, where do you hold them? Remember these were married people. Interestingly, their husbands were Late-tua’s close pals. I was very surprised that they could even think of harassing me based on this association.

They prevented me from opening the cartons. I was struggling yet they were huddling. They cupped me all through ensuring that I was completely immobilized and incommoded throughout the fight.

In spite of this condition, my mind did not stop thinking about the money I was losing per minute. Of all the things they said, the ones that scared me were:”Won ni omode o m’ela, o l’oun m’ela katakata….”. “Omode ní e, o laya akeboje. Sora e”. “Omode o mogun, o npe lefo.” All these were threats that sounded like evil invocations. I was almost running back home to see if Late-tua was still at home but I was afraid they would scatter or fling them indiscriminately to the ground.

Miraculously, Late-tua showed up, already dressed in his uniform. Late-tua had two incoherent phrases anytime he was angry. One: “Wasamoti, Wali-fi ntiri”. Two: “A clever rat caught a rabbit, how much more you Moladi”. These two phrasal expressions were balderdash of the highest order but very symbolic to those who understood the implication of the verbiage.

These three aunties did not understand the implication of what Late-tua said but one of the husbands, who had been informed of the incident by a witness, ran to the scene and quickly averted an escalation of the crisis by calming down Late-tua with his famous slogan of placation: “Wasa-moti Late-tua. Wasa-moti Late-tua”. He continued to hold Late-tua by the waist. He didn’t leave him until he responded with his friendly phrase:”Wali-fintiri ebi mi. Wali-fitiri ebi mi.”

That was how everything ended on a happy note. Since that incident, they never bothered me again. However, I think there is always a mischief in my heart anytime I read A.S. Fenichel’s “Witches of Windsor Book 3”, that’s when I always recall this incident of the three aunties of Hogan Bassey.

  There was a national confusion on January 1, 1973 when Gen. Yakubu Gowon decided to change the nation's currency from the British Pound to Nigeria's Naira. The arithmetical calculation was: Pound, Shilling, Pence. Now it would just be Naira and Kobo.  Though the announcement for the change was made on March 31, 1971, the two year-notice given for the adjustment was inadequate for both students and traders to understand the arithmetics that came with the change especially the conversion. 

For instance, the calculation used to be "twelve pence make one shilling, twelve shillings make one pound." But with the new currency, it is"100 Kobo make one Naira". This  decimalized formula from three to two caused serious fiscal rumpus in the country with traders losing huge sum of money not just to the devaluation but also in the course of their daily transactions. 

Going by the old exchange rate,  120 Kobo should have exchanged for one Naira not 100k if the pence was the equivalent of the new Kobo. This  20 kobo difference was considered a very deliberate devaluation by the citizens. That was the beginning of our fiscal crisis.

 Sensing this looming confusion as  highlighted by experts, many Nigerians including me, decided to use the money we had at home (mostly in our piggy banks) to make some purchases. I emptied my piggy bank, retrieving almost five to seven pounds, which I took to Kingsway and Leventis to buy a lot of toys and snacks for my business. The whole house was full of assorted cartons. The following day, my stand was full with latest toys and snacks in town. 

I was encouraged and supported by Mr Mathias, a staff of Biney Centre who admired my enterprising sagacity at that young age. He gave me a bigger space within the Centre to put my things.  

Aunty Nike who had been my companion when we used to hawk mosquito coils and old newspapers for iya Ibadan was also around to help me set up the place. I was late to come out that day. My target was the afternoon market because that was the peak of business. 

By 1pm, everything had been set. We were just waiting for the closing period. We were eating some of the snacks in a special pack when council officials from Adekunle, Yaba  and Police from Central  Police Station, Broad Street, Lagos, in what appeared to be a joint operation,  swooped on us, packed my wares, damaged some, stole some, mangled some, scattered some before putting my aunty and I in their vehicle before driven to "Central" in Lagos Island.  

I had never cried like that in my life. I cried because my dream and plan to surprise iya Ibadan with an ileya ram had been aborted. She was going to be 89 years by January 1973. 

She had always been the one giving me all the time as old as she was. So, I thought of buying her a ram for all her efforts on me and to  compensate her for all the troubles I had put her through in life particularly at a time she should be relaxing and enjoying her life. 

Now, this. I was praying that she shouldn't insist on coming with those who would be coming for our release. I was happy when I didn't see her among the three people that came: Alhaji Raji, Mr Suleiman (Baba Kubura) and my mother. 

They eventually released us but the damage had been done, my business had collapsed and my spirit was dampened but I must rise again. It was sad that I had to begin again from the scratch. I looked at all the available options and I went for street hawking again selling "Sukuniyan and Coconut" in the neighborhood instead of going to the major road. I was dejected that at my age, I had started experiencing rise and fall as if one was being pursued. 

Late-tua didn't know when he started crying when he saw how life suddenly changed for me between the morning he left for school and the evening he returned from school. When I told him what plan I had for iya Ibadan, he wept the more. It was a sorrowful end to a flourishing business. 

A fraternity with the floor is not a consolation for a fall. I rise. 

Unexpectedly, my mother came up with an information that could get me to secondary school without a first primary school leaving certificate.


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