From Primary To Tertiary, Here Is My Diary Part (25)

From Primary To Tertiary, Here Is My Diary Part (25)

20th April 2024, NewsOrient
Books, Arts, Culture, News
By Dapo Thomas

Few days after the raid, Iya Ibadan who turned 89 on January 17, 1973 asked me if I could be her “akowe” (Secretary). I smiled sarcastically thinking she was ‘whining’ me.

I asked her what I would be doing for her that would be different from what I had been doing for her before. I used to help her write some letters, forget about the numerous spelling errors in some of the letters, at least, I had an idea of ‘textual construction.’ She said she heard that I wanted to buy ram for her during “Ileya” but that since the government had frustrated my gesture, she decided to compensate me.

She refused to disclose what she wanted to do for me or what I would be doing for her. By the way, I didn’t know who told her about my ‘Ram Plan’ for her but that was Iya Ibadan for you, always wanting to give others while not looking for who would give her.

Her spirit of giving was more noticeable than her sense of ‘give me’. She used to amaze me during Ileya. She would slaughter about three rams and would almost forget, deliberately of course, to leave substantial portion for the house. Unlike some of our Moslem neighbours who would not go to the market to buy meat months after Ileya, one week plus, iya Ibadan would be sending me to Gbaja or Tejuoso market to buy meat.

It could be annoying but she was always happy that she had done it according to the Quranic prescription. I loved the fact that she was giving much of the meat out since it was an opportunity for me to make money from appreciative neighbours who would ‘dash’ me one Kobo, 5 Kobo or even 10k, but I was not personally happy with the “give-it-all-out” prescription.

A friend I complained to then simply replied me in Yoruba: “ewo ni ti e” (what’s your business?)

A gentle knock on the door woke us up a day after Iya Ibadan requested me to be her secretary. The man was from the bakery on our street. He was like the PA to “Iya Ijebu”, the new owner of the bakery. The bakery was originally owned by “Baba Segun”, also an Ijebu man who lived on Aralile street. It was not clear why Baba Segun sold the bakery but it was instructive to note that some years after he sold the bakery to Iya Ijebu, the Lagos State Development Property Corporation (LSDPC) demolished all the shops servicing the Community in order to build new middle income apartments on the land.

Iya Ibadan came out to meet the man. I left them to discuss privately not knowing that my fate was part of their privacy.

They were still discussing when Mr Nosiru Jìnádù aka Baba Kúdí, one of the foremost carpenters in the whole of Surulere then, brought in a big box in a lorry. The man from the bakery departed after taking some instructions from Iya Ibadan.

Not long after, Iya Ijebu came. She went into the room with Iya Ibadan. Meanwhile, Iya Ibadan had told me to clear some part of the sitting room for Baba Kúdí to put the box. Something fell off from the box and Baba Kúdí sent me to his house just across the road to go and collect a hammer from his daughter, Kudi who was my classmate for most parts of our years in the primary school.

Kúdí was a very beautiful girl who loved calling my two names together – Dapo Thomas, as if she was the one that gave me the two names. Immediately, she saw me in her house, she screamed…. “Dapo Thomas.” Anyway, I collected the hammer at the end of some intimate niceties.

By the time I got back home, a vehicle had packed in front of our house offloading bread into the box. I think the issue of hammer was a well planned “arodan” (fool’s errand). Can you imagine, at 89, iya Ibadan was indulging in coup plot with her partners all because she didn’t want me to know that she was setting up a proxy business for me.

She had discussed the modalities with “Iya Ijebu”. She was going to be one of the major agents that would sell the bread to retailers. Iya Ijebu went back to her bakery. Baba Kúdí went back to his house at Ilumo Street. I was left with Iya Ibadan.

Immediately they left, customers started arriving. Iya Ijebu had told some of the retailers waiting at the Bakery to come to our house. Despite not doing this kind of business before, myself and Iya Ibadan sold every loaf of bread inside the box except for some that were mangled in the course of delivery.

Late-tua returned from school to discover that I had become “Akowe awọn oniburedi” (Bread Secretary as different from Board Secretary).

After preliminary assessment of this new business, he suggested that I should add “Shukuniyan” (boiled eggs) to it as a complementary item. He confided in me that he had a very strong market for the boiled eggs apart from those that would be buying from the house.

He told me that on his way to school (Onikẹ, Yaba), he had identified about ten black spots where the guys were using Shukuniyan to gamble. He said he had some goodwill with some of them and that I could latch on this goodwill to sell my eggs. Therefore, once or twice a week, I would be hawking boiled eggs to these spots.

Late-tua was right. It was a hot spot to sell the boiled eggs because of the bets. How was the game played? It was a two-persons’ game. One of the two people placing the bets would squeeze the egg in-between his thumb and index finger.

The other person would use his own egg to hit the one that had been squeezed in-between the thumb and the index finger, the one with the broken egg would surrender it to the other person whose egg remained unscathed.

Again, money had started coming in from the egg business. It was solely my business. Iya Ibadan had nothing to do with this. The good thing was that both businesses were progressing very well.

At some points, I was selling up to two crates in one day. That would translate to shuttling between five or six black spots in one day. Spots like Elelubo, Ojurin, Empire, Jebako Cinema, Rainbow Cinema, Ojuelegba etc.

I made sure that Iya Ibadan’s bread business flourished beyond her expectations. My “ọwọ aje” had always worked for her and it had started working for me.

I didn’t know what pushed me into coconut candy business, maybe diversification or my restlessness. After recording some success story in the coconut business, I discovered that something went wrong with my “ọwọ aje”(sales charm). On this particular day, I hawked from my house to Modèle Compound, from Modèle Compound to Tejuoso area (not the main road so as not to be caught by the Council) yet nobody bought my coconut candy. After about an hour, frustration set in. I decided to go back home.

On my way home, I kept checking my two hands to see if I could figure out what happened. I didn’t notice any strange things in my hands. I think “ọwọ aje” just decided to go on vacation. I was very hungry. I looked for a safe place to rest and eat. I consumed all the coconut candies one after the other.

On my way home, people started calling me, asking me if I still had some coconut candies left. “Coconut ko, kolanut ni” was what was from inside of me but I cautioned myself because customers are the bedrock of business.

Iya Ibadan was angry with me when I got home. They had brought bread and “akowe was not on seat” to cross-check what they brought. I apologized and moved on because I was having a bad day and I needed to put the coconut disaster behind me.

It was a Saturday. There was a party by the Noibis. The matriarch of the family, Mama Pupa had died and that Saturday was the final burial. I was ready for the party. I had my plan and I was determined to execute it. The news had gone round that it was Her Majesty, Queen Oladunni Decency and her Unity Orchestra that was going to entertain the guests.

Decency was the first woman guitarist in Nigeria and also the first woman Juju musician. Since I saw Sina Peters doing magic with the guitar during my grandpa’s burial ceremony in 1971, I became interested in becoming a guitar boy for any band.

I told myself that if Sina Peters could do it, I could do it too. So, when Decency finally arrived, I approached one of her band boys that I wanted to be playing for the band.

He was kind enough to take me to his boss. She said she wouldn’t employ me because I had no knowledge of music nor have I played any instrument before.

I became seriously disturbed with this development. I actually wanted to be a musician.

I kept doing my jama-jama for as long as it was bringing in money. On one of the days I took eggs to Rainbow Cinema to go and sell as usual, a fight ensued between me and one of the bad guys in the place. Eventually, I was taken before the dreaded “Darasingh” who ruled “The Thug Empire” in Mushin for so many years in the 1970s. His operational headquarters was in Rainbow Cinema.

In the course of settling the dispute between me and his boy, I was mobilized as a member of his team for what he called “your bravery”.

That was how I became a Cinema thug in Rainbow Cinema working for the most dangerous felon in Mushin.

During my initiation on that same day, I pleaded with him that I would like to be coming from home because I couldn’t leave my great-grandmother alone in the house.

My second appeal was that I wouldn’t want to be forced to smoke marijuana as I was okay with just cigarettes.

He confessed to me personally that he didn’t know why he liked me and for that reason, he would grant my two requests. I was so excited.

When I narrated everything to Late-tua, he was mad with me but he immediately realized that I was now his “boss” in thuggery.

As all this was going on, I didn’t know that my mother, through her brothers in Alapafuja , had gotten a form for me to sit for entrance exam into a newly established secondary school called Ebenezer Comprehensive High School, Ijaiye, Ojokoro. It was founded in 1971 by one Pa JMO Faseun before government took it over.

On the same day, I was confronted with two tempting choices: (1) opportunity to be trained as a thug by the best THUG in the land. Who else could have trained me better than the man that was the epitome of thuggery itself- “Darasingh”?

With Darasingh, I would be very popular and well-grounded in the art of thuggery. He had granted my two salient requests meaning I would be a special thug sleeping in the house and one that wouldn’t smoke marijuana. Very tempting.

(2) A very rare opportunity to start my secondary school education without a first primary school leaving certificate. It was also an opportunity to be like some of my friends in the neighborhood who had started speaking good English now that they were moving to form two while I was still selling Shukuniyan and coconut candies, and above all, while I was still contemplating becoming the mentee of Lagos dreaded thug-“Darasingh” of Nigeria.

A very tough choice to make but I made it.


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