From Primary To Tertiary, Here Is My Diary (Part 26)

From Primary To Tertiary, Here Is My Diary (Part 26)

27th April 2024, NewsOrient
Opinion, Column, News
By Dapo Thomas

The choice to make between going for training in thuggery under the mentorship of the famous and dreaded Darasingh and writing an entrance examination into a new private secondary school thereby seizing the opportunity of continuing my education without retaking my failed primary school leaving certificate examinations was made simple by Dada Adesegun.

He was a member of my gang in primary school. He was number three in rank. I was number two and Bidemi was number one. We never had any power tussle or rebellion for the six years that we were in school.

Besides, he was living almost on my street if not for the small road that separates Ilelogo and Iletumi streets. We used to play set together at Paddington.

Throughout our primary school days, he was always showing respect for me as the second- in-command of the gang. But one year after school, precisely 1973, he had thrown respect to the swamp. He had grown wings. No more reverence, no more salutations, no more obedience. On this particular day on the field, there was an argument about team selection. I opposed the idea of selecting someone whose team had just been beaten into the new set.

Dada disagreed with me because he was affected. Thinking Dada was still Dada of primary school, I pushed him in the chest, he staggered. He pushed me back. Not only did I stagger, I almost fell.

I thought he was playing with me. I gave him a slight punch on the chest, he returned my punch with a blow on my chest. Ah, I was still thinking he was joking with me. I slapped him on the right cheek, he punched me hard on my left cheek.

Now, I could see that disrespect had crept into our dismantled gang. Dada that never challenged my authority in primary school was now treating me with discernible temerity. Confident that I would beat Dada, I declared a fight with Dada warning everyone around in Yoruba, and in our usual parlance: “Ayé eni to ba la wa o ni da” (it would be disastrous for anyone who dared to separate us).

It was a spontaneous informal fight which required no referee. While I was still doing ceremony moving up and down looking for how to go for the jugular, Dada pounced on me like a wild animal from the jungle, pushed me to the ground, sat on me and started punching my face with concentrated fury.

I didn’t know when I reversed my warning by shouting in Yoruba; “E jo, e la wa nisiyin” meaning please you can separate us now. Despite my appeal for immediate separation, those stupid boys of Paddington allowed Dada to disfigure my face before they separated us.

It was a bad day for me. I went home with well packaged humiliation forfeiting my set in view of my optical reset. There was no way I could see anything again on the field having been thoroughly beaten by Dada.

The whole drama happened in the evening otherwise I would have found my way to Rainbow Cinema immediately to show my new mentor the urgency for immediate enlistment in Darasingh’s garrison. The following day as early as 10am, I resumed at Rainbow Cinema as a non-resident apprentice thug. Seeing my battered face covered with very wicked dark glasses, Darasingh commenced work on me with brutal anger. That was how I became the small boy of Darasingh of Mushin.

There was no reason for iya Ibadan to still retain me as “akowe”. I was not serious. She was disappointed that I did not create time for the business she set up for me by proxy. She realized that something else was distracting me from developing my entrepreneurial potential. She then sent for Aunty Nike. At that time, Aunty Nike had just finished writing her school certificate examinations at Reagan Memorial Baptist Girl Secondary school, near Domino supermarket, Sabo, Yaba. It was convenient for her because she was staying at Akinwunmi street, Alagomeji.

Iya Ibadan didn’t want to close down the business because the franchise was not easy to get. Iya Ijebu only used it to honour a legendary woman of substance that the whole community reverenced in awe.

As usual, the bread business flourished under Aunty Nike’s watch. People came from far and wide to collect loaves of bread in droves. On our street alone, only three people were doing bread business namely Mrs Adekoje aka Iya Bose.

She was dealing only in Odus and Defacto bread. At that time, only ‘rich’ people could afford these two kinds of bread. Baba Suru was the second person on the list. He was selling ‘bread jija’ (twin bread) which he was making in his house. It was obviously the kind of bread that only children would patronize because it was homemade.

Then, iya Ibadan who was the major depot operator after the bakery itself. My love for bread (I could eat between 10 and 12 loaves in a day) made me accept Iya Ijebu’s offer when she asked if I didn’t mind working in the bakery. After the collapse of my “Try Your Lick” business, I had made up my mind never to do only one job or just one business because of what I went through when my first business failed. I was jobless and idle for some days until I was rehabilitated by iya Ibadan. I was not serious with the “akowe job” because I didn’t have total control on the administration of the business and the finance.

The only time I touched money was once in a day. After counting bread for the first customer of the day, iya Ibadan would ask me to collect the money from him or her and then I would give it to her. It was still all about the “Owo aje” myth. After that Iya Ibadan would be collecting the rest of the money herself. I wasn’t happy with that kind of arrangement. Even at 89, iya Ibadan was showing me that the one who owned the capital was the owner of the business.

I thought the business was for me until iya Ibadan put a lid on the number of loaves I could eat in a day-just two loaves. Prior to this new order, I was eating bread indiscriminately without paying attention to the numbers. I would eat it with beans; I would cut it open and put ice cream inside; I would eat it with “Mallam’s egg”; I would eat it with boiled and fried eggs and do all sorts of things with it.

As a consummate bread consumer, there was no way I would be okay with two loaves of bread per day. It won’t work. That explained why I couldn’t say No to iya Ijebu ‘s offer that I should come and work in the bakery. No matter how stingy iya Ijebu was, she wouldn’t ask me to be eating two loaves of bread in a bakery that was producing thousands of loaves of bread in a day, both mornings and evenings.

I also resumed at the bakery as a bakery assistant without any letter of appointment or conditions of service. My job was to remove bread from the pans as soon as they were ejected from the oven.

As all this was going on, my mother pretended as if she was unconcerned about all that I was doing. Her major concern was how to get me back to school. The entrance examination was slated for the weekend of my resumption at Rainbow Cinema.

I was just beaming with smile around the house as that weekend approached. It was a weekend I had been waiting for. It’s been a long wait. I had made up my mind to go and write the entrance examination so that I wouldn’t ruin the weekend for myself. As far as I was concerned, Rainbow was it.

When they saw me smiling, they thought it was because of the exam. Warped thinking. Is there any child that is excited writing exams? Even if we had one, it couldn’t have been me going by my antecedents.

I was anxious to watch my first film inside the prestigious Rainbow Cinema. It was a new Indian film titled “JUGNU (1973) ” starring Dhamendra, Hema Malini and Prem Chopra.

Darasingh had assured me that I would watch it free. That was why I was excited. As for the exam, my plan was to go there and write nonsense so that I would not be offered admission.

This was not the time to go to school at all. Why should I be thinking of going to school at a time I should be thinking of taking revenge on Dada for humiliating me in the presence of the multitude thus bruising my ego.

I had vowed that even if it took me 100 years, I would still take my revenge on Dada. Already, I had taken the first step towards this direction. Thuggery training had commenced in Mushin. Secondly, why should I be thinking of going to school at a time I was to start watching free films that people were paying big money to watch.

I had the advantage of watching any film free at any time I so desired. I had become staff of Rainbow Cinema, courtesy Darasingh.

Which child at that time would not love to watch films like” Hare Rama, Hare Krishna”, “Love in Tokyo”, “Bombay to Goa”, ” Yaadon Ki Baaraat”, “Black Mail” etc.

Anyway, on the day of the entrance exam to Ebenezer Comprehensive High School, Ijaiye, Ojokoro, I was there physically and majestically, pretending to be one of the serious applicants doing last minute reading under the trees.

My mother was with me. She didn’t know that I had no plan for the exam at all. She kept praying for me right from when we left home. I was just saying “Amen” to all her prayers just to create the impression that I was interested. Puff puff after puff puff, buns after buns.

It was time to exploit a mother’s desperation by relishing the assorted snacks she was buying for me.

Immediately we were called into the hall, our parents were told to stay in the compound under the trees. It was “objective questions”. I smiled because my plan was working. Time to write. I was just shading nonsense. My head was empty of any contents– liquid or solid. I kept shading without thinking whether my answers were correct or not. I was the first to finish.

Everybody thought I was brilliant not knowing that I was not. I carried my mother “on handicap” by shading nonsense so that I wouldn’t go to school.

Like any other concerned mother, my mom asked me after the exam “Bawo wa ni ọkọ mi?” (How was the exam?). I replied with a pretentious confidence; “O ro bajẹ” (it was so simple). I thought she would suspect that I was being sarcastic.

Unfortunately, she didn’t decode that sarcasm. On Sunday, I was at Rainbow Cinema as early as 9am. Immediately I got there “Oga Dara” (I gave him that name) assigned me a duty. He loved being called simply Darasingh but I was too cultured to call him by his name. So, I came up with “Oga Dara” which could also be translated in English as “Oga is nice”.

I was picked as one of the ticket boys for that day. We were ten in number. I could only remember few of them because I was new. There was “Jugunu” “Baba Prem”, “Mahmoud” “Oju ina” “L’egbaa”, “Atinga” and so on and so forth. I quickly gave myself “Ọmọ Dara meaning “Darasingh’s boy”. If I didn’t do that, they would have given me one razz name like “Shanowole” or “Gbenoje”.

I think because of the way we smoked, there was always fire in the names given to smokers. By then, I had become a chain smoker puffing the flame of Benson and Hedges at short, short intervals.

In those days, Rainbow Cinema, Jebako Cinema, Idioro, Idera Cinema, Mushin, Boundary Cinema, Ajegunle, Sheila Cinema, Broad Street, Lagos, were popular cinemas for Indian films. But of all of them, Rainbow Cinema was where new Indian films always arrived first. So, the crowd was always massive and mammoth particularly on Sundays.

Oga Dara and others (let’s call them the Elders) would collect money from customers who couldn’t queue, give it to us to do the purchasing. We were always in front because some of us were resident in the Cinema. I usually closed after being on duty during 12pm to 3pm, 3pm to 6pm and 6pm to 9pm after which I would now close.

Once we had bought the tickets, it was the elders business to give the tickets to the owners.

When the ticket issue had been settled, we would go into the Cinema hall to watch the film that was being shown.

Some of us could decide to sell ‘gala’ or ‘ tinko’ for iya Simbi. She operated a very big shop inside the cinema hall. Yes, I sold tinko’ and gala in Rainbow Cinema for Iya Simbi with the express permission of “Oga Dara”.

Unexpectedly, someone brought a letter from Ebenezer Comprehensive High School Ijaiye but didn’t meet me at home. He dropped the letter with iya Ibadan. I retrieved it from her and opened it.


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

~ NewsOrient