From Primary To Tertiary, Here Is My Diary (Part 29)

From Primary To Tertiary, Here Is My Diary (Part 29)

18th May 2024, NewsOrient
By Dapo Thomas

As at November 17, 1973, we were still debating an admission letter that was almost a month old. First, I hid it from my mother for three weeks, now we had spent another week on it trying to resolve custody right.

My father, the one who was going to pay the school fees and buy all the items and provisions I was taking to ‘boarding house’, insisted that my mother must stay away from me having been indulgently generous with me in disciplinary matters.

My mother, the one who obtained the form that had caused this rumpus, rejected such ridiculous order that would not allow her to monitor her son, her only son and her only child for Emmanuel Abiodun Thomas aka “Senior”.

Now, my great-grandmother had intervened in the stalemate by agreeing to talk to “Senior”.

Meanwhile, iya Ibadan decided to take a rest in her room while waiting for Alhaji Raji whose car we were taking to my father’s house.

Alhaji Raji had dashed out for an early morning engagement. We had to use a car because iya Ibadan couldn’t cross the Western Avenue express road at 89 plus.

Suddenly, the man who brought the admission letter reappeared again. I was wondering why the man kept coming to our house as if he was going to collect commission or a special reward for bringing an “exceptional” student to the school. I wished he knew me inside out. He met me in the sitting room. He wanted to see my mother who had gone out with her friends to celebrate with another friend whose daughter was getting married.

Instead of minding my own business, I started gossipping about the girl that was getting married. When I first started, the man pretended as if he was not interested in my story or he was in a hurry. But few minutes later, he decided to sit and enjoy my gossip.

The girl that was getting married just completed her primary education and was still awaiting result. It was while she was waiting for her result that a scooter repairer impregnated her in the face -me-I-face you building they were all living on Clegg Street, Ojuelegba.

Though she was 14 year-old, she had shown signs of marital ambition when she kept repeating classes in geometric fashion. She passed in primary 2 but failed in primary 3. She passed in primary 4 but failed in primary 5. After enjoying my gossip, the man said in Yoruba: “Se o mo mi? So fún àwọn mummy pe supplementary admission o sí mọ lẹhin eleyi” (I am sure you know me. Tell your mum that there won’t be another supplementary admission after this.) He gave me his name and his address before leaving.

When he left, the word “supplementary” struck a chord. I quickly recollected having seen it in the admission letter he brought to me. It was a long word that preceded admission in the letter. I knew I saw something like “Supplementary Admission”. But since I couldn’t pronounce it, I never bothered about what it meant. I was okay with just “admission” which was self explanatory.

I ran after the man to know what it meant now that he was emphasizing it. I was sure that the way I pronounced the word would have made the man to start doubting my “exceptionalism”. I was sure that what I called the word was not different from “suffocation” when I was asking for the meaning.

He was such a nice man. He took his time to explain everything to me.

According to him, the school normally had only one admission exercise since they started the school in 1971 but that this supplementary admission was necessitated by the confusion that attended the introduction of a new school calendar.

Until 1973, the school calendar was from January to December. But in 1973, a new school calendar started running from September to July. The school decided to consider those who missed the initial admission exercise. However, by November 30, there would be no more admission exercise until September 1974.

Therefore, he advised me to tell my parents to take advantage of the Supplementary Admission exercise. I assured him that my great-grandmother would resolve it that same day.

While he was talking to me in front of Biney Centre, I saw two trucks belonging to Chief Ebenezer Obey driving into Hogan Bassey Crescent. That was when I remembered that Alhaji Babs Alade Animashaun was having a big party on that day.

Any party by Alhaji Babs Animashaun was always wow because of the calibre of musicians in attendance, (most times it was either Ebenezer Obey or King Sunny Ade), the galaxy of guests, the assortment of food and drinks and the flocking of the viewing multitude. I thanked the man for his explanation and I disappeared back home to wait for the time iya Ibadan would be ready.

In all honesty, I was indifferent to this whole school drama. The excitement was not there. The expectation was not high. The vibes were lukewarm. The drama was lacklustre. The motivation for it was nil. Not to worry, I would play along by following iya Ibadan to my father’s.

By the time I got back home, I met “Broda” Rashidi (the first son of Mr Sulaimon) and Late-tua . They had gone to the hospital to do an eye test to know the extent of damage done to the affected eye. This was the first test to be conducted on the eye after the initial medical treatment at Vita Chemist.

He was referred to the ophthalmology Department of the Lagos University Teaching Hospital (LUTH). Since that incident, I had not been myself again. How could I live with my two eyes functioning perfectly well and my brother would lose one of his own eyes. It was a traumatic experience.

The bandage padding that was done to the affected eye was sufficient to make me feel bad for the rest of my life. “Broda” Rashidi told me that one of the optometrists who attended to him at the lab said “it was not looking good” and that they would have to carry out another test in some weeks time to determine the extent of damage. I started thinking of where I could run to.

The places that came to mind were Shitta and Palm Avenue, my step-father’s house. But I ignored such thought when I realized that Late-tua would need assistance in navigating the house in that condition.

Anytime I looked at him my conscience would do “gbam”. The more I tried to suppress my guilt, the more my conscience oppressed my mind. This was the first time in my entire life I was seeing Late-tua in such a solemn and sombre mood.

When we keep hopping from one place to the other, we always think we possess eternal energy not knowing that just one dysfunctional part of our body is enough to immobilize us to one spot for as long as that disability persists. This was the same Late-tua that would never sit in one place for 30 minutes except when he was eating. I really felt bad I did this to him. I couldn’t imagine this was Late-tua sitting quietly like an orphan awaiting the arrival of a Destiny helper.

The same Late-tua that could cover all the black spots in Ajegunle and Surulere in 2 hours now found himself in a condition of dependency on Dapo, his brother and the villain of his partial blindness.

I would have to lead him to the toilet anytime NEPA took the light. By the way, we never knew we would get used to the new name-NEPA- so soon. We were used to “Up ECN” until the Gowon administration via Decree Number 24 of 1972 created the National Electric Power Authority (NEPA). This was as a result of the merger of the Electricity Corporation of Nigeria (ECN) and the Niger Dams Authority (NDA).

By 5pm, Alhaji Raji had not returned. As part of her routine principles, iya Ibadan didn’t like going out once it was 5pm. It was likely that the trip to my father’s house was not going to happen anytime soon.

I was thinking about this when Broda Rashidi walked in again and went straight to Iya Ibadan ‘s room. I began to suspect that he had been sent to inform “Senior” about the postponement. I was not told about the new date. Irrespective of what was going to happen, I had made up my mind to pursue my musical career.

I didn’t tell anybody about my musical plan but the moment I clicked it, it would be bye-bye to school. I just loved to be a musician. I was on this when a friend came to inform me that Dada was at Paddington. I shoved Late-tua aside, wore my clothes, did five minutes rehearsal of the Oga Dara training. I didn’t think Late-tua heard what the guy told me but he suspected that I was going for a fight.

He raised his voice so that Iya Ibadan could hear but I didn’t think she did because she didn’t come down from her bed. There was no other person at home. Aunty Nike had gone back to her house in Alagomeji. My mother was yet to return from the party.

I decided to deceive Late-tua by taking a longer route to Paddington. I went through the backyard to create the impression that I was going to Hogan Bassey or Biney Centre. It was a dummy. I had to go through Oyinbo’s house, iya Laisi’s house, Baba Jeunjeun’s house on ibukun street and straight down to Paddington.

On getting there, Late-tua was waiting for me. I had been studying him, his behavior was weird. One moment, he would play “Actor” for me, another moment, he would do “Bad man”. This time around, he played “Actor” for me.

He was surrounded by his fans and they were all looking at me as if I was a bad boy. All the while, Dada was there with them. I was told later that they were playing set before Late-tua’s arrival.

The moment they saw Late-tua, they all started hailing him like a hero. No doubt, Late-tua was an amazing person. He was a very lively person who brought smiles into people’s lives. When I saw the atmosphere, I knew it would be impolitic and unpopular to start a fight at a time people were hailing my brother for surviving the onslaught of a rash brother.

I risked the attack of a mob if I should start any fight at that point. I beat a retreat looking at Dada with a kind of “next-time vehemence”.

I was woken up by my mother who had just returned from the friend’s daughter ‘s wedding around 8pm. I quickly went to the bathroom to have a shower. I was getting dressed when my mother asked me: “Nibo lo dá ni ale yi? (where are you going this night?). I told her that one of Babs Animashaun’s children had invited me to their party. “Ma pe ko to wole wa o” (make sure you don’t stay late outside).

In less than 15 minutes, I was at Hogan Bassey. My main business at the party was to see how I could become a guitar boy in Ebenezer Obey’s band. I didn’t go directly to Chief Ebenezer Obey himself. I went to meet one of his boys during break.

He asked me if I could play any musical instrument and I said No. He also repeated the same thing Decency told me that I should go and learn one or two musical instruments before thinking of joining a band.

I didn’t stay long at the party since I had gotten an answer to my enquiry. I was surprised that by 12 midnight when I returned my mother was still awake waiting for me in front of the house. On arrival, she now informed me that Iya Ibadan had told her why we couldn’t go to my father’s house and that we would be going that Sunday. Alhaji Raji didn’t return until around 9pm because his car malfunctioned on the road and it took a long time for his mechanic to fix it.

By 12 noon on Sunday, we were already at my father’s house. From the discussion, I got to know that it was “Senior” who fixed 12 noon because of Sunday service.

I suspected it was the message Broda Rashidi was delivering to iya Ibadan when he entered her room yesterday.

After the usual cultural pleasantries, iya Ibadan set the ball rolling after which my father took over. He confessed to iya Ibadan that he was not ready to send me to boarding house under the prevailing conditions.

According to him, he was not sure if I was ready for school and that he needed to do some work on me considering my present behavior. He was more or less saying that my brain needed a reset.

The moment I heard that, I knew I was in soup. As soon as we came in, I saw about three different horse whips in the sitting room. Knowing that my father had no single horse, I concluded those horse whips were for human beings.

Before, I thought it was an error not to have come with my baggage but now I realized it was a “providential strategy”. I surveyed round the house to see if all was well with my siblings. I didn’t think so. I could see “scars of disobedience” on some of them which meant the horse whips had been used on them either for minor or major offences.

As “Senior” was still talking, I was planning my escape strategy in case it got to the level of physical struggle. I made sure I was not far from the door and that I was alert. Already, I was prima facie qualified for beating because inside my pocket, there was a packet of St. Moritz cigarettes. I couldn’t say for sure if “Senior” saw it or not but his regular gaze towards that direction was enough to put me on red alert.


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

~ NewsOrient