From Primary To Tertiary, Here Is My Diary Part (30)

From Primary To Tertiary, Here Is My Diary Part (30)

28th May 2024, NewsOrient
Books, Arts, Culture, News
By Dapo Thomas

For the first time in several years, I found my two hands clutching each other peacefully at the back. I dared not make the mistake of unlocking them. Even when I needed to use one of them to scratch the back of my neck, I couldn’t because I was in the presence of “Senior”.

In the presence of “Senior”, there was fullness of fear. I had lived with him before I ran away to Iya Ibadan’s house. Anytime you were in the presence of “Senior”, your two hands MUST be at your back as a mark of respect and requisite compliance with cultural practice. On this particular day, even my two hands borrowed themselves brain by hiding properly at my back as if they knew they were in an unfriendly environment.

I couldn’t remember ever “serving” this kind of voluntary punishment in Iya Ibadan’s house. In Iya Ibadan’s house, you could do whatever you liked, you could stand any how you liked, and you could look any where you liked. But in “Senior’s” house, there were too many “Congo” laws.

First, I had been standing for one hour plus with little movements and quietly changing my standing styles when I felt uncomfortable. You had to watch how you stood in the presence of “Senior”. You must not bend to the left or to the right because you may be penalized for standing arrogantly before your daddy.

Two, my hands were paining me but I couldn’t do anything to relax my muscles. Everywhere was so harsh as if I was attending constabulary interview.

Third, my head was fixed in one position. I was just looking at the floor as if it was a sin to look up. I could hardly move my head let alone look in “Senior’s” direction. My neck had started aching me too. If I was to go by iya Ibadan’s outing antecedents and routine visits, I would remain in that position for two more hours. She hardly spent less than 3 hours per visitation. She was never in a hurry. She would crack jokes, she would do “Waasi” (sermon), she would tell so many anecdotes and she would reminisce about the past.

No matter how hungry she was, she would never eat outside. She would only drink water. So, she felt so relaxed with “Senior” because she knew how much he adored her. It was only iya Ibadan that could make “Senior”to be this calm. My father was a “flogging addict”. If he was not beating you for looking at him “one kain”, he would be flogging you for walking ” one kain”.

“Senior’s” territory was like a military Zone with him as the “Garrison Commander”. It got to a point when I was living with him before going to Iya Ibadan’s house that my cousin, Bidemi had to start using sun shade glasses to cover his eyes inside the house when he got tired of “Senior’s” regular complaint: “Se emi lo nwo bẹ yen? (Are you looking at me like that?) For looking at him “one kain”, might earn you a “backhand” slap or “koboko”.

We were still in the living room when Broda Arẹmu, (not a houseboy, not a relation but he was living with us) walked in to whisper a message into his ear. As Arẹmu was leaving, my younger brother, Gboyega cried into the room to report that Kunle, my immediate younger brother, beat him while they were picking rice. I looked at the clock to see the time they were still picking the rice they would eat for lunch. It was 1:30pm. It meant that the lunch would be ready around 3 or 4 pm. GOD forbid. By that time iya Ibadan would have started preparing dinner. My resolve to go back with Iya Ibadan grew stronger.

How could I stay in a house where lunch wouldn’t be ready by 1:30pm on a Sunday? It was obvious they went to church. So what? Were they the first people that would go to church? Instantly, “Senior” sprang to his feet with his “koboko” and went out through the back door. I said to myself: “Kunle ti ri ogo” (Kunle is in trouble). As “Senior” left the room, I was so excited because I had time to relax my muscles.

Honestly, tension had grown all over my body. I stretched my legs. I stretched my neck. I stretched my hands. I almost became a human machine. Iya Ibadan was smiling while I was doing all this.

I knew she had been studying the totality of my humanity as she was talking to “Senior”. She knew what I was going through. The ceiling fan that was blowing hot air began to release cool breeze . The atmosphere changed. It was needless asking iya Ibadan when we would be leaving.

That was not my first time of going out with her. She would exhaust her 3 hours or more-iya jeje laye gba. With Iya Ibadan, there was no hurry in life.

It was also an opportunity for me to do something about the packet of St. Moritz in my pocket. I had three options: One, run to the car and drop it with the driver. Two, put it in Iya Ibadan’s hand purse. Three, tuck in my shirt and throw it inside the shirt. I avoided the first option because I didn’t want to be alone with “Senior” without iya Ibadan. It could be dangerous. Besides, I didn’t know where “Senior” was. Supposing he met me outside and ask me what I was doing outside? What would I tell him?

Secondly, if I put it inside iya Ibadan’s hand purse and, by accident, the purse fell and its contents were littered on the floor. What would I say? What would the people around say after finding a packet of cigarettes in the purse of a noble and enigmatic personality like Iya Ibadan?“ It would be an eternal moral burden on me for the rest of my life for setting up an innocent old woman who made my success in life the only goal of her existence.

I perished that thought unapologetically. I couldn’t do the third option because I was not wearing a belt. I decided to leave things as they were believing that God would continue to cover me with the blood of Jesus.

The door opened and I did “adwaya” thinking it was “Senior”. But it wasn’t “Senior”, it was my step-mum. She was just returning from work. She worked in the same place with “Senior”. She was a ticket inspector with the Lagos City Transport Service (LCTS) later renamed Lagos State Transport Service (LSTC) in 1974. She knelt to greet iya Ibadan. “Pele iyawo mi. Baba nko? Salafia ni won wa? (How are you my wife? How is your dad? Hope he is fine).

We exchanged greetings too. I prostrated to greet her, seizing the opportunity to exercise my tense body. No wonder they had not had lunch, mummy was not at home.

But where was Aina, my step mum’s younger sister living with us? Something must have happened. I was not sure she was at home. I had not seen her around. Aina had been staying with us since my step mum married “Senior”. She had been a very hardworking and diligent girl. She is like my elder sister but we are on first name basis. A very sweet girl with incomplex countenance. She took charge of the house as if she was the big sister of the house. Her humility was uncommon. She played the role of mother to my younger siblings especially Kunle and Gboyega whose mother, Ladun Martins aka Salome just divorced “Senior”. Yes, she was the same Salome of the IK Dairo fame. That’s to show you that “Senior” was one of the “Bigz boys” rocking Lagos in the 60s and 70s.

Unexpectedly, “Senior” returned from his flogging mission and everything went back as they were. Not upto five minutes that he walked in, Iya Vero, one of our neighbours, came in to thank “Senior” for helping her to flog one of the boys from their village living with them. Some money had disappeared miraculously from the house and they found it on the boy. Coming to thank “Senior” showed that she was very impressed with the way he beat the boy. Poor boy. “Senior” had used him to promote his dexterity in corrective flagellation and community service. So, it was not Kunle he had gone to flog after all. It was iya Vero’s message Arẹmu came to whisper in his ear. No wonder I didn’t hear any wailing in the house. I was expecting Kunle to cry because there was no way “Senior” would beat you and you would not cry. It was regarded as a more serious offence than your original “sin”. If you cried, you were in trouble because you would hear “Mo n no e, o npariwo le mi lori” ( I am flogging you, you are shouting on me.) If you didn’t cry, you would hear “emi ni mo n no e ti o sunkun!” (I am beating you and you are not crying). All “Community floggers” (and they were so many in those days), always wanted you to cry so that it would improve their flogging profile in the Community.

Their major patrons were “Community Widows” who had to look for surrogate “husbands” to assist them in disciplining their children, mostly the sons, who were declining in manners and etiquettes since the death of their fathers. It was a risky humanitarian service but fortunately, from Alhaji Raji to “Senior”, none of them got into trouble in the course of doing this.

Iya Ibadan continued with her discussion with "Senior". She took him up on his last meeting with my mother in his house when he told my mother not to come to his house and also told me not to visit her. Iya Ibadan was not happy with "Senior 's" decision to stop me from coming to her house. She made him realize that it was not only Fausa that was living in the house. "Anyway", she said, "now that you have told me  that he wouldn't be going to school until next year, let him stay with me for the time being. He is the closest great-grandson  to me. If I am still alive by next year when he would start school, I, myself, personally, would bring  him to you. Let me start going . It's almost 3pm."

 All the while, I had been thinking of how everything would end. Would it end peacefully? Would iya Ibadan tell me to stay back? Would "Senior" insist on my staying behind? Would I have to run away from there? Supposing "Senior" grabbed my hand and insisted I was not going anywhere, what would happen?  I never knew Iya Ibadan was also thinking along the same line.  When she was giving her departure remarks and I realized  it was in my favour, I was smiling carefully in order not to provoke "Senior".

 I was just praising iya Ibadan for her wisdom,  especially that part where she was doing sentimental linkage between my return to "Senior's" house and her death. That really got "Senior" sombre. Even though iya Ibadan's statement was like a declaration,  "Senior "  raised no objections to the request. Whether I was still coming back or not, as far as this particular visit was concerned, "I don japa". But not so fast.  As we about leaving the sitting room,  "Senior" spoke to me in Yoruba: "Dapo, ko bàtà mi wa ninu yara." (Dapo, get me my slippers in my room). "Oro di hun" (Stalemate)


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

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