From Primary To Tertiary, Here Is My Diary (Part 31)

From Primary To Tertiary, Here Is My Diary (Part 31)

1st June 2024, NewsOrient
Books, Arts, Culture, News
By Dapo Thomas

Just to bring slippers from the room I started reciting “Qul hu Allah hu ahad”. The Yoruba have a saying: “Ti omode ba dé ibi eru, eru a ba ” (When a child finds himself in a fright theatre, his timidity becomes apparent).

To get the slippers from the room was a 5-second assignment but the processing of how to do it was like a 5-hour examination. When I didn’t know what to say and it was taking eternity to enter the room, I asked “Senior” in Yoruba: ” Kolo wo Sir” (Sir, which colour?). Trust “Senior” with a logical response: “kolo melo lori nibe? (How many colours can you see from there?)

Time for action. No more time-wasting strategy. “Senior” was not someone you could stress with stupidity and frivolity. He had no patience for unproductive jokes. I was moving towards his room when Aina, my step-mum’s younger sister, walked in. She was a member of the Celestial Church of Christ.

Their service was always long. That further explained why they had not eaten. As she was greeting Iya Ibadan, “Senior” too was greeting her and standing at the same time. I quickly ran to the room before he got to my side.

We were both in the room. Our ‘strategic’ meeting was taking too long to end. I could hear iya Ibadan saying: ” Omo ati Bàbá, e tete soro yin ke jẹ ká lọ” (Father and son, hurry up with your discussion and let’s go). By the time I was out of the room, I had willingly and obediently cooperated with “Senior” in surrendering the packet of St.Moritz in my pocket. As far as I was concerned, I had entered my own “fright theatre”. Though “Senior” didn’t come to the room with “koboko”, he really didn’t need it.

If my cooperation had come one second late when he asked me to submit what I had in my pocket, my cheeks and my face would have undergone sudden transformation via ferocious pugilism. Iya Ibadan herself would see me and would still be asking “where is Ladapo? as a result of my “complete make -over.”

As we stepped out of the living room to the street, my uncles, Ladipo and Gbadebo Thomas who were discussing in front of their house saw us and walked towards us to greet iya Ibadan. She recognized them immediately. “Ewo ni Oyinbo ninu eyin mejeji. Egbon ni tabi aburo? (Which of you is called “Oyinbo ” ). Though both of them were light in complexion, the name actually was for Uncle Gbadebo, the younger brother . He was lighter than his brother. In the course of further discussions on general issues and my problems, Uncle Gbadebo offered me a clerical job in his Pools House. Iya Ibadan was happy even though she didn’t know it was a betting centre where people “napped and permed” three from four at 10 Kobo each with a sum total of 5 Naira or 10 Naira.

The month of November(1973) was almost far spent, so, I was asked to resume December 3 of that same year. Pools betting was an exciting game played by all and sundry. I could remember that my uncle’s mum (iya Molayo) won big money in Nigerian pounds around 1972/73. It was that money she used for the surgery of her son, Molayo aka “Kappy Olóyè” who had a fractured arm while playing football. Before she won the bet, she could not afford the money from the little she was making from the sale of bread. She was collecting bread directly from Iya Ijebu’s bakery before becoming iya Ibadan’s customer when she became major bread distributor.

She too was among those who came out to greet iya Ibadan when she learned she was around. Molayo’s father, Babasola Thomas who was the first son of the famous Akinwande Thomas was living in London. He was expected to send the money for the surgery but no money was received until Mama Ijesha won the coupon bet.

By the time we got home, I was very hungry despite eating before leaving the house around 12 noon. I was thinking of what to eat when Late-tua came with his trouble again. Truly, I volunteered to be assisting him once in a while around the house and the neighborhood but it was as if he had decided to punish me for hitting him with a stick.

He said I should take him to Onitana street to go and buy rice when there was rice at iya Laisi’s. Onitana street is about one kilometre from our house while iya Laisi’s house is just four houses away from us. I gave him the option of going to buy it for him but he declined. He said we must go together. For crying out loud, why must two brothers of the same mother be doing “lala-su-lala” on a sunny Sunday?

To worsen the situation, my brother got himself a funny stick which he used for “territorial navigation”. If a man with one eye was using “navigational stick”, what would a man with no eye at all use? Honestly, Late-tua was making unnecessary drama out of this eye crisis. On the day he wanted to stop me from fighting Dada, he went to the field without any walking stick or a “bara guide”.

Besides, despite my two eyes, he got to the field before me. I couldn’t just explain why he was doing all this. But I knew he was out to punish me. Anyway, I decided to follow him when iya Ibadan assured me that the food would be ready before our return.

Our movement that day was an interesting spectacle. He had his stick on his right hand. Obviously, his injured eye was still heavily bandaged. And he was walking slowly. I was carrying a bowl and I was moving slowly too because he held my shirt with his left hand. By the time we got to Paddington, they had started playing set. He told me stop so that he could greet his fans.

As we were leaving the field, one funny guy gave him a new name as he shouted from nowhere: “Baba Late-tua alias “Robin- Zoro”. This was gotten from the film “One Piece’ by Roronoa Zoro and Nico Robin. It was a popular film in the 70s. By the time we got to the place they were selling the rice, they told us it was finished. However, something funny happened on our way.

By the time we got to the Afinnih’s house at Oyerokun, one small boy was running after us shouting “Alumongiri, Alumongiri”. Not in my wildest imagination did I ever think he was referring to us until he caught up with us. He now spoke in Yoruba: “Mummy mi ni kí n fún yín lowo” (My mummy says I should give you this money). I almost told him “do we look like beggars” but when I looked at all the symbols and elements in our possession -the bowl, the stick, the bandaged eye, the cloth-holding, and our slow motion-I calmed down and told him we were not beggars. I got so angry.

I removed Late-tua’s hand from my clothes. I almost threw away the bowl but because it was one of Iya Ibadan’s favourite bowls, I didn’t do that. I just made sure that the two of us didn’t go home together. I abandoned him. It was nice he had his “territorial explorer” with him. It was a scandalously funny incident.

On Monday, December 3, 1973, I resumed work as a clerk at Gbadebo Pools at Modèle Street. It was a new experience for me. It was a storey building with the landlord and his family living upstairs while other tenants lived downstairs. Our shop was also downstairs. Mondays were not a busy day for pool houses.

In order to increase your returns on the business, you needed to operate “Kalokalo” (gaming machine) as well. It was a Chinese business. All you needed to do was to slot in your one shilling coin(s) and draw the handle of the machine to roll the coin(s) to a winning set.

Depending on the number of symbols that set on the winning line, you were likely to win certain amount. The ultimate prize was when you hit the jackpot. Once you hit the jackpot, the coins would rush out of the mouth of the machine and stop when the jackpot prize had been fully released. It was a very tempting game, an advanced version of “Try Your Luck”.

I didn’t know why I kept having providential interfaces with gaming ventures at a time I had not read nor had any physical encounter with Adebutu Kessington and Solomon Ayoku both founders of Face to Face Pools, 7,Agege Motor Road. Lagos.

Once in a while, I would play the game too but I never won any jackpot despite being the gatekeeper of the three gaming machines in the shop/office.. Those machines were very rude by disrespecting my romantic and physical attachment to them. But once their owners (the Chinese) showed up and set the symbols with a code or a key, all the coins in the machines would start clinking into their bags.

I also indulged in pools betting. I napped several numbers, yet I didn’t hit any jackpot. I permed numerous numbers from numerous numbers, still nothing for me. That was when I began to suspect that my head and games of luck had been enemies from heaven. Really, I was a bit naive by subscribing to the sentiments of chronic gamblers who were our regular customers. I didn’t note early enough that addiction was just a subsidiary problem of gamblers and not their major problem.

Their major problem was fantasy and reckless confidence. They were in different categories. Some would bet their whole salary on certain numbers which were forecasted by experts only to discover that even the so-called experts were simply indulging in “guess-psychology”.

The other category were people who paid weekly visits to parasychologists and herbalists to collect “Sure banker” to nap or perm for the week. Such people forget that luck is luck and nothing more. And what is luck? Accidental coincidence or collateral happenstance. When an enterprise is luck-infused or luck-induced, it means it doesn’t happen regularly.

But chronic gamblers believe that luck can happen regularly forgetting that human expectation is not divine fixation . Greed is the opium of gamblers. When luck happens regularly what then is the benefit of labour and hardwork? I was deep in this cultural infection until my cerebral cortex deleted the infection from my system.

The last category were people who would just walk to the shop and ask anyone around to give them any three numbers to nap and they would put big money on it. Through this method, some had made fortune. And through this method, many had lost fortune. But for how long would one place his progress and success in life on the altar of happenstance?

Twenty five days after my resumption, I received my first salary in the office about three days to the new year. I did some shopping for myself and Iya Ibadan. She loved Ankara and white scarves. Her 90th birthday was approaching. She didn’t like parties but she loved wearing new clothes on her birthday and then she would do “Sara” for the children.

Few days later, we started greeting ourselves happy New Year. Welcome 1974!! Finally, I started my secondary school education in that year and things started charging….new friends, new orientation, new resolutions, new classmates, new principal, new exploits, new attitude, new values, new crushes. Everybody was celebrating my return to school except for one person. (TO BE CONTINUED)

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

~ NewsOrient