From Primary To Tertiary, Here Is My Diary (Part 32)

From Primary To Tertiary, Here Is My Diary (Part 32)

8th June 2024, NewsOrient
Books, Arts, Culture News
By Dapo Thomas

One thing my great-grandmother loved most was to pray to GOD and to pray for man. On Thursday, the 17th of January, 1974, when she turned 90, I was preparing to go to work because pools houses were always busy from Thursday to Saturday. She asked me to kneel while she prayed for me. I guess she was doing that because of the Ankara I bought for her. She received so many Ankara before and on her birthday.

She didn’t wear mine but the one she wore was new too. She was a very strong woman, moving up and down monitoring her last daughter, Abegbe Oniru aka Iya Olojojo, who was doing the cooking. Despite appeals from all her well-wishers that she shouldn’t be moving around because of her old age, she refused to sit. She kept moving around praying for everybody at sight.

She was unusually excited on this particular day. Who wouldn’t at 90.? Before I left the house, Senior had arrived with a handful of Thomas delegation to congratulate her. She was very happy to see him. I greeted Senior and was about to leave when iya Ibadan called me and reminded Senior, in my presence, about her promise to bring me personally to Senior’s house. But dramatically, she now modified the statement: “Ti mi o ba le mu wa, OLORUN funra re a mu wa” (if I am unavailable to bring him to your house, GOD HIMSELF will bring him.)

As I turned to go, she started coughing in a strange manner. Meanwhile, everybody around rushed towards her. “Senior” held her firmly in his hands, my mother led her to her room. The cold outside was much. I didn’t feel like going to work again but she forced herself to tell me to go work. I didn’t want to go but she kept insisting that I should go. I then left the house reluctantly. On getting to Paddington, I rushed back home again I was not feeling comfortable. Nobody was talking about taking her to see the Doctor or hospital or even Vita Chemist, her favourite place anytime she was feeling sick.

When I got to her room, she was already drinking “ogun efu” ( white tongue syrup). Remarkably, she was the one who made it three days to her birthday. No doubt, she was a very strong woman. Then she could talk well. She ordered me to leave for work immediately. I was about to leave when she commanded me to kneel again for another round of prayers. I was losing count of the number of times she had been praying for me since we woke up. But in her words, “no one should ever get tired of being prayed for”. I got abundance of blessings and prayers from her that could last me till a lifetime. But because she said “adura kii poju” ( no one should ever get tired of being prayed for), I now love it when people pray for me. As for the cold, It was a scare but she survived it.

Working in the Pools House, ironically, stimulated my interest in education. In the house of betting, I began my academic journey. Providence is a witty playwright. It sets up a theatre, adorns it with all manner of elements and symbols, gives you the will to decide your fate according to your whim or your caprice.

In the Pools House, newspapers were indispensable tools of trade for us. We normally bought between 2 and 3 newspapers everyday including Sundays. Obviously, Daily Times was one of them and compulsorily, one or two pools papers. Some betters were better researchers than the academics we have in the university.

When some of them entered the shop on a Monday morning with their glasses and note pads, you would think they had come to study for a serious examination. Some would spend close to four or six hours entertaining themselves at different interludes by eating boli and groundnuts or just groundnuts and popcorn.

By the time they were leaving for home, you would be wondering on their behalf if it was a day well spent. To some of them, it was an “admiction” (my own coinage for the combination of addiction and ambition). It was difficult to see the thin line between the two. The unfortunate thing about this research exercise was that most of them never ended well. Why then should a man continue to indulge in an activity that hardly ends in praise?

From this routine exercise of my customers, I derived the inspiration for my relevance. I didn’t want to continue to be a nonentity. I realized that most of them hardly bothered to read Daily Times. They were mostly interested in the pools papers.

In the time of General Yakubu Gowon, there was plenty money in people’s hands which explained why some kept giving the surplus to “Kora” every week. “Kora” was probably the name given to all these men-John Moores, Colin Askham, Bill Hughes and John Jervis Bernard- who invented “football pool”in October 1922.

What these punters (pool betters) don’t seem to understand is that the payouts to the winners would come from the pool money paid by those forecasting the outcome of the results of all the matches.

During Gowon’s tenure, we had plenty petrodollars with the naira having a higher value than the dollar leaving the exchange rate at 60 kobo to a dollar. It was considered a waste of time to make biscuits in Nigeria when you could easily import it.

Civil servants discarded local products for imported commodities like canned milk, corned beef, stockfish and serdines. This turned us to an import dependent nation. As more money came into the government coffers, Gowon decided to bless government workers by setting up the Udoji Public Service Review Commission in 1972 to examine the organization and structure and management of public service.

For the greater part of 1972, the whole of 1973 and the first quarter of 1974, the Jerome Udorji Commission worked round the clock to complete its assignment right on time.. By this time, my perception about education had started changing now that I had started reading Daily Times.

My knowledge of national affairs was getting broadened. Knowing that Monday to Wednesday were almost like free days for us in the shop, I decided to make my stay in the office on those days very lively for myself by reading the newspapers, particularly Daily Times, voraciously. It was also this same year, 1974 that Babs Fafunwa published his famous book, “History of Education in Nigeria.”

The book generated a lot of public debates and controversies. The main point of discourse was the new definition Fafunwa gave to “Education” as different from what our colonial masters taught us. Fafunwa defined education as “what each generation gives to its younger ones, which makes them to develop attitudes, abilities, skills and other behaviors which are of positive value to the Society in which they live.”

My sudden encounter with reportage of national events and affairs in the newspapers spurred inside of me a scintilla of eagerness and excitement to learn more about my country and the management of its resources by our leaders. I became a restless consumer of info, always searching for knowledge and wisdom with desperate motivation.

Then this happened again. Sometime around March of the same year (1974), we just finished playing set. As usual, we would split into different informal groups at the end of the final set to engage in assorted discussions that we might consider interesting.

I kept moving around looking for a group that I could join . I was about going to join one of the groups when one of my former classmates in primary school who was now in secondary school and going to form 3 told me: “What do you want here? Do you think we are discussing Indian films here? What do you know about Amoeba, euglena and spirogyra.

What contributions can you make concerning these .”. It hit me like an arrow in the spine. I was crying inside. I moved away instantly before more missiles were unleashed on me by others. As I moved away, as if that was not enough, one of them said in Yoruba: “Ọrọ na dùn, o fe ke” ( He is about crying because of our snub). I was not about to cry, I was crying but he didn’t see me because I was backing them as I moved towards my house in shame. I went straight to the toilet where I could cry uncontrollably. I didn’t want to be consoled.

My emotions were too strong to be restrained by any form of consolation. Trust iya Ibadan, from her room, she knew someone entered the house and she heard the person crying. She came out “Ladapo, kilo ṣe é?”(Ladapo, why are you crying?) I had locked the door but immediately she ordered me to open the door, I opened it for her.

I was not naked because I was not using the toilet for any thing. I just went there at that time as a refuge in grief. She pulled me out, took me to her room and started consoling me. I told her everything. I suspected she was teary but she didn’t show it. She said I should kneel down. I did and she rained fresh prayers on me from the depth of her heart. Now, she was sobbing and praying, prophesying and proclaiming. Later, she changed to koranic recitations and said, I know you would soon go to your father’s house which is a Christian home but let me pray for your success in life in my own way.

“Allahummah la Sala illa ma ja’ altahu sahla , wa anta taj’alul-hazna iza syi’ta sahla. ( O ALLAH, there is no ease except in that which YOU have made easy and YOU make the difficulty , if YOU wish, easy.” The prayer rain took like 30 minutes and fortunately, nobody interrupted us.

Even within my spirit I could feel the intrusion of some spiritual infusions. The prayers were really soul-touching and the atmosphere was very electritying. She said I should go and call Alhaji Raji. When he came, she told him to write that “Surah” for me and said: “make sure you keep it till you get to your father’s house.”

When I was going to call Alhaji Raji for iya Ibadan, I saw “Broda ” Rashidi who helped us to take Late-tua to the hospital. He said I should see him after finishing whatever I was doing. So, immediately I finished with Iya Ibadan, I went to him. That was when he gave me the bombshell that there was nothing wrong with Late-tua’s eye.

I said but it was bandaged. He replied that the various tests revealed that nothing was wrong with the eye nor did the stick enter his eye. He disclosed that there was only a small scratch on top of the eye . He further revealed that they wanted to put ordinary plaster on it without covering his eye but he insisted on the eye being bandaged. He said he was surprised that the whole thing was being turned to a circus because it was very funny to him anytime he saw the two of us moving around the neighborhood like “beggar orchestra”. Honestly, I was fuming, unfortunately, he had gone back to Ajegunle and was not coming back anytime soon.

He probably did it for two reasons: to punish me or to stay away from school. I would wait for him to see if he would continue to pretend for me. Imagine.

I was put in class one A and I almost became the class captain thinking I was the oldest guy in the class not knowing that I had aunties and uncles who were older than me. I wondered what they were doing for 2 years without going to school.

Yet, somebody did not celebrate with me. (TO BE CONTINUED).

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

~ NewsOrient