From Primary To Tertiary Here Is My Diary (Part 33)

From Primary To Tertiary Here Is My Diary (Part 33)

15th June 2024, NewsOrient
Books, Arts, Culture, News
By Dapo Thomas

On the evening of Tuesday, April 2, 1974 around 6pm, I just returned from the field where I had gone to play set. We were five at home. Iya Ibadan was in her room. The remaining four of us were in the front of the house holding a domestic assembly and discussing issues of general interest. Amope Nuru-Oniwo aka Iya Saint Agnes was there. She sat on her special chair which was customized for her because of her weight.

She was iya Ibadan’s first daughter and third child. At 60, she was still looking unto GOD for the fruit of the womb. She was married to one of Nigeria’s richest men- Alhaji Nuru Oniwo. Also with us was Abegbe Oniru aka Iya Olojojo, my grand mother.

She was iya Ibadan’s last born. At 58, she had 4 children -Suraju, Fausat, Ganiyu and Silifa. She was married to Alhaji Oniru, a prominent Ilorin cleric. The third person with us was Fausat Aroyewun, my mother. At 32, she had 8 children -Sehinde, Lateef (Late-tua), Dapo, Mark, Biodun, Moji, Basirat and Kafilat. I was the only small boy among them. At 14, I had no child.

From my house, I could see my cousin, Gbolahan Thomas crossing the Western Avenue expressway with three other boys walking towards our house. I was always on the alert anytime I saw anybody coming from Senior’s side because on one or two occasions, Senior had sent people to come and carry me from Iya Ibadan’s house. But that was when I was still in primary school not now that I was working with Darasingh.

Things had changed. On this particular day, I didn’t run away because it would be impossible for them to come and “abduct” me in front of my mum and grandmas. Absolutely impossible. On getting to our house, he asked his friend, Emirawon to narrate what happened. When he finished explaining what happened, I was asked to respond. On Sunday, March 31, he was at Rainbow Cinema to watch a new film titled DOST by Dharmendra and Hema Malini.

As usual, the crowd was mammoth because of the pair of Dharmendra and Hema Malini. On that day I was a ticket boy. You could be drafted to any of the “Departments” for special assignment. Because of my closeness to Oga Dara, I was always included in any assignment that would involve commission. Oga Dara gave me money to buy 10 tickets and I did. Oga Dara was the one collecting money directly from the people.

The ticket boys were the ones buying tickets. After the purchase, you would give to Oga Dara who would share them to the owners. It would be after the film that he would settle us from the extra money he collected from those he bought the tickets for.

Unfortunately, Emirawon gave him money but didn’t get his ticket. But because he recognized me as Gbolahan’s brother, he approached me to help him and I told him that I don’t interfere in Oga Dara’s operations. He now said I would have to pay him his money. Obviously, he couldn’t confront Darasingh. That was all. They started making noise in front of our house that I must pay. Their noise woke iya Ibadan up.

She was a peaceful woman, she paid the money after listening to the story and I was furious.

Later in the night when we were about to sleep, I expressed my displeasure with what she did. I always slept on the mat in her room while she would sleep on the bed. Then the two of us would be talking until we slept off. I asked her why she paid the money when I was not the one that collected the money from Emirawon.

My great grandmother admonished that I should always avoid getting myself involved in any messy situation that has to do with money. I replied that I have always been a good boy when it comes to money. I was surprised when she said No, she didn’t think so. She now revealed to me that she knew I had been taking her money inside the wardrobe.

My response was casually mischievous because I knew what she was talking about. I said but that’s your money and you are my great -grandmother. She responded with every element of seriousness:”No matter your relationship with the person, for as long as it’s not your money, your are under a moral obligation to ask before taking it.

Leave it to the person’s discretion to give you or not to give you.” I was intrigued with the candour she spoke to me but I still asked her how she knew I was taking her money. She told me that I forgot to remove the key after taking the money on two or three occasions. “As from this moment, I want you to start living like a good boy so that nobody would blame me for not training you well long after I have gone.

Always remember all my discussions with you about having the fear of GOD in you. When you do good to people, GOD will always be there for you. I asked you to be sleeping in my room so that I can have time to talk to you every night about GOD. I know you are a “kiriyo” (Christian) but always remember that GOD is GOD. Now, let’s sleep”. This was her final advice on the matter…..

Iya Ibadan took me to my father’s house. She dropped me in the house without any funfare or ceremony. She only spoke to Senior: “Biodun, omo e re, bami toju e” (Here is your son Biodun, take good care of him.)

That same night that she dropped me, “Senior” beat me to stupor. I ran out of the house into an agora looking for who would rescue me from him. He kept chasing me all over the place until I saw a lonely lady in a white garment. I grabbed her by the waist and hid at her back to shield me from “Senior’s” fury.

Astonishingly, “Senior” raised his cane but couldn’t bring it down. At this time, there was a sudden whirlwind threatening to carry the lady and myself. I could see that the lady wasn’t really concerned about being carried away by the whirlwind but she was more concerned about my own safety. She was pushing me away and was telling “Senior” to drop his cane and hold me by the hand so that I wouldn’t be taken away with her.

She was very angry that “Senior” was wasting time. Suddenly, she started using commanding tone for “Senior” who was now following her instructions diligently. The whirlwind was very strong that by the time “Senior” dropped his cane to get hold of me, he too was almost being carried away but the lady threw me towards him and the two of us fell. By the time I opened my eyes, I didn’t see the lady and “Senior”. I could only see myself and Iya Ibadan in the room. It was a terrible dream.

Normally, when I had such weird dreams, it was iya Ibadan I always told because we were in the same room. I checked the wall clock, it was 3:23am. I couldn’t sleep again. I was a bit scared but with Iya Ibadan with me, I regained my composure.

I stood up to narrate the dream to her, behold she was cold and lifeless. I screamed and my grandma and my mother who were sleeping in the living room rushed in.

Just like that, my favorite human being is gone. What kind of death is this that has taken away my angel like the sudden whirlwind that took away the lady in white garment that I saw in my dream?

Where do I go from here? Why do I still think this is a dream? Is this what death is all about? Someone will talk to you in the night and that same night she stops breathing? What kind of death is this that deals rudely with the righteous and genuflects shamelessly for the wicked?

What is the fuss about life when 90 years will amount to nothing in a matter of minutes? Is this all that is about life?

Two people of several years will sleep and one minute, one of them is gone. I shook iya Ibadan. No response. I buried my head on her body vowing to do this and do that but she remained silent.

They dragged me away from her but I kept surging and surging. I shook her violently, promising her so many things but she didn’t answer.

I kept using her favourite phrases and sayings but none worked. When they saw that I wouldn’t allow her to sleep in peace, they told me to go and tell “Baba Alagomeji” about her death.

I knew I wouldn’t stop crying for the whole day and I didn’t want people to be asking me in the bus “what happened”, I decided to trek from Barracks to Akinwunmi street, Alagomeji using the rail track from Yaba to Alagomeji bus stop.

From my house till I got to Akinwunmi street, I wept uncontrollably thinking about my life without iya Ibadan. I couldn’t find anyone that was a worthy replacement for a woman that gave me a placement that would become a pedestal for my worthy testament.

As a Moslem, she had to be buried as soon as possible. Anyway, she had told me she didn’t want to stay inside “yinyin” (Mortuary). The following day, April 4, 1974, she was buried. That was how iya Ibadan left me 50 years ago with my behaviour in this lonely world but I moved on.

May 5, 1974, my mother who was carrying an 8 month-old pregnancy when iya Ibadan died gave birth to a baby boy. I was so angry with her for this insensitive error.

That was an era of so many Yetundes and Babatundes. I was actually expecting a babygirl and I was ready to name her Moriamoh or Mariam which was iya Ibadan’s name.

Disappointedly, my mother gave birth to a boy and the father named him Kabiru. Can you imagine!!!

Life was becoming so boring and frustrating to me now that the baby girl consolation or compensation I was expecting was not forthcoming.

I became very angry with my mother and she knew it was because of iya Ibadan’s death. I planned my strategy and she too plotted her own strategy.

I started going back to Rainbow Cinema but this time, more for relaxation than business. However, I was still doing business as an aside.

Sometime in late May, there was this particular film I had longed to see. It was titled: “Bombay to Goa” starring my three favorite actors and actress namely Amitabh Bachchan, Mehmood and Aruna Irani. They had shown it at Rainbow Cinema several times but I kept missing it.

I didn’t know what happened. Fortunately, I heard that they would show it at Boundary Cinema in Ajegunle. For some very strange reasons, they only had one show at the Cinema-9pm to 12 midnight. What did it matter to me again, my guardian angel was already dead.

She would watch over me from above. Ghosts are better security than the Police. I went to see the film without anybody knowing my movement or whereabouts.

It was a horrible day for me. The Cinema house had no roof, no cover, no tarpaulin, no “atibaba”. Nothing to protect us from dew from above. The atmosphere was so chilling. The film was for 2 hours 30 minutes. On the average, I slept for almost one hour forty five minutes. I didn’t enjoy myself nor did I enjoy the film. But I enjoyed the sleep.

On getting home, my mother was already waiting for me. It was almost 1am. I greeted her and she replied me ‘excitedly.’ I was happy. “Se film na dun” (Was the film interesting?) “Bajee” (Very interesting) was my response. She asked me if I wanted to eat but I said No. I went straight to bed. I had stopped sleeping in Iya Ibadan’s room because my mother had taken over her bed.

Sleeping in the same room with my mother was not as stimulating as it was under iya Ibadan. I moved to the living room instead. I was already snoring when I felt some hurtful strikes on my body. I thought it was like that dream until I started seeing different world maps and irremovable signages on my body. My mother reserved her best for me for iya Ibadan to die. It was not a flenjoring flagellation at all.

Only GOD knew where she got this flogging energy from. Somehow, I survived the onslaught. She was the first person to make me regret the death of iya Ibadan. She didn’t even allow me to mourn her for 40 days and 40 nights before descending on me with a load of backlog acerbity. Since there was no difference between her and “Senior”, I had started nursing the idea of going back to my “fatherland”.

The opportunity came so soon. Two weeks after that beating, another incident occurred. Before leaving the house on that day, she left only one clear instruction for me: make sure you wash all the nappies I soaked in the bucket. I nodded my head like an Agama lizard . She left the house around 12 noon and not upto 5 minutes of her departure, I was off to Paddington for weekend set. It was a Saturday.

I didn’t know what happened that day, they were just choosing me into every set. I really enjoyed myself. My mother returned by 5pm only to discover that the nappies had not been washed. She sent for me on the field. On reaching the house, she tried tricking me again but it didn’t work this time around.

I ran out of the house and started making some mannerless and rude statements in the open. It was an unfortunate spectacle which attracted a lot of people from the street, iyun road and ibukun street. Children were there, boys and girls were there, crushes and those on crutches were also there, Senior citizens and junior citizens were all there. It lasted several hours. I admit that I was enraged to an unpardonable fault.

One of the Senior citizens who came to settle the public domestic fracas between mother and son was Madam Omolola Lukanmbi (Nee Euba) popularly known as Mama in the neighborhood. Though her house faces iyun road, the back of the house faces our own house. She mediated and calmed us down.

Thirty minutes later, she sent for me. She said that she was shocked at some of the things I said. She wondered why I was blaming my mother for not allowing me to go to my father’s house. I explained everything to her and she disclosed to me she was aware of all the efforts made by iya Ibadan to ensure my relocation to my father’s house. She asked me if I was now ready to go and stay with my father. I told her I was ready and willing to go and stay with “Senior”. Mama was years older than “Senior” but definitely younger than iya Ibadan.

Like my family, Mama and the other Eubas were also moved to Surulere from Lagos Island in 1956. She knew “Senior” very well when they were all at Richard’s Lane. She promised to send for “Senior” and get everything sorted out with my cooperation. On Sunday, June 10, 1974 at exactly 5pm, “Senior” arrived as scheduled. That’s Senior for you, he was an accurate time-keeper.

He rarely indulged in African time. As usual, he gave his conditions, one of which was: “Fausa must not visit him at anytime and he would not allow her to move near his son.” As if she knew how the meeting would go, Fausa stayed away from the meeting. I had prepared myself for a worse case scenario. I just had to go to school. I didn’t care again about “Senior’s ” cane. I just must go to school. Enough of washing nappies and delivering food at different locations – you will take food to your siblings in Owhin Street, Palm Avenue; you will wash your sisters nappies in lawanson and then you are back in Surulere to wash nappies again. “O to ge” (enough is enough).

I arrived at number 16, Western Avenue with my Ibadan bag courtesy iya Ibadan. Right from the very day I arrived, I started meeting new people in my life. One thing was very obvious: the whole neighborhood was immersed in corporate discipline. There were too many community floggers in this area- Baba Kofo, Baba Dupe (Mr Fadare), Baba Bawu (Mr Salami), Baba Biodun (One Way) and “Senior” (Chairman). In less than one week, I had purchased several forms of some private schools which were the only schools that could admit me without first school leaving certificate.

Every youth on this side of the divide was in school. There was no early morning set at Milo. It was not like Paddington where people played set as early as 8am. In Milo, the last set should not exceed 6pm. In Paddington we could play set till 8pm. These Milo youths were “Butty” children. You could hardly see them outside until 5pm. If you saw them moving around in the afternoon after school hours, it’s either they had gone to borrow books from themselves or they had gone to do school assignments. For several days, I was looking for who to discuss Indian films with, I couldn’t find one.

The whole area was like Seminary and Monastery. Ironically, Milo is sandwiched by two rascally neighbors namely Paddington and Love Garden. By the time I was leaving Paddington, the fourth one was brewing. It was called Bourdillon. It was being established by some emerging rascals from Asopọ, Idẹra, Ayeleto, Aralile, Oyerokun and some infiltrators from Barracks.

Out of all the forms I collected, only three schools gave me admission-Premier College, Yaba, Lagos Technical College (Lateco) and Benevolent High School (Bene), Aminu Close, off Nathan street. After paying physical visit to the three, I chose Benevolent High school, Yaba. By September, 1974, I resumed in Form 1A. We were about 30 in the class. On the second day of resuming in the school, we decided to pick the class captain.

Yinusa Lawal who was my classmate in primary school and Emeka Igbo, who was two years my junior in primary school suggested my name but eventually another boy, Julius Isijola was chosen. I felt bad naturally but I didn’t want to lose focus this time around. I promised iya Ibadan that I would go to school and excel. That was during one of our late night discussions. Now, I had started school, iya Ibadan was not around to celebrate with me. But she liveth in my heart. (TO BE CONTINUED)

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

~ NewsOrient