From Primary To Tertiary, Here Is My Diary Part (35)

From Primary To Tertiary, Here Is My Diary Part (35)

29th June 2024, NewsOrient
Books, Arts, Culture, News
By Dapo Thomas

The following day in class, I couldn’t make noise. I was as cool as the early morning stream water. The timing of the nailing was inauspicious. Our first term examinations were about two weeks away. It was in December, just some few more days to a new year- 1975. It happened in the week that our teachers just received their own Udoji award. So, the excitement and joy of collecting big salary by the staff was still all over the school.

Here I was, coiling as if a disaster had just struck me. There was peace in the class because Dapo Thomas had been “nailed”. It was a revision week. Throughout that day I was glued to my Practical English Book 1 by P.A Ogundipe and P.S Tregidgo. I was reading but I was not concentrating nor was I assimilating. I would open the pages back and forth, yet nothing was entering my head apart from the nailing episode.

My head felt congested but it was empty. In my own case, exam had met exam on the ground. I was thinking of the incident as if I was asked to write an essay on it. I was asking myself all sorts of questions without providing answers to them: “what did I do wrong?”. “Where did I go wrong?” “Was my approach too ceremonial or dramatic?” “Was my speech coarse or was my accent heavy?” Obviously, her english and her accent were better than mine. “Was I too forward simply because somebody called me fine boy and now said it could mean “Mr Man”.

I took a quick glance at her corner, I perceived she was happy at the fact that I was unusually quiet in the class. I was telling myself “she is not even fine sef”. I knew that was a hostile assessment. In the final analysis, I decided that ‘no more toasting for me ‘ and that I should focus on my studies especially my englísh because it was evident that my englísh was handicapped.

My friends suffered the fallout as I played less with them on that day. I didn’t go for break because I had no appetite which was a rarity. I had already told Emeka and Yinusa that I would leave the school as soon as they rang the bell which was another rarity. I had started indulging in so many rarities until someone touched my shoulder. Lo and behold, she was the one. I was smilingly rarified as I responded with an “hi”. “Can we walk home together”, she said with an enticing seduction. My “why not” was like a choreographed response.

Moji Bankole was one of the prettiest girls in my class. She was staying at Razaq Balogun Street opposite the National Stadium, Surulere. She was from a very good family of middle class status. She usually took a bus going to Masha at the Yaba Baptist Church, Yaba in front of De Facto Bakery. Emeka,Yinusa and I did not need to take any bus.

We normally trekked to our different homes gossipping on sundry issues or discussing girls in the class or teachers in the school. Yinusa was staying at 50, Clegg Street, Emeka stayed at 7, Olorogun Street while I was living at 16 Western Avenue. But on this particular day that Moji requested we walk together, it meant she wouldn’t be taking a bus. Immediately after the closing bell was rung, I beckoned to her that we should move if she was ready. We moved in a company of five friends- Emeka, Yinusa, Dapo, Moji and Dewunmi Balogun, Moji’s closest friend in school. Dewunmi lived at Rabiatu Thompson Crescent popularly known as Shitta. Usually, she and Moji would take Masha or Àgùdà bus. Moji would drop at UAC bus stop (now called Teslim Balogun) while Dewunmi would drop at Ile-gogoro bus stop.

On this particular day, five of us decided to trek from our school in Yaba to our different homes. We had to take short cuts in some cases until we got to barracks. Yinusa was the first person to get to his house on Clegg Street. Emeka and I were supposed to stop at the same place in Barracks but I must achieve my objective because “opportunity once lost cannot be recovered”.

I looked at my house as if I was not living there. Senior was not at home. He was on afternoon duty. He wouldn’t return until late in the night. We passed it and moved on straight from Barracks towards Stadium. Dewunmi was supposed to connect Shitta from my area passing through Love Garden but she decided to follow us until she got to stadium bus stop. When she left, we were now on our own.

I looked at the distance that would take us to her street, it was very short. I decided to act fast like a Lagos boy. There was no doubt that I was acutely inexperienced in toasting because I was too slow to tell her what I wanted from her. I didn’t know whether to ask for relationship or friendship. I was still weighing the better of the two when Demola Bankole, her brother and a year our senior, met us at the corner that leads to their street from stadium. He was not in school on that day.

He was just coming from where he went when he met us at the spot. I greeted him, and at that point, there was no need to follow her any longer . Her brother was now with her. The only consolation and compensation I got for my great trek was the “o se Dapo” that she said to me when I was leaving the two of them. All the same, it was a soothing appreciation. Now, I was on my own.

I had to trek back home with an inchoate toasting exploit. From Stadium to barracks looked like an inter-state journey whereas when we walked from Yaba to Stadium, it looked so short. That’s the way it is. When you walk side by side with your crush or toastee, no matter the distance, the journey always looks so short, interesting and persevering.

But when you walk alone without a romantic incentive, a short journey will look like an endless trip to Phillippi. That’s the prank of psychology on lovers. Walking back home without achieving the objective of my great trek was very frustrating. Imagine, I had spent two days on Moji without getting anything from Moji.

My first term examinations were very significant to me. I needed them to assess my level of adaptation and integration to my new environment and with my new socialization. Before the exams, I had gone to the altar in the church to make certain vows and pledges to GOD.

Though the church wasn’t our permanent site, it still had the symbolisms of a sanctuary. It was a utilitarian premises we had in our temporary site at Onitolo Street, Surulere. As at December 1974 , it accommodated the Advanced Teachers College now Lagos State University of Education (LASUED), Government Demonstration Primary school and African Church Bethel (Biney Memorial).

Of these three institutions, only Government Demonstration Primary school had its permanent location in the premises. The two others were temporary occupants. Before the relocation of Advanced Teachers College to their permanent site, I almost got myself into trouble with the school over the piano in the hall.

I didn’t know it was the school that owned the piano. I thought my church owned it that was why I kept coming at odd hours to practice. I could easily access the place from my house through Ore Ofe Street or Imototo street. I was practicing one day when the Security arrested me for touching their property.

They were taking me to Barracks Police Station when boys from the area (not area boys) prevented them from taking me away. It was one of them that ran to call the church warden, Mr. B.A Thomas (no relation of mine) who also lived on the same street. It was the church warden that settled the matter that day. However, before the incident, I had been able to use their piano to learn some basic music elements like sound, rhythm, harmony and melody. I had also become familiar with some notes like C, D, E , F,G and some flats and sharps courtesy Mr Akin Ogunfolu, the church organist who told me to be drinking 2 eggs per day in order to have a disciplined voice.

My rapid understanding of the piano surprised me. I was more surprised when the church decided to make me and another young member of the choir , Babatunde Davies aka “Apala”, assistant church organists at the ages of 14 and 15 respectively.

The church council premised its decision on the need to groom its own members instead of spending so much on honoraria for visiting organists like Ogunfolu. I didn’t know why “Apala” declined the offer of being sent to a private music school at Gasper Street, Ikate, owned by Baba Lewis, for further training but I accepted the offer joyfully because of the big monthly “salary” and transport allowance of ten naira (10 Naira) that came with it.

Our choir then was top notch. We had people like Tokunbo Adegbore, Akin Olufowora, Jide Fagbayimu, Biola Atigarin, Sunday Atigarin Lola and Bunmi Jiboku, Bolajoko and Tunde Thomas (the Church Warden’s daughter and son), Lanre Atigarin, Deun Atigarin, Soji Asolo, Olaolu Ogbe, Iyabo Ajetunmobi, Tutu Asolo, Remi Asolo, Gbenga Bada, Bayo Bada, Bose Fagbayimu, Alábá George, Segun Ogbe, Koye Asolọ, Seni Jacobs, Anne Ogbevre, Francis Ogbevre, Foluso and Demilade Davies, Kofo Thomas, Kunle Thomas, Iyabo Elliot, Lanre Thomas, Rotimi Thomas, Feyi Thomas, Gboyega Thomas, Niyi Thomas , Yéwándé Thomas and Sumbọ Jacobs, That was a choir. Under Akin Ogunfolu, the church choir was a “Salvation Army”. Hymns were sung with Cheribic attraction and when all the parts were delivered as practised, the windows of heaven opened in appreciation and acknowledgement. When this particular Choir sang, the Celestial entities bowed in adoration.

  I had further training in piano and organ  from prominent organists  like Pa Derby, Pa Okanlawon Vincent, immediate younger  brother of the former Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria  (CBN) Ola Vincent, Mr Hicks and others. Confident that my little knowledge in the piano would take me to places in music, I almost changed my mind about school. On Saturday, November 30, 1974,   Ebenezer Obey came to perform for the Foresythes during a family party. 

I approached his boys as I did during the Babs Animashaun's party shortly before I left iya Ibadan's house. One of them recognized me and shouted at me thinking I came for money because they gave me some money the last time I came to them. I reminded them that they told me to go and learn at least one musical instrument and  that I had learned how to play the piano. This time around, they didn't tell their boss anything. 

They only told me to come to their office. I couldn't go to their office because of my exams. I decided to focus my attention on my studies. It was a rewarding decision. By the time they gave us our report cards, I found myself scoring between 60 and 70 in almost six subjects except in mathematics where I scored 46 percent. Overall, I did pretty well. In a class of 30 plus students,  I came 10th after Dora Ekpo, Kamoru Adio, Lukmon Adedimeji,  Charles Egboma,  Michael Adeyera, Bola Adeniregun, Toyin Taylor -Cole , Doris Ekpo and Emeka Igbo. 

At that point, my hope rose that I could make a better position next time if only I could be more competitive. I got more serious in other exams for the year (second and third terms) and I was not surprised that I ended up with 4th position during  promotion examinations with Dora Ekpo still topping the class. 

We were on holiday when Brigadier Murtala Muhammed and other prominent officers removed General Yakubu Gowon from power on Tuesday July 29, 1975. The bloodless coup was announced by Col. Joseph Nanven Garba, head of the Brigade of Guards while Gen Gowon was attending the 12th Organization of Africa Unity (OAU) Summit in Kampala, Uganda.

The coup plotters who ended Gowon’s nine year rule as Nigeria’s Head of State later announced the appointments of Brigadiers Murtala muhammed and Olusegun Obssanjo as the Head of State and deputy respectively. When we resumed from our long vacation and we were all promoted to form two, all of us found ourselves in the same class again.

My class loved debates, so it was not surprising that two months after the coup, we were still debating the implications of the removal of Gowon on the transition programme. The topic still featured formally in our Social studies class.

Excited at the fact that I was now in form two in a matter of one year and some months that Iya Ibadan died, I began to get more serious with my studies but with a little dosage of rascality. I couldn’t just explain why it was difficult for me to stop being rascally despite all my efforts to always be a good boy. A particular incident happened between me and a classmate that almost led to my expulsion from the school. Olumuyiwa Power was in my class ditto Sola Atinsola. I didn’t know what happened between the two of them in the class that made them engage each other in a fight after school. Going by physical structure, Sola Atinsola was not in the same frame and shape like Muyiwa Power. None of them was in my group.

We operated in groups in secondary schools back then. In some other schools, they called theirs, gangs. My group consisted of disciplined, studious, gentle and GOD-fearing guys like Lukmon Adedimeji, Emeka Igbo, Yinusa Lawal, Aderemi Adedeji and Kehinde Richard. Biola Atinsola, also in my class, was not my girlfriend but we were close.

We saw her trying to prevent Muyiwa Power from beating her brother, Sola. So, we went to the scene to see what we could do to stop them from fighting but Olumuyiwa Power pushed me on the chest and I hated that. I told him that he wanted to “chance” Sola because he knew he could beat him easily. He pushed me on the chest again and dared me to intervene. I hesitated to retaliate because I had told GOD in one of my vows that I wouldn’t fight again. It was also one of the promises I made to Iya Ibadan on her death bed.

But he did it the second time and I still hesitated, silently begging GOD to forgive me for breaking my vow to prevent this act of injustice against a helpless boy. By the time Muyiwa Power attempted to touch my chest again, I landed him a punch that was commensurate with his insolence. My intention was simply to disable the power of Power but I ended up disgracing the prowess of Power.

My group started hailing me not knowing that the Principal had been informed by some neighbours that his students were disturbing the peace of the neighborhood. I was the topic of the assembly the following day. The Principal told me not to march with others to the class as I would be doing my own march to my house. I was abandoned at the assembly for several hours until the Principal sent for me.

I had already concluded that I had finished my studentship in the school based on what the Principal said at the assembly. I was expecting to be handed my expulsion letter as I walked to the Principal’s office not knowing that the Atinsolas had told their parents about what happened in school. In a twist of irony, as I entered the office, the Principal , in the presence of Mr Atinsola, simply said: “Ọmọ buruku lojo ire ti e” meaning “a bad child has his own day of honour”.

He told me that I was free to go back to my class. The way Mr Atinsola and the Principal were talking convinced me that there was a kind of intimacy between them. As for Muyiwa Power, his father was also a close pal of Mr Alake. Come and see hailing as I entered the class from all my classmates except Olumuyiwa Power. Ever since the incident, the Atinsolas had become my very good friends. I remember visiting their house at Ayilara Street, Surulere. It was a storey building with their father operating a very big shop downstairs for his tailoring business.

In form two, my seat was very close to the corridor door. I picked that seat for strategic reason. I wanted to be monitoring the Principal when he entered his office and when he left his office so that I could know what to do and when to do it.

Unfortunately, the Principal converted my expediency to his own usefulness. Most of the time, he moved around all the classes to see which class was making noise or which teacher was not teaching his class. Each time he left his office, my class was always the first point of call.

As he passed through my class in the corridor with his big cane, he would hit my head with the cane three to four times chanting “omo buruku”, “omo buruku” (bad boy). Sometimes, he would look at my direction while hitting me with his cane.

Most times, he won’t even bother to look at me. The banging of the cane on my head was without prejudice to any prior offence. He just loved banging his cane on my head as if my head was a toy. Along the line, a new guy had just been offered admission into the school and he was to start in form two. He probably was coming on a transfer. We all welcomed him to our class. Generously, I vacated my seat for him while I looked for another corner.

It was on a Friday. When we came back on Monday, we all settled in our different positions. As usual, the Principal, who was on his routine check, hit the boy on the head about four times without looking at his direction. He was shocked when he heard the recipient of the cane knocks crying profusely.

He turned back dramatically and said in Yoruba: “Ọmọ buruku, níjó wo lo bere ẹkun” (Bad boy, when did you start this crying habit?). When he looked at the person properly, he discovered that it was his friend’s son that recently came to the school on transfer. He screamed: “Where is Dapo Thomas?” ” I am now here Sir”, I replied with pentecostal innocence from my new corner.


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

~ NewsOrient

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *