From Primary To Tertiary, Here Is My Diary (Part 36)

From Primary To Tertiary, Here Is My Diary (Part 36)

5th July 2024, NewsOrient,
Books, Arts, Culture News
By Dapo Thomas

Then the Principal wanted to know why I changed my position. I replied that I went to the restroom and by the time I returned, the boy was already seated in my position. “I did not want to start a fight with a newcomer, I had to go and look for a new place”, I finally submitted.

He apologized to the boy and that was the end of the case. However, I observed that the Principal re-routed his routine check by starting from the annex instead of my class.

In that order, my class was the last call. It was no longer easy for him to do his “omọ buruku” ritual. I perceived he missed me and I was happy I tamed him.

From the blue, another Dapo Thomas’ “enemy” emerged in the school. I didn’t understand why they kept coming after me and I was a good boy.

My popularity in the school was made possible by Baba Alake, the Principal, who kept magnifying my harmless misdemeanors by celebrating them with funfare and unnecessary drama in the assembly. Yes, in my class, everybody knew me. Why should I be in a class of 35 people for one year and all of them would not know me, GOD forbid.

Anyway, I didn’t know what I did to my Science teacher, Mr Abiola Abioye that made him dislike me with passion.. He didn’t like me at all.

The same way I didn’t like his subject at all. Why must a teacher ‘hate’ a student for not liking his subject? As far as I was concerned, I was following my destiny. I never dreamed or thought of becoming a medical doctor. Yet, Mr Abioye wanted to change my destiny as if he was my GOD. He beat me. He abused me. He mocked me.

Yet, I remained defiant. Things just didn’t work out well between the two of us. I was not interested in a subject that would hinder me from being like my role models, and I had many of them-Baba Sala (Moses Olaiya), Ayinla Olumegbon, Ogunde, Duro Ladipo, Baba Wande, Ajimajasan (Ola Omonitan) and Charlie Chaplin. I wanted to be like them by acting in the television.

Besides, I didn’t want to create conflict of intelligence between spirituality and phenomenology.

Therefore, I wanted to maintain my lane but Mr Abioye would not let me be. On Friday, February 13, 1976 , our last subject was Science. I tried as much as possible to avoid any collision with him on that day.

After giving us notes on the subject without explanation, he asked me a question on what he just finished writing on the board. I had not even finished copying the notes when he asked me the question. I stood up to tell him the truth: “Sir, no idea.”

He screamed as if I had offended him before: “You don’t always have any idea. Come out here right now.”.

If this man wouldn’t praise me, let me praise myself. Here was a boy that never loved going to school when he was in primary school, an unrepentant truant that enjoyed promotion(al) grace from above for 5 years when they kept putting him “on trial” every year without a single conviction of failure.

Here was a boy who did not pass first school leaving certificate now found himself in form two as a result of incremental efforts and sundry prayers from well wishers and fans club.

In his first examinations in secondary school, he came 10th in a class of 35 plus students. In his promotion examinations from form one to two, he came fourth. In his first term examinations in form two, he came third if not for this stubborn Dora Ekpo that wanted to turn the first position to her permanent “chieftaincy title”.

As for Kamoru Adio who came second, he was always fluctuating , he could be overtaken. Yet, one teacher teaching photosynthesis and Osmosis was telling me I never had idea of anything. If I was going to have idea, what would I have become in less than two years in secondary school after my “Darasingh Years” in primary school?

Well, I didn’t say anything, it was just a rumination kind of. Since he said I should come out, I sauntered to the front ready for his mockery as usual until I saw him asking Michael Cole to excuse him his desk.

I was still wondering what the ceremony was all about until he asked me to lie flat on the desk while he massaged his cane.

“For what”, was my reaction to his “lie flat” order. He did not even fear my muscles as he called out four hefty guys in my class led by Sehinde Owolabi and Julius Isijola to come and carry me. I said to myself this man was taking his joke too far.

How did he think I would allow that kind of nonsense in the presence of my crushes, especially Moji Bankole and Titi Obasa. Instead of giving him the satisfaction of disgracing me, I submitted myself to constituted authority.

I moved towards the desk with deflated swagger. I was about mounting Abioye’s desk of penitence when some staff in the Principal’s office rushed to the class with the school bell shouting : “Everybody go out, soldiers are killing themselves. The Radio in our office said they have killed Murtala in the mosque and so many people. Everybody go home.”

I quickly rushed to take my bag from my seat without taking permission from Mr Abioye who had also vanished from the class without taking his precious cane.

The school gate was pulled down in the ensuing stampede. It was a day to remember. The roads were scanty. Cars and bikes were speeding with desperate recklessness.

Students were running in different directions. Workers were closing without permission. Traders were scampering to any direction.

Consumers suspended negotiations without completion. Hell was let loose but the gates of heaven remained locked.

It was at home I got the details of the rampage of the drunken soldier called Bukar Suka Dimka. He was a 36 year-old Lt. Col who ambushed the car of the Head of State, Murtala Muhammed on his way for the Jumat service. Murtala was a simple and humble leader who shunned the long convoy of the Head of State as established by Gen. Yakubu Gowon whose convoy alone could take 50 cars per kilometre.

Gowon was indicted in the coup by Dimka who claimed he had a meeting with the deposed Head of State in London. Angry Nigerians started calling for his extradition by the British government.

But the British government turned it down. Gowon denied any involvement in the coup and insinuated that Dimka must be drunk for making such a wild allegation against him. Truly, Dimka was an established drunk who joined the army in 1963. It was alleged that out of the 13 years he spent in the Army, 10 years were spent in the Mammy market where he indulged in Epicurean flenjoring, taking pepper soup and ogogoro without any respect for establishment regulations.

This definitely was an exaggeration by some of his colleagues during his trial, the allegation was an attestation to the characterization of a nuisance who wanted power to augment his affection for jollification.

Dimka and his pepper soup “army” killed Murtala Muhammed, his Aide-de-Camp (ADC), Lt. Akíntúndé Akinsehinwa and the driver whose name was not given on the official statement released by the government.

In return, the Federal Government, now led by Olusegun Obssanjo, executed by firing squad, about 30 people who were indicted and implicated in the abortive coup.

Among them was Murtala Muhammed’s Defence Minister, Major General I.D. Bisalla who, before being implicated, was seen at the Airport with other top government officials waving as the plane conveying Murtala ‘s corpse to Kano for burial took off.

Most schools did not reopen until about one and a half weeks after the incident.

Immediately we resumed, the second term examinations were fixed for first week in April. By the time our results were released again, I was back in the fourth position with Lukmon Adedimeji finally dethroning Dora Ekpo from the first position. Dora came second while Toyin Taylor -Cole was third.

It was a strange dethronement which the male students in my class and other classes hailed and celebrated with chauvinistic shamelessness.

I was happy for Lukmon but I felt jealous somehow that I was not the one that dethroned Dora. Though Lukmon became the hero of our group, he didn’t dethrone me from my “Olori Ẹgbẹ” position.

During the short holiday, I decided to re-strategize my modus operandi by interacting more with my peers in the neighborhood instead of depending more on school friends. Some of them were my siblings’ age mates but my Darasingh’ years had levelled us up. Consequent upon this, I got so close to the Anglican Girls Grammar School team in the neighborhood led by Aina Brown, Bola Salawe, Deola George, Dupe Sontan, Alero Atake, Toyin Balogum, Sunkanmi Palmer, Iyabo Elliot).

I was also interacting with people likeTunde Thomas, Wale Abiru (Baptist Academy) . Others were Wale and Tunde Joseph (Igbobi College), Bosola Joseph (Methodist Girls High School) , Kayode Balogun, Tunde Elliot, Muraina Jìnádù, Kamoru Habib and Taiwo Martins (Eko Boys High School), Gaafara Agboluaje (Ahmadiyah Grammar School, Agege, Iyabo Ajetunmobi (Marywood College, Apapa Road) Taofeek and Kamoru Jìnádu,(Ansar-ud-Deen Grammar School), Dennis Isibor (St. Thomas Aquinas Secondary school, Akure), Kofo Thomas (Lagos City College, Sabo) and Suraju Adebowale and Bunmi Akinyemi (Birch Freeman High Schxool, Surulere).

This peer fraternity really helped me as in, no matter the individual you engaged in any conversation, you must be smart and sharp in your presentation. Your English, irrespective of your class, must be impeccable. We were not forbidden from speaking “vernacular” but we were motivated to keep speaking in English.

It was a very competitive fraternity smouldered to stimulate the best in the individual knowing that the ultimate glory was for the community.

We shared dreams and visions, values and morals, which we thought were the best in terms of standards and principles on which a community must lay its foundation. The entire “Milo” neighborhood was like one big family.

Another motivation I got was from Senior. He realized that it was getting somehow embarrassing for me and my cousin, Bidemi to be sleeping on the mat in the living room with my brothers, Kunle, Gboyega and Niyi. My little sisters Feyi, Yewande and Aunty Folake, Aina and Bose (my step-mum’s three sisters) were sleeping in my step-mum’s room.

In short, he realized it was time to increase the rooms from 2 to 3. He therefore converted the kitchen to a room for me and my cousin, Bidemi. As soon as the room was ready, I changed my reading period from day to night. Before, I was reading for only one to two hours in a day. Now, because I was angry that I didn’t come first; that I was not the one that dethroned Dora; that promotion examinations were always tougher than others; that I must show Mr Abioye that I had idea of how to improve in life and because my position as “Olori Ẹgbẹ” was being threatened, I started reading like magpie and I prayed like a prayer warrior.

That was when my life started changing for real. I would read from 12 midnight to 5am without sleeping. I would read to understand not just cramming. It was tough but it really worked for me. In the promotion examinations to form three, I came first and others followed.

The excitement of coming first in a class of 35 plus students with some brilliant minds lasted for the duration of the long holiday. I was still savouring the joy of victory when Obasanjo released a bombshell on September 6, 1976 while launching the Universal Free Primary Education Programme (UBE). He abolished all the existing private secondary schools and transfered all affected students to government secondary schools in the State.

Acting in strict compliance with the directive of the Head of State, the Governor of Lagos State, Navy Cmdr. Adekunle Lawal took two odd decisions, one of which affected me personally. One, all the students in Benevolent High school (Male and Female) were transferred to Eko Boys High School. That was the first aberration. How and why should girls be moved to a boys school when there were so many girls schools in Lagos State that they could be transferred to?

I sometimes wonder whether there is something in the uniform that disturbs the thinking process of those wearing it. Would the school now change its name to Eko Boys and Girls High School? The second decision was very insensitive to my antecedents: Transferring me to Eko Boys High School, Mushin, located right in front of Rainbow Cinema, Oga Dara’s territory at a time I was having the best time in my educational life was absolutely insensitive to both my psychological stability and ancestorial trajectory.


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

~ NewsOrient

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