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From primary to tertiary: My recollections (I)

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When I chose fish crumbs as my favourite snack in my primary one, I didn’t know I was creating a prophetic problem for myself. Something happened in the assembly that tickled my consciousness to the reality of my ironic choice of fish crumbs as my favourite snack every morning. If I didn’t go to school for one reason or another, what I missed most were the fish crumbs.

I loved “erun-run eja” like mad. In those days, the children of the rich would buy odindin eja, not erunrun and they would finish it in under five minutes. But children like us who didn’t know when the next farthing would come always relished culinary longevity. That’s why we preferred iṣhan (tendon) that we could drag and play with for a long time anytime we ate at the roadside buka. Our mouths were forever busy munching and crushing anything edible. We recognized the fish in the crumbs just by their eyes that refused to be crushed in the valley of death.

So, when they announced the names of the pupils that did well in my class, my name was “omitted”. But I started suspecting “foul play” when they included my name on the list of failed students. Can you imagine adult wickedness. Why should any sensible teacher think of failing a primary one pupil in his first year in school? How can you expose a first-year primary school pupil to failure? Is that how to do orientation for primary school pupils? Couldn’t they have given orientation on compassion by passing all the pupils in the class without discrimination irrespective of their individual performances? After all, kilo mode mo? To now add insult to injury, the headmaster, Mr Igbekele took his cruelty to a musical level when he instructed the general assembly to sing “Bàtà mi a dun ko, ko, ka” for those who passed. I must admit that the song was melodious. I thought that would be it until Mr Igbekele asked the assembly to sing “Olodo ràbàtà oju ẹja lo mo je” for those of us that didn’t make it.

In all honesty, was it proper for kindergartens like us to start our lives with such endowment disparity and public disgrace? Not only that. Mr Igbekele, our wicked headmaster, abused our innocent dignity by asking us to dance to the music of shame. The funny part was that the drummers and the vocalists sang the song with such celestial delight and harmony that some of us in the failure group did not know when we started dancing to the music with some involuntary rhythmic movements.

I know Sunny Ade sang ‘Synchro System’, Barrister did ‘Fuji Garbage’, Kollington did ‘Ijo Yoyo’, Shina Peters did ‘Ijo Shina’. Really, I can’t give a name to the kind of dance my group and I were dancing. All I can say was that there was obvious disagreement between our movements and the music. See what Mr Igbekele has caused us, innocent children, from disadvantaged ‘areas’ of life.

Despite my strenuous effort to inject life into my dance, the headmaster still screamed, “Dapo Thomas is that how to dance?”. When I saw that he was moving towards me with his ‘pasan’, I started digging it as if I was the one that came first in the class. Though a discerning mind would quickly notice the discord and disharmony between the song and our dance. Can any normal person be digging it so deep, I mean dancing synchronically to the lyrics of ‘Olodo ràbàtà, oju ẹja lo mo je?’ In all ramifications, I could say that I was the sole target of that song. First, I was olodo. I think the ‘ràbàtà’ was a theatrical and farcical hyperbole to garnish the ‘olodo’. Second, I was very good in eating ‘oju ẹja’. Even though the copyright of the song didn’t belong to Mr Igbekele, I was wondering what kind of ‘agbaya’ the man was for abusing a kid’s rights with a musical rendition that impugned on my integrity.

Somehow, I survived the Assembly horror, at least, I found myself in my house. I was staying with my great-grandmother at that time. Normally, I always gisted her what happened in school immediately I returned from school. This particular day, I hesitated. I was thinking that if I should tell her that I failed, I would be denied a sumptuous lunch of ‘ẹfọ riro and eba gbigbona’. I made sure I finished the meal with remarkable cleanliness as I used my tongue to “tongue-lash” the plates. Now, anything can happen. I made up my mind to tell ‘Iya Ibadan’ (that’s her a.k.a.) of my unprecedented retrogression in the assembly of young scholars.

On hearing my disclosure, she became very sad as if I was the first “young scholar” to disappoint his community in the whole of Surulere. On the Sunday preceding school resumption, I noticed some unusual movements around my house. The first person to arrive was the Alfa of my Ile-kewu (Quranic School). I was never comfortable seeing Alfa Ligali around me, I don’t know why. The presence of a man of God should naturally create an aura of goodness and peace, not Alfa Ligali’s. If his eyes were not red, his voice would be changing keys at intervals whenever he was talking especially when he was angry. Everything about him never signalled a good omen. I said it.

As I was about to excuse myself to visit the toilet for adequate rumination on this strange visitation, his second-in-command also arrived with some undisclosed contents inside a black nylon bag. Suddenly, Alfa Ligali dragged me with ill-tempered ferocity from where I was seated to his side. He forced me to sit on a vacant apoti that was close to him. He locked my head within his lap and sequestrated my fragile hands underneath his two stinking armpits. The only luck I had that day was that throughout the ritual exercise, there was no accidental discharge of gas or climate change otherwise I couldn’t have imagined how I would have survived such explosion with my head firmly tucked close to the “gas chamber”. While I was still wondering what my offence was to warrant this inexplicable assault, I felt some sharp objects lacerating my head at different strategic corners. Tears rolled down my eyes. Yet, Alfa Ligali did not budge. While Alfa Ligali was doing the frontal contour of my head, Alfa Suarau was battling with my _ogo_ (the protrusion at the back of my head). As they were both doing the incisions, I perceived that they were rubbing something on the lacerated points. While the ritual was being conducted, my great-grandmother had vanished from the radar. After doing sufficient and substantial damage to my head, I was released by Alfa Ligali and his complicitous accessory. It took me several hours to realize that I still had a head. I doubt if there was any head that would go through such exigential pummelling without being squeezed of all its lubricating lobes.

My great-grandmother, a very kind-hearted woman who loved God with all her heart, offended me for the first time. Being a very nice person who couldn’t hurt a fly, she patronised me with assorted sweets like ekanna Gowon, bonus, baba dudu, goody-goody, etc. Despite the fact that I was angry with her, I was still collecting the sweets and loading them inside my pockets for the new school calendar starting the following day. By 7 pm that Sunday, she told me to go and get my things ready for school. I was doing that when she assured me that with the “Ogun Isoye” (reminder charm) the two Alfas did for me, I can never fail again. I was livid with rage because even a hunter undergoing the ayeta ritual (bullet deflector) could not have gone through what I went through because of ordinary ‘ogun isoye’.

Well, I don’t know if the lacerations/incisions had anything to do with what happened in school the following day. My name was announced among the four names of pupils promoted on trial to primary two. There was nothing of historical importance that happened in my primary two. I was a good boy throughout that session. I am happy to inform you that again, my name was among the two pupils promoted on trial to primary three. Let’s see what happened again in primary three.

(To be continued)

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