Home Opinion From primary to tertiary: My recollections (III)

From primary to tertiary: My recollections (III)

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Kolawole Aladetoun was a brilliant boy. His father was the first Vicar of the famous Bishop Adelakun Howells Memorial Church, Hogan Bassey Crescent, Surulere. Kolawole was my classmate and he was my personal friend. (Please note the arrogance in my emphasis). What a metaphorical fraternity!! We were very good friends in school as well as in the neighbourhood. He was staying in the exquisite ambience of the Church’s Vicarage in Hogan Bassey while my house was at Ilelogo Street, the same Street with the legendary Iya Laisi, the woman who sold rice and ishon olora at Richard’s Lane, Lagos Island, ìn the 1940s and continued when she moved to Surulere in the 1950s till 2020 when she died at the age of 117. She ran her rice buka with native diligence for almost 80 years of her life on earth. She was famous in the whole of Surulere that people came from far places like Ogunlana drive, Obele, Akerele, Gbaja, Olumegbon, Sànyà, Alayaki, Onitana, Ilumo, Love Garden, Aralile, Idẹra, Onitolo, Modèle Street, Modèle compound, Adana lane, Hogan Bassey Crescent, Barracks, iyun Street, Ifelodun, Olorogun, Ifayemi, Ilelayo, Ibukun street, Oyerokun Street etc. It was Iya Laisi kan, Surulere kan. For the many years she ran the business, there was no single scandal of patronage jazzing like we have now. Nobody ever alleged or accused her of burying a cow in the bowels of the ground to attract customers. Not even in form of rumour or whisper. The huge patronage she enjoyed, especially in the 1960s, 1970s, 1980s and 1990s was the dividend of Providence on talent investment. She was diligent in her enterprise and she was rewarded by Providence for her endeavour. May her soul rest in perfect peace.

The only person who supplied a sensible and logical answer to my inquisition on the meaning of “On-trial” was Kolawole. Others were olodo. They were just saying nonsense. I might not know the meaning myself but Kolawole was my friend and he was right because he was a brilliant boy. He said “on-trial” meant I was to sit in the front row where all the teachers can see me and monitor my activities. I never knew the meaning was that simple. A day before resumption, my great-grandmother had told Broda Akpan to iron the new brown khaki she bought for me very well. Akpan went beyond her instruction. Normally, trousers and shorts were to have just two “gators”, Broda Akpan put four (lori on-trial). On the day we resumed, it was evident that my effizy was more than that of the whole class put together. My cortina shoes were the shinest. My socks were the whitest. My khaki was the most “gatorized”. My shoulder pads were the hardest. It was as if I was in an armour. The way Iya Ibadan packaged mẹ, you would think I was the one that came first in the class. She almost bought hand gloves for me. I was thoroughly and nicely equipped with inspirational materials. I had math set that I didn’t know how to use. My food flask was bigger than my school bag. I am sure that if Onuora Nzekwu and Michael Crowder had seen me before Eze, they would have titled their famous book “Dapo Thomas Goes To School” and not Eze Goes To School. At the assembly, I didn’t want the headmaster to see me because he was one of the people who knew that my packaging was not commensurate with my endowments. I was in a serious cerebral deficit that even Ogun Isoye (reminder charm) did not have an answer to. If you knew me very well back then, I was a very humble little boy. But there was nobody that would see me in this over-starched khaki that would not think I was pompous because of the way Broda Akpan ironed my uniform with decorative”gators”. As small as I was, I was still able to conclude that the name of my school, Salvation Army Primary school had something to do with the starching and the “gatoring” of my uniform by Broda Akpan. Maybe he thought it was an Army school. To complete this dramatic coincidence, when we were to match to our different classes, the headmaster’s choice of song was: “Awa soja kekere, awa kile, akile d’America titi dé London. Poo, poo, poo”.

Mrs Oba, my new class teacher told all of us to stay outside the class for a while. She went to the headmaster’s office and returned after about ten minutes. She stood in front of the door and started calling us one by one into the class. Kolawole Aladetoun was the first person she called. He sat on the first chair in the first row. Next. Next. Next. Next. After calling about thirty pupils who had occupied the first three rows, the natural seats for me and my compatriot on trial (just the two of us ref. Barry White) were the ones at the back. I wanted to protest that I should be in the front row as opposed to being taken to the back. At least, Kolawole said so and he was a brilliant boy. But realizing that I had done some surgery on my report card with my forgery orchestra, I decided to accept my fate with everlasting helplessness and eternal muteness.
I didn’t really know what came over me when I said it. Besides, I hated thinking evil about other people. I knew she didn’t really like me but nothing warranted such horrible thought. Mrs Oba was not my favourite teacher. She was too serious about education, in fact, about life. She was a very quiet and amiable woman. In retrospect, she meant well for me. But as it is with every child, any form of sternness and disciplinary action from your parents, teachers and guardians, is seen as an act of “wickedness”. So, Mrs Oba, my class teacher in primary three got into my black book by “employing” the services of one of the male teachers in the school noted for their enterprising flagellation, to give me some lashes on my bums with his famous insignia “rod of stubborn children”. Mr Adenuga flogged with ecumenical dramatization. He regarded the biblical phrase “spare the rod and spoil the child” as a sacrosanct mandate from GOD to reset the brains of children like Dapo Thomas who are not walking in the direction of their destiny. Pray, what is the business of a primary school teacher with destiny monitoring? When did destiny enforcement become a component of pedagogical evangelism? Was Mr Adenuga not familiar with the Yoruba aphorism “Ayanmọ o gbogun, ori le lejo.”

As far as I was concerned, both Mr Adenuga and Alfa Ligali were wasting their time. No amount of gbere or caning could reset my brain if there was no bilateral cooperation between me and my destiny. So, for attempting to frustrate my own destiny (not Mr Cane’s destiny o), I was being punished. You can imagine if it was Mr Cane’s. Dismissing whatever philosophical introspection I was doing, Mr Cane stretchered me neatly and nicely on three tables collapsed for this flogging spectacle in front of the class. The way I was properly “arranged” on the “Alapata tables”, I thought I was going to be tied to the tables to prevent any disappearing drama. Despite the fact that I was still too young to comprehend the awesome power of GOD, I knew that the only one who could help me escape this public beating exhibition was GOD. I said public exhibition because, by this time, the corridor had been bombarded by “awọn eke” from other classes who were pushing, shoving and thrusting themselves by the corridor window just to watch an “innocent” boy in class 3B being “guillotined” for not doing his homework. I was amazed that the abandonment of ordinary homework which should have attracted a mere homily on penitance was turned to a common-room trial and flogging circus. Inessential to mention that Mr Cane of Salvation Army Primary school completed his task on my body without impacting on the salvation of my soul. It was that same day, on our way home, while still nursing the “cane-lateral damage” of Mr Cane’s cane on my bums, I told a friend that next time Mrs Oba attempted to beat me herself, I would target her pregnancy with my head. A wicked thought from an angry boy that was being “persecuted” for his disaffection for education. So, the following day when my friend, Yemisi Adigun told Mrs Oba what I said, conscious of what the Yoruba call “ijafara léwu”, Mrs Oba fearfully went to the headmaster’s office to make a formal complaint about me to the authorities and the authorities slammed me with an indefinite suspension. I jubilated inwardly for my “summary graduation”. It was obvious that right from the very day I enrolled in school, I became tired of school. It was strange but it was true. The truth was that I never demonstrated any scintilla of brilliance to show that I knew the meaning of school and education. I was a perfect epitome of stupidity. The other truth was that my stupidity in primary school was my own creation, my invention and my origination. The final truth was that I really enjoyed this stupidity while it lasted because it afforded me the opportunity to develop an inspiration for critical interrogation about life, my life and its divine automation.

Only one man knocked on our door like that. Iya Ibadan’s indulgence had driven Alfa Ligali to a reckless extremity to assume that there was no etiquette in knocking on another man’s door. I opened the door for him. Before I could say “e kasan Alfa”, he grabbed me like a chicken and pinned me down with “alfaristic sovereignty”. Ligali’s tyranny was happening almost three weeks after Mr Adenuga’s despotism. Only GOD knew why there was no child’s rights protection advocacy at that time. Between Mr Cane and Mr Gbere, I suffered inexplicable brutality that only a person like me could have survived. The two of them did not fear GOD at all. They subjected me to all manner of indignities without any consideration for the fragility of my physicality.

I was so small at that time that some people in my neighbourhood were gossiping that I was a premature baby. No wonder Alfa Ligali thought I was an Abiku because, despite his numerous gbere on my body, nothing seemed to be working. The last lacerations he did were for “alakala and iṣẹ ayé” yet Aye had caused my suspension from school, primary school for that matter. Only GOD could say what Aye would do to me in secondary school and university. As usual, his presence was provoking different thoughts in me. Was it that Iya Ibadan had told him about my suspension and he had come to decorate my head or my face again with “gbere suspension”.

(To be continued)

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