My Diary:FromPrimary to Tertiary (PART 38)

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Dapo Thomas

I was made the class captain on merit by popular consensus. That, however, did not stop me from making noise. So, even if it was a strategy by my classmates to stop me from making noise, they had failed because I kept on making noise. Let me call my own kind of noise making “constructive and engaging noise making”. I hated boredom and graveyard silence. Instead of keeping quiet as if we were in the cemetery, I would look for a topic that would be so engaging.

The topic must relate to any of the subjects we were being taught in school or issues of national importance. It could be English literature, History, Bible Knowledge, Biology etc. Physics, Chemistry and Mathematics were out of it. We were in the Arts class and we were proud of that. Yes, maths was for everybody but you don’t argue Maths, you work it out. Our class had been marked by all the teachers but we believed that our “noise making” was a beneficial ‘vocation’. Therefore, we were not bothered.

Most times, the teachers would hear the noise from the staff room but I frustrated all their attempts to punish or beat any one of us. Any time they came to the class and asked for the list of noise makers, I would tell them “none”. They would now leave in frustration. You couldn’t beat without a list except you wanted to beat everybody in the class. That would be unfair because there were few students in my class who would never join our debates, better still, arguments. Why then must the “sin-less” pay for the sins of the “sinners?” We were very fortunate that our class was on the first floor as different from the classes on the ground floor. It was very easy for teachers to access the classes on the ground floor from the staff room.

They had marked my class but they couldn’t do anything to stop us. Somehow, some of them liked me because of the way I related with them personally while some avoided getting into any conflict with me because of my popularity in the class and in the school.
It was time for our Biology class. Our teachers were very efficient and diligent in their work. They won’t wait for you in the staff room to come and tell them “excuse me sir, we have you now” before they come to the class.

Meanwhile, we were, as usual, making noise when the teacher walked in wearing sunshade glasses. As he stepped into the class, we saw a shadow walking in with him carrying a pouch of eerie seeds at the back looking for where to sow. With symphonic spontaneity, we all evoked the “haaaaaaaaaa” helluva as if we saw the ghost of Tsushima haunting us for a vendetta.

Ladies and gentlemen, introducing to you Mr Abiola Abioye, our new Biology teacher and our former Science teacher at Benevolent High School, Yaba. He had come to look for (our trouble) us again at Mushin. He knew nobody loved him. He didn’t even bother to introduce himself because it was needless. He knew us and we knew him. He went straight to the subject. He was not a nice man that was used to smiling or laughing. It would be uncharitable to call your teacher a sadist even though he was qualified to be so labeled. As usual, he gave us some notes on the topic of the day-Amphibians. That was his first lecture(?) for us in Eko Boys High School on Wednesday, October 5, 1977.

He expected us to copy the notes in our Biology notebooks. Of course, we did but, reluctantly. He left the class at the expiration of his lecture (?) without any iota of informality on our past fraternity , cordial or misanthropic. That was my first time of seeing familiar people meeting again after a long period of separation without any exchange of familial pleasantries or nostalgic reminiscences. It was a very sad episode between a teacher and his students. Mr Abioye’s style of lecturing was different. He would copy his notes verbatim from the Modern Biology textbook without editing. And once he finished writing on the board, he would give very brief explanation or he would give none at all. It was a weird pedagogical methodology.

That was not the only episode of the day for me. I had another one that was even more dramatic. After closing from school, Emeka, Yinusa and I, would walk down to Idioro bus stop to take a bus going to CMS or Idumota . For strategic reason, we always looked out for the ones that were full and besides, we always entered the bus from the back so that it would be difficult for the conductor to get to us before we get off at Barracks bus stop. We would stay at the back without moving to the front. We would easily create space for those who wanted to move to the front .On this particular day, the conductor was almost getting to us at the back. Knowing that I had no dime on me to pay the conductor, I decided to get off at Moshalasi bus stop before he could get to me. Immediately we got to Moshalasi bus stop, I was the first to get off the bus. The conductor was shouting “ẹyin ọmọ yi, owo yin da” (you these students, where is your fare?). As I was alighting from the bus (LSTC) popularly called “Oku Eko”, I didn’t know there was a checker (ticket inspector) waiting by the door. “Yes, can I see your ticket?” I quickly turned “Senior’s employment status” to “extended family Insurance Package” by calling myself a “staff” forgetting that I was wearing my school uniform with the badge of EKO BOYS HIGH SCHOOL, MUSHIN strategically positioned on my chest as a kind of disclaimer.

The “checker” huddled me back inside the bus accusing me of impersonation. In the presence of other passengers, I had to confess to him that I claimed to be a staff because as the son of a staff, I should enjoy the privilege of corporate affiliation. He asked for my name and I told him. I described “Senior” to him but he said he was following me to my house to confirm my true identity. I then told him that my father “forgot” to drop my transport fare because he left home in a hurry. He said I was lying against my father. When we got to my house which is on Western Avenue, he told the driver to stop for us. Meanwhile, Emeka and Yinusa had paid their fare. They were not children of staff, so, they were not entitled to any extended family privilege.

I was the only that could enjoy the luxury of “corporate employment” being the son of a staff. On getting home and seeing Senior, the man was almost prostrating for him. He now told Senior what I did and what I said. Senior confirmed what I said about him forgetting to drop the transport fare. The man later left. Meanwhile, the truth of the matter was that Senior deliberately did not give me any money to take to school because I committed an offence the previous day.

He (Senior) therefore seemed to prefer the “forgot to drop transport fare” narrative to “my father did not give me money to school” narrative. The former was face-saving while the latter was undignifying.

On Monday, April 17, 1978, we were having our normal classes when information reached the school authority that students of the University of Lagos, Akoka, had embarked on a violent demonstration over what they called “outrageous increment” in their feeding and lodging fees. We were all asked to go home until further notice. The riot, which was later christenend “Ali Must Go”, claimed the life of Akíntúndé Ojo, a 300 Level student of the Faculty of Environmental Design of the University of Lagos, and eight other unnamed students of Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria. It also led to the proscription of the National Union of Nigerian students (NUNS) and the indefinite closure of all schools in Nigeria including Secondary schools as we were co-opted into the demonstrations which lasted for weeks.

When we eventually resumed, the school authorities warned us strongly to desist from further participation in riots and demonstrations involving university students and mind our own business. That advice gingered me into action as I wanted to get to the University as quickly as possible so that I could participate in future demonstrations.

The second reason I wanted to leave secondary school as quickly as possible had to do with Mr Abioye. I had an encounter with him. We were in the class debating the “Ali Must Go” crisis. It was a heated argument. As usual, they could hear us from the staff room. Normally, none of the teachers would come to my class because they knew I would not give them noise makers’ list. Unfortunately, as I stood up to see if anybody was coming from the staff room, I saw Mr Abioye and the two of us had a very brief eyeballing engagement through the windows. I knew he was coming to my class because he had his cane with him. I was ready for him. We didn’t have his subject but he still entered the class. As it’s common with all students, the whole class was as silent as an English graveyard. (It would have been a wrong simile to use any Nigerian graveyard as an example of a silent cemetery.) He turned to me, “class captain, where is the list of noise makers?” My response was blunt and sharp: “None sir”. “Okay. But since I saw you from the window making noise and we could all hear your noise from the staff room, come out here for making noise”, he ordered. When it came to flagellation, the two of us were no strangers to each other. I came out and he wanted to try the “Desk Style” again. I was looking to the right and to the left to see if someone would come and announce that another coup had taken place. But nobody surfaced. I took my destiny into my hands by declining to mount the desk. I told him in plain language: “I am ready for your flogging Sir but I won’t mount the desk.” I thought he would call out some students to come and try that nonsense he wanted to do at Yaba. I rolled my eyes with venomous fury as a warning to any zealous volunteer. He respected himself by accepting my protest without a counter-protest. He only asked me to face the wall and I raised no objections. Just like that, Mr Abioye “injected” me with twenty strong strokes of the cane and I behaved like a man by not crying out. He was leaving the class when some of my classmates rushed out to carry me on the neck. Despite the bruises on my buttocks, I still pretended as if all was well. A man who should exude the smile and radiance of conquest was subdued by the ironic triumphalism of his victim before his very eyes. Mr Abioye saw a glimpse of the affection and togetherness of his “victims”.

Despite the fact that we were in the second term of our form four, I decided to attempt the 1978 November/December GCE . Many of my friends tried to discourage me but I persisted because I knew what I was doing. I went on to register for the following six subjects: English Language, English Literature, History, Bible Knowledge, Yoruba and also Economics which was not one of the subjects in our curriculum at Eko Boys High School, Mushin.

I just decided to do it and read it on my own. Fortunately, my cousin, Tunde Thomas did Economics in his “O” level , so, I borrowed his books . That was it. Again, I read like magpie. When eventually the results were released, I passed all the subjects with four credits and two P7s. Technically, it meant that I only needed one credit in my School certificate examinations. Astonishingly, that subject was English Language because it was one of the two subjects I made P7. I refuse to put it in our usual parlance: “WAEC gave me P7”. Let me admit that I made P7. Whatever happened was their headache. What was amazing was that all the literature textbooks I used for my GCE were completely different from the ones we were reading in my school for School Cert examinations.Yet, I made a credit in English literature in the 1978 GCE. Inspired by this result, I selected four subjects to focus on namely English Language, English Literature, CRK and History. Of these four, I only needed English Language.

My friends wanted me show some interest in Biology but I refused to show any seriousness in the subject because of Mr Abioye and because I didn’t need it. I wanted to read Law, History or Theatre Arts. Biology was not required to study any of these four courses. In a twist of irony, it was this same Mr Abioye that changed things between me and Biology. It was a dramatic episode starring the Vice Principal, Mr Abioye and myself. (TO BE CONTINUED

READ ALSO:My Diary:From Primary to Tertiary (PART 37

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