I handed the cheque given to me to Modupe’s mother as I have taken her to be my Guardian, she would put the money into her business and train me and her children with it.
It was in 1985 that I was admitted into Apata Grammar School in Ibadan as a boarding student. I was sixteen years old and in form one, Modupe was fifteen years and in form four, she would graduate the next year. It was not easy trying to cope at school, my age mates were in form three and above, I had already sprouted a moustache, and my legs were hairy, this made me become a subject of discussion in the school, I clearly stood out amongst my classmates, and sometimes they mischievously refer to me as uncle Bolaji.
I was made the class prefect on the first day at school, it was on the assembly ground that the school principal spotted me lined up with form one students, he shouted on top of his voice at me, he said I should leave the line and go join my mates, he was pointing at the senior students line. The whole assembly rocked with laughter until a teacher went and whispered something to the principal, he then waved the students to a silence and apologized to me publicly, he then asked me the alphabet of my class. Class one B sir I replied. Good! From today, you are the class monitor! He announced and there were shouts of uncle ‘B’ everywhere.
Life in boarding school was totally different for me. I had being a free bird all my life, I had lived without bounds or rules and regulations, it was a different ball game here as I was made to wake up at 5.30an every morning. I was forced to observe afternoon rest daily at 3pm; I was to go to Sunday church service at the school chapel. I had never attended a church or mosque in my sixteen years of existence. We were given portions of food without caring if the ration will satisfy you or not and you cannot ask for more food if you are not satisfied else they tag you ‘Oliver twist’
Another challenge I had was that I was too crude and uncivilized, my ways were strange to my fellow students, I was a raw village boy who do not speak good English and when I try to speak English my accent made it sound as if I was speaking Jamaican ‘patua’, people laugh whenever I open my mouth to speak and I always had reasons to speak because I was the class monitor.
Mr Adegoke was my English teacher and he took special interest in my reformation, he does not laugh when I commit blunders while speaking, he was quick to correct my errors and made me to correct my self by repeating the words correctly, he personally gave me a book titled”Common errors in English” and gave me home work on it daily.
Once he called me into his office and encouraged me to be focused and positive, he said I was catching up fast and I should not take any of the aspersions being cast on me seriously. He said he believed in me. He was the first human being to challenge me and dared me to succeed if I can, he told me that age was just a number and that once I am out of secondary school I will realized that age means nothing at the university or the larger world, he asked after my parent and I told him my story. He then told me that I could rewrite my story if I try, he said he was an orphan too. His words of encouragement moved me and I secretly vowed to succeed in life by becoming more serious and determined
Kareem was nine years old and in the same class with me, he calls me ‘egbon’ meaning ‘elder one’. I told him severally to stop calling me egbon but he refused. He said he could not bring himself to calling me by my first name because I happen to be the same age with his eldest brother, his father’s first born who was a first year student at the University of Ife, his brother is older than three other persons before him and he reveres his eldest brother. He finally agreed to be calling me ‘Uncle B’ since that has been like a nick name.
He was the smallest and smartest in class and he helped me a lot and in return I protected him from bullies. Every potential bully in the school left him alone the day I slapped Joseph for beating up Kareem at the school farm during Agric practical.
Joseph returned to school the next day with a swollen face and people thought it was because of the slap I had used to send him out of the school farm the previous day. The students had formed a circle with Joseph and Kareem at the centre while they cheered them to fight. Kareem was never a match for Joseph or anyone in the class. Kareem was lanky and feeble by stature while Joseph was an Igbo boy who eats fufu three times daily without drinking much water! He was very stout with a barrel like chest. He was sitting on Kareem’s stomach and stuffing dried grass into the poor boys mouth when I came into the farm. I broke the chain formed by the students, lifted Joseph off Kareem and dealt him a blinding slap over his eyes, it was someone else that shouted in pain instead of Joseph himself for he ran blindly out of the farm stumbling and shouting ‘anya m o! (My eyes!)
The Joseph incident increased my fame in the school and another ‘alias’ was added to my name ‘Ifoti to gbona’ (hot slap) so the senior students called me ‘ifoti’ while my mates called me ‘Uncle B’ and all these happened in the first term of my first year in school.
At the end of the second term in form one my grade was better than the first term. My total average score went up from 53 to 76 percent. I got a ‘C’ in English language and an ‘A’ in mathematics.
Kareem was a wiz kid! His average was 98 percent, he got an A in all subjects but Yoruba language where he got a ‘B’. I got a ‘C; in Yoruba language even though I spoke the thickest Yoruba in class and knew every adage in the language even more than my teacher.
We went for the long vacation of 1986. Modupe and I rarely saw at school because I did not like to be in her company due to inferiority complex. I could not bring myself to call Modupe ‘senior Dupe’ as every junior does. We were from the same Village and I was older than her.
The few times we encountered at the school sports arena, she had tormented me by speaking to me in good English instead of using the ekiti dialect that we were both brought up with, of course she got the good laugh she wanted when I attempted to speak with her in good English also. She even had the audacity to refer to me as her school son once. I warned her in a language only the two of us understood and walked out on her.
Our relationship at school affected our closeness when we went home on holiday. I did not return to her house. I went to my grandma’s house and cleaned it up. I went and met Modupe’s mother to give me some of my money for my upkeep, she refused, and she said I should be coming to her house to eat daily. I was about seventeen years old and a boy of my age needs some change in his pocket. She said she had put all of my money in a fixed deposit account at the bank and was not due for withdrawal. I was happy.
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Modupe has a boy friend. The boy was already in the university, he is from our village and my age mate. He is the son of the ‘Balogun’ a high chief of our village.
Akindele drives his father’s Peugeot 504 Salon Car whenever he is at home and he comes to take Modupe out daily.
I used the holiday period to develop the two plots of land given to me by the community. I planted maize. I was on my way home from the farm one evening when Akindele drove by and stopped to give me a lift home as the farm was about one hour trekking distance from the Village. Modupe was in the car with him and she prevented me from entering the car, she said I was sweating and smelling. She said I was half way home already and would be better I continued trekking. She told Akindele to drive on. I saw the look of confusion on the face of Akindele but I thanked him for his gesture and I continue to walk home with my hoe on the shoulder and my Cutlass swinging in my hands. She was right! I was sweating and smelling, and I was actually half way home.
To Be Continued…
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