My problem with Ibukun started when I was made class captain. He made it clear to everyone who cared to listen that I didn’t deserve to be captain and my being captain was because the class teacher liked me. He was probably right. He should have been captain. He was better qualified; captain of his class from pry 1 to 5 and having consistently topped his class all those years, he surely did deserve it.
He probably would have been captain if the school authorities hadn’t decide to juggle things around a little bit. In those days, at least in my school, if you started from Primary 1A, you were moved to Primary 2A if you got promoted and that meant that you knew you were going to end up in Primary 6A , ceteris paribus. Well, at the end of our Primary 5 session, ceteris ceased being paribus. The school authorities changed the status quo and decided to put us in classes based on our performances overall, thus, the student who was 1st overall was placed in Class 6A, the 2nd in 6B till the lot of us were divided into all the six classes, A to F. Suffice to say that we all ended up in different classes with different people and we had to learn to manage the resultant shifts in classroom dynamics and their accompanying dysfunctions.
I ended up in Primary 6B alongside Ibukun and thirty something odd students. I reckon the reason the teacher made me class captain was because I came second overall and was the first student in her class. That singular decision split the class into two camps, one for me and the other for Ibukun. The latter consisted of Ibukun’s former classmates and others sympathetic to his ‘plight’; those who couldn’t understand why someone who had never topped his class and had never been captain before could be made class captain.
They were probably right. I wouldn’t have made me class captain if I was my class teacher. I had never been first in my school life. The closest I got to the top tier was when I came 2nd in third term Primary 4. Before then, I had always moved between the 6th and 10th positions, which I felt was OK until my Mum, Iya Segun, thought otherwise and together with my class teacher then, Mr Avuru, moved me away from the back row, where I had established myself amongst the class noisemakers, to the front row where he could monitor me more closely, in the hope that I would focus more on my studies, listen in class and perform better in my exams.
It paid off.
After that term, I became more serious and started believing I could actually do much better with my school work. That confidence, coupled with a lot of help from my Mum and lesson teachers culminated in my finishing 2nd overall in Primary 5, next to Peter Ago, the guy who came first in my class and subsequently overall.
I still wasn’t first. But finishing 2nd overall changed things for me. It got me into the school quiz team, a circle I had never dreamt of being part of. A few cuties in school also started noticing me and that was great but that was as far as it got.
Being the captain of Class 6B was not an easy feat. Ibukun and his crew made life somewhat difficult for me; always looking for opportunities to make me look bad and because I didn’t want to upset anyone and further add to the tension in the class, I let things slide even when it was obvious that they were doing everything to undermine my authority.
The fact that I came 1st during the first term exams only served to increase the level of entropy in the class. Ibukun, for the first time in his school life, was not 1st. He didn’t take it very well. The relationship between the two of us disintegrated further and it was clear to everyone one in the class that a physical confrontation was imminent. Things got to a head one day when I wrote Ibukun’s name, and justifiably so, on the list of noise makers while our class teacher was attending a Staff meeting. The teacher came back and meted out due punishment to the ‘offenders’ and for Ibukun, that was the last straw.
During lunch break, Ibukun tried all he could to get into a fight with me but I paid him no mind. He pushed and shoved me around but I didn’t budge, insisting that there was no way I was going to bring myself down to his level and get into a fight with him in school.
What level? Hmm!
Truth be told, I was scared shitless. Ibukun had been known to beat up a number of boys in school and I wasn’t about to become another statistic. More so, I knew if Ibukun beat me, the news would spread through the school in the shortest possible time and my reputation, which was just going up, was going to be in ruins.
Thus, I did all I could not to succumb to Ibukun’s taunting, but as you know, in those days the decision to get into fights was not entirely yours, so to speak. There was me, Ibukun, who was ready to roll the punches and our multitude of promoters. Many a fight wouldn’t have been fought if not for the work of promoters. They repeated everything your would-be opponent said to you again, as if you didn’t hear him in the first place, with salt and pepper added of course, to make it pinch a lot more than it would have ordinarily.
Eventually, I agreed to sort things out with Ibukun, man to man, after school. My decision to fight was not predicated on any self delusional thinking that I might be victorious but that i could save some face by fighting and avoid being labelled a coward. I thought it was better to be beaten than be called a chicken all my life, well, school life.
The die was cast. The news was out. Blackjamesbond was fighting Ibukun at Rowe Park later that afternoon. That was the news in the class. Concentrating in class after that decision was difficult. While I appeared all cool on the outside, I was petrified on the inside. I said a few prayers before close of school but none of them was answered. My father didn’t close early and didn’t come to pick me at school, my Mum didn’t show up and Ibukun didn’t come down with a severe case of diarrhoea.
The distance between the school and Rowe Park was about a mile, my green mile, as I was sure the guy was going to kill me out there but still I hoped that someone would have the good sense of separating us and stop the fight before I am finished off. But knowing the rules by which Rowe Park fights were officiated, I knew I was in for a good hiding. No one stopped a fight in Rowe Park until blood was drawn, sand eaten and one of the fighters, the victor, was seated on the other, the beaten, asking all the questions and getting all the proper answers. Rowe Park was ‘oju olomo o’to’ [Paraphrased: Rowe Park was PG 18].
When we got to Rowe Park, the promoters quickly looked for a remote part of the park where we could fight without being spotted by the officials and after they had found the perfect spot, a circle was immediately formed around us and the fight began.
As expected, Ibukun was the more confident one and he came out stinging. In my mind, I knew there was no way I was going to beat him boxing, so I decided I was just going to get really close to him and just hold him down. That way I was sure I could prevent him from doing any serious damage and hope that someone would separate us if I held onto him long enough.
Ibukun threw a few punches but only one landed but it wasn’t strong enough to cause any serious damage but if the noise all around us was anything to go by, a passerby would have thought someone was getting killed. Ibukun, spurred on by all the noise came out punching again but albeit recklessly. Before he could retreat and plan another round of attack, I ducked underneath his outstretched arms and put my arms all around him. Then I made a startling discovery. Ibukun was very light, almost paper weight! I knew if I could lift him and slam him to the ground, I could win the fight.
So, with my arms around him, I changed my position, crouched a little and tried to lift him up. Not someone to be easily outdone, he quickly put one of his legs between mine and threw the other backwards to support his resistance but he was too late. I had him where I wanted him and before he could offer a more spirited resistance, I had lifted him up and slammed him to the ground.
Being captain became a lot easier after that fight. I asked all the questions and got all the right answers.
I still don’t eat sand.