As is common with the tail end of movies, THE FINALE has a sprinkling of acknowledgements here and there. In it, you’ll find names of people I felt deserved to be recognised (either for good or otherwise). You may choose to imagine them scrolling from the bottom of your screen to the top. Yeah! Just like MOVIE CREDITS!
Just a peek into the world of Introductory Technology, and my dream of becoming a construction magnate was out the window. I grew up loving the world of construction. I was awed by the influence the likes of Julius Berger and STRABAG had in the country back then. I harboured hopes of sitting atop a big construction outfit when I was old enough. But all that changed with an introduction to the subject called INTROTECH. IntroTech classes were boring and lifeless. I had a problem with taking accurate measurements. I didn’t like Orthographic drawing. Instead, I found myself loving the arts. I was particularly intrigued by FINE ARTS- I will never forget that tongue-twister of a name, Bruce Onabrakpeya. I almost cracked my ribs in laughter the first time our arts teacher mentioned the legendary artist. I felt something for literature. I was a champion in current affairs. I knew the names of all the governors and ministers at the time. Important dates in history were etched on my memory.
I made good friends in junior high school- Roy, Atiku, Bayo, Joshua, Victor, Samuel… the list is long and tiring.
In my second year, I had this cute English Language Mistress. Her English was impeccable, her enunciation flawless. But if she wasn’t speaking and you were meeting her for the first time, you would mistake her for one village chick who was trying so hard to ‘belong’. She wore skimpy, mind-boggling tunics. The downside however was the presence of heavy tribal marks on her face. They had been carefully engraved on her physiognomy before she even got the chance to learn the white man’s language. I usually saw those kinds of marks on the few occasions I went with mum to the meat market. Most of the meat-sellers were typical Ibadan men with similar dents to their faces.
A lot happened during the holidays that separated my junior years from my senior days.
We wrote our JSCE exams in the middle of holidays after the face-off between the FG and the Teachers’ Union ended.
Dad had to go spread the gospel. I’m sorry I didn’t mention this from the start. I’ve always been the son of a preacher, and that goes way back to my days as a toddler. I didn’t choose to be. Dad happened to be called into the vineyard on a part-time basis before I was born. He ran his accounting firm alongside.
Where was I? Yes, Dad was to add the title ‘Missionary’ to his burgeoning list of achievements in the ‘vineyard’. It was the turn of the Millennium, Dad had been selected along with a couple of other MOGs to proceed on a mission outreach to one of the poorest countries in the Southern part of the continent. The house was never the same in his absence.
Mum also happened to be running an academic programme at the time. So my brethren and I had to be left alone for long periods all by ourselves, almost totally lacking Parental presence.
The frustration pushed me to pen my first script. The lull that came with my parents’ absence was very frustrating, to say the least. We would get into shouting matches; the house became a battleground on few occasions. I got angry sometimes and beat the hell out of anyone who dared to challenge my authority. As days crawled by, I found something worthwhile to which I channelled all the useful energy. I started writing about Tolu, an indigent boy who was determined to rise to the top against all odds. I suddenly became less bossy and more withdrawn. My hardcover note became the closest companion, sometimes, I used it as my pillow only to wake up cursing the sleep that seized me.
From Malawi with Love. Dad returned after a two-month absence spotting an Afro . He came back with bags filled with items and a truckload of stories. Malawi was the poorest country in the region. They had the highest prevalence rate of HIV/AIDS at the time (This, I guess, was the reason for the Afro Dad spotted on his return- Barbers. Clippers. Blades. HIV. You get?). Her people were poverty-stricken. They dug shallow graves to bury their dead, Bla Bla Bla. What aroused our interest though was the kind of food they thrived on. According to daddy, Rice was a persistent constant in all their meals. It was always rice with this or rice with that. Once, we were excited about the boiled rice and milk Dad prepared until we got to taste it. What followed was a very nauseating session- A vomiting spree to be more precise.
A new session had begun. The First term was eight weeks gone and for reasons I’d rather not talk about, I was walking into my new school with Mum to get enrolled for the first time. Mum and I had been at loggerheads over which of the classes I would be joining. I wanted to go commercial, so I could follow in the footsteps of my dad, but Mum thought I was good enough to be a science student. You see, there was one big misconception in those days. The smartest students went in for sciences. The fairly smart ones entered for the commercial subjects and the not-so-smart ones were dumped in art class. It was a taboo for the very smart ones to shun the science class. Mum knew this and so she enlisted the help of Mr Gbeti (now of blessed memory), the Ghananian-born school administrator who happened to be my headmaster in primary school (he was one of my biggest fans too). Mum’s plot succeeded as Mr Gbeti convinced me to go against my will and sign up for science (I could swear I did so under duress).
The next challenge now was for me to get into the groove of things with little time left. Everyone believed I could do it, so I had no other choice than to believe in myself. I worked on overdrive in the days leading up to the exams and eventually made the faith count and at the end of the term. I managed to nick eight distinctions and of course, my folks weren’t surprised. The only surprised ones were my new colleagues. Many of them walked up to me and asked if I had finished the scheme of work in my previous school before joining them. I nodded each time, making their apocryphal postulates seem like verified theories. I told myself I’d rather have them believe that than let them into the murky details of those eight weeks I missed.
Choosing a Career wasn’t that difficult afterall. With my foray into the science world, my love for arts took the back seat. I was enjoying Biology, Chemistry and doing very well in Physics despite my sworn hatred for it. I ran into Benjamin Carson’s Book, Gifted Hands, at that time and made a pledge to follow in his steps as the African Neurosurgeon who also found global acclaim. I thought we had many things in common. Mum was happy when I told her. Apparently, it was what she and Dad hoped I would choose to be (who doesn’t like a Medical Doctor for a son by the way).
Wearing the Bad Boy toga. In SS3, I developed a penchant for making the headlines for all the wrong reasons. I became the unofficial jester of the class, taking time to entertain during free periods.
I rejected a nomination to be the assistant senior Prefect because I didn’t want to live a life where I’d do things I didn’t want to do in the name of leading by example. Besides, Andrew the Senior Prefect designate was old enough to be an ‘uncle’. I didn’t think we would fit perfectly.
My disgust for Physics also reached its peak as I fell out with Mr Phillip Umuoyo, the subject teacher, who was also in charge of my class. It was he who made the famous statement in his customary Urhobo accent, “Hmmm, O-sha-gbe-mi is now a Bad boyyyy!”. But the worst was yet to come.
My PlayStation Addiction. Show me a boy who lived in those times and I’ll tell you how much he loved PlayStation. What can I say? I did many ‘wonderful things’ for the game. I played truancy. My friends and I constantly chose Tunde’s house over being at school. The game console was always at his service and we envied him for that. I missed continuous assessments, church services, almost didn’t sit for Geography during SSCE, all for the love of the game.
I went from being a Wunderkind to being a ‘War Veteran’. In those days, sitting for O’ levels at the age of 14 was such a big deal (not now when you are expected to graduate from the University at that age). People saw you as a prodigy. A high flier. A ground breaker. I passed my O’ levels brilliantly despite being termed a bad boy. Then, I resisted pressure from all quarters to take UME that year. I wanted to experience what being a school leaver felt like. I still remember how I disarmed my folks. When Dad insisted he was going to purchase a JAMB form, I simply told him I wouldn’t prepare for the exams, that he could go ahead to waste his money (Dad ran an open door policy and we the children earned that right to express ourselves). The following year, I was well rested and raring to go. But it seemed the Universities and JAMB had other ideas. In 2004, I wrote the UME for the first time. The door was firmly shut. 2005, Post-UME was added to the list of obstacles. The War raged on and for three years I remained in the cooler. Every year, I got close but still did not get in.
Medicine was a mirage; Natural Science came naturally. I received a call that sunny afternoon that I had been admitted to study Zoology. I felt a mix of relief and disgust. Relief, that the gate had finally opened; disgust, because I thought it was the wrong gate. My apathy towards the admission was however discarded when I was told I stood a chance to request for transfer if I did well at the end of my first year. As it turned out, that itself was a figment of Doctor X’s imagination and trust me I was naïve enough to believe it.
I spent four years studying, but only two meeting fun people. I ran a one-man show until I got to my third year where I met Tosin (the girlfriend I never had), Tope (Bookworm, my adopted Baby Sister), Lekan (Obizzy), Saye (Guzzler General).
I also found out how humane most of my lecturers were in my final year. Dr (Mrs) C. G. Nzeh deserves a special mention.
I admired brainy chicks and was intimidated by a couple. Cynthia Okoh was a thorn in my flesh in junior school days. She made me sweat for the top spot and even beat me to the prize on a number of occasions. Abiodun Osunkoya was the real deal in my senior years. She changed the impression I had of non-science students with her brilliance in the field of arts. Tope Olafimihan. Down-to-earth. Playful, yet burning hot. She monopolised the scholarship benefits (still beefing her for that) and emerged the best graduating student from the department on prize-giving day.
Chimamanda Adichie and her amazing literary ability gets me gingered up. Every time I read her, I get this unshakeable if-she-can-make-it-I-can-make-it feeling.
If I had an alter-ego, it would be him. If he had a doppelganger, I would be. He’s eight days older and loves to brag about it. He’s a slimmer, darker (he always argues he’s not), hairier, prettier, slightly taller version of me. We were seat mates way back in Primary two. But our partnership only lasted two weeks. I was moved to the next class before we even wrote any exams. He recovered many years later. While I was fighting the JAMB war, he was busy matriculating at the Nation’s foremost private University (What a way to get back on terms).
Shout out to Brother and Friend, Bolu Ekundayo.
I have got Daddy, Daddy, Daddy pasted all over me. People say I look a lot like my Dad. I would argue back then that beyond the birthmark I share with Mr E.K. Oshagbemi, we had nothing else in common. But as I grew older, I realised that apart from being a true son of his, He’s always had a subliminal influence on me.
Dad’s my greatest storyteller of all time. He tells stories with so much ease. When we were kids, he was hardly home. But whenever he was, he would tell us intriguing stories about himself, his childhood, his struggles or he’d relate stories he had once read before. Whenever these storytelling sessions coincided with mealtime, Mum would beg us to come have our meals, but all her pleas would get her nowhere. She sometimes lobbied my dad to put his stories on hold.
My all-time favourite. Dad told us stories. From Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar, Taming the Shrew, et al, to George Orwell’s Animal farm. Indeed, it’s a very long list. But my favourite remains Ogboju Ode ninu Igbo Irunmole (a story about the sojourn of seven brave hunters in the evil forest). And Dad actually told the stories better than the authors themselves.
I sometimes wish Dad ended up as a Journalist, not an accountant. He once confided in me that Journalism was his passion. But that a last-minute occurrence led to him to train as a finance person. Maybe, just maybe, I’d have opted for journalism if he had trained as one.
I feel really old at 24, but there’s still a lot left to accomplish. Dad has led by example. He has shown me how to be a good husband and exceptional father. Trust me, I also want to get married to a wonderful woman someday and raise good kids just like Old man found Mum and raised us (talk about subliminal influence). The only difference right now is that I would really love to tell stories to the world and not just to my kids. And more than anything else, I would love to make Dad proud of this story-telling gene I suspect he has bequeathed me.
I paid regular nocturnal visits to the soup pot while I was younger. At least I had a conscience. Unlike many other people, I only targeted the smaller chunks.