A couple of months in Olubi and I had to change school again, the fourth school I would be attending. One fateful day, my paternal uncle arrived in his Corolla, and I was told to pack all my belongings. Off to Bódìjà we went, then a new suburb of Ibadan. The Bódìjà of those days was well laid out comprising only single-family dwellings. The compound edges were neatly adorned with flowers. Anyone who was someone lived there, and it was pretty much the address of choice for the many Nigerians that just relocated back to the country following years of training abroad, infused with national ideologies. My uncle and his wife were one of such. They had returned back from the United Kingdom to take up positions of responsibilities in the Post & Telecommunications Dept (P&T) and the University College Hospital (UCH).
Bódìjà made a great impression on my young mind. Neat, orderly and quiet. To a boy from Oke-Labo, the change was massive. How to use the fork and knife, etiquettes around the dining table, observing siesta, tiding the room and mopping and washing the floors weekly soon became things I had to learn.
At Oke-Labo, I was a free bird, in Bodija I was a bird in a cage. We hardly leave the expansive grounds of the house at Gbenro Ogunbiyi without reason. There was no walking down the street to play with some neighbourhood friends and definitely no invitation for friends to come over and play soccer as I did at Oke-Labo. Our movements were fairly predictable – to school and back, to church or to some families for the occasional birthdays and celebrations for Christmas etc. We were truly ‘ajebota’ kids, protected by solid walls and iron gates.
The house, shared a fence with the major road leading from Secretariat to the University. We were connected to this end by a pedestrian gate while on the other end is Gbenro Ogunbiyi street for vehicular traffic. Once within the compounds, it was a regime of rules and nothing like playtime. You were either studying, cleaning, eating or sleeping. Even, watching the television, of which we had a decent black and white one in the sitting room, was regulated.
As kids, we found a way to release the pent-up energies in us by turning the compound to our field, playing football or hide-and-seek or any other thing we fancied. Our house was the last at the end of the close and given the silence of the neighbourhood we could hear the sound of the engine of any approaching car long before it makes it to our steel gates. While playing and as the time approaches 4pm, we would start listening for the approaching sound of the Brown Toyota Corolla or the Blue Renault 12TL. Once we pick this up, like ghost crabs making for their holes at the sight of danger, we would run inside the house to take positions at the study table.
Of course, we would leave tell-tale signs of what we had been up to either in the form of sweat dripping on our bodies or a play item that we forgot to remove from the drive way. Sometimes we escape punishments but at others we don’t, yet we couldn’t help ourselves. As little kids with pent-up energies to burn., we always found a way to evade the ever watchful eyes of my foster parents. But then there are times when the brown Toyota Corolla would get packed at a distance and father would walk home in a bid to catch us red-handed and seldom that meant serious punishments for us.
My new school was Methodist Primary School. The rail track of the Lagos – Kano train runs a few yards from the back of our neighbourhood and I would follow this to school, joining other children doing the same. At Methodist, I was part of the school band, responsible for instrument accompaniment to the singing of the national anthem and school songs during assembly. The three years at Methodist went by pretty fast that I cannot recollect several of the events that transpired except one that got me into deep trouble.
I had arrived at school very early one morning and on entering the class found empty beer bottles along with some coins, probably not more than five naira. I had picked the money but did not tell anyone. At home, I informed one of my siblings and we agreed it was wise not to tell my foster parent. At an opportune time, we use some of the money to buy Trebor Mints. In those days, the mints come in packs of five and we probably had bought four packs or so. Of course, we were found out by my foster parents and I received a beating of my life for the several atrocities i committed from that singular act – picking up something that wasn’t mine, picking up money without reporting it, escaping from the house without approval, buying candies which were unhealthy.
While in Class 5, typical of students that were considered brilliant, the Common Entrance Examination Forms were procured for me so that I could skip Year 6 and proceed to Secondary School. I had to take exams in Qualitative and Qualitative Aptitudes. Studying and understanding these was not challenging for me and I did pass the entrance examinations to Methodist Secondary School, Bodija.
However, a series of family events resulted in my stay at Bodija being cut short and my uncles and mother have different ideas as to which school I should attend next. Mother wanted me close to her. As she was schooling in Sagamu, she felt attending the Mayfair School, Ikenne would be ideal. I sat for the entrance examination but failed. One Uncle, working in Abeokuta wanted me in Abeokuta as well. I sat the examination for Abeokuta Grammar School and passed. Another uncle in Ibadan, chose Lagelu Grammar School and I passed the entrance examination as well.