I was one of the few privilege child. A son to a “Headmaster” in the early ’70s and in one of the remotest village in Nigeria-Akutupa Kiri. No electricity, no pipe borne water, no motorable road but a road not better than a footpath, infact during that time, we were normally lucky to see “trucks” not with the normal kick starter but with a small tining hole close to the iron bumper in front of the truck. The crooked iron rod were used to twist turn the engine by the motor boy inorder to kick start the truck.
There were different inscriptions on the body of those trucks, like…”Teni Begi Loju, Igi Aruwe”, “Ewe NLA”, ” Ota Mayomi”, “Weere Nise Oluwa”, T’Elegan Losoro” etcetera… The trucks weren’t plying the “not better than footpath road” on daily basis but once in a week or fortnightly, from places like, Akure, Ondo, Ikare, Ekiti all enroute Abugi and Amomi market. Fortunately, one of the truck belong to baba Pupa (Pa Michael Mokikan) a renowned businessman at that time who usually cracks jokes that, “before you buy a commercial bus or truck, you should first buy a credible driver”, perhaps because of the untrusted habits of commercial drivers towards the owners.
At that time, if you need to travel out of the village, you must have begged one of the truck drivers and probably bribed him with bush meat or tubbers of yam to create space for you on their way back from the market no matter how congested it may be, not even in their narrow wooden plank 2nd class seat, but in the outer edge of the 3rd class, where different loads like red oil, groundnut oils, dry pepper, yams and even live goats and chickens bought cheaply that will occasionally urinate and excrete on passengers’ bodies were stockpiled. If you miss it, you then need to be ready to carry your loads on your head and trek as fas as Ayegunle Gbedde or Ayetoro Gbedde for like two nights to board possibly another truck or wait till the next eighth day. The truck had 3 classes of sitting spaces. 1st class was where the driver, the owner and their wives or concubines seat. The 2nd class was another narrow space behind the driver where other V.I.Ps seat and fold their legs for several hours and start walking like a partially crippled person by the time they alight. Then the 3rd class is for every Tom, Dick and Harry. The motor boys or men have no space in any of the classes, some will seat in front of the bonnet facing the road without blinking eyelids like an airplane compass just to direct the driver where to turn his tyres, some senior motor boys will seat on the roof top scavenging, pilfering and feasting on the dry fish and meat of the market women, while the others will mount the back and sides of the truck with one leg and dangle the second, slapping and banging the iroko padded body wood of the truck with their palms, saying “esisi ti bale taya ee direba, saare (flies are holding meeting on your tyres driver, speed up!) knowing fully well that the driver couldn’t do more than 20kilometers/hour because of the terrible terrain of the muddy road.
The road was not better than Agbegi lodo (timber truck) road they used to bring out logs from the forest. If you get stuck during the raining season, you can be there for one week, two or three nights if you are lucky and every other truck coming behind must to queue until the lead one is rescued.
Between late 70s and early 80s, things got better as we started having one or two trucks per day like “Omo Jesu Ma wo ’be“, “The Boy”, “BAFCO” etcetera. But you must also be ready to keep vigil and connect with them at 2am when they will hit the road, else you have to wait till the following day.
Irrespective of the seasons, if you are travelling, you must dress awkwardly like a masquerade during the dry seasons to ward off dust and like a labourer during the raining seasons preparing to dig out stuck tyres before getting to your destination. Usually, they arrived different destination before day break with special arrangements to bath and freshen up before entering the town.
People with iron horses (bicycles) Courtesy; Prof. Chinue Achebe of “Things Fall Apart” were few in the village.
My dad was a teacher and lucky to own a Scooter (Vespa), this means he could move in and out of the village at will, not necessarily waiting for eight days or waking up at 2am to catch a truck.
As his preferred young son then, he would insert me in-between the monocoque frame of the Vespa with my two hands equally holding the handles… this always excited me that I was also riding Vespa and will be turning my body the way of every bends and begging my dad to let me do “pee pin” (hoot the horn).
Other people that could afford the luxury of owning iron horses were the very hardworking petty traders or farmers who could plant large expanse of yam farm, sell some to the Abugi or Amomi market traders, still have some left to eat daily, round the year. Any house we didn’t hear the sound of mortar and pestle pounding yam in the evening, we assumed the head of the household is lazy in the village. That time rice was a luxury, because we only ate rice once in a year during Christmas but pounded yam was our staple food on daily basis especially for dinner with fresh bush meat or dry fish from Tappa (Abugi and Amomi). The first day a woman brought frozen fish to the village for Christmas and said it is called “Oku Eko” haaa… dead of Lagos? God forbid, we blacklisted that house from Christmas food and avoided that woman till she went back in the new year.
Eating was like a competition then. We will eat and use hands to measure our stomachs and also reserve some pounded yam till the following morning, to warm and allow it to slightly burn so as to form blisters with moist soup, we call it epa iyan… (pounded yam cake) – it can be very delicious.
Being a teacher, (headmaster) didn’t stop my dad from complementing his income with large farmland because he could afford the small “shillings and pounds” to engage casual workers and even solicit for the collective communal work called “Ewe” from the village people. All his children were never left to wander around so also the able bodied men and girls staying with us were all engaged and you can never know “who is who” among us. We ate the same food, from the same pot of soup and shared plates equally. Waking up early to perform our different domestic chores was paramount before going to school.
I discovered myself in the school environment because of the privilege Vespa riding with my dad to school. Although not yet of school age at that time.
When I was formally enrolled into school, my dad stopped picking me along with his Vespa despite that my mother dressed me up early that day to catch up with him. He touched my head and said, “Jibowu, join your elderly ones to walk to the school, even though I was still very young… My mother protested, but dad insisted that I must start learning by walking along with other family members because I was not more important than they…
Hmmm, the journey began…
I was probably the neatest and the only one with “Back to School shoe”. Other people normally came into school barefooted or with slippers (not this common Dunlop slippers but Jagbo slippers (Jagbo slippers are made from damage vehicle tyres designed to withstand any stubborn thorns in the farm or bush. Our own back to school shoe was brown that time, not the modernised black back to school of today. I was only privileged because my dad was a teacher and my mother was a postmistress. At the assembly ground, the teachers used me as an example to other pupils who came with dirty uniforms, overgrown hair or those that didn’t bath before coming to school. Some can be asked to go to the school bathroom and shower again or sent home to barb their hairs, cut their nails and mend their torn uniforms.
There was that day, to me, I was neat enough to be displayed to others, I didn’t know my dad noticed I came with unkempt fingernails with dirt underneath. He got to me and said, “Out! Heey!” I looked thinking he was referring to the person behind me on the line, he repeated, “Jibowu, out and stretch the back of your palms”, and the man used the edge of that yellow wooden ruler to hit my fingernails 3x… and the boy cried!
Also, any day there were no teachers with us in the class, we took advantage of it to engage in rough play, jumping from one desk to the other and screaming. So, on this faithful day, myself and two other pupils commenced our trouble making, not knowing my dad was hearing us loud and clear in his office despite the distance, the man just tiptoed to our class, caught the three of us and ordered us to prostate flatly close to the blackboard on top of the chalk particles – he gave the two other pupils three strokes of cane and gave me six.
On getting to primary 3, I already had friends, I will leave home early and stop by at my friends houses for them in order to gist to school thereby arriving late, I was used to sneaking into the class, a times with the permission of the prefects or some teachers. You know now, they didn’t want to punish the Headmaster’s son. We never knew my dad had been seeing us but kept quiet. Until that day, I was late again and as usual trying to sneak into the class and the man just jumped out from his office. “Hey! You and you come back here”… but before I got to him, I was already crying and shouting, “momo mi ooo, momo mi oo” (my mother ooo, my mother ooo) and in the process I urinated on my knicker. My dad didn’t look at my face ooo, he grabbed me and said, “if you like defecate, you must be punished for late coming, this is not your first, second or third time”… he flogged me and sent me back home to change my knicker and to return to school in the next 20 minutes. Since that day till my last day in primary school, I comported myself without any supervision. Truth is that, pupils coming from Suku (nearby village of about 2kilometers with foot-wagen normally arrived school before those of us in Akutupa.
Throughout my dad’s teaching career, he never spared the rods for any erring person especially his children because he was always emphasising good morals. Although, some people saw him as being wicked, but “we” the children are the great benefactor of the discipline instilled in us till date. Uptill now, we dare not misbehave home and abroad.
I was full of joy when I got my letter of admission to Saint Augustine College, Kabba. At least, I will be away, free from home and enjoy some breeze of freedom. At that time, Kiri High School, Araromi-Akutupa was a year old and my dad insisted I must be registered into Kiri High School, instead of Saint Augustine College, Kabba. His reason was that I have the tendency of being a spoilt child and that he will never condone it. No amount of plea could change his decision.
The distance from Akutupa to Kiri High School is like 2 kilometers. We will go to school in the morning, return after closing of lectures, and go back for games and prep Monday through Friday. Which means, as a young man, I was trekking for an average of 8kilometres daily to and from school.
After my second term in form one, my white uniform had turned brown or will I say dark brown as a result of sweat and dust. Then my dad had been promoted as schools supervisor to cover Oyi LGA. He came home unannounced in one hot afternoon and saw me sweating like Christmas goat, (you know why goat sweat is because of the hot chase from people to catch and slaughter them for Xmas meal). He shouted, Jibowu, why are you like this? My mother quickly capitalised on that to vent out her anger…she said, “the distance to school is much now, you see, if the innocent boy has been allowed to go to Saintoo (Saint Augustine) he will be in the boarding and not be subjected to this daily stress. She continued, “imagine, how will he assimilate his lectures now sef?” My dad didn’t utter a word but alash! The following weekend, I got a “Rally Bicycle” from him as my mode of transport to school, though with very stringent conditions, worse than taking International Monetary Fund (IMF) loans.
The 3 months long vacation started after our form one examination, which means we must be going to the farm everyday except on Sundays when we only go and check our traps for possible prey. For that long holiday, we can’t even smell the next village Suku, talk less of going to Kabba or beyond.
We were returning from farm one day and my uncle, Mr. Johnson Olubato of blessed memory, was coming from Sokoto and saw us with basket loads of yams, plantain and vegetables on our heads. He managed to transfer them all into his trunk but the car was filled up and couldn’t pick any of us. So, we jogged after his Peugeot 504 GR, then he was the Director General,(DG) Nigerian Grains Board, Northern Region.
Later in the evening, my dad sent me to drop some tubbers of yams and a bunch of plantain to him as a welcome gift. My uncle was happy, held my hand into his bedroom and asked me, “Sunny” will you follow me to Sokoto for the rest of your holiday? Without hesitating so that he won’t change his mind, I just said Yes sir, and immediately asked, when are we going so that I can go and be parking my cloths. He said, tomorrow but I will come and tell boda (my dad) in the evening. Between his house and our own, I did several stunts with my bike, full of happiness that I was going to Sokoto.
He came with his own gift too to his boda, their discussion started based on several matters, but I quickly rushed to my mother’s room to eavesdrop on their discussions and had already informed my mother and other house members about my travelling to Sokoto.
Gbam!!! He told the man,…boda, I want to take Sunny along tomorrow to Sokoto for the rest of his holiday.
My eyes and ears focused straight on my dad, expecting his positive response but behold, Dad said No.
Boda, please now.
“No, Johnson. Okay, you are begging me to release my own son to you for holiday, how about the other people who are not my biological children? Except you are ready to take all of them along, if not forget it”.
My uncle pleaded that Sunny is still very young, he can’t do much work in the farm and I have already told him about the trip, how will he feel now?
My dad retorted that “I know he is still young but he will learn, besides, other people aren’t slaves now!!! They are given birth to by human beings too, so you can’t take Jibowu away for holiday only for him to come back and be eating the sweat of their labours”. Case closed.
Throughout that week, I was been monitored by my dad, always putting me beside him in the farm, little thing, I will cry. “Jibowu why are you crying now?” “efifin ko” (efinfin are small insect that hovers on people in the bush taking advantage of the dirt and sweat all over us) they aren’t harmful but they can disturb.
During one of the long vacations after my form four promotional examinations to form five, heey!!! Big boy don land. Now, I will be wearing khaki trousers and long sleeves shirt and also be referred to as “Senior Jibowu or Sunday”. The ego was a lot, feeling like a big boy in the village. So, on that day we returned from farm as usual and I told my dad foster child (Ige) who was in form one to please go to “Effin River” and fetch me bathing water. She obliged enthusiastically, because she felt she was been preferred to be important than the others for such errands. She rushed as instructed and took the water to our bathroom. Bathroom was like 30 meters away from the main building constructed with palm fronts, damage zinc or old wrappers because it was assumed to be dirty and must not be close to where people sleep, eat and entertain visitors. That time, to defecate, you have to travel inside the bush, hide under broad leafs where nobody, I mean nobody will sight you unlike this days when people defecate openly even close to the express way and make their toilets and bath en-suit their rooms.
In fact, that reminds me of Late Madam Omolate Aliu of blessed memory, when in the late 90s, her son (Olusco) built 4bedrooms flat for her with design of toilet and bath en-suit each of the room. The woman refused that those toilets and bath should be converted to stores to keep her numerous basket of fish from Tappa. Her reasons were genuine…”why should I be defecating, urinating and bathing inside the same house I cook, eat, keep my trading stuffs and also sleep?” She went further that, if her father Olu Usman (one of the Olukiri of Kiri predecessor) was that dirty, he will NEVER be number one citizen of Kiri land at that time… We all laughed!!!
Yes, back to my story, Ige dropped the water in the bath, came to inform me and was returning to the kitchen when my dad accosted her.
“Ige, unghaa (come), lani omi wo gbe re baluwe?” – who owns the water you took to the bathroom?
Ige replied, “boda Sunny ko” (it’s for brother Sunday). OK, you can go, my dad discharged her. Meanwhile, I was stylishly watching them where I was seated trying to recover from the long fatigue of farm work. I just heard my name, “Jibowu, come here”, immediately I knew I was in “pepper soup” (courtesy the name given to one of our primary school teachers then)
The man started, “so you are now too big to go to the riverside and bath, you think you have a house girl that will be fetching you water on return from farm?” “No sir”, I replied. I was just too tired after returning from farm and since Ige didn’t go to farm today, that is why I sent her. “Okay!!! Kesese yemi lo (I just understood you now). You know what! There are dust everywhere in our compound because of dry weather, so go to the bathroom, bring the water and pour it on the ground and go back to river and be fetching water with the same bucket (thick iron bucket faa), pour it the same way and continue the process until everywhere is wet. Next time, you won’t feel important than anybody in this house again”. Oh boy!!! That day nawayah! I never move close to the bathroom again until I graduated from Kiri High School.
The long vacation ended but we had unfinished farm works. My dad left for Kabba around 5am that Monday morning. So we all agreed to return to farm and complete the work (not that we enjoyed it but to avoid going to farm on Saturdays during school session).
Normally my dad used to return home on Fridays but the “man” came back around 11am same day, perhaps he forgot a file in the village. On his way coming, he stopped at the farm, saw my iron horse, came to the hut and met us all preparing to eat our lunch after the first round of weeding. “What!!! What are you people doing in the farm? Have you not resumed?” Others were my seniors and had graduated and seeking admission into higher learning but I was going to form five. It dawned on my dad that I was the only one to resume that session, and he immediately ordered me to vacate the farm and head home to prepare for school that day with a warning not to meet me on the way home. I tried to convince him that lecture won’t start that week as students will be cutting grasses on the football field and lawns and also tidying up the environment but he replied, “so those students aren’t human beings too. Are they goat?” I said “No sir”. “I close my eyes now, before I open it you must be in the school and you must not even carry your bicycle… start jogging and I am coming behind you”.
Others were instructed to finish their food (that’s what pained me most, not allowed to eat too after working with them… though I like food ooo), they were to go home after the meal and wait for Mr. Tunde Maliki who will be coming home with their provisional admission letters to Kwara State College of Technology then.
I left with the numbing effect of not allowed to eat before ordered to vamoose. In less than 20 minutes, the man caught up with me, parked his Yamaha 125 (Electric double exhaust), entered the bush and cut one long pankere (cane) on his left hand with an intention to flog me if I do not move fast enough.
I was however smarter, if he get close to me, I will just deliberately enter the bush knowing that he can’t ride his Yamaha inside the bush. He will park again and I would have gained some distance… that was my Maradona style until we both got home.
The time was 12.30pm. “Jibowu, oya go and bath and get set for school. I will drop you there”. “Heey!!!” I grumbled, bath ke!! So that you will ask me to start wetting the ground again. I just got water from my mother’s pot, washed my legs from knees down, my hands from elbow, head and face. Gbam! Jibowu don bath be dat ooo…hahaha.
We got to the school and my dad went straight to the principal’s office – Mr. Akala from Ayere town was the principal then (Mr. Akala took over from the pioneer principal, Mr. Ibikunle, from Odo Owa, who died after a brief illness in his home town during the vacation). The other teaching staff were shocked to see my dad – Sir, there is no board of governors meeting today. Mr. Akala said because my dad was one of the governing board members. My dad asked, “is there no way you take a roll call of your students to know who didn’t resume on the specified date?” The principal kept quite because he knew what this disciplinarian was dragging at haven seen me beside him.
“Okay, since I couldn’t get an answer”, he continued, “look at this young man”, the principal turned to me and said “your son”, “Yes, my son! he wants to be a truant, else why will he not resume accordingly! Now, I want his own portion of work allocated to him before I go and he must not enter the classroom until he finish it”. Wow!!! This is part two of the water I fetched during the holiday… Oh my God!!!
However, my dad has a unique way of scolding and making you feel loved. The school closed for the day, no games, no prep. I got home, greeted him and he welcomed me warmly and told me to check his dinning table for the food he kept for me. (His lunch was exclusively reserved for my grandmother, Madam Maria Balogun of blessed memory to cook whenever my dad was around). I saw that calabash bowl with beans spiced with mashed local garden eggs, dry fish and shrimps. It was my dad’s best meal for lunch but we dreaded it because of the bitter taste of the local garden eggs.
Later in the evening, my dad just called “Jibowu!” He didn’t say anything further, neither did he speak English or our dialects, so I couldn’t place what was at stake. So, I went to him with mixed feelings…He said, “sit down”. Haaa, if it were to be punishment, I won’t be asked to sit down na (different thoughts rolling on my mind), I sat with all alertness for emergency exit, just in case it is needed… hahaha
The man started,…“I will be going back to Kabba tomorrow, my scope of job has been enlarged, so I am leaving the Yamaha 125 for you as your ride to and from school, what that means is that you won’t be going to school again with your bicycle”. Haaa, my mouth agape…he continued, “I will also ensure I buy you 20litres of petrol every week both for the machine and the generator (we had one yellow Suzuki generator that time). Whenever it is dark, fuel the gen, invite your friends to your room and you all must stay indoor and read your books between the hours of 8pm – 10pm every day. You mustn’t be wandering around except for errands. You can also fill the Thermocool refrigerator with bowls of water during this hours to drink when you are back from school in the afternoon”.
And the man stood up, into his room without asking me to go, so I remained seated.
He reappeared, now, with a newspaper from his archive – “The Herald” ….The Herald Newspaper was the major newspaper then from the old Kwara State when we were still in Oyi Local Government Area. He always got regular supplies from Kabba through a vendor who sent it through a popular driver then, “BAFCO”
He removed the editorial page and gave it to me, go and read, digest and summarise whatever I learnt in an exercise book for me to see the following weekend. He said.
The title was, *”HOW WE TRAINED OUR SERVANTS AND SPOILT OUR CHILDREN”* by Otitonaiye Ehindero.
Pa S.O.Ehindero was a veteran journalist from Ayetoro Gbede, who was the editor of The Herald Newspaper at that time. He died recently and was buried in his home town, Ayetoro Gbedde. Coincidentally, one of his son, D.K.Ehindero, who is also a poet, a writer, an author and a Comrade is my good friend today. How I wish he can help exhumed his dad archives to get me a copy of the lovely article.
The summary of the article was quite succinct, reflective of the high moral decadence in our society today.
Each time I notice moral laxity in our youth, I remember the article. How many of us, today’s parents, take time to understudy our children activities at home and out there. I once watched with awe, in one of my kids school where parents came to harass the class teacher of their child for daring to beat him in the school for gross misconduct. When this was brought up at the Parent Teachers Associations (PTA) meeting, the parent said he preferred to be billed for his child offences, that is, offence of the child to be monetized in addition to his school fees. What a World!!!
So also, the headmistress displayed photocopies of assignment of primary four (4) pupil boldly done with the parent handwriting. Some went as far as to hire machineries to write final exams for their children or go as far as to contracting WAEC or NECO syndicates to manipulate their children results. Of recent JAMB apprehended a candidate for similar offence.
Our youth reading habits are almost zero. Hardly can you see any student of these days reading novels or painstakingly reading a lengthy articles, you can only see them with expensive phones even if they couldn’t afford data subscription, and basic textbooks that will make them excel academically. You can’t see them appealing for money to buy books but the female ones can sleep out with man friend to buy data, while the male students engages in Yahoo Yahoo or is it Yahoo Plus they call them, just to live above their means. Try and engage them on WhatsApp chat, there you will see them writing balderdash despite the auto-correct English of their electronic gadgets. Parents too prefer, as a status symbol, to acquire phone of 100,000 naira for their undergraduate children just as a show of affluence rather than acquiring volumes of encyclopedia Britannica, written by about 100 full time editors and more than 4,411 contributors that is less than 50,000 naira to boost their mental knowledge.
That reminds me of an article I read sometimes ago, BLACK PEOPLE DON’T READ by Janks Morton, published on July 27 2012. The most disheartening fact in the article is that, the white man said, “if you want to hide something from a negro (black) put it in a book“, which means we are missing out the infinite amount of knowledge we can gain through reading. Reading can also help stress reduction, memory improvement, vocabulary expansion, and mental stimulation. How many parents of today encourage their children to cultivate the habit of reading by buying them edifying books to read during holidays as a gift, but we can place DSTV (a South African Company) on our monthly payrolls just to ensure our children and wards watch ZEEWORLD, Big Brother Africa (BBA), and other mind eroding channels.
No wonder, most graduates can’t even write a standard résumé to multinational organization, and even when they are helped to carve out their own curriculum vitae, they hardly take time to peruse and digest what’s therein, thereby failing to answer simple questions thrown at them in an interview from their own bio data.
Sadly, most foundational schools have understood the psychology of parents, thereby jerking up pupils score cards to impress the parents contrary to the abysmal performance of the pupils. Perhaps to make the parents keep their kids in the school and for them to make more income. What a horrible system.
Tertiary institutions lecturers equally built on this wobble foundations by ensuring male students pay through their noses by way of scrupulous handouts, gift items like car tyres, iPhone and even contributions through proxies accounts, while the female students are sexually harassed for cheap marks and these are said to be graduates from Federal Government Colleges and other Unity Schools. SAD!!!
However, the deplorable moral decadence start from our various homes. Maids are woken up between 4 – 5am daily to start the domestic chores, cook for the children, iron their cloths, wash the cars and boil the bathing water only for the children to wake at 7am scampered to the bathroom, pick their uniforms, rush to the dinning for already served breakfast and dash to the car with a waiting driver.
Maids are also made to go to the markets to buy food ingredients, rush home to prepare lunch for the children before they return from schools thereby unconsciously training them on how to prepare delicious meals, housekeeping at the expense of our children thereby enhancing the maids negotiating powers with a misconception that our children must behave like the “AJEBOTAS”, pampered children, not minding what the future holds for them. Hardly do some children know how to sweep, wash dishes and their uniforms, cook basic foods/soups spiced with different vegetables and locust beans. Those qualities the husband sees in their mother before marrying them.
The multiplier effects of this moral decadence are the various vices we are experiencing today – broken homes because of lack of kitchen habits as modern wives prefer to patronise food vendors and junks with resultant effect of different cancer treatments. The lack of moral latitude to relate with and tolerate spouses, prostitutions and waywardness, gambling and indulgence in ponzi schemes at the expense of hard work, cultism and drug abuses which lead to arm robbery and other criminal habits, disrespect for elders, parents and constituted authorities at various levels. Above all, the lack of the fear of God, love for humanity and requisite wisdom.
This gradually lead us to where we find ourselves in now all in the name civilization. We now parade half baked leaders that can not proffer simple solutions to manageable crises – sharp practices have taken the place of conscientiousness, greed and self centeredness in place of welfarism for all, stealing and corruption in place of high integrity for future sake, hatred and killings in place of love and peace, rape and rituals in place of faithfulness and kingdom of God.
We must bring back correctional moral values into our homes, schools in order to help re-build our societal values for the betterment of the future generation, else we may have no future.