MEMORIES OF KERUBU: The Splendour Of Nostalgia (4)

By Ikenga Chronicles February 22, 2018

MEMORIES OF KERUBU: The Splendour Of Nostalgia (4)

— Remi Oyeyemi

It was our first day of school, our first day in KERUBU. All of us, new students, were separated from our seniors. We were gathered on the field, around the North end of the middle building. It was in proximity to where the Principal’s office used to be. For those with limited knowledge of the geography of our school, the Iyàrà side is the North side of the school. The Ìyèmògún direction is the South side. The Bolorunduro direction is the East side. The C. A. C. Modern School direction is the West side.

All of us were neatly dressed. Our sandals were neatly buckled. Few of us were not in school uniform. Some boarding house students were in brown khakis. There wasn’t much chatting going on, because we were all new to each other. New, naive and nervous, it was palpable from our looks and demeanor that we were eager to avail ourselves with the rules to be able to navigate the new terrain in which we found ourselves.

Yes, many of us were seeing each other for the first time to begin a new chapter of and in our lives. Except those who were boarding house students, who have met at the Hostel two or three days prior, we were all mainly, new to each other. Even, among the boarding students that were present, the camaraderie was yet to be consummated. Everyone was largely on his or her own.

Mr. Ogunfolabi, the Principal, stopped by to give us pep talk. He hammered on discipline and reminded us that KERUBU was a Christian School. He expressed confidence that our expectations would be met. The Bursar, (whose name I can’t recall now) followed suit to remind us that we would get some educational materials which have been paid for via our tuition fees.

Then it was Mr. Olanipekun’s turn. His task this morning, according to him, was to divide us into Classes A and B. He asked us all to queue up in a straight line. The first person on the queue went to Class 1A and the next person went to Class 1B. And in that order, went down the line until the last person. With that simple modality, friendships were formed, ties were knotted, bonds were birthed and memories were built. Though, the memories eventually brimmed over to include the totality of one’s experience in the school, but that was where it was planted. That was where it started. That was where it began.

Our designated classrooms, 1A and 1B, were the first two rooms next to the Principal’s office in the same middle building described above. We were instructed to file into each room accordingly as we have been placed via Mr. Olanipekun’s formula. We followed the instructions quietly as we marched in a single line. We all entered the class and chose our desks in the order that we came in. We settled down. And began the journeys to our individual destinies.

And it happened!

It was not the kind of thing you would expect in the first half hour of being in a new class. It was not the kind of thing that anyone envisaged or could envisage. We have not even began to know each other. We were all new to each other. We did not know each other’s names. We had no idea who was what and who was who. We were, in a way, still strangers to each other.

It was sudden. It startled. It shocked, alarmed and amazed everyone. What could have caused it? What could have been the reason for it? “So soon?” “Haha!” “Haba!” “Kí ló dé?” “Kí ló nselè?” “Kí ló fâ?” Different ones among us were blurting. There were instantaneous exclamations from several among us. Many among us began to wonder. Several of us were befuddled. We have not even been in the company of each other for one hour!

It was a physical confrontation between two unequalled and unmatched gladiators. One, that I would simply refer to as “Ègbá”, because he was from Abeokuta, was a tall, fairly dark in complexion young man.He had an athletic build. Strong. Healthy. Not muscular in the real sense of it, because we were all still “boys”, but he was energetic and forceful in his exertion. He was evidently furious. He was very upset. Like a volcano in the process of erupting blazing red fire and particles, his anger was more than palpable.

His opponent, scarily lanky, bony, fragile, frail, almost to the point of being infirm, was shaken. He made more than ordinary efforts to remain calm. His inner struggle to tile his trepidation was more than obvious. He remained seated. Silent. And grateful. Grateful that other people swiftly intervened to save him from his assailant. He later earned the sobriquet “Ègin”, because he was from Ondo.

As it was customary in the High Schools of our time, SENIORITY, counts. It did not matter if, for example, a “senior” appeared to be one’s age mate or younger, one must as of necessity give him or her respect. When addressing him, it was compulsory to use the prefix “Senior” before mentioning his name. It was an idea that fostered orderliness, respect and courtesy. I remember the first time someone addressed me as “Senior Ropo”, my head swelled like Gààrí Ìsònyìn. Ìsònyìn is a small Ïjèbú town close to Ìjèbú – Òde for which I have special affection.

One has no idea what the origin of this concept was. But it was effective in ensuring cultured and courteous behaviours. It exponentially reinforced the basic tenets of our Yoruba civilization rooted in respect of elders. As I have always posited, the Yorùbá have been civilized before civilization. We are a great race. A great people. We were bequeathed a great heritage, by great ancestors. Like our forefathers often insisted, “Àì f’àgbà f’énìkan, ni ò j’áyé ó gún.” It was a great and beautiful, efficacious concept that imbued our polity with orderliness.

In the Hostel of our days, the concept of “Seniority” was truculently applied. This concept ensured appropriate social stratification that infused individual’s consciousness with an idea of his or her position in the scheme of things.The juniors were made to serve the seniors in many ways. The juniors were expected to serve with enthusiasm without bitterness and complaints, because their own time cometh soonest.

Even then, the juniors were allowed to vent their dissatisfaction with any situation they deem discomforting. It was not allowed to use your dissatisfaction with any situation to flout an instruction, a rule or not execute a responsibility or an obligation as it were. I am sure we are all familiar with the conventional preachment to the juniors, ” Obey first and then complain.”

It was a misunderstanding and misapplication of this “Seniority” rule that caused the imbroglio that occurred on that our first day at KERUBU. In fact it was within our very first hour at KERUBU. Every time my mind recalled this incident, it has never failed to amuse me. It never failed to jiggle me with a crackle. It never failed to splash my face with a smile. It was the misunderstanding of the concept that caused the confrontation between Ègbá and Ègin.

Ègin and Ègbá were both boarding house students. From the rendition of what transpired, Ègin came to the hostel first. Obviously, he had preliminary tutoring about the concept of “Seniority” and its applications. He had been taught to understand that if you were “in school” before anyone, you’re automatically his or her “senior”. He had been tutored of the privileges that came with being a senior and he was not shy about appropriating such.

Ègbâ, who came from a strong Christian background, we later discovered, had been tutored about being respectful and responsible. His father, who happened to be a Senior Apostle in the Cherubim and Seraphim Church must have been a “no nonsense” man. So, he came to the hostel, determined to respect and honour his “Seniors”. He was determined to be a great ambassador of his family.

Ègin was the first to arrive at the hostel. He had come a couple of hours earlier than Ègbá. Ègin was just settling down when Ègbá came in with his bag and baggages. To Ègin, it was evident that he had a “junior” already. Ègin felt he needed a shower. He called on Ègbá to go and fetch water for him. Ègbâ, not knowing who was who, dutifully complied, believing he was serving a “Senior.”

Everything was copacetic. No wahala of any nature from that Saturday evening through Sunday. All was going well. Ègbá was being a good and responsible “junior” while Ègin was savoring the beauty, comfort, privilege and honour of being a “senior.” I wished I was in that hostel that weekend to observe the body language of “Senior Ègin.” I would have loved to watch him strut with a degree of pride and sense of fulfilment, the halls of the hostel, with his elbow deliberately exaggerated like that of a crab, reveling with imprimatur, in his “Seniority.” It would have been a marvel to behold.

And then, Monday came.

Indeed, my fellow Kerubians, Monday came. It came in its usual manner. Innocuous and innoxious. Insipid and innocent. Jejune in its majesty. Indifferent and insouciant to the hustles, bustles and waggles. Unobtrusive in its enthusiasm to welcome the old and new students to a new term and a new school year. With its shrouded excitement, Monday was able to successfully surprise us on that beautiful morning.

Yes, Monday came.

Monday came and Mr Olanipekun applied his simple formula. His formula was the forerunner of the “Gbangba tó d’ekùn, tí kedere wá bèé wo!” Ègbá could not believe his eyes. He was stunned. It was like a nightmare to him. Not a dream at all. Or anything near it. He saw Ègin on the same queue with him. And to aggravate his discomfort and anger, they ended up in the same Class 1A!

Ègbá really wanted to snuff out Ègin’s life at that moment. He was palpitating, pulsating and pitpating. He shivered and quivered as if stranded in the Arctic weather. He flickered and fluttered. Agitated. Bouncy. And restive. But our classmates did not allow the situation to degenerate. They created a buffer between the two and were able to calm Ègbá. They appealed to him after learning what happened and prevailed on him to forgive.

Ègin, obviously had a wrong understanding of the seniority concept. He learnt through the hard way that you didn’t become a “Senior” within hours of arriving at a school, but after spending a year in the school.

NB:

Please, pardon me for not using the real names of my classmates involved in this reminiscence. Thank you all for your time.

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