A song of ‘thank you JESUS’ escaped my lips, joy was wrapped on my face, blood flushed into my eyes, whilst I looked upwards in defying confidence as the metallic grey 504 Peugeot saloon car drove me through the majestic carved gates. Swashed in steely colours, the memorable letters of 'Federal Government College Ijanikin, Lagos' adorned the arch. From my mum's car, I marveled at how the wheels made a rhythmic connection with the tarred road, already my ears twitched to high the shrills of the sparrows or maybe magpies, or even the humming birds perched on a grand old almond tree planted majestically in front of the chrome-painted building with hues of beaten grey- the admin office, in essence the birds were heralding my presence.. so I thought …
To my left was a sprawling car park , further east I could see what were termed staff quarters, grey monolithic bungalows in neat rows reminiscent of a military cantonment we drove past in Ojo. To my west lay a long stretch of tarred road, the path to the dormitories and life beyond. Right before me in the open expanse half the size of a football field, was a sea of heads, never seen such a crowd apart from those in my common- entrance venue, hey I know that girl, we were in the same venue, time for that will come. Males and females were separated accordingly and each gender was stretched out in six queues according to the colours of the House-wear checkers. Sadly! House-wears were compulsory and were in checkers of different colours, an inconvenience I am willing to tolerate, after-all every upside should have a downside. Such a privilege to being a student of this prestigious school, wearing colour checkers was not too much of a sacrifice.
The crested sun beamed with smiles this day, not too hot and just bright enough to discern one’s path, I dare-say the fiery king was in a friendly mood as I weaved my way into the Lilliputian crowd of like minds and like colours. I kept day-dreaming on how dashing I would look in my sparkling white uniform and my customized grey shorts. Those horror stories of stolen uniforms and house-wears were not enough to make my mum commit the unpardonable by emblazoning my name across my uniforms and house-wears. Truly I saw some human billboards from a kilometer off, I could tell their name, surname, middle name, class, house e.t.c all in bold Ariel fonts, with sharp colours painstakingly spelt out on their uniforms and house-wears. Thankfully my mum knew a thing about style, so my name was cleverly etched at the hidden corners of my clothes and belongings so I arrived a notch higher than most newbie.
Those gruffly old students ransacked my private belongings pointing things that were not allowed, in their words ‘contrabands’, and I wondered what was wrong with, Sardines, corned beef, geisha etc for a young man not at home, once I saw the smile on my mum face and I knew that those things were not going back home with her. We said our goodbyes and I stood shoulders high, stiffed upper lips, after all I am a big boy and Mum should know that I can do a good job taking care of myself all alone. The land of no return was mine at last.
True to the famous motto “Sempar Paratus”, I packed everything imaginable that I could need/want, but nobody warned me that It would be my lot to carry all that was mine, all by myself. So here I was dragging my wooden locker, my two buckets, a washing tub, a large mattress, extra-large luggage (which I could neatly fit into), travelling bag, brooms and numerous small appendages. Save the tiny contraption called trolley, I am sure I would never have made it to my hostel in one piece. Little comfort when I saw several other new guys doing the same, I reckon that I must be doing something right. My eyes flirted to a direction whcih seem to attract a continuous stream of guys wearing green checkers, needless to say following them should lead me to my destination- Usman Danfodio hostel. I smiled at myself for being a smart-aleck by finding my way to the hostel without asking for directions, till I saw another queue, manning these queues were some older guys that I later learnt were referred to as seniors or “b@r$t#*d$ in their absence.
This time, my stomach was concocted in anger, my lips parted in an unsubtle sneer and while taking in measured breath I reluctantly answered their queries and paid their fees. A string of words fell from one of them with a pumpkin-sized head, finally I made out what he said 'leave him alone', let them enjoy their week of grace. I muttered week of grace indeed, I had resolved in my immaculate heart never to let any oversized , student act out their inordinate ambitions of ruler ship on me, aren’t we all students, maybe in different classes. Little did I know?