"My colleague, Baptacads..."
I attended the Lagos Baptist Academy (LBA). Also known as Baptacads.
As did my father, both my older brothers, at least 3 uncles (2 from my father's side), at least 3 cousins. We knew that school, the school knew us.
I was nicknamed HuckleBerry Finn (after the character in Mark Twain's 'Tom Sawyer'). That nickname was given to me by my English Language/Literature Teacher, Mrs. Apara. (Don't ask me why. Ok, I was 10 and a scruffy little twerp).
I was the best student of my class in English Language/Literature from Form 1 through to A-Levels. If your brother, friend, uncle etc tells you he was classmates with me and he was ever first in those subjects, he lies.
Baptacads had curious spots-
There was Maracana (named after the famous stadium in Brazil), a dusty patch of earth where equally dusty children played football during the break hour.
There was paper mountain, a heap of cardboard and paper of different colours, twice the height of any kid in school by the fence bordering Pedro. It was heaped there (over the wall) by a printing press in pedro and students scavenged for paper to make ^&%*? I dunno. We just loved the colours and filled our bags with 'em.
There was the open laundry space, behind the dining hall where we ate the world famous moin-pie. Moin-Moin made with palm oil, stuffed into bread. Students would unwrap the moin-moin from the leaves on the stone slabs delicately and place it in half a loaf. It was a delicacy made in heaven and there is no student of my era (and before) in Baptacads who will still not crave this from time to time. After break-time, there would be thousands of leaves used to wrap the stuff, littered everywhere. Till date, I cannot eat moin-moin not made with palm oil.
There was the other space where we played parrallo, a curious derivation of football invented by students of Baptacads. It was played only at a specific spot in school, right in front of the first-year block.
There was the Art Room just above the assembly hall. It was a quiet place smelling of art paint and crayons. The Art Master kept his domain well and it was a real sanctuary from the hustle and bustle of the school.
There was the principal's office, the first building (a bungalow)you'd meet walking down the road from the gate. It was a place of fear and dread. I never met the principal, called Rev. Adegbite because he retired before my time, but I met Rev. Adenugba whom we nicknamed 'Barry White'. He was round, not tall, portly, wore a crew-cut, pince-nez glasses and spotless white suits with a cleric's collar all the time and carried a horsewhip. Barry White didn't mess around with kids. He believed in corporal punishment. We believed he believed. He would encourage us to read, saying, 'if you don't understand what you're reading, cram it'. (T'o ba mo, gba s'ori). It worked. Who wanted to understand additional mathematics? His sons, one a classmate of my brother's and another, a classmate of mine, are called 'Barry White' till today even though they live abroad. After 'Barry' came Adigun, then a fellow named Mr. Adekunle. Not so impressive. He didn't like me either.
In my first form, a few days after resumption and while I was still getting to know the school, a short fellow about my age walked up to me with purpose and asked me to kneel down. I was bewildered as he gave no reason, and I knelt for a few seconds, unsure but then sprang up suddenly and fled. A couple of days later, when I was assigned to Form 1b, I saw the same fellow sitted at the back of the class. The S.O.B. was my classmate, a boarder, not a day-student like me. We called the imp, 'Indorgens', his real name- Ganiyu Lawal. In retrospect, I think that must have come from 'Indulgence'.
Other people in class were named Matamba (after a slave-driver character in Kola Onadipe's 'The Slave Boy'), Akins Omo-Olusco (real name, Akin Olusanya, this son of a University Of Lagos Professor, my best friend in the early years, highly-skilled in the Fine Arts gave himself this bus conductor-like nickname. If his parents had known, they'd have cringed, but we were all kids and every nickname had fantastic meaning), Et e'n Garcon (Tokunbo Odukoya) etc. Some of my other form mates in that first year were Joseph Ikunna, Obioha Otuokere who would write G.H.M. 'God Help Me' at the top of his answer scripts after finishing exams, Anthony Ananti, Wole Adojutelegan etc. Other great friends I will never forget- Francis Uwaje, Tosin Banjo a.k.a. Sky-lolo (named after the midget wrestler); his cousin, Shina a.k.a. Early Man (he looked like the missing link, apparently, and was always the first to chant 'Fight, Fight'), Kunle and Bisi Agunsoye, The still-fresh from England and its wild school wars- Taiwo and Kehinde Adoti and their cousin whose name I can't recall; Chukwuma Igbokwe who is now a surgeon on London's Harley Street, 'Fedeco' a.k.a. Fidelis Oyedele (very few knew his real name and this saved him from punishment many times), Samson Okosaga (who became a scrabble champion) and his older brother-Reginald, Andrew Akhigbe, Damola Olumegbon, Bode Ladenegan, Cornleth Etoh, Philip Oyewo, Dupe Quadri, Lateef Dosunmu, Segun Legunsen, Laitan Adeniji (who's now a famous saxophonist), Abayomi Osifala (Oshi Bobo), Kanyin Bobo (his real name)- older than the class average, whose uniform was always spotless but refused to tuck his shirt in even when asked by teachers; Gabriel Okon (became an American-based Sprinter) and almost single-handedly changed my life in the Academics. He said, when I was having trouble in 3rd form, 'read your other subjects like you do your literature', and that was it. Epiphany. There was my great, great friend, the dusty-footed, parralo-loving Paschal Nwaezeapu who is now a Reverend Father and became the presiding cleric at the catholic church at Falomo-Ikoyi (Church of the Assumption?) and is now Administrator of the Holy Cross Cathedral, and my 'twins' even though we were three- Harry Moradeyo (a.k.a. pepeiye) and Toyin Zollner (a.k.a. german camel).
There were the teachers- Mr Juba (History), Pa Adeleke (Christian religious Knowledge, Baba Okonkwo (who taught my father Physics, Chemistry & Biology) and taught me General Science), Mrs Mbom (C.R.K.), The bespectacled Miss Oduwole (My 3rd form English Teacher-I had a crush on her), Mr Kpornu (Geography), Mr Toure (French), a sadist and pychotic called Mr Abayomi (Agric Science) and his friend, another psycho simply known as 'Reverend', Mr Subuloye (Maths), Oduleye (a.k.a. Alagbon a.k.a. 'lagbon, named after the police station because he fancied himself a sleuth), Mr Haruna (English- who would ask, 'why are you lavving?'), Mrs Farapojo (Social Studies) who was pregnant every year till I left school, Mrs. Odumosu, Ms. Philips (Chemistry), Mr. Ibitoye (History).
There was the Head-Boy, O'Yaga whom, I heard, joined the army, tall and big (well, he looked tall to this shrimp then), the school footballers- Fryo, Franklin Howard, 9-9, Muyiwa Motajo, Segun Olusesan, even Henry Nwosu very briefly. They were great days, they were heady days.
There are many, many others I haven't mentioned, many people and incidents that will be a part of me forever. The werepe, 'devil beans', that grew on the school farms and itched like crazy and which I would carry around in my bag for reasons I am yet to figure. If you touched my books with anything but your open palms, you would itch like a lice-ridden tramp, and I watched with great fear once as our class teacher scratched and scratched while going through our assignments. My class-mates, devils all, sniggered as they watched her but she was never able to figure what was happening.
Once I saw a goat give birth on maracana. It was fearful to watch, the kid coming out in a sac, breaking free, tottering, falling and rising as it learnt to walk immediately. Hundreds of students stood silent and watched this miracle but Baptacads was like that, a place of lessons, with its tall palm trees and gentle breezes.
"Say what you say, we are the great Baptacads"