Wednesday 30 September 2020

Childhood: Early 1976 in Mushin, Lagos

Experience to new experience

A piece of childhood history has just been triggered by a Facebook friend request that I am ambivalent about honouring. In early 1976, I was sent from the north in Kaduna where we lived to stay with relations in the South West, and this was to attend common entrance examinations to secondary schools in the region my parents came from.

I was picked up from the airport in Lagos and on our way to where I was to be staying, I was sick in the car. Everyone was gentle with me, I survived and recovered well after that.

In Ibadan, there was a rite of passage, probably what put me off learning to drive when the driver distracted and attending to other activities asked me to grab the steering wheel just short of careering into a ravine. Though it did not appear I passed the examinations having flown from Kaduna, it was the time that I had a full sexual experience with a 16-year old.

Then, I happened to be in Sagamu in February, at the time that the Head of State, Murtala Mohammed was assassinated. Then also for examinations and another 16-year old finding his pleasures with me. I might well have been a catamite.

A Lagos of a dream

Returning to Lagos, I was in Mushin on Araromi Street, number 29 if I can recall. An older cousin of my father with adult children, the last, just about my age. He worked in the same company as my father but in a slightly junior capacity. His wife worked at the Lagos University Teaching Hospital (LUTH) in the catering department and his mother-in-law lived just up the road, we called her Ma Mije.

His father was a lay reader of our old St. Jude’s Anglican Church in our village, known to all with the corrupted version of his honorific title, Lerida. A friendly and jovial man who entertained with hot sweet and milky tea and loaves of bread. He was the tea connoisseur of our village and well-liked.

One of his sons was in his twenties, he had finished secondary school, two others were close to the end of their secondary education. The December before, their big sister got married, remnants of the wedding cake kept on top of a cupboard. She put to bed soon afterwards, but her husband was abroad studying whilst she lived in the newly developing suburbs.

Surely not a negative

She sometimes visited and helped with my lessons, that was when I learnt of negative numbers in Mathematics for all I knew before then was Arithmetic, the concept of negative numbers were so alien to me and questions of that sort featured a lot in the common entrance examinations.

She had just graduated with a degree in Electrical Engineering from the University of Lagos and when we visited her, I drank Tennant’s Light Lager, it is strange a 10-year old was allowed such leeway.

In the Easter of that year, we went to Bar Beach, the big boys picked me up and threw me in the raging surf. That experience probably informed my fear of water and so my inability to swim until this day.

Representing them to some

During my stay, there was a visitor to the company from Japan, they worked for a textile company with my father being the chief accountant. In Lagos, I was the one wheeled out to converse and engage with the guest as everyone else was shut away. We went over maps of the world in an atlas and when he was leaving, he gave me lots of Yen.

I returned to Kaduna late in the month of May, but it is very likely that was last time I saw the eldest son of the family, who has now asked to be a friend on Facebook. There are so many things I remember, the star clock on the wall in the living room, the scent of Oil of Ulay that was quite off-putting.

The incomplete third storey roof where the big boys went to smoke cigarettes, the girl in the ground floor apartment that won a place to Mayflower School, Ikenne when I ended up down the road at Remo Secondary School, Sagamu.

My tenth-year harbours much to remember about childhood and some things I would rather forget as I touched on my 11th birthday. It was both an adventurous and scary time, I sometimes wonder, what were my parents thinking when they made some decisions from 1975 into 1976?

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