On the side-walk, off Ikorodu Road (1)

It is a Monday morning in early June. Even though the rains are here, yet there are spells of sunshine to lighten the grave mood that comes with the rains. So and in a sense, one is still sufficiently refreshed to be relaxed and light-headed.

Thus and in its own way, Monday mornings can still be very relaxing. This is perhaps a carry-over from the laid-back pace of the week-end. However, as relaxing as Mondays tend to be, it is also a time to focus on happenings during the previous week. This is more so because the new week, like this one, is yet to assume a frenetic pace. Such a focus invariably turns on what could well have been the most remarkable event of that previous week. As I got into this largely insular mood, one feature which comes to mind is the hurly-burly of Lagos life.

It is a situation in which motorists in the main, drive to and fro, as they go about their daily activities. They do so, without soaking in some of the street conditions in the city. Now and then, however, there can be exceptions to this scenario. One can on some occasions find himself on the road sharing the social space with ‘other’ members in the city. This was my lot on this particular day. I found himself, by the side-walk of a major road in Lagos, waiting to meet up with a business associate. It was, needless to say, a rare occasion.

Looking back, what really played out was some form of competition between and among all these schools. So what B.A tried to do, was to play the game of the earliest bird. It sought to catch the fattest worms

Here I was, at a rendezvous, on the watch for my lawyer at a pre-arranged location, off the major and busy Ikorodu Road. Unfortunately, the attorney was nowhere to be seen. Several calls later, there was a revelation to the effect that, her car had been blocked by one of her neighbours, and to this extent, would not be arriving until some 30 minutes later. As such moments go, it was as if one’s life was on hold, with nothing to do. Yet, and ironically enough, there was something to do. What could be done, and indeed, what I did, was to soak in the reality of the street conditions off Ikorodu Road.

I came across ordinary Nigerians in their respective daily grinds. The artisans, traders, and other denizens of the street. On their own part, those traders displayed their various wares. There were some who dealt in second-hand clothing. Others dealt in used shoes. Across the road, on the other side of Ikorodu Road, was the famous Baptist Academy (BA). This was a school which holds memories for me. At the risk of sounding too personal, my father, Mr Adeyemi Soremekun, who died some 65 years ago, was an alumnus of this great school which was founded in 1855.

Incidentally, this particular date -1855, has always been something of a puzzle for me. For the date, 1855, speaks easily to the fact that B.A should be the oldest Secondary Grammar school in Nigeria. Whereas, strictly speaking this is not true. Indeed, that particular distinction belongs to C.M.S Grammar School, which was founded in 1859.

However, the puzzle appears to have been resolved by the fact that, although B.A was established in 1855, it was, at that point in time, a primary school. And to that extent, C.M.S Grammar School takes the gold as regards the oldest secondary school in the country. As I thought along these lines, I remember the legendary lawyer, F.R.A Williams who schooled in B.A and C.M.S Grammar School for his primary and secondary schools’ education, respectively.

Incidentally, beyond my father and F.R.A Williams, I also have my own very personal memories of B.A. I should have gone to this school. Indeed, as I recall now, along with some others, I had a sublimated admission to the school. After the initial entrance examination, we were invited for interview, only to be told to dispense with the interview process. Rather, we were told to just come for a chat via another letter in which, I was addressed as: Dear Prospective Student.

As a primary school student in my final year, that was the first time that, I would come across the word: prospective. Long story short, that was the way in which, I and some others were admitted into this School.

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Around 10 of us, I think. But unfortunately, and ultimately, many of us in that select group did not take up this pre-emptive offer. It was really to pre-empt us from attending other schools. I believe that this ploy met with little success. This is because members if that select group ultimately dispersed to other schools like: King’s College, Igbobi College and Government College Ibadan.

Looking back, what really played out was some form of competition between and among all these schools. So what B.A tried to do, was to play the game of the earliest bird. It sought to catch the fattest worms. In specific terms, what B.A attempted to do, was to catch the smartest students of that era. These and more, were some of the thoughts that went through my mind, as I paced to and fro, waiting for my lawyer.

As I did so, the thoughts on Baptist Academy were necessarily reinforced by the fact that it was closing time in that famous school. So, where I stood, and later sat, were present students at the school, pouring out and going to their respective destinations, presumably their homes. And as young schoolboys are wont to do, they banded together; chatting, bantering, and buying whatever snacks were on display.

There was something alluring about the deep blue tones of their jacket over the white shirts and trousers plus the regulation tie. Unfortunately, many of them failed to carry this well. Here was a typical boy with a loosed tie, with shirt not tucked in. It was in a reality, a sorry sight which bordered on the kind of dressing you are likely to see in those Nollywood comedy shows. Even a school official was on the scene.

This narrative will be continued later this week, on Friday.

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