On a cold Harmattan Friday morning of September 1998, I came out of a Peugeot wagon at the parking lot of the federal school I had gained an admission. The wagon had driven through the main gate with the inscription “FEDERAL GOVERNMENT COLLEGE, ODOGBOLU” and the over 400m avenue leading to the parking lot. I couldn’t see the inscription on the building about 50 meters in front of me clearly due to Harmattan effect that hinders visibility. It was 7am and it was a Friday.
The date was 25th September and I was new. I had an immaculate white shirt tucked-in on a cotton green short with a pair of sandals garnished with white socks. I was timid and the Harmattan coldness had gotten to my bones. I shivered intermediately as I looked from left to right trying to make something out of where I was.
Accompanied by my mother, I carried my metal box on my head walking towards the block in front of the park of which I later understood to be the administrative block. My mum grabbed the Ghana-must-go bag coupled with her handbag clutching my bucket, broom, hoe and cutlass. We took shelter inside the admin block, close to an office which I later knew as Mr. Atiba’s office.
The building was empty, the surrounding compound was deserted and I started to think “where is everybody?”. A little later, before 7:30am, students starting trooping in across the admin block towards a bigger hall. The bigger hall was the Assembly hall. Some students looked and made gestured of which I took as recognizing the new students in town.
While sitting and waiting for what I don’t even know or remember, I realized that some other newbies had arrived as my attention was drawn to the passing students and the cleaning staffs. I saw Gbenga Aideloje, Adebote Tosin, Omosanya Wale and others. I joined a queue which indicated my admission number. 10167 was mine and it is still in my head like my current phone number. If I had been alert, I should have been the numero uno. Nevertheless, I knew I arrived first on that day.
So many other queues and registration points were passed and I realized I was assigned to cross house and JSS1C. There were four houses: Chad, Cross, Niger and Osun. Bimbo, the Room head of cross house in New Block administered to me. He organized junior boys, most probably of JSS3 or JSS2. They carried my luggage and my locker to New Block.
While the various paper works being done, I met Major Emeka and Ogwogwo. We had all attended Kalac Nursery and Primary School in Lagos and even lived close to each other in Lagos. I didn’t know they were here. I was so excited that I forgot I needed food. My mum bought some snacks for me but I didn’t even touch any. I remember giving them to Major or so.
Prior to leaving the admin block finally to the hostel area, I met my guardian, Mr Obalowo. I went to his office with my mum. After some discussions, my mum left for Lagos. Her midwifery was over. It was time to face the music alone.
I walked through the sitting park full of Melina trees and various ceramic chairs. I imagined sitting there and wishing away or taking a relaxation. I strolled on beside the walls of the girls hostel. I didn’t even know it was the girls hostel, but the birds on the tress made a lot of noise. I strolled on, walked passed a big hall with benches and table. I imagined it would be the dining hall, and so it was.
En route New Block, I passed the book shop, the dispensary, the mosque and I arrived. I went into my room only to discover that some other new boys had arrived and were unpacking their luggage. Gbenga, Tosin, Cletus and I were in Room 1 while Soji and three others were in room 2. Bimbo was the room head. I and Cletus were to share a wardrobe.
We erected our mosquito nets, laid our beds, changed to our house wear of yellow check shirt and brown terylene shorts. We kept the room tidy and I studied the brochures and numerous booklets. At 6:15pm, we heard a bell. Food bell.
We walked into the dining hall. The hall was deafening with noise. Plates were banged against each other, so were the tables. Cutleries were used as drum stick and the hall was in disarray. Despite the degree of disarray, pots were moved accordingly to various tables.
Gbam! Gbam!! Gbam!!! “All students keep quiet” “Chad House students, keep quiet” “Osun house students keep quiet” “Cross house students keep quiet” “Niger house students keep quiet”
The hall became tamed and as quiet as a graveyard. You could hear a pin drop.
“For the food we are about to eat, we thank You oh Lord” “Amen!!!!!!”
And the hall returned to status quo. Pots were open at an alarming rate and the covers of the pots banged the floor creating a uniform crashing sound that was so normal to the hall.
I sat and watched as a student came and served us. We were the new bride and we couldn’t even finish our meal. Imagine a meal meant for 14 shared to 4.
“for the food we have eaten, we thank you oh Lord” scattered the crowd into the cool evening breeze outside the hall. The dining hall scene had ended and New Block we went.
I laid on my bed at night and could only smile. What a day. Let’s see how tomorrow would be.
The Adventure had begun.
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