At the age of fourteen, most of my age mates were in secondary school while some where learning various trades and skills. I was still living with Pharaoh without a future ambition. I get up daily and go hunting, perhaps I was a hunter, I do sell some of my spoils some times: I was not allowed to use a Dane gun by the hunters association because of my age so I use my snares and my dog as weapons supported by my machete.
The money I saw in mama’s box was still there, I do not really know what to do with it and because we were not friends before she died, I felt her spirit could haunt me if I misuse the money.
Five months after the incident at the house on the hill top, the children of Baba Oloro came to my house and killed Pharaoh. Pharaoh was sleeping peacefully under the cashew tree beside my house when the eldest son of Baba Oloro beheaded him with one swift; he put Pharaoh’s head in a bag and said it will be used to appease “Ogun” the god of iron. They accused Pharaoh of biting their father on his way to his farm and infected him with rabbis and tetanus; they threatened to kill me if I make further trouble.
It was like a dream, why is everyone close to me leaving me alone in this world?, my mum, my grandma and now my dog!, I was just tired. I could not do anything. I was an Orphan and a desolate one at that. I mourned the death of my dog the way I never mourned the death of anyone I ever knew, I felt so lonely in the house without Pharaoh.
I began to wonder why Baba Oloro had lied about the venue of his encounter with Pharaoh. Baba Oloro died two days after Pharaoh was killed, it was Modupe’s mother that ran to my house and dragged me to her house so that I could escape the wrath of Baba Oloro’s children, and she said the children were on their way to my house.
They went to my house but did not meet me so they left after destroying some part of my house. I was with Modupe’s mother in her late father’s house for fourteen days before I came back to my house. Modupe’s mother happened to be a childhood friend of my mother, her husband was killed during an inter community wrestling competition, his opponent killed him with bare hands by dealing repeated punches to his stomach, he was left gasping for breath till he died on the pitch at the village square. Modupe’s mother did not remarry; she focused on her business and on training her three children. She took me in as a son and advised me on the way to go about my life, she was shocked to realize that I had no future ambition and I was shocked at her attitude because no one ever showed such care towards me.
Modupe was already in form three in a secondary school at Ibadan, she comes home during the holidays, she told me a lot about school and encouraged me to endeavor to go to school, it was while she was encouraging me to go to school that her mother interjected and reminded her that there was no money for anyone to send me to school. I remembered grandma’s money and I told her that I have a lot of money left by my grandma.
After spending two weeks with Modupe, I went home with her to see the extent of damages done by Baba Oloro’s children, it was superficial, we went straight to mama’s cash box, it was intact, I upturned it’s content so as to count the money, beneath the money was my picture as a child and a note written by my grandma that the money in the box was for my education. In case she passes on before I entered secondary school. That was the day I mourned my grandma, I cried like a baby, how could I have known grandma had such love and plans for me? In the midst of her sufferings and sickness she still had plans for me, in the midst of the hunger and wretchedness she kept her window’s mite for a better future for me.
Modupe tried to console me, she cried with me too as we counted the money. We counted until we got confused at the total amount. I went to Mama’s grave and begged for her forgiveness for all the pains I had dealt her in her life time, I begged her for everyday she had hungered and thirsted for my sake, I beg her to forgive all my pranks and wickedness I had meted on her. If grandma had not died, I would be in my third year in the secondary school. The money in the box could see me through five years in a standard boarding school!
Together with Modupe, we took the money to her mother and explained the note and the picture found beneath the box. She contributed her own portion of tears as she blessed the old soul of grandma five years after her death!
We decided that I go to my former school and collect my first school leaving certificate and testimonial. I went there at the resumption of school and some teachers were laughing at me when I told them I needed my credentials to further my education. Mr. Makinde even joked about my wanting to sell the certificate to a more ambitious person. I simply told him that it was my property and I needed it for keeps.
In my quiet time, I ruminated over the house on the hill top and the mystery surrounding it, most especially why Baba Oloro was there that night, a place dreaded by all, and why anything didn’t happen to me and Pharaoh having been that close to the house.
Alabi and his gang had all vanished into thin air mysteriously after a heist that they carried out at national Bank in Akure. The operation had brought armed police men and soldiers to our small village looking for Alabi and the gang. For six months the gang was living in the farm house of Baba Oloro deep in the forest, it was known to the villagers but no one could tell the police.
After six months, we started noticing Alabi’s presence in his house only at nights. On a fateful night, there were sporadic gun shots and screams coming from the house on the hill top, we thought the police had finally caught up with the gang. People that went to the scene the next day said there were shallow graves freshly dug and the motor bikes coupled with blood stains littering the compound. That was the last we heard of Alabi and his gang followed by the strange attacks on anyone that ventured into the house. We also noticed that the Motor bikes disappeared over the years and grasses took over the compound.
What most of the villagers did not notice was that Baba Oloro suddenly came into wealth over the years; he withdrew his children from the village school and sent them to school in the city. Even his first two sons were rumoured to be schooling in the white man’s country.
I now understand that only a juju man like Baba Oloro could manipulate malevolent spirits to attack people as had been happening in the house on the hill top so as to scare people from getting access to whatever was hidden therein.
Pharaoh attacked Baba Oloro because dogs could identify evil spirits.
That morning I told Modupe and her mother about my thoughts and we took my story to the police station at Ado Ekiti. After listening to my story, the police accompanied us with an escort pick up van to the house of late Alabi. After the search, huge sum of money in crisp naira notes were discovered locked up in one of the rooms, it ran into millions of naira bearing the band of the national bank Akure.
The bank rewarded me with a scholarship throughout my education and an awaiting job upon graduation from the university. The Ondo state government gave me a reward of two hundred thousand naira and promised to rebuild grandma’s house using cement block. I was also given two plots of land out of the reserved portion of the community land.
Suddenly I became a celebrity, I was loved by young and old and I had many friends.
I was almost sixteen years old when I left the village for the first time. I left for Ibadan to start from form one in the same boarding school Modupe attends.
I handed the cheque given to me to Modupe’s mother as I have taken her to be my Guardian, she would put the money into her business and train me and her children with it.
It was in 1985 that I was admitted into Apata Grammar School in Ibadan as a boarding student. I was sixteen years old and in form one, Modupe was fifteen years and in form four, she would graduate the next year. It was not easy trying to cope at school, my age mates were in form three and above, I had already sprouted a moustache, and my legs were hairy, this made me become a subject of discussion in the school, I clearly stood out amongst my classmates, and sometimes they mischievously refer to me as uncle Bolaji.
I was made the class prefect on the first day at school, it was on the assembly ground that the school principal spotted me lined up with form one students, he shouted on top of his voice at me, he said I should leave the line and go to join my mates, he was pointing at the senior students line. The whole assembly rocked with laughter until a teacher went and whispered something to the principal, he then waved the students to a silence and apologized to me publicly, he then asked me the alphabet of my class. Class one B sir I replied. Good! From today, you are the class monitor! He announced and there were shouts of uncle ‘B’ everywhere.
Life in boarding school was totally different for me. I had being a free bird all my life, I had lived without bounds or rules and regulations, it was a different ball game here as I was made to wake up at 5.30pm every morning. I was forced to observe afternoon rest daily at 3pm; I was to go to Sunday church service at the school chapel. I had never attended a church or mosque in my sixteen years of existence. We were given portions of food without caring if the ration will satisfy you or not and you cannot ask for more food if you are not satisfied else they tag you ‘Oliver twist’
Another challenge I had was that I was too crude and uncivilized, my ways were strange to my fellow students, I was a raw village boy who not speak good English and when I try to speak English my accent made it sound as if I was speaking Jamaican ‘patua’, people laugh whenever I open my mouth to speak and I always had reasons to speak because I was the class monitor.
Mr. Adegoke was my English teacher and he took special interest in my reformation, he does not laugh when I commit blunders while speaking, he was quick to correct my errors and made me to correct my self by repeating the words correctly, he personally gave me a book titled”Common errors in English” and gave me home work on it daily. Once he called me into his office and encouraged me to be focused and positive, he said I was catching up fast and I should not take any of the aspersions being cast on me seriously. He said he believed in me. He was the first human being to challenge me and dared me to succeed if I can, he told me that age was just a number and that once I am out of secondary school I will realized that age means nothing at the university or the larger world, he asked after my parent and I told him my story. He then told me that I could rewrite my story if I try, he said he was an orphan too. His words of encouragement moved me and I secretly vowed to succeed in life by becoming more serious and determined
Kareem was nine years old and in the same class with me, he calls me ‘egbon’ meaning ‘elder one’. I told him severally to stop calling egbon but he refused. He said he could not bring himself to calling me by my first name because I happen to be the same age with his eldest brother, his father’s first born who was a first year student at the University of Ife, his brother is older than three other persons before him and he reveres his eldest brother. He finally agreed to be calling me ‘Uncle B’ since that has been like a nick name.
He was the smallest and smartest in the class and he helped me a lot and in return I protected him from bullies. Every potential bully in the school left him alone the day I slapped Joseph for beating up Kareem at the school farm during Agric practical.
Joseph returned to school the next day with a swollen face and people thought it was because of the slap I had used to send him out of the school farm the previous day. The students had formed a circle with Joseph and Kareem at the centre while they cheered the duo to fight. Kareem was never a match for Joseph or anyone in the class. Kareem was lanky and feeble by stature while Joseph was an Igbo boy that eats fufu three times daily without drinking much water! He was very stout with a barrel like chest. He was sitting on Kareem’s stomach and stuffing dried grass into the poor boys mouth when I came into the farm. I broke the chain formed by the students, lifted Joseph off Kareem and dealt him a blinding slap over his eyes, it was someone else that shouted in pain instead of Joseph himself for he ran blindly out of the farm stumbling and shouting ‘anya m o! (My eyes)
The Joseph incident increased my fame in the school and another ‘alias’ was added to my name ‘Ifoti to gbona’ (hot slap) so the senior students called me ‘ifoti’ while my mates called me ‘Uncle B’ and all these happened in the first term of my first year in school.
At the end of the second term in form one my grade was better than the first term. My total average score went up from 53 to 76 percent. I got a ‘C’ in English language and an ‘A’ in mathematics.
Kareem was a wiz kid! His average was 98 percent; he got an A in all subjects but Yoruba language where he got a ‘B’. I got a ‘C’; in Yoruba language even though I spoke the thickest Yoruba in class and knew every adage in the language even more than my teacher.
We went for the long vacation of 1986. Modupe and I rarely saw at school because I did not like to be in her company due to inferiority complex. I could not bring myself to call Modupe ‘senior Dupe’ as every junior does. We were from the same Village and I was older than her.
The few times we encountered at the school sports arena, she had tormented me by speaking to me in good English instead of using the ekiti dialect that we were both brought up with, of course she got the good laugh she wanted when I attempted to speak with her in good English also. She even had the audacity to refer to me as her school son once. I warned her in a language only the two of us understood and walked out on her.
Our relationship at school affected our closeness when we went home on holiday. I did not return to her house. I went to my grandma’s house and cleaned it up. I went and met Modupe’s mother to give me some of my money for my upkeep, she refused, and she said I should e coming to her house to eat daily. I was about seventeen years old and a boy of my age needs some change in his pocket. She said she had put all of my money in a fixed deposit account at the bank and was not due for withdrawal. I was happy.
Modupe has a boy friend. The boy was already in the university, he is from our village and my age mate. He is the son of the ‘Balogun’ a high chief of our village.
Akindele drives his father’s Peugeot 504 Salon Car whenever he is at home and he comes to take Modupe out daily.
I used the holiday period to develop the two plots of land given to me by the community. I planted maize. I was on my way home from the farm one evening when Akindele drove by and stopped to give me a lift home as the farm was about one hour trekking distance from the Village. Modupe was in the car with him and she prevented me from entering the car, she said I was sweating and smelling. She said I was half way home already and would be better I continued trekking. She told Akindele to drive on. I saw the look of confusion on the face of Akindele but I thanked him for his gesture and I continue to walk home with my hoe on the shoulder and my Cutlass swinging in my hands. She was right! I was sweating and smelling, and I was actually half way home.