Going Down Memory Lane

Getting admitted into GCI

My father was a civil servant in the old Western Region. He always wanted the best for his children, which included an aspiration to ensure that I attended Government College Ibadan, which ranked above any other school of that time. When he realised that a lot of pupils passed the entrance examinations into GCI from Ebenezer Primary School, Oke Ado, Ibadan, he promptly withdrew me from Children's Home School Ibadan and took me to Ebenezer. Lo and behold, 19 of us passed the exams into GCI!

It turned out that GCI was a merit-based leveller. It did not matter where you came from- whether the posh Corona School in Lagos or what people might call "the Awolowo schools" in Ibadan and other interior cities of Western Nigeria, if you passed, you passed. In our first year, many of the 'aje- butter kids who had been exposed to a broader range of subjects, while the rest of us were more of Arithmetic and English. In our first year, the 'aje-butters' topped the class. However, as the years went by, they were overtaken and beaten by very brilliant boys who could calculate mentally and who did not have to read Mathematics to trash the exams. When we were distributed into Houses, the lines that divided us all were quickly blurred as we interacted the more.

The 'my tior' school family

In Field House, 'my tior' was Lekan Shaola. Tior is a corruption of the word tutor. The tradition was that an acknowledged Form Three boy would be assigned as tutor/mentor/trainer to a new Form One boy. That Form Three tutor would have had a tior assigned to him when he came in two years carlier and his tior would then be in Form Five. The Form Five tior would then vicariously become the grand tior of the Form One boy coincidentally; my tior read Chemical Engineering and worked for many years with West African Portland Cement Company Plc (now Lafarge Plc) in Ewekoro. He now resides in London with his family. Interestingly, his own tior, i.e. my grand tior Mr. Afolabi Oladele is also a Chemical Engineer who retired as a Group General Manager with the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) and is now a Partner in Africa Capital Alliance. The wheel turned full circle when I also read Chemical Engineering. Although both of them did not have any influence on my decision to read Chemical Engineering, there is no doubting the divine intervention which accounted for the three of us ending in the same profession.

The scissors kick that got me into trouble

In GCI, sport was perhaps the best glue that held us all together. Cricket, hockey, football and athletics were the four most popular games. The swimming pool was closed because one student had once drowned in the pool. The tennis court was too far away to be attractive. I did not like hockey because it looked too terrifying, though we had no choice but to participate at the House level, while I played cricket to while away time. Two times, I got into trouble playing football. The first time was when I tried to do an overhead scissors kick and landed badly on my arm, which was cast in POP for about two months. Three weeks after it was removed, I fractured it again. To say that my parents were livid would be an understatement. Nonetheless, I still played football for the school.
However, I excelled greatly in athletics, which was compulsory because we woke up every day at 5am to work out. When I realised that I had much stamina (did I hear you say 'like a horse') I became a long distance runner and ran the 880 yards and the one mile race for the school. I also represented the Western Region in the Grier Cup competition among other Regions of Southern Nigeria and won quite a number of laurels. I continued with football at the University of Ife and later took up Badminton, a game in which I represented Nigeria in the doubles, together with Prince Ademola Adeniji Adele (Akoke) now of blessed memory.

Academic exploits

Mathematics was my best subject and I was really good in the subject. I did not need to read the subject. My housemates used to tease me that I never allowed them to read, telling them we all should go to bed, only for me to wake up and come tops in the examinations.

I also had a special liking for Geography, simply because one of my favourite teachers was Mr. Aluko who taught the subject. He would talk assuredly, confidently and with authority on the physical geography of North America, the Prairies, the Grand Canyon, the Sierra Nevada and Appalachian mountain ranges and the whole contours of North America, and yet, as at that time, he probably had not even visited North America! This gentleman subsequently bought a Ford Taunus (or was it a Cortina?) car. He drove the car so slowly and ensured that he never had more than three extra passengers, beside himself, the driver. He used to say that the car had capacity for only four passengers, so the most efficient thing to do was to have each passenger sit on each of the tyres, apparently to spread the load! Quite amazing logic.

Some people called me 'apon' because I was very fair, almost like a disappointed oyinbo, while others called me yellow. Dapo Abe and I and one or two other boys were nicknamed 'oba isu' (king of yam) because we were very popular with the girls. In fact, we were always surrounded by those Queen's School girls who liked us. What many people did not know was that all those beautiful and charming girls they used to see with us were our gist mates, prayer partners and/or tutorial class members! Take your choice. Did you say, "I hear you,” "na you sabi."

We had so much fun and made jokes out of our teachers and the Principal. They all had nicknames. There was Mr. Adelaja, a.k.a. Young Ade, who taught Mathematics, and was one of our favourite teachers. He was bubbly and good looking, but was too free with his use of the cane. As boys, we were particularly troublesome in our interaction with the female teachers, for obvious reasons. There was Ms. Nadja Neuhard(?) our French teacher who was such a pretty lady that every student used to like her class, and others like Ms. Orishasope. There was also one Biology teacher, who was cute, slim and very dark in complexion - she earned the nickname satina' named after a bleaching cream of that era. Naturally, we knew where to draw the lines with the male teachers because they did not indulge our impudence or suffer fools gladly.

I was a practical joker and I pulled quite a few stunts and pranks on my mates. One of my most memorable pranks involved calling someone and, telling him that I wanted to show him something, only to give him a slap. I then encouraged that person to do the same to someone else. By this time, the initial shock and anger would have evaporated to be replaced by an enthusiasm to settle score with another victim.

A very good number of us were science oriented and GCI allowed and encouraged us to excel. It built in us the belief that meritocracy is the way of life. We had very few people in the Arts or Social Sciences, but almost everyone wanted to study Medicine or Engineering. Even in Engineering, most of us set our sights on Chemical Engineering, all because someone swayed us during a career talk on Chemical Engineering, which, incidentally, was only offered at that time at the prelim level at the University of Ife. By some divine favour, I was the only one admitted from our set to the prelim class to read Chemical Engineering at Ife. The 1967 set was a reasonably brilliant class. Out of a class of nearly 79 students, about 59 made Grade One, with about 12 distinctions. A few of us missed distinction by inches. I had aggregate 13.

Forever grateful

If I had an opportunity to travel this route one more time, I will once again choose good old GCI. In our time, we were very proud of the school where we all learnt so much, and the school has moulded us into who we are today. Most of the best friends that I have in life now are people with whom I was in Government College Ibadan. Although, so much time has passed since 1967/73, and we have all grown into mature adults, gone our different ways and career paths, some things about us have still not changed. We still play as much pranks as we used to do; we are still disciplined and we still uphold our ethics because GCI taught us to be our brother's keeper. We are very close and we still watch out for one another. Kudos to our Class of 1967 Government College, Ibadan.
Up GCI ! ! !

Submitted By: 

BAJOMO Obafemi
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