In 2002 I switched from Bereton College to the Nigerian Navy Secondary School Port Harcourt. It was hellish- first my stuff got stolen, and crazy, evil seniors made sure my life was miserable. I saw people fight and literally punch the lights out on someone. I saw a guy (Bruno) go blind because a senior flogged his eye with a belt buckle. You know how military belts are like!
Food was also terrible. You ate tasteless, mucky stuff with such gusto because that was all. I wasn’t like those people whose parents gave them 15k in 2002 for their pocket money (thus they could afford to NOT eat in the dining hall). Visiting Day was a taste of heaven- 30 minutes to 2 hours with your parents (depending on their patience). For me it was torture cos I Kept crying that I wanted to follow them home! Well, the seniors would be waiting for me to arrive before they pounced on my stuff…so would every Junior. There were SOME good guys though- Otto Orondam, Toby Aregbesola, Kingsley Ohuka, Henry Graham-Douglas to mention a few. Those guys although my seniors never really oppressed me. They actually got me talking with them.
Enough about that. Sometime when I was in JS 3 our school had a change of leadership. Our new X.O. (executive officer) was now Kaoje, and our Commandant was Captain D.I. Gom. As soon as he came in, things began to change. First, power was more stable (the generator hardly packed up). Secondly, bullying started dropping (people now actually had the guts to report seniors to school authorities). Oh and we couldn’t keep hair anymore (I hate that part. Once, my lovely little afro was growing and the XO stuck a pair of scissors in my hair! And gave me an old rugged cross in the middle!). What else changed? We started eating chicken.
Those of you reading this from Europe or North America may find this a hard concept, but chicken in a public school is so not gonna happen! It’s never done! When the school struggles to feed 5000 students on a bread-and-egg breakfast, definitely it’s not gonna be looking for chicken. But Captain D.I. Gom did the impossible.
Enter his children who I hated with a passion. Dennis was in my hostel, very stingy boy J. And I hated Stephanie cos they both always went on weekends in the commandant’s house. They never did their laundry (I honestly hope their pops didn’t know about THAT!) but I know that Steph’s school mother used to give SENIORS her clothes to wash. When we the masses were hungry, SAPping, eating guava and toothpaste, cabin biscuits-and-mayonnaise, someone had the luxury of going home every weekend!
Well, that life did not last very long for me. After my JSCE I left for Trinity International College, which was like the 7th Heaven from Navy. I can talk about that later.
What’s of interest to me right now is that, When I moved to Abuja in 2010 (rather, when my family Joined me there), I initially had this grudge about how there seemed to be no young people…young girls in my estate, or at least on my street. Everyone was either married or away in school. I spent most of my time in church, playing the bass (learning neo-soul in the process). We even started a flowerbed to brighten the landscape of 1Q Road 3.
We toiled and toiled (my dad insisted on watering morning and evening, with 6 buckets of water, and that’s Paintbucketfuls!) with no garden hose we were doing everything manually. And you know how I dislike manual labour of the sort. But well, my mum was weeding, I was watering, and then a “new” neighbour stopped to say hi. While they talked, she found out that I was sharing a fence with my former commandant. I didn’t know whether to be happy or sad- fine, bittersweet memories of NNSS, of all the malaria, the evil seniors, the long months away from home. But then seeing someone from my former life, THAT was a comfort in Abuja where everyone is so individualistic.
I made friends with the Son, Dennis, the one who I hated more personally. He was at Ahmadu Bello University, studying accounting, cool course. He had games on his laptop, had my favourite race games on his iphone, so I “forgave” him for the past, lol.
Then his sister. That was a sight for sore eyes like mine. I kid thee not. In the midst of the drabness of that estate, there was someone this pretty living NEXT DOOR to me? Well, trust me and my ninja mode. I just decided to “lock up”, keep a straight face, be as blank as possible. It worked. When there was the #OccupyNigeria protest, we laughed together at the tweets, I go her twitter handle. Blah Blah Blah
Okay, this story is getting really long. We’ve had great times. She’s put me into trouble sometimes (there was this one time we went for shawarma with Doris and came back after 10pm. I didn’t think it was a big deal till I saw my dad storming out of our driveway….ostensibly to look for me). Fine, I admit it, I felt silly like a little boy past his curfew, but then when I look back at the stuff we talked about, it was worth it.
Oh, and the time when we went to gwagz together- my friends had an accident and I went to see them in the hospital. She heard, and she decided to join me. I’m glad for the cheerful company, and for the stuff we talked about. (if you’re getting curious, maybe you can ask me what we were talking about).
I had to visit her at work sometimes and I saw how out of place such a lady was in a….ummm, that kind of work environment (if I were the one, I imagine I’d give my boss a nice dose of chloroform :D). But not sunshine.
Did I tell you how much my kid sis adores that girl? She calls her “my love”, and “my twin sister” (how that’s possible I don’t even know, but trust kids to be adorable when you least expect it). If any of you reading this ever heard sunshine laugh, you’d testify it has something like wind chimes playing in there; and it sounds like a witch laughing (or that’s how nollywood movies make it sound).
Sunshine’s one of the few people that nag when I don’t come home soon enough (when she stays like 7 months away at a time :P). But surprisingly she’s being calm about it this time. She’s broken up with me like a thousand times on the bbm, but she forgives me all the time.
I didn’t finish about Captain D.I. Gom. After I left Navy, the transformation continued. Hostels looked better, school more stable, and he even included a laundry. I think I heard people say he added washing machines to that laundry, but I cannot confirm.
Let me tie this up: Captain Gom passed on some years ago and I wasn’t aware. I see his children, I see his wife living life so well, It almost feels like he merely travelled to somewhere else! I look at their industry, I look at how well they grew up into emerging men and women. Although it’s sunshine’s birthday, I celebrate the man who gave her birth, and taught her the things that she still lives by. The man who gave her that teddy that song “You are my sunshine”.
Your work, Sir will never waste. Sunshine, we have a lot to talk about when I get home J