Our paths crossed many years back at a secondary school Ijebu ode; we were in the same class. I was the class captain of my class and even after we left school, my mates call me ‘Kaptain’; in short many of us that had nicknames then are still called by our nicknames to date…i mean, those of us that are left behind. He was called ‘Omo mama’, meaning the child of his mother, a rather derogatory term for a spoilt brat.
There are others still alive, like Dogo, a very tall guy, then, he is bent over now and not so tall again. Dogo went on to be a lawyer and lived in the UK for years, raised a family but he is back home with us now, retired. His children all grown and grandchildren too like virtually all of us now; there is Shosho, we called him that because he was the comedian amongst us, he named him after I show pepper the theater artiste of our day. There is Afamako, this guy was a workaholic, he studied harder than anyone, when we were given grass to cut at school, he weeded his portions better, neater and clearer than any one; there are a few more and we still meet every three months in a year…just to have fun with ourselves. We become boys again!
So, I went to my home town, which is where I met him again, my old school mate, Omo mama. Why did we call him that?
His mother sold food stuff on wholesale scale; she supplied big companies with garri, yam and fruits in their seasons. She also supplied our school with food stuff, you know, boarding house…Omo mama’s real name is David but I doubt that many know his real name. We called him Omo mama because his mother also supplied several schools in the environs with food stuff, so they were relatively wealthier than many. They had the biggest houses; they were the richest people in fact. It was Omo mama who came to school with the latest Peugeot 404 back in the day. This was when more than 70 percent of the students at our school hadn’t ever entered a luxury car, our mode of transportation then was bolekaja…or train or maybe those dilapidated contraptions of Datsun model or something.
But Omo mama was driven to school in a brand new Peugeot 404!
So he was that spoilt brat we all had to deal with and he wasn’t such a brilliant chap then. Maybe he didn’t think he needed to put in the extra work, the way the rest of us did, maybe because he knew his mother had money to cater for him. the rest of us didn’t have such luxuries, so we worked extra hard.
He father died a long time before he even came to our school.
Anyway, I was one of the most brilliant in our set, I took Omo mama under my wings; I knew he got teased a lot by the others, he cried a lot too at the beginning at the boarding house especially when we got punished; he was a real softie, I think his mother wanted to toughen him up, that’s why she sent him to the boarding house. He didn’t cope well at all. All his stuff got stolen, at one time, I think he wet his bed and boys were mean, they carried his mattress to the assembly and he was given six strokes of the cane in front of the entire assembly by one of the house masters. That was how tough school was back in our days.
Anyway, after secondary school and HSC, which is called A’ levels, we all parted ways.
The most common mode of communication was letters and telegram for those who could afford it. So this means a lot f us never met again…until some years back when we began to have gsm, we made enquires and when you found one of your old schoolmates, you took their number and give to another and that’s how slowly, we began to gather ourselves and call for meetings…
Now, I went to my hometown to inspect the roof being fixed at the house I built for myself. I have two tenants in the house and the other part of the compound, I had built for myself and my children, our town home. But all my children have grown and have left the house, they will never live in the houses. That’s the reality of life.
Anyway, I was walking through a part when I saw him; well, he actually saw me. He hailed me, Kaptain! As soon as I heard that, I knew he had to be an old boy! I turned and saw a youngish man, white danshiki and sokoto with leather slippers. He looked so handsome. I looked very well, oh my God, it is Omo mama!
How come he looked so young?
How come he looked so resplendent, I immediately felt old and drab beside him as we shook hands. His hands were soft, his finger nails, clipped, clean, pink like a little boy’s. I was astonished. He had aged backwards.
“Omo mama! This is you? How have you been?”
He was all smiles, laughing, teasing me, reminding me that I had aged, he said it was the way I walked that made him know I had to be the one, so he called out!
The boy we all made fun of had become a man of great means; a man who lived in mansions and had servants both black and white at his beck and call; he had become a man who made his mother’s wealth look like chicken change!
he had companies, he had massages, he eat well, lived even better…I wasn’t too surprised, though. I knew omo mama knew how to enjoy life. He had married many women, too, had his share of divorces and heartbreak, had more children than he could name… I found out over the course of phone calls and visits to his big houses.
I visited once and standing beside him as he introduced me to his family and staff one day, I could easily be mistaken for his father…money is good! He may have met money on ground but he used it well!
I invited him to our gathering, he always promised to come, he never has. He is a busy man, I guess. He is busy flying all over the world solving problems. He singularly rebuild three hostels for our old school; he has also done many things for some of our old boys when I told him about their health conditions…even the boy that were mean to him back then. I am just so happy for him. We’ve all seen life. I have been married to one wife and we still live happy for over 50years…so I have accomplished something, I guess. my own children and grand children are also doing well, not at Omo mama’s scale but we are good, yes.
Do I envy him? No. I am happy for him. I am proud that I knew him when he was a cry, cry baby!
(Series written and edited by Peju Akande and based on true stories)