One day in February 1992, my father came to see me in school. I was in my first semester at the University of Jos.
It was a cold morning. Jos was still shrugging off the harmattan.
I dashed out of my class and ran all the way to the department building. That was the first and last time my father visited me in school. So, it was an occasion.
“Good morning, daddy,” I greeted and shook his hand
(No, we did not do hugs unlike today when if I don’t hug my kids they assume I am upset.)
“Is it your birthday?” my father asked looking me over.
I was dressed in a pin-striped dark green suit. And when I say suit I mean as in trouser and jacket. I wore a lime green shirt and had a cravat around my neck to keep the cold away.
“No daddy,” I said, “My birthday is in June.”
“I know. So why are you dressed like this?”
My father took his first degree from the University of Ibadan and his second from Temple University. I had seen some of his old pictures where he was dressed in black suit with pencil thin trousers.
Those pictures were taken at matriculation and graduation meaning he wore suits maybe on just those two occasions. At other times, I saw him dressed in tight polyester polo shirts and danshikis.
Anyway, my father was shocked to see me dressed like I was going to work but the sub-text of that question was how could I have afforded the clothes.
To provide answers, let me start from the beginning. Jos was cold as in oyibo cold so every self-respecting student, what you would call ‘woke’, owned a few jackets.
The one I had on was a gift from my girlfriend who had gifted me not one or two but four suits and jackets. So, I was balling. But there was another reason.
By the time my father visited I hadn’t been abroad but I had been to Lagos and I had visited the Yaba Bend Down Market aka Okrika market and I had done some shopping, youknowaramean?
Jos was a stupid campus, I swear. Every semester, someone, (One of those rich man-mi boys) would decide that this item of clothing was in vogue and all of us would start saving to buy it.
At one point it was penny loafers and you had to have a penny in it.
Then we moved to khaki chinos and check shirts, then we had lumber jacks and timberlands. Harmattan time was mostly trench coats or leather jackets.
To show you how ‘bad’ things were, there was a student who had so many clothes that every morning to dress up, he would open a page in Vogue or GQ and dress the exact same way the model was dressed. Wahala dey!!!
Now, tell me, where was a lecturer’s son going to buy all those with a N300 monthly allowance? Yaba Bend Down market, dude and to say it as it is, me and my friend Ralph Bruce used to select first class Okrika. (I bought a belt once and wore it for seven years before it disintegrated one morning as I got ready to go to work at Hints. The belt just said – bros, e don do!)
We bought mostly jeans and then polo shirts. There was also a thing about denim shirts. Don’t say jeans shirts o, olodo.
At first, we used to buy one or two but by the time I started writing for Hints and earning N500 per story, we used to go and “charter” them o then go to UniJos and pose that they were from London.
Calm down na. I wasn’t really lying you see. People assumed they were. I told you they were First Class Okrika, abi and by that time I had been to London and had come back with reeeeeeeeeeeeeeeal clothes and original Penny Loafers.
Those were the days of innocence, man. Those were the days when Yaba market saved my life.
Let’s not start posing o, if Yaba Bend Down Market ever saved your life, drop us a line to share your experience. We will publish the best and dash you a bottle of wine.
Meanwhile enjoy the song that inspired this piece.