Floreat boys, Floreat Sir!
Those words still ring aloud in my head every once in a while – when I stumble over some old pictures, receive calls from my buddies from back in the days or even get stopped by my present colleagues who never stop re-echoing “wow, so you went to King’s College?” Lol. It could be embarrassing sometimes especially when they make it seem like you attended one of the best schools in Nigeria, which it truly is anyways, and therefore cannot commit errors – grammatical, mathematical or otherwise.
It’s been years gone by but that nostalgic feeling still overwhelms me when I see pictures of “junior boys” who have grown so big and even graduated. There seems to be this little disconnect since it’s been quite sometime I last visited my alma mater. It makes me wonder if K.C. (for short) is still that respected school it has always been. Do those awards and prizes from all the numerous debate, sport and art competitions still come rolling in? Do those white trousers still sparkle as much as they used to even after “sweeping the ground?” Are there still crackos and jackos like Anumba and Ojoodide in existence? Do those super runners like Abbah, S.T. and Macho still “cho” (run)? Do the gallant footballers like Raji, Muheez and Macho of my time still exist? I wish I could find some answers.
I recall those good times I had with friends – Feranmi, Muheez, Macho, Izu, Belchizzy to mention a few. The many quarrels we had in the dinning hall (I wasn’t a clearer though), those prefect meetings that always never had a proper ending, the suspense filled Cadet Parades, the never ending assemblies and the debate competitions with the best debaters ever – Saeed, Kenneth, Oriola, Prince, Ife. Not to forget the almighty Ikoyi Run, Inter-house sports, acculturation and yes, PROM!
I still remember my last days prior to my entry into KC. It was on a weekday, a Thursday precisely, when he walked into the house, his eyes bloodshot, his movement quite sluggish and tiredness written all over his face. Within the next few minutes, he was in the bathroom for a shower, had his already prepared supper of ‘eba’ and soup and finally retired to his room. After a moment or two, he called out my name in his deep baritone voice that sent shivers down my spine. “What have I done this time?”, I thought to myself.
I quickly headed for his room with several thoughts in my head while hoping that I had done nothing to upset him. Upon my arrival, he motioned me to take a seat by his bed and handed over to me two deposit slips. Confused, I asked him what I was to do with them. My dad then told me how he had purchased forms for the entrance examination into a foremost Nigerian college and those were the evidence of payment. Before I could say Jack Robinson, he had fallen into a deep sleep. That night, my joy knew no bounds as I jumped around in my room until I got tired and fell asleep.
I woke up the following morning feeling a bit too lazy to get on my feet as a result of the “jumping exercise” I had undergone the previous night. While I lay awake staring at the ceiling, stories of life in boarding school which I had been told seemed to flash through my mind all at once. I had heard stories of how junior students were beaten by senior students and given them serious injuries, how many students went to bed hungry and how impossible it was to speak to or see your family for a long period of time.
It was then it dawned on me all that I was going to miss at home – the love and togetherness, mummy’s food, laziness etc. Almost immediately, fear enveloped me; but trying to exhibit the masculine part of me, I brushed off the thoughts with the self-assurance that I could face anything that came my way. Little did I know that I knew nothing compared to what I was to face in the boarding house. Months later, the results were released and I was not surprised when I got the news that I had passed.
On the day of my departure, a cold Saturday morning, I woke up before everyone else, had my bath, said my prayers and had one last inspection of my luggage before I finally got dressed. Minutes later, I set off with my dad.
It was about an hour drive from our house. My jaw dropped as I beheld the beautiful ancient edifice with the Old Nigerian Defense building adjacent to it, a court of law beside it and the popular Tafawa Balewa Square opposite – that was the Main Campus located at the popular Lagos Island. Just close to the entrance was a lovely sculpture of a lady-figure holding up a slab with the ever controversial mermaid on it. It had a small inscription underneath. It read: “Spero Lucem” \’spəro lükem\. Like most other junior students, I called the mermaid “Spero”.
I was excited as we drove into the school until I began to see the mean looking faces of some huge students with tiger-like eyes staring at me as if to say “You are at a dead end.” I could not even feel my legs as I walked towards the hostel. I tried to settle down, unpack my luggage and arrange my locker while answering to the numerous calls of the senior students at the same time. I got tired so quickly that I concluded I would pretend not to hear the next person to call me.
Few minutes later, about five senior students walked into the hostel to welcome us. I had the most memorable welcome ever. One of them called out, “junior boys!” Ignorant of what response to give, we all kept mute. He felt insulted and shouted “my rep oo” and commanded “junior boys, squat!” We, or rather, they obeyed. We were then instructed to answer “yes please” when called by any senior and add “please” to the end of every statement. I giggled.
Then one of them noticed I was sitting on the lower bunk all the while when all my mates were squatting. Unfortunately for me, that was my House Captain, but I was unaware at that time; and I couldn’t squat because I had a bandage on my left knee; not that I wanted to be disobedient.
He signaled to me to come over to where he was with a smile plastered on his face. Little did I know that that smile was an evil one. Reluctantly, I walked up to him and I was greeted with a thunderous slap! I saw stars fly around my head. Almost immediately, someone on the corridor shouted, “Welcome to the boarding house!” Tears welled up in my eyes and amidst tears, I was asked my name. I replied “F-f-fran-francis pl-p-please”.
I went to the dining hall later that day and we were served little compared to what I used to eat at home. Most of my provisions “were moved” few hours after I arrived, all in one day. When I finally decided to retire, lo and behold, my mattress was nowhere to be found! I was too drained of strength to go in search of another that I had to sleep on the bare bunk! What an amazing way to end my first day in the boarding house.
Hours turned into days, days into weeks and weeks into months and the time to hand over the baton from the Old Elijah to the New Elisha had come – selection of a new set of prefects. Little did I know that the journey was only but beginning. We “played politics” in such an interesting, harmless way. I recall the Ekelem-faction vs mine. LOL. Then there came the Manifesto Night, Election Day and the results day. It was indeed a microcosm of the Nigerian Elections excluding violence and other corrupt practices. I victoriously became the school captain, joined a team of five other students to debate competitions at national and state levels and came out tops amongst others. It was a glorious end.
Then there came the WASSCE and NECO exams, the Valedictory Service and PROM!
Like play like play, school yaff finish o and boys graduated.
I tell this story over and over again to the young ones who care to listen to encourage them to exhibit relentless determination, courage, self-control, perseverance and self-motivation in any and every situation they find themselves and success will be the inevitable outcome.
In all, let’s remember these words:
“Present, Past and Future from one mighty whole
Shining forth emblazoned on a muster roll.
When the call is sounded all must answer “HERE”!
Voice and bearing showing neither shame nor fear
Pointing to our honour, which untarnished stands
Bright as when we took it from our founder’s hands”