Monday, September 18, 2017 11:02 am
By Dada Margaret Wuraola
My parents were teachers. They both retired after meritorious services to their father land. My mum was the late Iya Gold, real name, Victoria Boluwaji Amire, daughter of Balogun James Ige. My dad, Otunba Michael Oluwadare Amire, aka Young himself, is still alive and very agile. It is a pride to have Otunba and late Mrs Amire as my parents and that they were teachers. I could not have asked for better parents. Growing up as a child of teachers was fun. I am the second of eight children, yes eight children, six beautiful and amiable girls and two handsome boys.
I spent the early part of my life with my paternal grandma, I call her Eye mi Eleko (solid pap maker and seller), a beautiful, firm and strict woman. Some people still call me Omo Eleko o sebesi, (meaning daughter of the one who sells sold pap without soup), till today and I will smile happily. With her I enjoyed so many delicacies like boiled ripe plantain that was left to smoke inside ayanran (venison) for days. Also when she was making the eko, she usually dropped some into cold water for me to eat when it solidified. Then the ones that stuck to the pot, she would scrape and put into water, we called that “iarihoori”. This is very delicious especially if you eat it with coconut. Boiled dried corn and roasted dried corn also were part of our delicacies. Lest I forget, iyanikasin or iyanana- pouded yam or amala left overnight , some people used to warm this before eating it, but my grandma would only mash it with her palms, and warm the soup, then eating followed. It was most enjoyable when we ate it on our palms.
I must have given my grandma tough time. I was very sickly, if it was not fever, it was boils, most times I could not seat, at times I fainted, which was why I have some marks on my face. They were incision put on me as a way of resuscitation. So they believed then! This made me get some nicknames which I will not tell you. I will tell you of the one given to me by Eye mi Elekoule aba ‘Degboyega’ ‘’Wurandan’’. That was what she called me from my childhood till she died.
My grandma did something that I can never forget. That fateful morning, she discovered that the mat my cousin and I slept on was wet. She asked for which of us bed wet, because that was the only way that the mat could have been wet. I knew I didn’t, my cousin said she didn’t. In the end she grounded some pepper and sealed our private parts with it! She locked the door and went out. Remember I told you she was very strict, despite the fact that we cried bitterly, nobody had the liver or effrontery to rescue us so as to avoid the wrath of my grandma. I didn’t and still do not have anything against the family members in the whole compound that time for not rescuing us. As little as we were then, I knew that the fear of my grandma was the beginning of wisdom. Anyway, she came back at last and after warning us of future stiffer punishment for messing up the bed, we took our baths and she gave us food.
You may wonder where my parents were at this time. My mum went back to school. At that time, teachers’ training was done in stages. My dad was in his station with my older sister Thessy, my younger sister, Sayo was with my maternal grandma. The rest were still in the mind of God.
I was very chubby, vivacious, ever smiling and a good dancer. There was a particular song they we would sing, don’t bother to ask for the song because I won’t just tell you, I would wiggle my waist happily.
“Wura leave that place inspectors are around”, that was my mum instructing me as I was playing in the sand behind her classroom. Trust me, I didn’t leave, I continued playing in the sand. That was at St Mary Primary School, Ode Ekiti in 1972. I can’t tell whether I had started School formally then. At Ode, we lived at a house beside the Modern School. In the Catholic Church we attended, there was a man who was always announcing the names of people owing owo iranlowo (cooperative loan). He was always pronouncing the names like ‘Agbairo’ ‘Arule’ making the ‘r’ sound as the thrill sound that it is.
We did Children Harvest; it was enjoyment galore. I still remember some of the beautiful songs we sang then. In 1973, we were at Itaji Ekiti. Iya Gold taught at Saint Lukes AC School. Otunba taught at Saint Andrews as headteacher. I attended both Schools. At the time we were at Itaji, there was no tap water, so we were fetching water from the stream. We had one maid, Auntie Emily, staying with us, but trust Iya Gold; she wasn’t going to train another person’s daughter at the expense of her children. So we had container for our ages to fetch water. Ajigboro River was where we were washing clothes and swim, while we trekked some kilometers to the streams where we fetch drinking water.
The stream was partitioned with bamboos. We would enter into the inner court to get clean water. During draught, we would queue. We would go deep into the source of the stream, dug small holes in the stream and waited for water to gather there. This we would use small bowl to scoop into our buckets. One day while coming from the stream, we got to the foot of a palm tree which stood beside the road, Auntie Emily put down her bowl and also ours, we wondered why. So she said, “I want to hit my head against the palm tree and die” but why? We chorused, “Because you are going to tell your mum what I did yesterday”. We started crying, pleading that we would not tell our mum anything and trying to hold her not to die. It was a bad day because it was just the three of us on the lonely footpath to the stream. That was how our mouth was sealed till she left our house. Do you think she actually wanted to kill herself? Who can tell?
We lived at Baba Bamigboye’s house opposite St Andrew’s primary School. Very funny man, he had two wives. One had a daughter named Emiola, the other had a daughter named Ebun. So whenever it was said (kolorun da emisi) that is, may God spare our lives, he would quickly add, (kolorun da Ebunsi). He was also a no nonsense man. One day, he had a mild argument with one of his wives, please don’t say I told you, he drew out his gun (he was a hunter) at her and he was saying “jinasi mi” meaning move away from mi. The people around prevailed on him, he dropped the gun and smiling he said, ‘’I only want to frighten her.’’
Behind the house was the forest of the masquerades. Hun! Masquerade mtchew! One of them according to their tradition even flogged my mum. If I was not afraid, I would have beaten him in return because it was not his business if my mum had a male child or not. Titilope was added to us at Itaji. Students were coming to do house chores for us every Wednesday during handwork period. We also ate egbo and without my mum’s knowledge, I ate cocoyam from Titilayo Bamigboye my friend.
My dad joined the army and was posted to Old Sokoto state after his military training at ojoo cantonment, Lagos. At Yelwa Yawuri, now in Kebbi State, I attended Yelwa Primary School. I remember we were always reading “ngulu de shau, inasakingulu, shauyai se.” Don’t ask me for the meaning o, because even I didn’t and still don’t know the meaning. We lived at Mama Gambari’s house, a very short woman. She was always chewing kolanut which made her teeth and lips very yellow. She also used to put her hand inside a narrow long calabash containing some dirty looking substance. The hand was always yellowish when she removed it. She sold burukutu. The house looked old with one small window. I didn’t like the environment; it made me fall sick often added to it was the fact that my mum had not joined us because he had not been granted transfer.
We eventually moved to a beautiful house near Go Slow Hotel. My sister and I also left Yelwa Primary School for Army Children School where we were taught in English. I was happy; I enjoyed the school except for two naughty boys who were always troubling me that they wanted to marry me. Just imagine! And we were just primary 3 pupils. To add salt to injury, one bros that worked at the Go slow hotel also called me iyawo. In the mornings, I was always going to buy bean cake for our ogi which was for breakfast as garri with either groundnut, sugar or nothing is for lunch. Then we would sumptuous dinner. On Sunday, we ate hot bread directly from bakery, thanks to the Ogbomoso people who were bakers of the bread. So, one morning, I was going to buy beans cake, the bros was outside the hotel saying, iyawo mi, he was a Yoruba man. I tried to jump across the drainage so he would not touch me, but I crashed into the drainage. I know you will shout and you guess right, by the time he brought me out, I was bleeding because of a deep cut on my right hip, it left a mark. My mum had joined us at that time. She taught at Yelwa Primary School.
Ha! I haven’t narrated the story of Iya Sadia, our neighbour, a pathological busy body. One day, honestly, I can’t remember what we did, my daddy was going to flog my sister and I, suddenly, IyaSadia said in Yoruba, “E na won dada, won ti baje ju” meaning “beat them very well they are spoilt brats.” Guess what my daddy did, he threw the cane away and said, N yiole momi, oni ka pomoara re ku li wa” meaning “go inside children, she wants me to kill my children.” We were so happy. I remember one unusual colleague of my daddy, he wasn’t bathing but was only washing the foot, hand and face until one day,he became very sick to the point of death, they had to forcefully bath for him.
My daddy had to resign from the military. You wonder why? His mother did not want him in the army. He was redeployed to the southwest; we packed our loads and traveled back to the south in a wooden lorry. Did you say Oba bi Olorunkosi? Most likely that’s what was written on the lorry. They were posted to Ilara Mokin. We lived at Baba Fakayejo’s house. My mum taught at Muslim Primary School while my dad taught at Anglican Modern School, Ilara Mokin before he was transferred to St George’s Anglican School Idanre after spending three weeks in the Modern School. My sisters and I went to Muslim school. At that time, inspectors would come and would drill the teachers on the field. School was interesting with all the akosori that we recited every morning. At last the big boy, Kolawole, was added to us, it was all joy. While my mum was still on maternity leave, one evening, we heard noise coming from outside the house. My daddy had been transferred to Idanre and was coming to Ilara every weekend. So my daddy had arrived but one drunken military officer followed him and accused him of riding his motorcycle roughly. He hit my dad on the head with helmet. Immediately my mum heard, Iya Gold herself a brave woman, she walked through the crowd and slapped the officer.
I remember the first day electricity came on at Ilara, the women danced round the town holding horse whip. There was this uncle who was our regular visitor, we called him “oga Ojo so” because every word he said was always accompanied by ‘so’. Have you seen fresh star fruit (agbalumo) fall from the tree before? Very delicious! I saw it at Baba Fakayejo’s farm.
Mum was eventually transferred to Idanre to join daddy. Dad was at L.A Primary school Otapete while mum was at St Georges where my siblings and I attended. My class teacher Mr. Makinsun,was a nice man but was found of stylishly sucking his thumb. Her two daughters Ibironke and Yemisi were my good friends, also Alice Akinyelure and Agnes Akinbobuyi. We were all good friends. So one day our class Teacher was calling our names to mark the register. When she called my name I said absent ma. She kept calling Amire Wuraola and I was saying absent. My class mates then said but you are the one now why are you saying absent? It was then that it occurred to me that, those saying absent were answering for those that are not in School and not for themselves!