Last week Thursday was a memorable day in my life. As I sauntered out of the examination hall to make a quick escape from being whipped and molested with water by my junior colleagues who were bent on observing the custom, I could not but rejoice seeing an end to it all and cross into another phase of life. Prior to this I had received a deluged of text messages from friends and well-wishers who know what it takes to be a graduate. While my mates were drinking themselves to stupor, jubilating, hoisting up their shirts in ecstasy, I was too moved to reflect, if soberly of joyfully, on the reality of the world I’m putting behind and the vicissitude of the life that lies ahead of me.
I remember that lucky escape in 2004 when I scaled the hurdles of JAMB, which is noted for shattering the dreams of admission seekers. I scored 243 and put in to study law in the University of Ado Ekiti (UNAD).That year was a competitive year for admission seekers as two sets of JAMB was combined(those who did UME in 2003 and 2004).law was even more keenly contested such that some of us who put in for it had to end in undesired departments.
It was February 2005.I just got out of that stuffy cyber café and had luckily secured a seat to check my placement in UNAD.ALAS! Political science. I was not too happy with this choice for I had dreamt of law. Incidentally, my cousin, Akintade Bamikole was online. He advised me thus: “Sunday, don’t reject the offer. You can sit for UME again. A half loaf is better than none.
I took his advice. But then there were options. Unlike other JAMBITES, I enjoyed the privilege of being led around the campus by my dad who was so obsessed with his agbada that he barely considered and English dress for a second. That February, we were cynosure to all eyes as my dad closely held my hands as we parade the campus to fulfill one obligation or another. My dad suddenly remembered he had a relative, Professor Dipo kolawole now the AG VC of UNAD (the then DEAN OF THE SOCIAL SCIENCES) whom, he told me, he taught at secondary school level.
We were seated before this man, Professor Kolawole, envied by all. I had had that he was a formidable force in the university and as I gazed at his tie dangling loosely as he talks, his eyes caught mine and I bowed. He radiated a mien of authority and knowledge. The purpose of the visit was to thank him for his support “over my admission.
“Oh,” he said to my dad, “don’t bother thanking me egbon. And if he is not happy with political science, he can take up English, philosophy or guidance and counselling.”
His response seemed to resolve the agitation in my mind. And I erupted, rather childishly, without a conviction of my option. “I prefer English, sir.” That was the turning point in my life. That day ,upon my dad’s conviction of the profitability of English, I opted out of political science and that was how I came to study English. As I write this story, I wondered how it could have been without studying English, for, along the line, I became convinced that I should have desired English other than law. For it was a good opportunity to develop my dream as a writer. How did things go thereafter?
It was a bright morning in March 2005. I was to sit for my first lecture as a student of English in UNAD .Shy and seemingly unsure of myself I sat at the back, gazing at these big guys and girls (whom I later got to know had done the pre-degree program and had got used to things around) chanting, awaiting the lecturer, Mr Afolayan who took us ENG 123 (THEARTRE WORKSHOP). I had a black bag which I hung across my chest and which contained my documents. Mr Afolayan came later and spoke extensively on the course and I envied his superfluous use of words. He seemed to have a bank of words alien to me. Cantankerous. Egregious. Catholically encapsulating. Mundane. Extemporaneous. These were some of his words. In the course we had to fulfill the obligation of presenting a play. The arrangement was that the class (over 300 students) was divided into groups, each group assigned with a play to rehearse for presentation.
My group was Group 1.i remember Kunle Falayi was the director. He compelled me to take a role but stage fright kept me forgetting my lines and my friends jeered at me. Later I reconciled myself to the fright but on the day of presentation, I was evicted from acting for there were many better people to act the role.
But as much as I thought less of my ability, aside my good results in 100 level, a particular course-ENG 221 (the rise of the English novel) advertised my name in the class which encouraged me a lot. I scored 25/30, the highest score in the class. When late Tosin Richards was distributing the scripts, he couldn’t believe I was the owner of my script. He called me a wizard and from that day, we became good friends. And to think death took him away. O Death, where is thy victory.
I remember, just like yesterday, when I launched myself into campus journalism, an option, which I have had to thank god for. There had been this inarticulate love to write as well as read. I started with NASELS (national association of students of English and literary studies) editorial board, gathering news, writing campus gists and the like. How memorable it was when Feyisina Rotimi (now serving at NTA Owerri) tutored me on how to interview people and to hold the midget.
In my insatiable quest to be widely published, it was a miracle sighting a desired opportunity. I just came back from campus one sunny afternoon, weary and famished and met three dailies (THE NATION, TRIBUNE AND THE PUNCH) in my neighbor’s room. I could not take the pain to read any. I went out and came back only to find these juicy papers, staring at me. whaoh! The owners must have no use for them. As a voracious reader, I took the three dailies and hardly had I started reading when my neigbour came to announce that the owner was demanding for his papers. I gave the papers to him reluctantly and fortunately, he came back with only one–THENATION, inside which it was advertised that student correspondents were needed .I applied immediately and today, it is one of my makings as graduate, because it fetched me opportunities.
Yes, it fetched me appointment as number one citizen in NASELS, something I was not prepared for. someone, Segun Alabi (an ex student of English now serving in kogi state) had seen my works in THE NATION and recommended me as Transition Committee Chairman for NASELS to the HOD, DR VICTOR OGBEIDE when the elections were canceled. That was how I came into active student unionism. I became a common figure. I made official statements, organized a more credible election, served as the chief accounting officer etc. In doing all these, I remember DR OGBEIDE’s remark about me when I was handing over to the elected executives. he said, “Sunday has shown us that he can handle top electoral jobs in the future.
In the discharge of my duties, I remember I had a clash with DR T.T Bello of the religious studies department in UNAD. That was my first litmus test as a leader.
DR T.T Bello had nowhere to teach his students so he resolved to using the NASELS library. He drove out the English students studying. I stood against that and he got infuriated
“By the way, young man, who are you,” he asked me, his face hard and stern. I told him politely that he had no right to encroach on our privacy because the library was not for teaching. He lambasted me; insulted me but I stood my ground. The issue got resolved somehow and I remember he said this publicly,: “you are somebody that can be followed to war. you are a good leader.” Today DR T.T Bello and I are like father and son.
In my fourth year I had my share of victimization? In the course of reporting events on campus, I could not understand the maladies in my community as lecturers exploit students, rather blatantly. I wrote an article tiled “redeeming the image of tertiary education in Ekiti State”. I bravely reveled these corrupt practices. On the day that the article appeared in the paper (February 28 , 2008).a copy was brought to me stamped as VC’s copy. Some came to tell me that the vice-chancellor was looking for me, that I was in real trouble .For saying the truth? Series of tales came in from different sources to cow me. but I knew that truth was my defence.
There were nights in my four-year experience when I barely had more than a hunk of bread to eat and get scarcely fed, sometimes once in a day.
There were nights when I sat on my chair with beads of sweat on my face, preparing for examinations or tests.
There was the fear that crept into me when I admire the supposed girl of my dream. today I consider them lust for every girl seems to be the girl of my dream.
There were fearful days on campus when cultist invasion saw us running helter skelter, such as that of june8, 2006 when Alhaja, a peace corp was killed. I remember vividly that afternoon when the hullabaloo threw the campus into turmoil. As I ran for my dear life, I remember a girl running closely towards me. She dropped her bag, remove her shoes and her precious phone on the grass and made effortless scurry off. How foolish she was. A sharp guy took these possessions and managed to run faster than she.
There was the glamour in being seen in the national daily. I remember today that I have acquired another name—THE NATION.
THERE was the inner conviction that someday all will end; that one’s little effort is no sin, that handwork and perseverance pay.
There were the opportunities to meet people, gather contacts through series of interviews. Campus journalism afforded me a one-to-one opportunity to interview Prof Femi Osofisan, Prof Dipo Kolawole, Emeka Ike (Nollywood), Peter Fatomilola (Nolywood) etc.
I got engrossed in campus unionism that I barely had time to do other investigative reports because of the UNAD peculiarity. Today protest. Tomorrow school fee brouhaha. Another day congress. The phone calls from UNAD progressives, meeting with SUG presidents and unionist from OAU, IREE POLY, FEDPOLYADO, YABATECH, UNILAG, ESA OKE POLY, UI FUTA, ETC. visits to NANS PRESIDENTS, SENATE PRESIDENTS (LEKAN EDWARD SMART). Now I am putting them behind. funny how time flies.
In all my four years, I acknowledge GOD as the alpha and the omega, for without him, the story would have been different.
NEED I bother you with my personal encounters too much; I want to reinstate the fact that there will always be a time to put campus life behind. I have emerged out of critical circumstances. And like Lenrie Peters puts it, i am leaving “with boots full of pride.