Closure Of Dowen College, Matters Arising And Rascality In My Igbobi College Days... - THE DAILY CRUCIBLE

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Friday, December 10, 2021

Closure Of Dowen College, Matters Arising And Rascality In My Igbobi College Days...




| The Daily Crucible | Friday, December 10, 2021

By Femi Kusa

TENSION may have been doused, had the government of Lagos State not shut high brow DOWEN college in Lekki, Lagos. It was in this high brow high school about two weeks ago that a twelve-year-old budding academic star was beaten to coma by four pupils because he refused to join their school secret cult. Before he fell into coma, they forced him to drink a poisonous fluid comprising dangerous chemical substances, perhaps even hard drugs. 

The murder at DOWEN College throws up many ugly questions such as...

1) Should the law-abiding children in the school be forced to miss school because of the waywardness of a few children? Our forefathers in South-western Nigeria gave us a proverb to answer this question: BI ELESE BA NJE IYA, OLODODO A PIN N'IBE. (When the sinners are being punished for their transgressions, the innocent will get a share). They also warn us: TI ARA ILE ENI BA NJE KOKORO, TI AKO BAA WI, KURUKERE RE KO NI JE KI A SUN L'ORU. (If a member of our household is feasting on ants and we do not caution him, he would turn the house upside down from tummy pains at night and we would be unable to sleep!) It is possible there are many cult groups in the school and the non-cultists did little or nothing to expose them! 

2) I am looking at this event today through my memory as a Higher School Certificate (HSC) student at Igbobi College, Yaba between 1969 and 1970. Some of us were rascally, but we never got into cultism or drugs. Igbobi students of those years would easily recall three Lower Six students who featured everyday or weekend on the list of boys who broke almost every imaginable school rule or regulation. We never went for chapel evening worship on Sundays. We were not in any prep class at the weekend. Often, we were not in the dinning hall. We could be on the other side of Ikorodu Road gyrating at Caban Bamboo. Geraldo Pino and Tony Bensen with its Sextet were reigning there at that time.
 Igbobi College had a good boarding house monitoring system. Yet, we the students often beat it. If a teacher smoked us out at Caban Bamboo and he didn't bring us to the principal, we would bolt across the Ikorodu Road into Orthopedic Hospital and, from there, to the football field which separated the hostels from the boundary fence of the hospital. We would be fast asleep and snoring by the time the teacher would drive his car through Jibowu and back towards the school. Our friends would have got us marked present at lights out. How did we easily cross the hospital fence boundary? We had some blocks broken and replaced with make shift blocks. Exactly the size of the ones we removed. If we wanted to go out, we pushed the make shift block into the hospital side. Once out, we carefully replaced it. On our return, we would push the make shift block into the school side. Once in the school, we would carefully put it back. Nevertheless, three names always featured on the offenders list of every teacher. The lchapel/assembly hall would be silent whenever the principal began to read out the lists of Lower Six. Another notorious offender was ATUGE whose name came first in alphabetical order. The silence would persist until the principal got to the K alphabet.  Those names followed themselves in alphabetical orders. Once the principal called...KUSA, the whole school would roar in return...SEHINDEMI... SIKUADE! 

Every teacher wanted to know KUSA. They thought he was a huge muscular fellow and were surprised to find that he was an average, harmless, soft-spoken "paperweight", his nickname at OLIVET BAPTIST HIGH SCHOOL, Oyo, where he did his "O" Level between 1964 and 1968.

3) I am surprised DOWEN's authorities did not know SYLVESTER OROMONI was missing from prep or the dinning hall. At Igbobi College, a senior boy was the head of every dinning table. His job was to maintain order and report breaches of protocol to the dinning hall prefect. In that protocol, you could not import any food to the hall, if the ration couldn't fill your stomach. If you were late or absent, you also got booked. I found a prefect nicknamed SHOW BOBO very nasty. Traps were set for me in Monday mornings. I would sneak in through Igbobi hospital "boundary" fence as we called it. I would head straight for the laundry and pay the Cotonou boys to wash my Khaki over Khaki uniform and iron-dry it within 30 minutes. Then, I would hurry a bath before the lazy boys woke up. Monday breakfast was the best meal of students. It was bread, corn beef in sauce, margarine and tea. I would be among the first 10 to enter the dining hall. My classmates was the head of our table. He ate my weekend meals and marked me present!

4) Pa Esubiyi, too, wanted to know KUSA. He was the Vice-principal under Mr Olatunbosun, the Principal, who invited me to his office once or twice. Pa Esubiyi joined the teaching staff about 1934, two years after the school was founded by the Anglican and Methodist churches. The Lower Six class always irritated him because of noisemaking. As soon as we arrived for prep, the students would mount two chairs on the teachers table. One was for KUSA. The other was for FEMI LANLEHIN, who was nicknamed PABLO PICASO and BBC, after the British Broadcasting Corporation. Femi's father was a Chief Obafemi Awolowo loyalist. Why both of us did not end up as D-jays or comedians, I do not know. On teachers table we would take turns to release "bombshell" rib-cracking made up stories. The class would roar and roar with laughter and noise. Some of us would be watching out for Pa Esubiyi. He wore the Khaki school uniform like us. Our house-wear was White shirts over Khaki shorts. You were in trouble from the seniors and prefects and teachers if you could not maintain White as a house-wear. We would let Pa Esubiyi arrive at the landing of the first flight of stairs, put off all light and jump down from the windows. Anyone he met was "on his own". And he dare not name names. That is why I feel sorry for those Dowen boys who could not speak out for the brutal murder of Sylvester Oromoni or that there were cultists in the school.

My generation of school rascals were only rascals. We had nothing to do with drugs or cults or guns. In fact, several of us, including my humble self, made our "A" level in only one year instead of two. In my case, I had to read up one of the three subjects not taught at school...and passed all three with good grades at one "sitting". Such was the beauty of our school days.

5) To dissuade us from sitting for external examinations, the school made its promotions exam timetable to coincide with that of GCE "A" levels. It was tough for me rushing through my exams at the COSAIN center and rushing back to school with more than half of the exam time gone. So, I took a risk. I ignored the promotion exam because exams had been run in two of my three subjects. If I took the third and passed, I could be asked to repeat. So, off to Ijebu-ode Grammar school on AWOL I went to see my brother, TUNJI KUSA, now an architect, and my cousin YETUNDE OSHIDIPE. The day I returned to Igbobi College was the day of end of session holiday. Some boys had stolen my box. So, I packed my clothes in a carton. My father suspected something went wrong, but I played him out. We were so close I couldn't hold the story from him forever. He kept asking me for my promotion to Upper Six and the new school fees. I kept telling him the school would post it. I kept praying I would pass my three "A LEVEL" papers. I did, and with good degrades. He wanted me back in school, I kept saying I could get into the University, and I did receive an offer from IFE to read law from 1970. My grandmother hated lawyers from her encounters with them in court. She said I couldn't read law. So, I had to go to work until 1974 when I went to Nsukka to read Mass Communications. On my father's 70th birthday, I told him the story of my school days and he was alarmed.

6) I almost met my Waterloo at the 1977 youth service camp at Uyo. I hated boredom. So, I sneaked out of the camp one day as I often did to chill out at a hot spot in town. I saw my classmate at Igbobi, ODUGBEMI in the company of people our age. He graduated ahead of me in Business Administration from UNILAG and took a job with R.T. BRISCOE, at that time a motor vehicles selling company headquartered in Lagos. I asked him what he was doing in town. He replied that he was on a business trip. And I? I replied that I was a core member at NYSC camp. The man whose company I had been enjoying with ODUGBEMI's suddenly turn hostile. 

"A core member", he questioned. 

"Yes, a core member", I confidently replied, unknown to me that he was the camp commandant. 

He brought out a notepad and wanted to write my name. I knew I couldn't play Igbobi pranks here. He could have a gun in his pocket. I sat there steering at his face, with the confidence of a journalist. 

Odugbemi intervened, telling the commandant he couldn't book me and explaining my antecedents. I was probably his senior educationally. Odugbemi doused the smouldering fire. I did not give my name. He, too, did not expose me any further. I did not go to the camp directly when I left them because I suspected the commandant could still be after me. I spent the night elsewhere. Early in the morning, I returned to the camp like one of the workers and went to my room. That ended the story. Until we left the camp, I always kept a safe distant from him.

7) The foregoing suggests that parents of the four minors who murdered Sylvester Oromoni in cold blood may not be aware of the activities of their sons at DOWEN College. They may very well know, and may have been throwing money at their demeanors. investigations into the murder of Sylvester Oromoni should unravel answers to many  questions...
a) How many cult groups exist in the school, and who their members are.
b) Are the parents drug users and sellers? Did they pick the habit from home or at school? 
c) To what extent had money purchased the authority of private school principals and the teachers? It is said that school authorities know what is going on and fail to decisively act in fear that they may lose homongus school fees by any parents who may withdraw their children from the school.

Recently, a mother slapped a security-man at Queens College, Yaba, Lagos because he barred her daughter from entering the school premises. Under school regulations, the school girls were not to make their hair. This girl even over did hers. The security-man was merely enforcing school regulations. He was humiliated for doing his job and the school could not protect him. 

8) The four killers of Sylvester Oromoni should tell investigators about their networks and the drug supply lines.

AN EYE FOR AN EYE? 

Many people have called for the hanging of murderers of Sylvester Oromoni. A crafty lawyer will narrow their guilt to manslaughter, which carries no death penalty. In any case, they cannot be tried in an adult court because they are minors. They would probably end up in bostrals or Juvenile homes. 

The parents of Sylvester Oromoni will never forget the killing of their son. The hanging of his four killers will not bring back Sylvester Oromoni. Nor will it take away the sorrow of his parents. As for the parents who tried to reserve their cult children by sending them Abroad, what is a parent expected to do in such circumstances? Another Yoruba adage says...OGEDE DUDU KOYA BU SON, OMO BURUKU KO YA LU PA. When we do not know what to do over a matter, the wisdom of our forefathers encapsulated in proverbs and adages light up the dark alleys for us. This one says...JUST AS WE CANNOT EASILY BITE AND EAT GREEN PLANTAIN, IT IS NOT EASY TO BEAT A CHILD TO DEATH SIMPLY BECAUSE HE IS A BAD CHILD! 

Equitable justice has to be meted out. Can DOWEN College be renamed SYLVESTER OROMONI COLLEGE? This will honour a brilliant Nigerian child who said NO to cultism and drugs. It should give assurances that he did not die in Vain. Every year, the NDLEA and Nigerian governments can organise around the anniversary of the murder of Sylvester Oromoni national events which encourage young Nigerians that they can reject cultism and drugs. The NDLEA was dead, literally speaking, until Buba Maruwa took it over. Even then, what he is doing for which we are clapping for him is still tokenism. Drugs, cults and guns have taken over almost every street corner in urban places. Major nightclubs offer their customers Shisha pot drags. Shisha is an expensive smokers pot loaded with all kinds of drugs. Men and women go to the pot to have a drag of different flavors. The clubs pay protection money to the police. So, the smokers are safe right inside the club. Buba Maruwa's NDLEA is not addressing this as yet or waging the war against drugs in the street. The street joints probably recruited the Dowen cultists and drug users.

China fought two great OPIUM WARs with Britain on one hand and with Britain, France and the United States in the other. China lost both and was forced by the alliance nations to open her ports for the dumping of opium. The idea is that if the young people are in drugs, the economy can be easily stolen. Shocking was the discovery last month that the Taiwanese were now producing hard drugs in Kaduna. To deal with the drugs question as squarely as China dealt with it before it could rise from a squalid third World nation to become the world's biggest economy decisive steps must be taken by the Nigerian government. Not only does the NDLEA manpower need to be drastically expanded and the prisons expanded as well, CORRECTIONAL CITIES should be built in the forests of each geopolitical zone. Each can be a 10 square kilometer square city. It should have all kinds of farms, hospitals, recreational centers, schools etc. Anyone found guilty of the drug laws should be brought here, rehabilitated by doctors and taught different types of farming. They would operate in communes, making their own foodstuff, feeding themselves, selling the surplus to society for pocket moneys or salaries. It will be pointless for them to try to escape. Their bio-data will everywhere...banks, the police etc. Anywhere they turn for transactions, runaway members will be fished out and sent back. Only when they are thought to have been fully reoriented and skilled should they return to normal life. Even then, they should be monitored for years. Nigeria is still treating the drug question with kid gloves.

A RASCALLY GENERATION

My generation as a school but was rascally, no doubt. But we did not get involved in drugs, cults, guns, and toxic drinks. We faced our studies. I laughed and laughed when I heard Dr. Abisogun-Leigh, former Education Commissioner in Lagos State, tell his own story on radio. Fisherman on the Lagos lagoon used to set their nests to catch fish. After school, he and his group would hijack one or two boats and paddle away with lots of fish. Fishermen would pursue them in the Lagos lagoon in other boats. These young boys were faster on the paddle. They would deck before the old men arrived, and carry all the fish to a safe haven to share. The young Abisogun-Leigh couldn't bring his own share home because his parents were well to do and would beat daylight out of him. So, he would bury his share in a cemetery! These boys were just catching fun. One day, their escaped failed and he was expelled from a school his father had contributed substantial sum of money to build. Such was the discipline of our time. The authorities of the school did not see Abisogun-Leigh's father as haven contributed about 70% of the funds t build the school, and spear him. He was expelled. Some of the other students were sent only on suspension. Abisogun-Leigh's punishment was that from whom much was expected much was to be given. Years after Abisogun-Leigh became Commissioner for Education in Lagos State. At that time, no student could be expelled from school without the approval of the education commissioner. The names of a group of boys was presented to him for expulsion. He did not expel them. Rather, he invited the parents of the children and the children to a meeting in his office. He told his own story and asked the children if they would give him a promise that they would turn new leaves in their lives. They all made the promise. He made them all go back to school. On the day he was telling the story on radio, he has retired from public service for about two decades, those children had become responsible members of society and we're regular visitors to his home as his social children. What a beautiful ending to a rascally life simply because Abisogun-Leigh did not ask for "An Eye for an Eye". Is there something society can do to turn around these four murderers of Sylvester Oromoni and immortalise Sylvester's name? To purge themselves of guilt for his murder, should it not be made mandatory for these four killers of Sylvester Oromoni to attend major anniversary events at the Sylvester Oromoni College as earlier suggested?

There would be more commentators on this subject. Meanwhile, it his hoped Sylvester Oromoni would go his way, forgive his killers to sever all ties with them which may make him earth bound as we all mourn his passage. If he forgives them, who are his parents, who are we to lay hands on his killers? For only he who is offended, he whose life is taken, can forgive his brutal departure from the earth.

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