KING’S COLLEGE 101: THE LIFE, THE LANGUAGE AND THE LEGEND written by Japheth

KING’S COLLEGE 101: THE LIFE, THE LANGUAGE AND THE LEGEND written by Japheth Omojuwa

…We had just resumed and everyone had too much bucks so Masters’ Quarters was almost as busy as the Queen’s College, Yaba gate on an Inter-house Sports’ day. It did not cost much for a complete delicacy as all you needed was 20 bucks to complete the line-up of a loaf and fried egg – a soft drink to boot only cost an extra 10 bucks – so with 30 bucks you were home and dry. To have it mixed with sardines only required a sardine deal where one person supplied the sardines and another the two loaves for both partners. This simply meant that the dining hall would be as empty as those days when all you’d get for a meal was solo and gums. That is not to say such days did not command their own crowd especially during the Kremo period when all the dough that came through the college gate would have reached breaking point. Kremo was unique in that not only was it a period when just you were broke, but rather some sort of hostel-wide recession, where only a select few still had money to spare or spend.

What made the recession even more recessive is the fact that those who had enough bucks for themselves had to pretend to be broke too, otherwise certain things would get broken afterwards…

Everyone had this look of freshness on the first weekend of resumption and you’d see more smiling faces than hard ones. That was also the time to avoid certain elements like senior boys who despite just coming from home themselves wanted your money to make them richer – may be it was because they needed more money to spend as being ‘seniors’ meant they had to avoid going for as many meals as their pocket would allow. It was a thing of class an outsider may never understand. At the annex in Victoria island, more money meant more trips to Bar beach, Kuramo beach, ‘Species’, while Etebong was for those who could barely spend the money they had or those who did not have the energy to scale the fence – Mega plaza and clubs like Y-not were still an exclusive call.

Bathroom work was what every junior boy dreaded and if the activity itself was dreaded, being assigned to the toilets was a nightmare. There were ways to avoid that – make a prefect your school father, get close to an influential senior boy or let your luck determine your fate. If anyone avoided cleaning those legendary toilets, then one of those must have been the leeway. The same prefects who assigned toilet work could find themselves doing the same assignment a few months after that as they left the junior school (main campus) for the annex which was more or less another beginning. The punishment for missing bathroom work could be from constructing ( where you had your back against the wall and the joints of your leg must form angle 90 degrees at the knees and could even get kicked on your standing legs), to receiving combos which could be one hit, double hit or multiple hits depending on the state of mind of the prefect or even his lieutenant friends and their skills, slaps and more conventionally writing ewa ( a composition on the work you missed or on respect or any topic the prefect deemed fit ). The ewa was not about your ability to write, it was about your ability to endure because you’d be expected to fill some 8-12-16 or even more pages with a monotonous sentence. The pain of writing the ewa came more from seeing it torn right before you at the point of submission than writing it.

The afternoon games offered a lot of fun and escape from other routines. We played a lot of cricket, football, hockey, tennis – for a select few, basketball and some other games I never bothered about. The sports’ pitch was colonised by different groups of boys as they formed mini grounds often perpendicular to the main pitch and parallel to the other make-shift fields. It was common place for the different groups to have the players of the other teams play their ball into the fields of other groups. Unlike other schools though, KC boys did not get into many racks and the ones that took place were hardly anything serious but they were fun. For me then, Kremo period meant that my friends who were Day boys would pay for my expenses during break. That was the period boys shelled more and the tiawns always rang loud – In this regard though, no boy could compete against a house master whose area of expertise was using his duster to knock you. He shelled at every opening of his mouth. I really enjoyed the days he served as my class teacher – I had many willing friends as I was always willing during certain times myself. They also reaped the fruit of their kindness because when I became a junior prefect, we held feasts at my apartment at the Panes and Harman’s houses extension in Hyde Johnson’s house – There we saw the legendary Mr. Ibiam retire to his apartment every day after lights-out taking the steps of his stair case like the Trojan that he truly was – We ate all sorts of cereals and I could swear some of them ate gums for the first time during that period.

The Inter-house athletics competition season brought all-round joy to the whole school. It was the time to have fun both on the school fields on both campuses and even outside school. The Ikoyi-run half marathon (a distance of about 12 km) was a tradition even Day-boys never wanted to miss out of. It allowed us to either run through the Island during the practices or take a walk as the others tried to outdo themselves. Trust me; Victoria Island is the best place to attend secondary school. We stood out amongst the corporate guys. I used to wonder what went through the minds of those workers whenever they saw us in our hostel and night wears looking out to get water from wherever, whenever we ran out of water. The Nigerian Chamber of Commerce, the Nigerian Law school and the AIB gardens and some other coded places always offered a way out but with many boys scrambling for water, you know daylight would come soon enough and those chicks in office suits and skimpy wears were allowed free shows of seeing King’s walk without their revered immaculate regalia of navy blue blazers and sparkling white shirt and trousers with black shoes to boot. Rub-and-shine offered a way out for a few boys who did not mind going to class without bathing but they suffered the consequences by answering the name of that action. That was not an option for an average campaigner. You had to look clean 100% of the time to stand a chance of ending up a prefect. Mind you, that is just one of the steps because there were many rituals to becoming a prefect. The old prefects had most of the say and didn’t they milk it. I think we had both active and passive campaigners. Being a campaigner was not a thing of pride though because boys made it look like you were desperate to become one. It was better to be seen as being yourself, but then a campaigner needed to canvas for votes which these ones did in the not-so-usual sense.

Unsuccessful campaigners were forced to deal with the not-so-good situation of being seen as having failed in their bid to become prefects. Some of them soon returned to their normal mode soon after the legendary Mr. S.I.Balogun announces the much awaited lists. There were a lot of lists but the most dreaded was the one where the words ‘deboarded’ or ‘suspended’ came after a name.

The beauty of being a KC boy found expression in the number of girls willing to go out with you just at the asking – some even without asking. We were seen as very proud so anyone who was lucky enough to have a King walk up to her, knew she had to make the best use of the royal opportunity. I had dated girls during my KC days and after just for mentioning my school. At first I did wonder what I had said, and then I saw a recurring theme and concluded it was not me but what I stood for. There was this particular girl from FGGC Ipetumodu in Osun State who made a mess of all the boys at a holiday class I attended. I saw everything she did to the boys and acted like she did not even exist. I really liked her but going head-on could get my head really hurt. Because I never bothered nor sent her, she got curious and walked up to me herself. Now it was my turn to form. To finish the job, she inevitably asked for my school because my confidence and language apparently unsettled her. All the other boys from them schools were watching when I told her I had to bounce … I did not tell her because I knew she’d find out anyway and that made more sense. She could not leave me the next day. This girl that terrorised all the big boys became my slave. I later schooled her about pride and all. In various female hostels across the South-West and even as far as the East, North and South, dating a King’s College boy amounted to being a ‘Big Girl’. Even Queen’s College girls who ordinary should see that as the norm were always excited to share in that experience. It became more difficult for them when the likes of Vivian Fowler, Atlantic Hall, Doregos, Holy Child, FGGC Saggy girls and a host of others seemed to ‘poach’ what QC girls felt was their exclusive territory. Make no mistake though, most KC boys still had most of their girlfriends come from QC and vice versa.

It is not common place to see a boy spend as much as N15,000.00 (don’t mix it up with today’s value) for a Val gift, then end up begging for a base of cornflakes or even gums that night. At those times, even getting to have essentials from Etebong was satisfying because you had shown your class by making your girl a true KC boy-dating queen. Essentials was a N20 meal comprising N5 pure water, N5 gums, N5 G-nut and N5 sugar. Don’t be fooled into thinking that was no meal because you were bound to have boys walk up to you for a base or two. That is not to say you wouldn’t see the same boy battling Shy later in the night. First Bar-beach, later Kuramo beach was the meeting point for the daring boys. I know a boy that almost never missed a night at KB. There was a tale of a house-master who dared to go chase boys from KB but got a swollen face in the process from blows. When asked about the funny looking face, he told his fellow teachers and the PKC Mr. Balogun he was stung by bees. Hyde J boys I am not talking about your then house master o. lol.
What made and still makes the KC boy tick? Consciousness! A King’s College boy no matter his place or grade in school was always conscious of who he was – A king. It was a reality that got beaten into you during your 1st year orientation where I heard and knew for the first time that we were the 1st of just two schools in Nigeria. For all the talks about falling standards, we still carted home trophies and prizes – debates, chess, quizzes, sports and all. I remember Shaggy girls shouting their voice hoarse when I completed another winning performance on their asphalt race track. I also remember in my JSS1 when an Abdulsalam inspired KC Lions mauled FGC Ijanikin 4-2. We won more KIGS cricket competitions than we lost. We still had boys win prizes in American and British schools even till tomorrow. The standards did fall like every Nigerian reality but we were very much le primus inter pares. Our appearance and the unique way we stepped out of the bus and filed into the many competition venues were enough to kill the morale of our would-be competitors. A King is not a king because of what he wears, he is because of what he bears – in his name and character.

I hope to write my memoirs someday and I suspect it will be a really big book because the King’s College part of the story alone can fill Bill Clinton’s voluminous biography “My Life.” I have written well over 2400 words yet I haven’t said much. It is a pointer to the fact that that was a life in itself. It was definitely more than a school for boys, it was beyond a gathering of Kings, it was not just Nigeria’s most prestigious college…it was just a place where the future gets defined. Defined not in the sense of I want to be this and that, defined in the sense that in hoping for Light, you could see it burn even years before you thought the fire had been lit, but that fire got lit when you crossed that legendary gate for the first time as a King’s College boy. It was a passing rite – a ride on the shoulders of legends, held in the hands of an Honour that gave the strength to your legs, the will to your heart and the power to your mind for a tomorrow that will always offer so much wherever you find waters. That for me was the symbolism of the Mermaid, the object she holds aloft and the Elephant. It is our greatness over water, our dominance over land and our place in the skies. Others went before you and attained the Light… we will be cheered as Victors in the fight

PS: I intentionally chose not to mention any names. This is dedicated to the memories of those we have lost in the waters of life and to the KCOBA for its One Billion naira effort at restoring the glory of our Old school.
Still we swim on… Sound the Old School’s praises, trumpet forth her fame…that we are all brothers with a common debt…Service to the Living, Honour to the dead. I am just answering ‘HERE’ to the sounded Call. Good morning boys * S.I.Balogun’s charismatic voice* … Floreat.

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