Dedicated to my family. With love , O.D.
Saturday 13th July 1974 is my wedding day to an incredible bride.
As I sip my early morning coffee ready to start the day, I listen to ‘Rock Your Baby’ by George McCrae, the record in the number one chart, from the radio in the background. I marvel at the way providence shaped my future in the last twenty-two years and, in particular, the previous year considering some precarious decisions I took.
On Monday 14th January 1952, two five-year-old kids, Tawakalitu or Tawa for short, and I, Damola, were placed in the same class in elementary one in Central Elementary Missionary School, Jega, sat next to each other in class and became friends. Our relationship was interrupted on the 31st August 1965 when Tawa was married away peremptorily, and I learned of the development on Saturday 18th September 1965 when I visited my parents from campus.
That fateful day, I woke up at 5 am and hurried to Oyingbo bus terminal in Lagos to board the first bus to Jega as subsequent buses took longer to get filled. Buses have no schedule but depart after being fully loaded. I also craved to eat my mother’s (addressed as Mama) delicious bean pudding called ‘Moin-moin’, best eaten hot, which she served for breakfast on Saturday mornings.
At Oyingbo bus terminal, called ‘Oyingbo’ for short, the torrential downpour the weather forecast predicted over the southern part of Nigeria occurred overnight ending the August dry spell break in mid-September and left the motor park with colloidal ponds of soil and water in the unpaved areas. I picked my spots as I dodged the potholes heading for the parked buses. A motorcyclist ran into one of the colloids splashing it, missing me narrowly but soiling the clothes of a few commuters who responded with loud curses. Microphones were blaring the names of the destinations with the bus conductors beckoning to passengers to board their buses, hopeful they were heading for their destinations.
Food vendors were about with hot meals to be sold and wrapped with old newspapers or leaves and delivered in paperbags, and hawkers peddled their wares, imploring travellers to purchase to gift relatives awaiting them at their destinations. I navigated through the teeming crowd to the Jega-Wasinmi-Ilaro section of the park, boarded a light yellow rickety 18-seater bus for the 34-kilometre journey to Jega, and located north of Lagos. So boisterous was Oyingbo, the busiest bus terminal in Lagos at the time, you could hardly believe it was 6 am.
As the bus galloped along, the city receded yielding to the vibrant green vegetation that emerged overnight from the bath bestowed upon it by the heavy rain that washed off the dust. I arrived at Jega at past 8 am and trekked the kilometre or so to our house, located on one of the three unpaved roads in Jega, greeting family friends sitting in front of their homes. The gate to our compound was already open. I strolled in, and Papa’s car was out.
Our house was the first one-storey building in Jega. When completed in 1943, it was an instant centre of attraction. Situated in a large fenced compound, the ground floor consists of rooms on both sides separated by a passage. The first room to the left served as the sitting room and the next, the dining room. Three other rooms were on the ground floor. The one opposite the sitting room was Mama’s sewing office but used more as the fitting room as Mama preferred carrying out her sewing at the porch, abutting the sitting room and her sewing office. The remaining two rooms were used as a guest room and bedroom for the older boys respectively…