UNILAG Memoirs: Hurried Exit from King Jaja Hall

By Gbenga Awomodu

King Jaja Hall, University of Lagos

Many will never forget in a hurry how we were sent packing from Jaja Hall of the University of Lagos. At the end of previous sessions, when we were not in our final year, it was not unusual to see students depart from school as soon as they were done with exams. Suddenly, loneliness descended on some of us like cold water on a cold winter night! Though I love some quiet and do a lot of serious thinking during quiet times like in the middle of the night when everyone is sleep or during the weekends when most people have gone home, I begin to feel like going home too, as soon as school becomes deserted after the session. I just botch initial plans to stay back in school to relax.

This year, things were quite different. Suddenly, final year students did not want to go home and bid Jaja Hall bye so soon! We had barely finished our final exams and many still had Final Year Research Project to submit. Many had Class Dinner and similar events to attend later in the week, a few days after the completion of exams. Everyone just wanted to stay, relax and enjoy some extra time after exams. But a rude shock hung in the air. The school authorities had ordered that students vacate the hostels on Sunday, September 19, 2010. Later it was extended to Tuesday, September 21, 2010. But some students still had papers that same day. Despite pleas and consultations with even the Dean of Student Affairs, there was no going back. Not even the final year students were given any preference in this matter.

Jaja boys are notorious for many things, but one stands out of the pack. They love to yell “Go Away!” Whether it’s a bevy of beautiful ladies (or chicks, as they are popularly called) passing by the hostel, someone making incoherent or semi-coherent announcements via the epileptic Jaja Hall public address system which had been bedeviled by perennial ‘sour throat’, or the hall mistress making announcements and reeling out rules, warnings or general codes of conduct, Jaja boys do not hesitate to scream “Go Awaaay!!!!” on the top of their voice, from the fourth floor down to the ground floor. Even as the hall mistress (a.k.a Mummy Jaja) kept reminding everyone to start packing their luggage and prepare to go home, the ‘troublesome’ tenants replied by telling her to “go away”. This dragged on and she threatened to stick to her plans. But no one really took her seriously, except for the ‘chicken-hearted’ chaps in lower levels, especially Year 2, who started moving out of the Hall in droves.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010 came and Mummy Jaja made her good her promise to evict the now unwelcome residents. Though she had managed to evict most people, some drama ensued towards the end of the day. From about noon, as occupants entered the Hall, they were constantly reminded that this was the final day and that they should go to their rooms, pack their belongings and sign out of the residence for the session. Many final year students, who had ‘plans’, remained adamant; they just kept going in and out of the hostel like they still planned to stay till the end of the year! As evening fell upon us, the energetic Mummy Jaja refused to bulge. She remained at the gate and with the aid of her male administrative staff held students in the hostel hostage. The only condition for leaving the hostel was that you packed your things and sign out. Power supply was deliberately cut from the student rooms, especially on the A-Wing. This was meant to frustrate all of the remaining students out. But, many of them still told the hostel authorities to “go away!”

That night was the Lagos Varsity Christian Union’s end-of-session Praise Night, so I tidied up, took the few things I needed, hoping to evacuate the hall finally the next morning. I would later hear of the additional drama that played out till late in the night. In fact, I was told that the students even had to go see the Dean of Student Affairs that night. After so much noise, pleading and whatever, light was restored to the student rooms and everyone was mandated to leave the hostel the following morning before 9AM.

Anyways, Praise Night was awesome and we danced away our sorrow at the Chapel. When I returned to the hostel on in the morning of Wednesday, September 22, 2010, I knew there was no time for sleep. I emptied my locker, made a call home, and by 9AM, my belongings were home, ahead of me. I would not be able to visit the Lagoon Front every morning like I had planned. Jaja Hall wasn’t the neatest, but it was a very good escape from the colossally unkempt hostels at New Hall. Now, that’d be for another post!

Aaaww! Remembering the Chemical Engineering Boys

I miss the Jaja Boys; I mean my former roomies and neighbours on A-Wing of King Jaja Hall, University of Lagos. We had a nice culture that was also in practice at the Mariere extension of the Chemical Engineering boys’ clique. It had to do with exclaiming “Aaaww!” whenever there was a dry joke in the air. It felt sweet and fun to do it to others, but you often don’t want to be the butt of such taunting exercises. People just keep winding you up sometimes, anyways.

Mallam J and I were customers (a la good friends) and he often tormented me with “aaaww-inspiring” lines. To be fair to him and myself, not all jokes or attempts at being funny or witty deserved the “aaaww!”, but many of us just soon became addicted to the stuff. Mallam J intentionally belaboured me with so much of jaw-dropping stuff, especially during his midnight calls. He has a funny way of making/squeezing his face. Doubei ‘Zude, Jyde, Ese, Ufot, Idris (a.k.a Oga Ade), Oloye, Alaka Laurenzo, Majio_UK, MLK are some of the numerous clique members who made life fun in the midst of school pressure. So what’s the point of all this?

Anyways, it was on a Wednesday night, October 20, 2010, around 8:55PM Nigerian time. I was listening to Cool FM 96.9 on my Nokia phone (Nokia for life!!). Then the guys anchoring the show talked about a particular couple. The husband was at the wheels in their car while the wife had sat at the back of the car with their baby. But she had a problem. They had decided to help one of the husband’s colleagues from the office with a ride. The ‘innocent’ lady had taken a place in the front of the car, next to the driver, the husband that is. Paraphrasing the hosts, the wife felt slighted and irritated by the lady’s choice of seat and felt she should have taken a seat next to her and her baby at the back of the car!!!

As usual, many callers called in to voice their opinions. While someone questioned the woman’s *‘para-ing’, another could not just understand why the woman could be so ‘paranoid’. But, who knows the kind of skimpy stuff or cleavage-announcing top the colleague-from-the office’s attire could have been wearing? Someone even said the ‘nagging’ wife needed to take ‘Paracetamol’. Still another guy, albeit mean, said she should take some ‘parrafin (oil)’ to avoid paralysis! One chap even said his own paranalysis of the whole matter was that “some people just like to be paranoid.” On and on they went; both the hosts and the callers. Someone said that her ‘para-ing’ could lead her to paradise too soon! Then, one of the hosts in closing said (paraphrased) that paradventure, she might need the attention of the paramedics!

Aaaww! :) What an effort at rhymes and rhyming! Right now, I can see Mallam J, Alaka Laurenzo, Jyde, Doubei and MLK reeling on the floor! Aaaww!!!

UNILAG Memoirs: Notes from the Lagoon Front

By Gbenga Awomodu

The UNILAG Senate Building. Photo credit: Williams Ozowe

In a few weeks, I will say goodbye to the undergraduate years. Like it happened to me when leaving the primary school and even the secondary school, I have started to have a deep sense of nostalgia. Barely five years ago, we all wore our matriculation gowns and felt really cool about ourselves. We never really saw beyond that day… No one really knew what lay ahead. Today, I look back and see fantastic moments and bashed hopes, deferred dreams and hope renewed, up times and down times, good times and not-so-good times. I will miss a lot about UNILAG. The Lagos Varsity Christian Union has been my home away from home. If I were to write about my experiences in LVCU, it would take a whole book! Today, I share some of my experiences at the Lagoon Front Resort…

 

The University of Lagos is perhaps the only university in Africa bordered by a lagoon. The lagoon front is a major tourist attraction in the university community. It was given a serious face lift last year under the leadership of Prof. Tolu Odugbemi, the immediate past Vice Chancellor.

 

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This Road links the Julius Berger Lecture Theatre to the Lagoon Front

Sometime in Year One (2006), some weeks to my second semester examinations, a senior I had known in the secondary school met me at the Lagoon Front under one of the numerous trees that dot the beautiful landscape. He greeted me in an unusually husky voice that was in tandem with his shabby appearance. After the basic introductory banters, he asked me for my department and course of study. “Hey, Chemical Engineering… that is good! Hope nobody has been disturbing you o?” He then went on to tell me tales of students in higher levels who took advantage of freshers like me who were naïve novices. Well, I was able to convince him I didn’t really need his help… I have never seen him since then!

 

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The Lagos Third Mainland Bridge as viewed from the shores of the Lagoon Front

In mid-2008, a big volcano hit me badly. I had just checked one of my results, and what I saw made me simmer. It felt like someone had jabbed a dagger right into my heart! I had just seen the lowest score ever in my life!! How could I have scored this low; even though the lecturer had contributed a lot to this dismal and unacceptable result? My spirit was troubled and I hurried to the Lagoon Front, perhaps somewhere in the cool of the late afternoon, like the ebb tide, my soul could find some rest and my spirit some calm. I spilled out tongues I could not understand… I wrestled with God in my mind and spoke so fast I wonder how he still heard me. I must have spent about an hour in my groaning but when I left the Lagoon front, I had received some peace in my heart. But we humans hardly understand his ways. Despite the lecturer’s word to review our scripts, over a dozen of us had to write the course the following year… Still, I trust God, for he knows best and who am I to challenge him?

 

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The Julius Berger Lecture Theatre

I have often visited this same Lagoon front to do my last minute revisions, moments before the commencement of exams. In these last two years, I have written most of my exams at the Julius Berger Lecture Theatre, a three-minute stroll away from the Lagoon Front. During the examination period, it is not rare to spot scores of students doing some last minute cramming and revision. While the ‘learning colleagues’ from the Faculty of Law who have strayed like lost sheep from their Law Library are trying to properly file the series of legal cases and definitions in the new cabinet they just acquired in the expiring semester – their brain memory space that is -, the young Engineers in the making are busy gnawing away at gigantic formulas and differential equations like sick fellas chewing bitter paracetamol pills. But some people come there not to read, but on romantic picnics. Remember, this is a tourist attraction, a relaxation spot even for people not members of the university community. Sometimes I wonder what the studious students think in their mind when they see twin lovers at different spots under the coconut trees tangled in hot embrace and telling themselves sweet nothings, while they are busy pacing the length and breadth of the shores, trying to stuff their brains with as much information as possible for their impending exams. How many of them can actually stand the repugnant smoke from the pipers, usually a group of guys who visit the Front to feed on marijuana and cigarette. Occasionally you see two mature lovers doing justice to one or two bottles of beer. In short, here you could make motley of friends!

 

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UNILAG Lagoon Front Resort

Sometimes, I just visit the Lagoon front to experience the cool breeze, indulge in the relatively quiet ambience, and simply spend time all alone. How I love the inspiration that flows at times like this! Penultimate Sunday, after the LVCU service, I needed to compose a song for my local church so I took a quick trip to the Front. I frantically begged God to give me a song, and He did! In the less than forty minutes I got the first verse and chorus ready. (If I may add, I completed the song two days later, and the Youth Choir presented the song and came first last Friday. They now represent the Archdeaconry at the Diocesan level)…

 

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Cuddling lovers @ the Lagoon Front

Last July, I took a stroll to the Lagoon front, my earpiece perfectly nailed into my ears, cool music seeping into my head. I love music. A lot! …I made an unusual decision, picking a quiet spot to the extreme left, near the wall that borders the Lagoon and the Guest Houses. For the first twenty minutes, I observed as the canoes brought in passengers from the other end of the Lagoon into UNILAG and loaded waiting passengers. The female canoe paddler reminded me of the popular saying, “What a man can do, a woman can do better.” She looked happy and contented in her made-in-Naija English jersey and pair of thigh hugging jean shorts; she steered the little boat with such ease and skill that her deft handling caught my rapt attention. I made a mental note there and then to return and get her picture (Lanre Shonoiki, my cool friend had to part with 100 box to take this shot sha. The female captain smiled as she squeezed the note into her tight pocket)… A few moments later, two young chaps approached me, a guy in a hearty gist with a beautiful girl. They held hands and were all smiles. In twenty seconds, they walked past me and stationed themselves right behind me. Though my plugs were still intact and the music was still on while I tried to manage inspiration to write a poem, the chirps of these two lovebirds reminded me of their continuous lurking presence at my back. Once or twice I had to look back, and there they were cuddling and stirring into each other’s face. I think the guy was trying something funny… Their giggles and the girl’s occasional silent screams punctuated those moments. Eventually, it was time to leave and I stood to exit. A few metres away, my curious mind turned my head backwards to discover something: the guy’s face was now buried in her face. He was teaching her how to kiss (or maybe it was the other way round). The poor girl must have been praying in her mind that I leave. I imagine how much I had delayed their action. Anyways, that was not totally new. It is not entirely strange to behold cuddling couples in the most creative and desperate positions, even in front of the Julius Berger Lecture Theatre in the cool of the evening, when the path is least traversed and nobody is really watching… They seem to be telling whoever cares to listen: this is our choice. If you like, stare. Really, what you do with your time is your choice. Ain’t it?

 

(c) Gbenga Awomodu, September 2010

Female paddler @ the UNILAG Lagoon Front. Photo credit: Lanre Shonoiki

Guest Post: Time Machine by Lanre Shonoiki

Bike Man

Bike Man on the Island

Granted, this sounds like another lofty claim, but had I never made use of this appliance myself I wouldn’t have believed it too. Its operating mechanism starts with an air-splitting chortle; as though the gods are mocking our attempts at twisting the hands of time. The transition platform shudders under my feet as the contraption kicks to life and assumes a rhythmic rumble. My eyes are fixed on the dial running up the radial calibrations on the speed gauge. Slowly but surely, the air around me starts to rush by, gaining speed and finally nearing the regime of a cyclone. I raise my palms to my face; they’re sweaty. So are my ears under the nearly deafening shield of the helmet I was made to wear. Yet, I still hear the steady buzz of the power engines; though unsure whether through the vibrations underfoot or those near my ossicles. My heart is racing, my mouth is dry. I can feel the air sweeping back the fur on my arms as it dries my eyes to the brink of pain. The solace I find in the backward rush of the clear blue sky overhead is not enough. I’m as scared as a cornered stray dog…

But the okada man couldn’t be less concerned about my situation. He hums a local tune a few decibels above the revving of his bike’s engines as he weaves deftly through staggered rows of traffic-jammed cars on Ikorodu road. Save for the horrid look on my face, Neil Armstrong would have been jealous of him, me and our little time shuttle on our intergalactic journey. Oh yeah! We did bend time. While other commuters waited at bus stops for commercial transport that rarely arrives in good time, I was fast approaching my destination; the JAMB office. It was past noon and I had to get my little sister’s result slip ready for the post-UME exams slated for the next morning. Necessity had finally pushed me over the mountain of excuses I had for not patronizing commercial bikes. For one, the fact that the cost of these jolly rides always encourages peace talks between the walls of my pockets discourages whimsical ascension of the soft leather seats. Worse still, there is the occasional mishap when a misdirected bike spills its load -passenger and rider irrespective- onto the road and probably into some innocent by-standing NEPA pole… or occasionally, into the hungry tires of a moving trailer. Ew!

Never mind though, the busy businesswoman who has to reach Ikeja from Victoria Island in 30 minutes isn’t complaining. Neither is the UNILAG student who has an 8 o’clock lecture on some Monday morning in the first few weeks of resumption for a new session. On the machine, he’s over both Herbert Macaulay and University Roads in 8 minutes, notwithstanding mud splashed from yucky puddles onto his new True Religion jeans, notwithstanding the occasional burn he suffers when his trousers ride high and his right leg kisses the hot silencer… and OMG! The dirty helmet!! If the privilege of not riding confined in some ramshackle bus with hard, wooden seats is not enough consolation, then the vainer benefit of sometimes sharing a bike with a well-endowed chick might just be… Or far more fulfilling, the fact that while he cruises towards a seat in front in a class of 200 (with no Public Address system), towards a sure 3% of the requisite 65% attendance for writing examinations and away from the assault of the overzealous midday sun; Lanre, his prudent, meticulous and safety-conscious classmate has to wait on the campus shuttle queue… for another 45 minutes.

Lanre Shonoiki is a final year Chemical Engineering student at the University of Lagos. An avid reader and freelance writer, he lives in Lagos.