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Home  ›  Classic Literature  ›  Lagos Of My Dreams
Lagos Of My Dreams
by Lawrence Olaolu Ayeni   (Author)
Read First Three Chapters


Street Brotherhood
Being a typical Lagos boy, much of my boyhood days were lived on the streets of Lagos. The street of central Lagos has a life of its own and it throbs and beats to a perpetual rhythm dictated by its own symphony. Consequently, generations of young lads and lasses updated themselves by drinking from the pool of Lagos street life. Although there was no formal enlistment or induction ceremony, everybody knew where he or she belonged. Age and sex were usually the common denominator as children of the same age group flocked together to play or engage in one form of mischief or another. Our union was a fellowship of some sort in which we gathered to share many things of interest together. We went to school in one another’s company, attended afterschool lessons and did a host of other childish things. One of the interesting things we did included going down the road to pluck almond fruits which was simply known as ‘fruit’, from the house of a wicked old man. We usually mapped out our strategy carefully by assigning roles to each member prior to the commencement of the poaching operation.
One of us would climb the tree, while others watched out for the landlord (property owner) and the third group collected the fruits as they dropped from the tree. It was such a wonderful experience and despite the fact that we knew the dangers of this exercise, no one could dissuade us from the act. Not even the frequent cuts and deep bruises. We enjoyed this risky venture because of the great fun we derived from it. More importantly we also had fun because we usually managed to get away with our loot which we shared gleefully at the other end of the street like the spoils of war.’
However, we did not win all the time. There were times we suffered humiliation in the hands of our famous adversary. There were days we had deep cuts and serious bruises as we ran away from the compound. There were occasions when our backsides were scalded with hot water from Baba Benfo. I could not understand how a man would pour hot water on innocent little children that we thought we were in those days. It was impossible for us to understand why he did that. It was inconceivable that a man would want to hoard a gift from God. Yet as we enjoyed our fun I am reminded of the biblical apple that led to the fall of man in the Garden of Eden. Could this fruit also lead to our fall?
We grew up in a united city where one’s ethnic background and religious belief did not matter. It was a Lagos where we did not care about your state of origin or the son of whom you were. All that mattered was that we were friends, neighbors and contemporaries. Together we would all carry our bags of refuse over a long distance to empty daily. As we walked along the road from Orotedo Street to Ishaga Road and beyond we would sing, chant, laugh, gist, talk and make ourselves happy.
Everybody looked forward to our next activity together. Our parents had taught us the right things and we listened to them and valued the importance of living in a sane and safe environment.

Playing Football
Another major thing that united us was football. We played football right on the street hoping that cars would not come. When they did, we paused for a few seconds to allow them pass. Every street was a potential football field. The spectators never had to pay a dime to watch us display our skill. We even had black clad referees. All we had were our skilful feet, the football, the street as field, a free spirit and ourselves.
I could recollect that playing football on the streets of Lagos was something we all looked forward. It was like going to deliver a sacrifice to the gods and you could not afford to look back because of the dire consequences. Hence we could never think of turning our back to football. How could you think of such evil thought? It was such an impossible thing because the fun was immense. The age barriers disappear into the air as we played football. It was a wonderful experience until one encountered a nasty incident no footballer wants to remember, injury.
In my own case, I kept the truth from my mother for fear of being chastised. I continued to play limping about on the field of play.
Of course the result was obvious as the injury became worse until I began to walk with great difficulty or mummy told me to go buy something and I started to drag my feet. Trust mothers. She simply called you back and asked if there was something wrong with your leg. Like a nurse she examined my leg, she twisted my ears until they became red hot before finishing with a scorching slap at the centre of my backside. Mummy screamed at the top of her voice as she chastised me before pronouncing that I’m grounded indefinitely.
She recounted the number of times I had been found guilty of this offence and how she had warned me repeatedly never to do such again. She repeated herself endlessly as if I would ever listen to such pleas.
Despite my repeated disobedience, Mum would clean and dress the wound. This was done amidst intermittent slaps and smacks as I struggled to escape from the painful treatment. I was ultimately left with no other choice than to wait as she administered iodine with cotton wool. Although it was always a painful experience, Mum was always there for me. She never gave up on me even when she did not approve of my actions. Such was the love she showed on us her children. After a couple of days, I was back on the field playing football with the other children.
I often smiled each time I remembered a particular incident. We were all playing outside on the street as usual and a team mate passed the ball to me. The opponent was heading in my direction and I needed to do a quick ball chesting, then trap before passing the ball. Though I was aware of my closeness to the gutter, I had confidence in my skill. I leapt to chest the ball, but failed in my bid to trap it. My attempt to maneuver away from the gutter proved a dismal failure too as I found myself right inside the gutter. My body was all messed up and I had bruises on my legs. There was no way I could hide this from Mum. It was a sad moment for me because I had to go out and somebody else had to take my place me. Of course my side lost the match in the end and I was left heartbroken. Though I was ready to continue with the game, it was not possible because several other boys were bidding the opportunity to come in for the next set. To make matters worse, it was already 6.00 p.m. and one could not predict how long the matches would last. It was such a terrible way to end a day. When I thought of the prospect of facing my mum, I could not help but shed tears in anticipation of what awaited me. Despite all these, I love Lagos dearly and I am not sure I could have been happier growing up anywhere else in the world. This was street soccer at its best.
Hence the revival of street soccer by the inauguration of the Lagos State Street Soccer Competition by the administration of Mr. Raji Fashola is a welcome development that reminds me of the nostalgia of those years. The game is one of the exciting things the present administration is doing to meet the needs and interests of the grassroots. As a man who grew up on the streets of Lagos himself, I am sure His Excellency, Mr. Babatunde Raji Fashola (SAN), the Governor of Lagos State had the same fond memories of when he was growing up. Such memories are fast fading away with the way and manner people build houses without the mandatory setbacks. Playing fields have been converted into parking lots, praying grounds and so on. Notwithstanding, there is hope.

Table Tennis
Football was not the only game we played on the streets of Lagos. We did play a lot of table tennis too and it could be as exciting as football. As young boys we had to watch from the side as our big brothers betted to win. Table tennis was real fun with one’s eyes running back and forth as the egg landed alternately on both sides of the table. There were instances when a point was recorded in favour of either participant within a few seconds into the play. It was hard to understand how such a little ball could drive adults into so much excitement. The most painful moments was when you thought the ball was going out of play and then it hit the edge of the table and dropped to the ground. We referred to such as “O Chan’’. Another interesting moment was when the player smashed the ball and it drop just behind the net. The only way you could stop the ball was to lie on the table, hit your head on it and try doing an incredible acrobatic or may be calisthenics display.
Table tennis could be more exciting than football. I can tell you that. I would listen to different gist about how table tennis was played at Rowe Park. We had a hero who claimed to have played Table tennis in Liberia. He would throw the ball in the air and suddenly hit it spinning and making it difficult for the opponent to return. He played with such flair and dexterity and spectators were thoroughly wowed. We simply forgot we were hungry when we watched his antics in those days. When all the big boys had finished playing, the coast became clear for us to start our own game. Just as you could have a team play for hours in street football, you could also have a single player stay on for hours in the game of table tennis. We always tried to outsmart the opponent by dealing tricky services. For me I really did not like the challenge of counting the number of service you have to play before switching to your opponent. After a few years of playing table tennis, I knew all the service points by heart: 5-0, 4- 1, 6-4, 7-3, 9-1, 11-4 and others. It was necessary for you to know it otherwise you would be cheated. However as a grownup, I laugh at my naivety in knowing the service point by heart. All I needed to know was that each player was entitled to five ball service. Hence a service point is only when one had multiples of 5 from both players: that is, 5, 10, 15, 20, 25, 30, 35, and 40. It was that simple.
In the 11 score game format, one had to get 11 points without a tie on 10 for both players to win. However in the 21 score game format, you had to score up to points without a tie in 20 to win. The tie is called a deuce and depending on the format, you may play another game of 3 points to win following a deuce. If there was a tie on two points then you began a game where the first player to get a point wins the game. We called it “sudden death”. This is the moment of decision and one had to be on top of his game to win.
Now the beauty of the 21 game format is that when a player got say 14 points and the opponent had only 4, we called it “cantap” because it was read as 4 – 4 cantap (meaning 10 plus 4). You could see the leading player grin with smiles all over. However in certain rare instances, the losing player could still come back to win.

While I was at Birch Freeman High School we had a sponge-like plant that grew all over the place. There were so many of it appearing like a Sponge Plantation. It was my first month in secondary school and I was quite excited about my new environment. I really had nothing to do, as classes were yet to commence. So we all went and plucked the fruits which looked like cucumber and started running all over the place. If I caught up with you, I would stone you with the sponge-like substance and then you started to chase me all over the place. We threw the sponge like fruit at it each other until it became ragged and the sponge inside became exposed.
I had fond memories of my time at Birch Freeman High School, Surulere. I walked to school with two close friends of mine. It was after they had seen me to the gate of my school that they would continue to their school which was not too far away. We always had a lot of money to spend. Having walked for several kilometers, we would stop at a cafeteria where we ate to our satisfaction. The journey was comparable to a walk from Maryland to Jibowu or even Yaba. In spite of the distance, we had great fun on the way.
I often marvel now at what technology and modernization has turned our world to. Children can hardly walk ten metres before they scream, “carry me”. Obesity is increasing at an alarming rate while overweight children are becoming the order of the day. Exercises have become limited to the day dedicated for physical exercises in schools. No more street football, table tennis, table soccer, street race. We have stopped the things that bring us together as community. What a shame!

Auto Pilots
I wonder what has happened to the culture of making kites from pieces of papers joined together with gum, or in most cases eba (Cassava Flour) to form a triangle shape. We added a tail to it and the kite is ready to fly. Our own kinds of
kites (aeroplanes) were not the type that could be flown by pilots in the air. The pilot remains on the ground holding firmly to the control string, gliding and maneuvering the kite. We sometimes imagined ourselves as the inventors of the autopilot system which allowed planes to fly with minimum control by the pilot. It was great fun to see the kites rise up and up in the sky until it becomes a tiny speck.
I smile when I remember the fun we experienced at such moments when you saw your own kite fly up there. There was another twist to this game in that kites usually engaged in a contest. To begin with, we had no control towers. The wind blew the kite at will while the Pilot had to run about in certain instances to change the direction. When two kites met each other in the air you could demobilize your opponent by cutting the wings with your thread. The moment this happened, the opponent’s kites would collapse and crash to the earth. Growing up was so much fun and it brought us closer to nature. We dined with the sun and smiled with the winds as we strolled about on moonlit nights. How much of this we had lost to modernization. Nowadays, most games are played via a computer and a console. Nature is gone far away and all that is left is the unnatural.
While the girls engaged in girlish games and there was no room for football, we boys opted for racing about the streets with old car tyres. As alternative to tyres, we often resorted to playing with any cylindrical object we could lay our hands on, like bicycle wheels, tin covers and a host of other round objects. Yet as we continued with our games the girls also had their fun playing ‘‘Ten Ten’’ arguably the girls’ most popular game.

Girlish Games
Ten-ten was usually played by two girls who clapped their hands and hits the legs together alternately. The name of the game ‘’Ten ten’’ has its origin in the fact that you use your ten fingers and ten toes to play the game. It was usually very exciting and involved very fast movement of the legs.
Girls could be heard screaming in excitement. In some cases it becomes so fast you lost track of the leading person. So to play this game, everybody had to stand as hands hit your friends hand in quick successions simultaneously with the legs also. To score a point in the game your opponent has to fail to make the right move either by moving the wrong leg or the wrong hand or failing to repeat a movement that was supposed to be repeated twice. You really need to see this game to appreciate what I am writing about. It is very exciting and it tests your ability to do several things, such as knowing the process involved, to move at the right speed, to be confident and to be physically fit because at times you have to continue for several minutes nonstop.
In addition, you also need to combine your act of playing the game to repeating the chant with your mouth correctly and make sure nothing is delayed to defeat your opponent. I believe we need to develop this kind of game and make it a household name. Otherwise we will lose the fun and creative ingenuity that come with it. I imagine including it as part of our sports festivals and it may someday make it to the All African Games. We certainly can do it only if we believe what is ours and we are committed to it. Aside from these games, the girls were always of fond of plaiting the hair of their dolls and dressing them up in their favourite dresses. It was so funny how seriously they took this act. In some cases they would bathe their dolls, powder, plait the hair and even go as far as strapping them on their back like typical African mothers that they are destined to become.
It is simply amazing how God Almighty did make us boys and girls to think so differently. Another thing that I found quite incredible was the long unending dialogues that took place between these dolls and the girls. Young girls do imitate their mothers by dressing up like them, dress for their dolls and stand right in front of the mirror as they danced and smiled. I believe such girls grow up to appreciate themselves as the most beautiful persons in the world.
As they grew older girls become more particular about their looks and begin to do all kinds of things. Some may even add tissue papers to their boobs to increase the size. So while the boys are out there playing football, the girls concentrate on becoming ladies by paying close attention to their looks. I can’t remember the number of times I heard mothers in the neighborhood scream at their daughters for using up their face powder. The emphasis on girls looking good was very clear even in school.
I remember back in secondary school it was mandatory for all the girls to plait their hair. Every new week comes with a different style for the girls. Such hair styles included, ‘pineapple,’ ‘close up,’ ‘patewo (clap-your-hands), and ‘all-back’ among others. Oh! You need to see how I was always so eager every Monday to see what the girls looked like. Some of them looked so beautiful while others were not that lucky. As for the boys you can just go ahead and cut your hair low. You dare not try any silly hair cut style otherwise you will have only yourself to blame in the end.
It was real fun growing up in Lagos and I cherished those fond moments especially the few weeks I spent at Birch Freeman High School, Surulere. Yet despite all the fun we also had to study hard. If not harder than the way we played. It is however becoming increasingly difficult to study hard in public schools today with the deteriorating facilities. While I understand that the State Government is making efforts in revamping the school facilities I still believe the organised private sector and alumnus can also do a lot. A good example was the N100m Fund Raising Activity for the Birch Freeman School led by BRF (His Excellency, Executive Governor of Lagos State, an illustrious alumnus of the school. My heart is gladdened each time I see a new transformation in Lagos.

Studying the Hard Way
While my parents allowed me limited latitude to play, I always made sure I did my homework before they are due. Every day, Mum would check my exercise books to see if I had done my homework. Like most mothers, Mum would also check my school uniform to see if I had torn got it torn for the umpteenth time. There was much emphasis on the role of mothers in a child’s upbringing.
I hated the mornings because it was time to go to school, I also saw my parents then as wicked people because no matter how bad I felt in the morning I must go to school. I must read all my books and be attentive to my teachers whom I thought were also wicked to me at that time. Otherwise you will get a finger crushing thrashing on the palm of your hand – we called it “foka”. Such was the training I went through way back from Primary One. As I looked back I thank God because those training made me a better person today.
All through the years we were taught by well trained and dedicated teachers. Teachers who taught us English Grammar: word and opposite, comprehension and how to read the Macmillan books. We were taught arithmetic with Larcombes series and later integrated science with STAN books and the popular multiplication tables at the back of our exercise books. We call the multiplications table times’ table and we had to learn it by heart. Imagine! We had to learn all the multiplication tables over the years in primary school. As usual it was:
2 x 1 = 2
2 x 2 = 4
2 x 3 = 6 ……
We mastered it from two to three, four, up till twelve. We knew all the times table by heart by the time we were in primary six. Heaven help you if you forget when you were asked to recite it. Then you would receive either the popular ‘‘foka’’ or other punishment depending on which of my teachers it was. There was no excuse to learning. It did not matter that we did not have air conditioning in our classrooms, our chairs were wooden, or that our teachers used chalk on blackboards. All we did was to learn and be better people.
Oh how I weep for the future of education now! All of sudden people now believe that the more expensive the school is the better the education. Is it not amazing that teachers are now made to take on the responsibility of parents? Parents now spend all their time making money to train their children. Some parents make so much money only to leave it behind for a confused child, the product of training by half baked teachers.
Look at the proliferation of private schools where most of the teachers never attended the Teacher Training College or consider taking degrees in Education as a waste of time. In some of them there are still so many undergraduates and secondary school leavers teaching in schools. The teaching profession has become a laughing stock. In many cases, the real teacher of the child is ‘‘Patience’’, the house help, “Shakiru”, the driver, or “Ibrahim” the gateman. While I understand the modern day challenge of leaving in an urban area such as Lagos and trying to make ends meet I believe there is no training like parents training. Just like there can be no effective food substitute for compulsory and exclusive 6 months breast feeding of new born babies. I believe what matters is what we value in life. Money or good name and well trained children. May God help us all.
I do not believe that all the private schools are bad I do believe the teaching Profession should not be a dumping ground for every jobless graduate or undergraduate. It is a noble profession. It is a dignified profession. I believe teachers should compulsorily be trained to be able to teach especially at the primary and secondary school levels where behaviors are formed. After my regular classes at St. Thomas Aquinas in Atunrase Street (Surulere), mum made sure I attended the holiday lessons organized by one of our teachers. It was a very serious drill and we had to study and understand all the questions from the quantitative aptitude to the verbal aptitude to the general knowledge. No teacher was willing to assist you during the exams. You must study on your own and pass.
Finally when the results were released I had 525 which was the cut off point for girls from Osun State. The boys were expected to score a minimum of 535. It was painful for me because what that meant was that I could not attend any of the government model schools. However I did study hard. I did not rely on my school authorities, cheating or parents to bring answers to me so I can pass the exams.

Learning from the masters - Mentoring
On the streets of Lagos, you have the option of learning from different type of Masters. As for me I chose to learn from the good ones and I would love to tell you a few things about them.

My Life Mentors (Mr. & Mrs. Felix Ayeni)
Beyond all the studies in classrooms, I believed the greatest way of learning was studying people and following their ways. It was the informal way of learning yet it achieved the greatest of results because you need not write down anything in most cases. Imagine how much we learnt from our parents and siblings. I cannot speak for others but for me I learnt many positive things from my parents. Such positive values include honesty and learning to be content with what you have.
I remember growing up that my dad hated to hear that you had gone to see one of our uncles to ask for money. My dad’s position was that you should learn to live with what you have and be grateful for what he has given to you. We were taught to be content with what we had. This was a great lesson that I still treasure until today.
Now my case was very interesting because my parents were both teachers at some point in their life. Although, my father later resigned from teaching, joined Rank Xerox where he worked for almost 2decades until his retirement. Anyway I learnt a lot about honesty, humility and dedication to work from my dad. Mum also reinforced whatever dad taught me and made sure I was always ready to learn how to live on my own: cook, buy stuff in the market, wash plates and all the likes. So I learned quite a lot from my mum while she was a teacher and later a headmistress.
Yet beyond my mum I had great admiration for my elder sister. She was such an intelligent person and I was greatly motivated watching her success in life.

My first Career Mentor
I had become close to my Aunty Wunmi (my only and elder sister) right from when I was in primary school. Then we lived at Orotedo in Surulere and I had fond memory of the food my sister usually prepared back in those days. The most interesting moments were often when the school was on holidays and she was at home. How much I enjoyed those days. She would spoil me with food and then we would listen to Bony M’s music from our cassette player which was placed right on top of our Radiogram which I never saw working since I was born. I admired my sister then because she was so brilliant and she was the first person in the family to get a double promotion in Anglican Girls in Akinhanmi, Surulere, Lagos State. For those of you who do not understand, it meant that she was allowed to skip the next class because she was considered too brilliant.
So with such quantum leaps, my sister achieved the rare feat of graduating with a degree in Accounting from the University of Ife (now Obafemi Awolowo University) while she was yet to be 20! It was a remarkable achievement indeed and I was always so proud to be associated with her. Though I never told her all of this even till now she has always been my unsung hero. To now cap it all she became a fellow of ICAN (Institute of Chartered Accountants of Nigeria) in her mid thirties and one of the few Nigerians who are Associate of Chartered Institute of Systems Auditors. Her professional achievements spanning over two decades of working with KPMG and PWC (Auditing firms in Nigeria) has also been excellent.
However beyond that my sister was also such a caring person supporting the entire family from the moment she started earning money. She was and is still such a caring person and an inspiration to me. For how can I forget how much happiness I felt whenever I visited her at their home? She was always there and ready to listen to your problems even when she could not proffer a solution immediately. For me I wonder if I would have been able to become what I am today if God had not blessed me with such a wonderful sister.
I recalled the time I was heartbroken by a chic I was so madly in love with, it was my sister who helped to bail me out. Months later she was also the one who would ask me if there was any other lady around. It was not the question but the way she asked it that touched my soul. She did not act like people who mocked me or told me I was unserious. Rather she did so as one who truly cared and believed that at God’s ordained time things would fall in place.
So I always had her as my Mentor unknown to me. It took me twenty six years of living to realize that. I was about to make a life changing decision that had created a lot of uproar in my family. I wanted to opt to begin a career in Advertising having studied Estate Management at the Yaba College of Technology for five years. All my family members opposed my decision and told me how I lacked focus. It took my sister’s intervention to make other family members relax when she supported my decision after a few months of deliberation. It was from that moment in life that I took her as my Mentor. From that moment I have always consulted her before any major decision.
Now I do not mean the day to day decisions but rather the very serious ones especially concerning my career and business projects. It felt good to know that I had such a wonderful, caring and experienced professional to guide me. Not only did she do that but she sometimes got her husband involved. He usually had a different twist or angle yet they would agree on the issues. It was so much free consulting and that is what you get from true mentors.
Mentors give you an opportunity to get privileged information that will prevent you from going through pains you could have avoided.
Now supposed you were not as lucky as I was to have such wonderful sibling and a parent that means you have to look elsewhere for inspiration and guidance through life’s journey.

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Product Details
Author: Lawrence Olaolu Ayeni
Publication date: 7/17/2014
Pages: 77
Product dimensions: 750 x 1010
More About This eBook
In the early 80’s there was great communal living filled with love and togetherness which was often expressed in the cultural festivals, religious ceremonies and the unique Lagos Owambe parties where everybody is fed beyond satisfaction.

Growing up, the children were so free, lived a simple life and completely detribalized. All belonged to the same age group, often referred to as ‘‘egbe’’ in the Yoruba language with the community responsible for children upbringing.

Now we live in a modern world where childhood innocence has been abused and all that matters is getting the high grades and the high money at whatever cost it takes, even the loss of human dignity and the most cherished human values.
Editorial Reviews
About Author
OLAOLU LAWRENCE AYENI has been a lover of the arts for over two decades. As a young boy, his love for writing was ignited as the only means of expressing love and affection via poems. Over the years, his preferred writing style has become a combination of real live stories with non occurring things in an exciting and easy to read manner.

“Lagos of My Dreams’’ is his first published book. However, he also has a flair for business writing in the field of Brand Management, which he has practiced for nearly a decade.

The early part of his life began in Surulere where he attended St. Thomas Aquinas Primary School with a very brief stay in Birch Freeman High School for first few days and memorable Sundays spent in St. Anthony Catholic Church, Gbaja, Surulere, Lagos.

Olaolu is a graduate of Estate Management from Yaba College of Technology, an Associate member of Advertising Practitioners Council of Nigeria, Associate member of National Institute of Marketing, Nigeria and a student member of Chartered Institute of Marketing, London.

He is married to Ukpong who hails from Cross River State a clear expression of his detribalized upbringing in the Lagos of those days.
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