Boda Tope, BT for Short
He died. But before he died, he lived.
He joined the OPC, a year or two after his secondary school education. He joined the radical wing of the Odua Peoples Congress, a faction led by Chief Gani Adams, who was not often addressd as Chief by the media when BT joined; Gani Adams was Gani Adams, a thorn in the flesh of not only the military government of that time, but also to Christian and Muslim parents, in whose eyes the Fredrick Fasheun founded and led-OPC was already unacceptable, so that the Gani Adams-led faction was doubly unacceptable to all moralising and proselytising adherents of the Abrahamic faith, who believed that anything neither Christian nor Islam is pagan and would end up rejected at the gate of heaven, damned for hell. Although, when they needed vigilantes and security men to protect them from their own children and armed thieves who killed and maimed without caution at the time, OPC members came highly recommended, guaranteeing safety for all houses, homes and families- Traditionalist, Muslim or Christian in the community. without discrimination.
These were times when armed burglars and life-threatening robbers at nights robbed us all common people, rich and wealthy, do-well, never-do-well, philantropists, businessmen and women, tall, short, fine, ugly, beautiful and what-have-you people, of our deserved goodnight sleep. Same thieves and not-petty buglars and not-ordinary armed robbers terrorised banks, filling stations, open markets and supermarkets and any shop at all that had a resemblance of money or anything valuable.
Passers-by became unfortunate victims of stray bullets, school children went to school in fear and jumped out of classes while teachers hurried into safety at the sound of a stranger than normal explosions that could come from the barrel of guns and other sophisticated weapons; in addition to the number of Nigerians, parents and other adults, young and old, killed by trigger-happy police officers, brutal soldiers and other members of the army community that beat and hit people indiscriminately, sometimes with intention to hit and kill their victims.
Thanks to the terror unleashed on all of us, police officers at junctions became roadside grass uprooters st the slightest sign of trouble, they put-off their uniforms in a twinkle of an eye, black boots that might betray them would be removed with same speed and thrown far away into oblivion. Service rifles landed on waste-hill and into open canals, putrefying gutters and over the fence, any available fence in sight.
We have heard of road traffic wardens, the popular yellow fever, who ate grass like goats and sheep at the command of highway robbers before being dismembered with the sound of double barrel gun and other superior weapons that the government did not equip our corrupt police and military officers with. There were other police officers, real police officers not traffic wardens who accompanied bullion vans to carry money to banks and financial institutions who also met their death in the hands of awon elegiri that killed and destroyed anything in sight when they moved.
The people, with mixed feelings, criticised indiscriminately, choosing to see and call OPC members asocial, all sort of names including branding them thieves when it pleased them. They saw them as saviour at night when they had no other means to guarantee that the night would break well into dawn, dawn into day without any incidences that clothed the morning, and the rest of the day, if not a lifetime, in sorrow, tears and blood.
This was the time BT joined the OPC. It was around the same time that popular song came out, controversial as it was, but well-danced to in and around the Southwest; a song that relived an unpalatable experience when the OPC invaded the Ajegunle community to steal land, kill and maim primary school children. The OPC denounced being the organisation represented in that song, that they were a peace-loving association who protected life and property of all peoples in the Southwest. This was the time BT’s anti-system personality reached its peak and he joined the OPC.
He was about two or three years out of secondary school as at the time; he attended Sango Ota High School (SOHS), a school whose Motto was Utmost for the Highest, where Bose, my age-mate aunt who died a sad and miserable death from family-induced depression, also attended; she finished few years after BT had attended.
It was the same school that Monday, a tall, hugely-built and light in complexion young man, whose friend was a so-called acquitance of 2face Idibia, the popular musician. He bragged that this acquaintance composed songs that made 2face Idibia and other big contemporaries of that time blew into their fame and prosperity. I saw the said acquaintance once or twice in a jeans trouser and white shirt, well-starched to wad-off any aspiring dirt that wanted to jump on it in the name of say na doti e be. He wore an eyeglass to match and trainer shoes, they walked past our area on the lookout for budding teenage girls who were always taken by these fabulous narratives so much that they allowed them remove their pants to sleep with them in nearby bushes, uncompleted buildings and in their homes at any time of the day or in the cover of the night.
Monday attended the same school a year after BT had attended, he joined in SSS 3 to write the school leaving certificate examination SSCE and became an overnight popular jingo after the acclaimed hairthin-escape from being caught and charged for examination malpractice in the the SSCE of that year.
SOHS was notorious for being the hotspot of all things bad from beating up stubborn, wicked male teachers who failed male students at will and embarrassed them for daring to befriend teenage girls that they teachers preferred and slept with; female teacher were not left out of possible beat-targets especially those who would not shut up and face their teaching jobs.
Rape and counter-rape, revenge rape and all types of rape of female teachers and fine-fine girls, who snubbed advances from boys without being under the protection of this or that gang of boys, was rampant at that time. Boys came to school with knives and ake UTC soakd in poisonous content, igbadi, onde and other terrifying charms that could run people mad, make impotent and or leave victims with leprosy.
So Monday’s action was a tip of the iceberg when he successfully hid a pampa in between fingers and the invigilator could not locate it, although he was sure he saw it a moment ago and in the next moment was left in doubt. Pampa, orijo, eegun, ongbona were at the time names given to copied answers and worked-out solutions brought into the examination hall by students and teachers alike.
It was this school that BT attended and passed out with no intention of rewriting the examination. Not that he did not want to, the real reason is that his parents Iya Children and Daddy Adeniji aka Baba Children could not afford to. They were like all of us poor and not rich enough to pay for a second attempt, except parents who believed in the supernatural power of education beyond secondary school as a tool to escaping generational poverty. It was not easy at all at all.
The daily routine of the OPC members in Ijoko of that time was pretty straightforward: they hunted during the day if they had no meeting scheduled and worked as vigilantes at night, facing sophisticated thieves with bare confident chests and dane-guns. At least in Ijoko of the time. Starting from eleven pm, if we were yet to sleep behind doors locked with big bolts and padlocks, having already said our goodnight prayers. We would see them with their headlamps moving into different vicinities to keep us safe from the evils that accompanied the night.
He was a fine young man, he should be twenty or younger at the time he met with death in Lagos. We heard many things on how they died. It was thanks to Baba Dare’s we got reliable information about their death and mourn him with finality and our grief and mourning did not become one that would last forever. Omo eni ku osan ju omo eni nu lo.
We were better comforted in the assurance of his death and the grief his death brought over us than we would ever be if we must rely only on media report that reached the whole country about the special squad of soldiers and police officers who stormed the building some members of the OPC were gathered on the night that BT left to an OPC-initiation event in Lagos and never returned. Not even his corpse returnedfor burial.
This is what Baba Dare told us about the operation. They were ambushed. Not even those who tried to escape by climbing the fence to jump into safety made it over the fence alive. The heavy guns from the ambusher killed them before they could jump into the safe embrace of the dark night. Bodies, with life inside them when they made to climb, fell off the fence lifeless as angry bullets escaped the ugly uncomfortable metal casing into the soft flesh they were shot. Blood flowed. Ogun lacked no happy bath for that night. All the bodies, lifeless, and those still with life inside of them were decidedly butted out with blows from the killers’ instrument of wrath, as they were loaded into the wagon that brought the killing squad with assured death.
He had a near-round face, like the shape of a good chicken’s egg. Eyes just the perfect size for their sockets. There was a time he laced them tiro. That was about the only time I did not like his eyes; not that they were not beautiful. They were, but something within me repelled the urge to like them. On that day, he wore a tight trouser, an armless top that let air in from the sides, a colourful silk kind of top, he adorned his neck with a bracelet, like one made of leather. Rubberband of different colours were on his wrists, he placed his hands around his waist, standing confidently as though he was seated on his own hands that supported the waist. Akeem and I walked towards him. We had gone to him days earlier to give him money. We wanted him to prepare a charm for us; one that would make my dream-girlfriend fell into my arms without resistance. He assured it would work if I used it as instructed. I could not sleep the whole night in anticipation of the next day when I would meet her and have her do as I say.
When he walked his still-bowed legs were visible. He played great football and organised community championship for all of us. We would go from street to street, neighbourhood to neighbourhood, busstop to busstop speaking to children our age, older and strangers, exciting them for the prospect of playing in an upcoming championship if they would buy a form and drum together their community to participate in the game.
He taught me and many other children of our community to ride bicycle. We all hanged around as we awaited our turn to jump on the rented BMX-bicycle to BT’s instruction. You might fall down and hurt yourself a little. This is okay. You must hold your breathe and look up. Do not look down. Try to pedal on no matter what. Do not give up. Do not let go of your grip on the bicycle. These and many more were BT’s words as we learned to ride amidst loud cheers, laughs and excitement. Girls that admired us looked on and chitchatted and talked about things that mattered to them and played games which we joined in later or disrupted depending on the mood of the day. Life was beautiful.
He was the second to the last born, the last born was a girl. He fetched water for their household and washed his own clothes and those of Daddy Adeniji, their father. He pounded yam, went to farm with the family. There was a time the women wanted to workshame the boys that they knew nothing about frying Garri. The boys would have none of it and took over the frying of the Garri for the whole day; the whole chain of Garri production, all the steps that culminated in the frying of Garri. Fetching water was one of the household duties that fell on him before he moved out from home like many siblings before him.
There was a timetable gummed to the wall. Not until the Youth Coordinator of the Church of Christ, who was the eldest child of Iya Children, joked in a Youth Fellowship about an ineffective timetable that was never followed (he looked at the corner where the timetable was gummed while he talked), did I for once think that BT probably only drew up the timetable with the good intention of following the strict dictate of the document but never took it to heart.
This is a typical day according to the timetable. Wake up time: 5:30am. Morning devotion lasted thirty minutes. Sweeping the room for fifteen minutes. Other relevant house chores were indicated so that before eight in the morning he would leave for school. School time was clearly indicated to last till 2:14pm. The time he would trek home from SOHS, a distance of about five kilometers was indicated on the timetable. Upon getting home, lunch and dinner-time was documented. Activities that would busy the rest of the day were noted with time. On Monday for example, Monday Bible Study at Roundtree Branch of the Church of Christ was conspicuous. Time: 6pm to 8pm for the youth.
When he moved out of his parents house, and after he died, the timetable was not removed. He had a girlfriend, a fiancée actually, with whom he wanted to spend the rest of his life with if he had not died. We heard that they were pregnant but the child did not stay. That was before he travelled to Lagos to his death. We wished the child chose to stay.
This is in remembrance of a child, brother, mentor, friend, community crganiser and many more in one.