By; ADAMU MAMMAN KONTAGORA
His Royal Majesty Oba S.A. Egunjobi II The Alafo Of Afo Land, Happy 62 Years On Throne. You Will Live Long On The Throne By The Grace Of God
In the mid of 90s, I was posted to Ondo State for my NYSC after I successfully graduated from ABU, Zaria, a posting that I never liked then because South West was seen as a crisis zone because of the June 12 annulment and Ondo State was the home of NADECO and Chief Michael Ajasin, the former Governor of Ondo State in the 2nd Republic was a Chieftain and the Chairman.
I had all the opportunities to influence my posting when we were in the university but refused, by telling the person he shouldn’t mind, I am always praying to God for the best.
When the posting came out, it was Ondo. I told myself South West was not a place I wanted to go to at that time.
Sadly, I left for Camp at Effon-Alaye in the present Ekiti State. It was Ondo then, Ekiti was yet to be created.
From.the camp, I began to see that, it was really a God ordained choice, as little as I was, i became platoon leader and at every syndicate grouping I was chosen to lead.
I was popular also at the camp, became very closed to our Camp Commander, a Major of the Nigerian Army. In fact, he was moved to Ondo State a month prior to our commencement of our camp from 311 Heavy Artillery Kontagora, and at the camp, I was called Kontagora all over, that was what attracted him.
At the end of the one month orientation camp, we were given posting letters and I was posted to Afo in Ose LGA, a place I never heard of, another temptation came up. There was a lessons I learnt here and whoever served, will believe in the scriptures that discussed about the day of judgment, where people will be given their results and every one will be on his own, a practical example you see in this world, one of it, is collecting posting letters at the end of of the NYSC orientation camp, that you may not have access to your instructors and atimes even your friends. Everybody will be in a hurry to leave and be on his own.
I had to look for help to identify the direction to where I was posted. I was worried and disturbed, but my ABU colleagues stood by me, and said they won’t go until we identify the direction of Afo in Ose LGA. We later did, the story of how I arrived, i leave it for another time.
I arrived Afo about 8pm and was taken to the Principal, one Mr. Fadile whom I met in a compound opposite the school he was relaxing coincidentally with the Vice Principal, Mr Adedoyin and others.
He said, “Corper this night?” I said “yes sir”. They collected my bag and took it into the compound and offered me a chair to join the team. The woman, hosting them, which I later discovered was a widow, was kind enough and went to prepare food for me; it was pounded yam.
While seated, the Principal ordered for glass of cup and said “Corper join us properly”. We have a keg of Palm Wine here fresh, in fact very fresh,” he said it was tapped this afternoon, he is sure it will calm me and the stress and it will be a befitting welcome according to him.
He immediately filled the glass, I said “no sir” he surprisingly asked me “why?”. I told him I don’t take it and I have never tasted alcohol even on fingertips in my life.
He looked worried and asked me “oh oh” his worries concerns was that how will I enjoy staying here for the next one year not taking at least the natural palm wine.
I was hungry and I knew pounded yam was coming. It reallly came, with egusi soup and grasscutter bush meat. I ate very well and came back to life. He asked if I enjoyed the food, I said absolutely and asked who killed the grasscutter for them.
He asked whether I meant someone caught it and used knife to kill it like chicken, I said yes. He said no, there grasscutters are normally caught by traps. In fact, the woman confirmed, it was three days before they checked the trap and found it dead. So it was still fresh, she said.
The Principal introduced the Vice principal and other about five or six members of staff seated. I also introduced myself and he inquired about my state of origin. Now I pretended not to hear him, June 12 was annulled by IBB from Niger my home state.
As the discussion progressed, I was pondering what to say if he asked again, do I mention another state. True to my thoughts, he asked again, “Corper you are from which state?” I said Niger State Sir. He and others said, “Ahhhhhh ” at this juncture, they spoke Yoruba and he asked, “IBB dey?” I said yes and he told me they heard that IBB built houses for all us in the North and all around, while laughing, then asked for my tribe, I said Hausa.
He said it is ok and told me he loves Niger State, adding that during the National Census of 1973, he was sent to a village called Rijau in North Western State as a facilitator, which he heard is in present Niger State.
He again told me he was among the first set of NYSC in 1974 and served in one school called GTC Mokwa. The Vice Principal equally chipped in to the discussions, he too was among the 3rd set of NYSC and served in GTC Doko, also in Niger State. They all asked if I knew these places and Isaid yes.
The Principal asked which university I attended, I said Ahmadu Bello University (ABU) Zaria he said good.
He mentioned that he attended University of Ife, now Obafemi Awolowo University. The VP said he finished from University of Ibadan.
He asked the course I studied, I said B.sc Mathematics and the Vice Principal asked, “You said you are a Hausa Man” I said yes.
At this point, they said Corper go and retire to bed you are looking tired. Leave us here, we must empty this 20 litres before we go to our houses. The Principal told me that the following day which was a Saturday, he will see me.
Saturday morning about 11am, the Principal sent for me and asked for my night and said accommodation will be given to me on Monday. He reaffirmed to me that honestly, he enjoyed his stay in both Rijau and Mokwa throughout for the census and the NYSC and the kind gesture shown to him by my brothers.
He told me that he was newly posted to the place, precisely two weeks ago, informing that school will resume that week.
He drew my attention that on Monday he will have his first staff meeting and mainly courses will be allocated to teachers and he will give me SS2 and SS3 to teach Mathematics and asked if I could, I said yes.
On Monday after the morning assembly, two of us were formally introduced by the Vice Principal to the students. The Principal and myself. Staff meeting later followed. The Principal chaired the meeting and mainly it was introduction and allocation of courses. The incident that followed made me to see why Mathematics was allocated last.
JSS1 and 2 were to someone,
JSS3 and SS1 were to the usual traditional teacher and
SS2 and SS3 to Corper Kontagora.
At this point, there was rancour. Everything was thrown into confusion and comments as to why a Corper will teach Mathematics at Senior classes, when the tension persisted, he closed the meeting and packed his file, left for his office. It was later I discovered that there was no closing prayers, which he later came and asked for.
All were angry, and said they won’t pray. The meeting closed like that. The next was, how can a Corper teach SS2 and SS3 Mathematics. I was calm and some of them were asking me questions. I noticed they didn’t have a problem with ABU Zaria as a university, probably, their grievances was the course and the innocent young man.
The Principal sent for me. Honestly I sympathized with him, seeing the nature of the dust raised. I met him in the office, he first apologised to me, for seeing what transpired, and said, “here these is one of their ways of settling matters”, and asked if I will still go ahead and teach the classes.
I smiled and said “sure”. He courageously shook my hands and was saying “Ranka dede.” This was the first Hausa language he learned in Rijau when the visited the palace as what the people were telling the king.
One thing good I honestly saw in that town, most of their well-to-do men that were staying outside, mostly Lagos had houses in the community. Good houses that can fit anywhere in the city of Nigeria, dedicated a room for a corps member, where he should be lodged.
I was taken to Alhaji Kailani’s house, a successful businessman in Lagos. A five bedroom apartment well furnished only me in the house and the mother who is staying outside in the family house close to my flat was sending food to me throughout my one year stay.
They were indeed very nice, caring and wonderful people.
At the Kabiyesi’s palace, we were introduced, to him, he was a very honest, composed person and highly educated, something that one could notice instantly.
He was about 37 years on the throne as Kabiyesi then, he introduced us to other chiefs and he told them he doesn’t want to hear in the cause of our movement in town that we were embrassed or hurt by anyone.
We enjoyed this kindness, hospitality and so many privileges and he gave us open access and regarded us as his friends throughout our stay.
We started and resumed lectures. I looked at the syllabus that i will handle; That time, I was having so many advantages of the subject itself, it was what I read and know too well.
The syllabus was the same I handled as a practicing teacher in Government Technical College Minna in 1989, added with Government Girls College, Kontagora in 1990/91, I can confidently say as young as I was, I learnt it, knew it, mastered much more than I ever could and just coming out fresh from the university was an added advantage, It was not only learnt, but also memorised.
I made the subject very interesting not only that, also easy and simple for the students whom were seeing me as a teacher and friend within their age group.
Some of the teachers that initially were hanging by the window to see how and what the corps member will teach, including the Principal became my early fans.
Throughout the period, my name was changed to “Corper Mathematics the President”.
In our WAEC we recorded 98.2% pass, a record that was never made and yet to be broken. How I left Afo town, I will equally leave it for another day, a wonderful community, nice people that I will always live to remember.
Since I left Afo, I had never been. there again, neither communicated. It was 25 years later in 2018, when this great man, the Kabiyesi was to celebrate 60 years on the throne and decided to give 10 people chieftaincy titles and the records were checked and it was asked who made it.
He said that if I were alive, I would automatically be one of the 10 chiefs he will bestow title on.
He directed the committee to look for nine others, that he had gotten one.
Thanks to the Social Media, I was in touch with some people from there. They broke the news to me and also to Kabiyesi that I was contacted.
The first day he called me, we interacted and I mentioned some particular scenarios and he quickly recalled me as a person.
He told me that I qualified by standards to be a chief in his cabinet. By interpretation, I was to be given “Sarkin Yaki Of Afo Land”. I became very emotional, this was a place I went for a National Assignment and for more than 20 years, I never went back, nor had any form of communications but yet, they considered me for a prestigious recognition.
A week after, I called the Kabiyesi and he answered me by saying, “Hello my Chief and SARKI YAKI ” I asked him in a very low tone “What is my expectation ”
He said, “Chief I don’t understand you” .
In a lower tone, I asked if there was anything I could contribute, he shouted, “Nooooooooooooooo. Our title here; before you’re given, you must have done something physically seen and felt to the community. Money is not and never used.” What is expected of me, he said, is that I should be there on that day.
Behold on that day, I was, there and it was unexpectedly a very big and historical event.
Canopies, food and everything were provided and my podium attracted more people who came to see a former corps member. I used that opportunity to see properly my landlord whom throughout my service year, I sighted only once. And also prayed for his late mother, who took me as her son.
Lest I forget, to the entire people of Afo and Kabiyesi Sir, I am indeed very grateful for the honor you gave me which I have never gotten anywhere till date. May God continue to bless you, your family and the Afo land.
My special appreciation to Alhaji Kailani, The Araba of Afo Land, my landlord. You are indeed a good man, there are ways God treats people with good heart like you.
Once again, Happy 62nd Year Anniversary Celebration to the people’s leader.
Adamu Mamman Kontagora is with the Oil and Gas Free Zone Authority, Onne, P/Harcourt, Rivers State.