Memories Of Government College Ibadan (GCI)

My memories of interesting occurrences at Government College Ibadan (GCI) are plentiful and evergreen. Due to constraints of space, I will highlight only a few.

In 1963, Cassius Clay fought Sonny Liston for the heavy-weight championship of the world. I was a huge fan of the champion Sonny Liston who I believed was invincible. So confident was I that Liston would annihilate Clay that I had bet with Adedeji of Form 3 on the outcome of the fight. Adedeji bet on Cassius Clay. What was at stake were two plates of dodo (fried plantain). Cassius Clay, a 7-1 underdog beat Liston in one of the biggest upsets in boxing history.

Thereafter, I avoided Adedeji as much as I could. Nemesis caught up with me when he showed up in the dining hall during dinner one day, and remorselessly and unconscionably removed my plate of the wondrous meal of fried plantain. He repeated this “cruelty” the following day. I was disconsolate! That may be the reason why till date I do not gamble.

In Form One in 1962, I went to the swimming pool regularly to observe the activities therein. I would stand on the sidelines of the beautiful swimming pool beholding some adept swimmers gliding through the water like aquatic species of nature. I would contemplate the possibility of jumping into the pool. My experience while living with my uncle at Oduduwa College, Ile – Ife, was that we would enter the pond with our feet touching the floor. I thought that those ponds in Ile – Ife epitomized the best, provincial kid that I was. Remember the saying, “pikin wey never comot dey say na in mama soup dey sweet pass.” Overcome with emotion one bright evening, I took the proverbial leap of fate. Jumping into the pool, I nearly drowned but was fortunately rescued by Sammy Okon of Swanston House. Till date, I don’t go near swimming pools. And I am not interested in learning how to swim either!

GCI boys had a lot of mental and physical fortitude. Sometimes, we felt that ‘tigers must proclaim their tigritude.’ Sometimes, intense altercations had to be brought to finality with the ominous march to the back of the cadet’s armoury. It was at this historic venue that Fariyike and an adversary fought till the point of total exhaustion. The scene was that of the immovable object colliding with the irrestitible force. Complete entropy ensued as both boys rumbled as if the apocalypse was imminent, and this was the last battle. Hostilities terminated when out of complete exhaustion, the two combatants fell down and continued staring at each other unable to lift a muscle let alone a limb.

I tangled with Bambo Oyekan who tried to subjugate me with his Lagosian pomp and panache. I came to GCI from the provincial town of Ile – Ife. In tangling with Oyekan, I was cognizant of the age-old adage that “caution is the better part of valour.” We were on the hockey pitch practicing cricket for the so-called colts or mosquito team. Both Oye and I felt that we had the right to captain the team. An argument ensued, and “Takpa” as Oye was affectionately called, could not fathom my audacity in contravening his views. He decided to crush my rebellion with force and moved in to silence me, a supposedly uppity boy from Ile-Ife.

My recollection is that I engaged him, in the process moving like silk and hitting like ton, bobbing and weaving, ducking and parrying against the formidable and implacable Oye. He tagged me a few times, but I took the punches well. I believed even then that I had a solid chin. When he finally closed in on me, I smothered his charge tactically, and desperately hung on for dear life.

Mercifully, Oyekan senior intervened and ordered a break. I dutifully obeyed but Bambo threw a terrific right cross that landed flush on my mandible. Instantly, my eyes exploded into kaleidoscopic whirls of flying colours. As I absorbed and endured my agony, Bambo received a beautiful slap from his senior brother who was one of the greatest sportsmen ever produced in the history of the great GCI. Oyekan senior’s disenchantment with Bambo may have been on account of the fact that Bambo threw his haymaker (a punch that the maverick promoter Don King would have described either as the “Hail Mary” or “the glory hallelujah”) after the bell, a definite offence according to the Marquis of Queensbury rules of professional boxing. I felt that under pressure, I had indeed performed well. I had thrown fast jabs and had been quick on my feet. My lateral movement had also confused Bambo somewhat. Bambo (who was destined to become head of school), was riding the crest of a wave.

Legend had it that he had successfully confronted and stared down the invincible and insuperable “Olu-Olat.” I felt that I put in a credible performance against a gritty foe and was therefore understandably nonplussed, stupefied, mortified and petrified that some of our “blood thirsty” classmates wanted more of the fray. Some of them suggested that we should retreat to the back of the armoury to continue the combat the following day. It was not as if I was lacking in courage. However, I knew that even though I could dance and provide an elusive target, Oye would eventually catch up with me.

Former heavyweight champion of the world, Joe Frazier, would later say of his fleet-footed opponents, “I whip ‘em to a slow trot. I put quicksand under their feet.” Additionally, the great former world heavyweight champion Joe Louis once said of his elusive opponents, “they can run but they can’t hide.” Simply put, I felt that I had given a good account of myself, and was not willing to go any further. That would have equated to what would be called “Aseju” in Yoruba language. I resisted the exhortations of some of my mates to continue. As Cassius Clay would say later in his boxing career, “he who fights and runs away lives to fight another day.” And yes, it will be appropriate to quote the former great lightweight champion of the world Ray ‘Boom Boom’ Mancini. When quizzed about retirement after losing his title, he told the press, “to thine own self be true.” He added with a sly wink, “I guess you thought I couldn’t quote Shakespeare.” I had to be true to myself. That truth was that regardless of my earlier heroism, “Takpa” would eventually grind me to dust, and smash my valiant resistance to smithereens if I had the audacity or temerity to keep the date behind the armoury, as intrepid as I thought that I was. Needless to say, Oyekan has remained a source of pride to us his classmates as well as his alma mater GCI.

There was the time Anthony Obuaya insisted that we should go for lunch at the new dining hall, even though Forms 1 – 3 boys had been told to eat elsewhere for some reason that day. Makinde (Omak) caught us. The punishment was caning by the Principal, Mr DJ Bullock. DJ handed the cane to Banwo Smith to do the honours. Obuaya endured the strokes without even wincing while I yelled hysterically like one possessed with each stroke. My fragility and lack of machismo were thus shamelessly exposed. It took me a long time to recover. Oh, and there was also another situation when Obu took me to Moor Plantation. But I would rather let sleeping dogs lie on this one.

GCI was good to me. I grew up with my uncle Mr Alex Ubaezonu who was vice and later Acting Principal of Oduduwa College Ile – Ife. I used to be filled with excitement watching the Aonian games and other sports events at Oduduwa College. I particularly relished watching the football matches between Oduduwa College and Ibadan Grammar School among others. I passed the entrance examination to Oduduwa College in 1960, but was utterly disconsolate when my uncle insisted that I must attend Government College Ibadan. From Baptist Central School Ilare, I moved to St Stephen’s School Modakeke from which I became the only student in Ile Ife to pass the Common Entrance Examination.

When I got to GCI for the interview, the difference between this elite school and Oduduwa College became clear. The entire school assembly of St Stephen’s School applauded me when I passed the interview to GCI. In retrospect, the day my uncle told me that I had passed the interview to GCI may have been one of the happiest days of my life. On that fateful day, my uncle told me to request for any present that I wished. I thanked him. May his soul rest in peace. It was indeed a privilege to have attended this astonishing institution. Up GCI! Up 1962 Set!!

Chuka Momah, (1272, Swanston, 1962), culled from his book, “Sports Spectacular”.

Submitted By: 

MOMAH Chuka E.
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