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My Ilala, My Many Sweet Memories (unedited, 09/09/2014)

By Akeem Olaribidesi Aribidesi

ILALA saved me a lot. Oyelagbawo Grammar School, Ilala, taught me so much and equally saved me from going astray. I had my primary school in Lagos, so when it was obvious I would go to Ilala for secondary education, I felt bad. Why would I go to Ilala where they didn’t know anything in school and would be speaking heavy accent of Igbomina dialect? This was one of the naïve questions I was asking myself.

I was so surprised when I got to Ilala and saw fantastic looking boys and girls. Many came from Lagos, Ilorin, Offa etc, and they even had some Igbo students then… I was amazed to see them putting on good clothes and speaking like Lagosians. I felt shocked when they were playing ‘health’ football. My cousins: Abdulahi, Abiodun and Bishop introduced me to the ones I didn’t know among other cousins from Ojuta’s compound and some of their friends. I remember Suraju and Rauf. Ilala had beautiful houses and empirical harmony. So, life started for me on a new pedestal. I joined my new friends and traveled with them to Okeya, Buari, Oro and Egii for inter-school football competitions organized for primary schools within the LGEA. We would go in a Coaster bus owned by OGS and would be singing songs.

Ilala la gboye fun ooo,
Ki olori dori e mu o,
Ki alagidi lo fi okan bale.

I remember teaching them some songs I knew from Lagos and playing as a mercenary in some of these matches. I was impressive and suddenly became a rising star. Football shot me into limelight. The likes of brother Lookman Maradona(Ile Nana), Lookman Atuga(Ile Asigi) and my own elder brother, Lookman Aribidesi helped me blend quickly and before I knew what was happening, I had got a nickname; Lagos Boy.

I was an instant hit when I started secondary school at Oyelagbawo Grammar School. The VP (Mr Oladipupo) was surprised when I addressed him in English. Getting to my class, I realized I was going to compete with some equally brilliant students like Lookman Aforolagba, Folashade and Shola Okandeji, Hadizat Abolarin, Ridwan and Sheriff Atanda, Ganiyu Onigbogi , Fatai Afolayan and a host of others I cannot mention here. I remember my friends and classmates like Olokole, Akeem Ayoku, Wasiu, Lookman Adeyemi, Afeez Raji, Sodiq Olalowo etc.

Life in school was an eye opener. The seniors were good looking and well dressed. They wore white shirts, blue trousers and long skirts. As juniors, we wore shorts. I was fascinated and intimidated. I loved seeing them but equally feared them. Saka Ajao was the Head boy while Tosin Oladipupo was the Head girl. Good looking duo. Lookman Alabe was the Game Prefect. But some seniors could beat you for any offense or no offense. There was a time for general beating- beating for the sake of it. We would cut grasses and do some hoeing for teachers. I didn’t like this aspect but one dared not complain. I will never forget that Lateef Popoola who beat me so much that I wanted to run back to Lagos. He said I should stop cutting my hair in ‘punk’ style but I refused because I was stubborn. He was the Health Prefect. My mentor was Jubril Alabi, the son of Omolabi–Ade from Anishere family, I think.

Shade and I were the class captains and we would be made to write names of noise-makers and vernacular speakers. Always was fun to see your friends beg you to spare them when they violated the rules. The seniors would just say, ‘eran kan wa nibe yen’ (one goat should come among you), and about five junior students would run down to them. The last to reach would be sent on errand or punished. They could even tell you to go and dress up an empty cup. That meant you put garri, milk, sugar and groundnut inside the cup for the senior. Everything at your own expense. You dared not…

Academically I was daring. I was said to be brilliant by mates, seniors and teachers. Yet I was playful. I was a bully too. I used to bully Taofeeq Adebayo, the typist’s son. But I dared not go and disrespect that girl in our class, Rachael Albert, a very strong ‘Agatu’ girl whom we nicknamed ‘Abati alapa’. I remember Ozogula (Sodiq) was a bully as well, until we realized he was just doing shakara omo Island. He could not fight. Being who I was, I had so many friends and admirers among my mates and even seniors. Our teachers were trying but farming was too much for them: Planting cassava, yam, maize and cowpeas and a whole lot of crops every season/session. Does anyone here recollect those interesting moments when we would be running after rabbit and snake on the field and the shout of ‘Ehoro! Ehoro!! Ehoro!!!’ would rent the air from every nook and cranny of the school? Eventually, we either killed or it escaped leaving us injured in its wake.

We used to close by 6: pm every day. After teaching hours there would be prep-time, and then other activities like sports, MSS, Labor, Literary/debating session and sports on Friday after Juma’at service. Going for Juma’at, we would line up in twos and file towards the town Central Mosque from school, reciting verses like:

Subuhana lahi, wa bi amdu hii
Subuhana lahi, l’azeem.

At Buka (Cafeteria), we would eat rice and soya beans- beske onigun merin. At times, wara inu obe. We would scoop garri with Kulikuli or groundnut while some of us would be begging to ‘ge spoon’. Does anyone remember those girls with amala di-da-gbo-na and iyan ewu from home to school? I won’t mention name but you know yourselves.

It was fun seeing students in the hall giving riddles and jokes or mosque reciting Quran/hadith and singing Islamic songs. The Christian students too used to have their fellowship and I cannot remember any religious intimidation aside occasional jokes. I will never forget Monsurat Saliu and her sister Muinat Saliu with their sweet voices, in the mosque, those days. I even had crush on Muinat, even though she was two years my senior. I would never be able to tell her.

The first debate I participated in was fantastic. I was the first speaker for JSS 1A and we won JSS 1B. In JSS2, Ayo Owolewa was a brilliant student, alongside the Owokonirans… But then I remember Wahab Gafar who used to sing, 'osigi saga, osigi saga', an Hausa song that later became his nick. Paluda was our local fuji star,too. Also worth mentioning is Brother Nurudeen Adesoye, a man with a feminine smile and his sweet sister Islamiyat. What about Kamoli Akolade and nurudeen Adeyemi? The latter was our SP at a time. Sister Fausat Aweda, should be remembered for her role in gathering news for morning assembly. She is an older cousin. Walked with characteristic gait.

I was in Green House and we used to come last during inter-house sports. Ebunme was a runner for green house, Boge(Ile onikila) for blue, Lookman Alabe (Red); these were fantastic runners in OGS alongside Demola pencil and Taofeeq omo Igboho. However, in SSS3, Green house came second because we had Morufat Jimoh, Kafayat Olawepo, Sikirat Kadir and a lot of boys who did well for us. I disliked Red house with their obvious foul play (ojoro) due to Mr Ajide’s support. I remember Hadizat Abolarin ran 200metres race and thought she had won, thereby slowing down. Mujidat (Obaloyan) just intensified and ran past her. Blue house won that race instead of Yellow house. Iyabo cried so much. Lesson is, never stop until the end. Will I ever forget Kamoru Ile asigii, the son of Sule Lajagun? He was a fantastic high-jumper!

I was a naughty student too and I had my caucus. No wonder my clothes used to be very dirty in junior classes. Ridwan and Sheriff were there when we had a day for some of our juvenile deliquencies. Sometimes, we would jump through the fence and run home before the closing hours. It was fun being pursued by the seniors. I remember, one day, as we crossed the road to the bridge, the principal saw us as we ran. He recognized me so well that he kept shouting, ‘AAAAARIIIIIIBIIIDEEEEESIIII, come back here’. I never turned back though. Some crazy days, we would go and hide inside ‘Kalakuta’ and talk about the girls in the school; the fine, the ugly, the reserved, the naughty and the ‘bitchy’ ones.

There was a girl in my class who wrote me a love letter and I took it to my friends; Nureni Boladale, Sherrif, Ridwan, Afeez Raji and Rauf. We laughed and even mocked the girl seriously. But we heard stories of seniors ‘toasting’ each other and even the juniors. We would hear stories about girls from their hostel crossing over to see boys and vice versa. We witnessed people stealing their friends stuff like garri-the most popular food-, rice, ororo, etc. We had rich students like the Alabes, Amaos, Ajaos, Ajibowos, Aniseres, Akos, Akolades, Awedas and especially the Afolayankas, who were not only rich but from royal family. Ako won ti poju… However, no one would ever intimidate the Aribidesis in any way...

The family who was/is blessed with a combination of western and Islamic knowledge is Uthman's. Mention Sister Rasheedat, Najeem, Kamilu(RIP), Rasaq and a host of others. What about brother Taiwo Rahman Ile Agiri? What about Alfa Raheem? Awon yen kewu-kewe faa! The children of Alfa Salami, Ile Aala also displayed some academic and Islamic values. The family I was closest to and really got enough care and pamper from was my late friend's at Ile Ogbo. Mama was really caring even after Sherrif transited. We would eat enough and start playing Ludo game.

Majority of us lived in town. We would go to farm on Saturdays and Sundays; going to hunt and fish during the dry season. But football took majority of our time: Oke Atebo vs Isale ita, Oke Aala vs Isale Ilala… Playing, fighting, bragging were things that made Ilala very interesting. The drama group led by Aro, popularly called Aperejangbo is worth mentioning too.We used to go and swim at Osin River: arogun, elemosho, isale Ilala and sorts. Ilala is also blessed with many streams like akemo, agidigbon, alaaro, aroro etc. Not forgetting that during Ileya , there would be people from the cities and even abroad for the festival, thereby throwing the town in festive mood with enough rams for head butting competitions. The compound whose ram won for that year would be the defending champion till the next ileya.

In JSS2, I had a girl friend. A junior student in JSS1…Only few of my friends knew her. And she was from Ilorin. In JSS3, I had another girl from Obaloyan. After Junior (external exams) WAEC, I was the best student with 8 As and 2 credits. All eyes on me as this were pronounced on the assembly. Then we got promoted to SSS1. Being a senior with trousers was the height of life in college. I lost control of everything. I moved from Science to Arts and did well only in Literature in English and English language. I hated math. I managed in Economics. By final year, I was made the Assistant Senior Prefect, being the 2nd in command only after Fatai Ibraheem who was the best students in so many aspects. Omo Teacher ni o. Shade Okandeji was the Head girl, Lookman Aforolagba was the Library prefect…

I was also the PRO in MSS where I used to set our girls up for gossips in the form of lectures. I and Lookman Aforolagba were the lovely devils then….By then we had Mr Onigbogi as the principal, with his English; ‘you are jackass’, ‘hmmm’, ‘you are moron’, ‘hmmm’, ‘you are imbecile’, ‘hmmmm’…..More, more, more!!! We would shout on the assembly. There was Mr Salawu as the biology teacher, The Ibiyemis taught CRK and Yoruba, Mr Osasona taught Agricultural science. Yet, one of the most disliked teachers was Mr Omiyale, who used to call me Professor Alako. There were many teachers and student teachers (Alege and Erege). There were many Corps members like Abdullah and Solomon who helped us to develop our spoken English. It was a great time but our SSCE was very poor.

That didn’t stop us from having night parties at Ile Ogbo, Ile Onikila, Ile Asigii and Ile Aala, blasting and digging on to some Fuji music. I will forever remember that party at Ile Asuramu when I had a dance with Lateefat Agoro, a lady with whom I had a great crush. I remember losing my best friend ever to death; Sherrif Babatunde Atanda from Ile Ogbo when we were in SSS2, a very handsome and coolheaded guy. He was the definition of friendship and I nearly had a psychological breakdown after his demise. Today, I have dedicated one of my books to his memory. May his soul rest in peace.

I remember the incessant fights between SSS2 and SSS3 every session. I remember Muri Paluda, I remember Nuru kangu, I remember the Nelson family. I remember Musbau Baale. I remember Wasiu Oye and Azeez Oru; the Oyebamires who were our unpaid comedians. I remember Morufat Sulaiman, Morufat Muhammed, Fausat Gafar, Rasheedat Salaudeen, Zainab Adeyemi, Ramota Adeyemi, Bilikisu Afolayanka, Ramota Lawal, Kuburat Aremu, Saidat Olatunji, Sakirat Aremu, Omolara Jimoh, Morufat Saliu, Kafayat Kadir, Fatimoh ile shogo and a whole lot of students. I remember the Orimadeguns, Brothers Saka and Isiaka ile Olomo who were experts in riding motor cycle. I envied these brothers.I remember the Olawepos. I will not forget that brother Muftau Ajao, popularly called Eddy Murphy. I will also not forget sister kafilat Uthman with her transparent beauty and softspokenness.

Why do you think I will forget the Obaloyan students who supplied us free cherry fruit(agbalumo); Fatai, Mufu, Rasheed, Alabi Wahab(okola) and Wasiu the crook who went to Mr Jimoh’s farm and uprooted all the cowpeas, saying he was just hating on the man? The whole SSS classes were thoroughly punished. He confessed months later to some of us. I remember so many things but not everything…. I remember you, reading this. I remember my influence in school and at home. I remember a lot about Ilala and the dream to become something great in life, so that I could develop Ilala like our fathers have done. Ilala is a London. Ilala has beautiful women and industrious men. Ilala people are great anywhere in the world. I am proud to have come from Ilala.

Ilala oni baje oo.

Note: This is not a story but an account of my experience between 1992 and 1997. I may not have written everything, permit my omission. More so, this is as true as I can recollect some of these events. Thank you.


16/05/2013 Special Thanks

Many thanks to Sodiq Boladale who supplied many of the pictures used for the design of this website.

27/05/2012, Ilala on Wikipedia

Ilala is now on wikipedia, follow the link:,_Nigeria


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