When I Forged My Exam Record
By Tunde Odesola
My father, Pa Bisi Odesola, is a retired builder. He owned a little construction concern, Bisi Builders, which constructed a number of buildings in Ikoyi, Victoria Island, Lekki, Ajah and across the country. He exposed me and my immediate younger brother, Biodun, to site life at tender ages.
Don’t get it twisted, please; we were not given the ‘oga-pikin’ treatment on site. When you get to site, you pull off your fine clothes and step into raggy clothes fit for dirt. Imagine yourself alighting from a brand-new car, cutely dressed, and f-i-a-m, you’re in rags within the twinkle of an eye, clutching a headpan, a shovel and a lawani hat made of a cement bag.
The construction site is unlike the football field of superstars. It is a level-playing field where every ‘lebra’ is a dusty sparrow with equal rights and height, ‘aparo kan o ga ju ’kan lo’. On-site, you don’t need formal education to use literary devices. Labourers call their workplace, work-and-chop or karikachop – a smart caricaturing of the literary device caricature.
For me, site life exemplifies the swiftness in man’s grace-to-grass fall just as it shows the slowness in his grass-to-grace rise. Every morning, me, an ‘aje butter’, swiftly changes into rags but at the end of the day’s drudgery, changing back to my nice clothes would not only be slow, owing to fatigue, I’m not likely to be driven home in an air-conditioned car as my father would’ve left for some other duties, leaving me at the mercy of the Molue and its godly conductors.
As a secondary school student on holiday job, I worked as a labourer in the rehabilitation of the palace of the Ologere of Ogere-Remo and in the construction of some buildings belonging to the late Prince Babington Ashaye in Ogere, where I lived with other artisans while the job lasted.
One of my father’s able lieutenants, Boda Mike, aka Engineer Michael, was a thorn in my flesh. He was always hassling everyone, telling them to hurry up. “Tunde, òle ni ó, òle ni ó. Wo bo se ngbese nle. A ni sun bi o! Tunde, you’re lazy, you’re foot-dragging. We won’t sleep here!”
I didn’t understand why Boda Mike was in a hurry when the job was ‘German floor’ casting, which can’t be abandoned uncompleted. It’s a type of task called finish-and-go. If you finish the whole day’s job in five hours, you’re free to go home, and if you like, finish it in 24 hours, that’s when you will leave. I don’t like being hassled. I don’t like site work. The only time I didn’t wear a frown on site was when I was being paid.
I saw some labourers being beaten by their foremen for stealing on site. I was never beaten on site. Because I never stole. But I was beaten off-site. At home and school. For forging my exam document. When you receive site beating, Hitler would feel sorry for you. That was what I received when I forged my report card. How I wish I could tell my father, “I can’t forge what belongs to me.”
Seriously speaking, I think I have some things in common with President Tinubu. My alma mater, Archbishop Aggey Memorial Secondary School, Mushin, is extinct. But that was my school. Former Lagos Commissioner for Special Duties, Dr Muiz Banire, was two years my senior while I was three years ahead of the incumbent Speaker of the Lagos State House of Assembly, Mr Mudashiru Obasa. I also have living classmates, Asiwaju has no secondary schoolmates. He’s truly the last man standing. He must have shed more tears than the crocodile, mourning his classmates.
During Tinubu’s tenure as governor, the Lagos State Government had returned Aggey to its Catholic Church owners but while other returned missionary schools lived, my school died. As old students, we tried to revive it, but death didn’t unclasp its jaws. The relics of Bishop Aggey remain till this day, housing men of the underworld in the forest it has become right in the heart of Mushin. If my school could die an unnatural death, who says the President’s imaginary secondary school – Government College, Lagos – couldn’t? The real Government College in Surulere, Lagos, a boys-only school, founded in 1974, is still standing, but Tinubu, who was the sole student of his own Government College, Lagos, pulled it down and erased it from public memory upon graduation in 1970!
Four other colleges were established by the Lagos State military administration of Brigadier General Mobolaji Johnson, along with the Government College, Surulere, in 1974. One of them was Government College, Agege, (a girls-only school) which was in my neighbourhood. I had wondered if Asiwaju’s name, Bola, and his toothy smile, could’ve made him mingle among female students unnoticed, wearing a blue beret. But this school was established in 1974, too!
The President’s secondary school record he submitted to Chicago State University when seeking admission claimed he finished secondary school in 1970 like the one he filled in 2022 while running for Presidency said he finished ‘A’ Level in the same 1970. Iwin! Double-barrel Tinubu!
The conflicting 1970 secondary school graduation dates Asiwaju claimed in his affidavits are just too conspicuous to overlook. They’re like missing incisors, very difficult to hide. I’ve told all that cared to listen: Tinubu truly went to CSU and he graduated with flying colours. There’s no way any executive official will work with ExxonMobil Oil Producing in America with fake American academic results.
Believe me, I have some things in common with the President. I didn’t collect my university certificate upon graduation from Abia State University in the early 1990s because my first name, Isaac, was wrongly spelt. So, y’all should stop troubling the rich husband of Remi over one yeye certificate. Who certificate epp? I never went back to Abia to collect my certificate but I’ve officially requested my transcript a couple of times. I’ve never used my certificate. I only use the ‘Notification of Result’ issued to me. Like Tinubu, like Tunde.
I forged my secondary school report card. But I’m smarter than the President because I was an underage student in class two when I perfected my own forgery. And I did a perfect job. I wasn’t caught until my father’s overzealousness undid me. Gawd! I got the beating reserved only for a ‘lebra’.
This is the story of my forgery. In my time, students only knew their teachers by their surnames. They were gods with only one name each. Mr Lawal was my class teacher but I didn’t know. He didn’t know me too because I was never in class when he came for the early morning roll call. Like Mohbad, like Tunde: Dis school don taya me…, I go school but I no go class; daddy, I am sorry, I don dey skip classes, Omo Baba Odesola ti wonu aye o….
When I got my report card and saw I wasn’t in the top three, I knew something had to give. I knocked off the (1) that precedes 12 and changed my position from 12th to 2nd. Me, I didn’t go to Oluwole o. I gave the result to my father who still said there was room for improvement. I wondered what he would’ve said if he knew my actual position in class.
Everything was going well until one afternoon when he paid his usual surprise visit to me in school. He was already in the staff room and Mr Lawal sent for me. Uhmmm!
Mr Lawal asked, “Is this your son? “Yes, my father answered. “Are you in my class?” the teacher asked me. “Yes, sir,” I answered. “I’ve never seen you in my class!” My Lawal brought out the register, my name was missing. My father didn’t understand how a student who came second in class wouldn’t be on the register, so he showed my report card to Mr Lawal.
My father sought the help of some hefty senior students who carried me like a log and he beat me like a slave. My teacher begged my father that the beating was too much. When he let go of me, I was bleeding from my face, head, back, hands and legs. He told Mr Lawal and two other teachers, Mr Akintola and Mr Adetunji (TD master), to give me six strokes of the cane each every morning, and sign a log showing I received 18 strokes each day. Mr Adetunji and Mr Akintola beat me for a couple of weeks and stopped but Mr Lawal didn’t. He beat me every morning and signed the log book.
I have confessed to my crime. If every Nigerian confesses, how many shall be blameless? Nigeria needs a total overhaul.
Written by Tunde Odesola and first published in The PUNCH, on Friday, October 13, 2023
Facebook: @Tunde Odesola