MEM­O­RIES FROM EF­FU­RUN BAR­RACKS

THISDAY - - EDITORIAL -

Sweet rem­i­nisces came flood­ing back at me when I read about the army bar­racks at Ef­fu­run, near Warri re­cently, although I wished that the con­text of this re­call of sweet mem­o­ries was not about land own­er­ships dis­putes be­tween the host com­mu­nity and the Nige­rian Army. When my fa­ther was trans­ferred in 1983 to Minna, it was still called 20th Am­phibi­ous Bat­tal­ion Bar­racks with that unique Post Of­fice Code of P.M.B. 1114 that all pri­mary and sec­ondary school chil­dren some­how knew so eas­ily in their hearts.

That was the bar­racks of my for­ma­tive pre-teen and first-teen years, and now the mem­o­ries are cas­cad­ing down to my con­scious­ness: my mother (late Mrs. Echinema Lucy Jonah) was the first to birth a baby there in 1979, just one week af­ter my fam­ily’s ar­rival from the “Batcher” bar­racks lo­cated some­where in the heart of Warri (the baby, my sis­ter Inyanmu, died so trag­i­cally in 2013; she was 34 years old). That bar­racks was where a lot of my con­tem­po­raries and I ex­pe­ri­enced our first “self-con­tained” sweet-smelling apart­ments, fresh from the new­est paint­work. I was one of just four al­tar boys at the bat­tal­ion’s Catholic Church (re-named Pope John Paul II Parish, I think, be­cause that pope’s 1982 visit to Nige­ria gen­er­ated a lot of ex­cite­ment at this parish). I was bap­tised there on the first of June 1980. I com­pleted my pri­mary school at the bat­tal­ion’s Army Chil­dren School (A.C.S.). Mr. Okoro, the head­mas­ter, was im­mor­talised in our own ren­di­tion of the “Thread and Nee­dle” song. I re­call Henry Dol­lor and Priestly Dol­lor, two broth­ers and my school mates, who were sons of an of­fi­cer; I re­call the un­for­get­table In­ter-House Sports Com­pe­ti­tion held at the A.C.S. in 1981 (I was in Blue House, the Uzuazebe House); I re­call that, as “bar­racks boys,” we were never scared of the dreaded Ag­basa Cult (also called the Urhobo Head­hunters) be­cause our fa­thers had as­sured us that if any child or woman gets be­headed for the lo­cal voodoo cus­toms “all hell would be let loose.” I re­call our deep for­ays into the thick for­est land­hold­ings of the bat­tal­ion to cut down palm- and co­conut-trees for the sheer fun of it, to har­vest co­coa pods, to har­vest kola-nuts of dif­fer­ent hues, to hunt rab­bits, to “steal” from “Urhobo Papa” pineap­ple farms, to fish in shal­low streams, to do wan­der­lust, to play at mock war­fare bat­tles, and so on. I re­call my mother’s thriv­ing pro­vi­sion store at the Mammy Mar­ket; I re­call Syl­vanus Aze, my spon­sor at Bap­tism and First Holy Com­mu­nion; I re­call Mr. Sa­muel Ota, my form mas­ter at the A.C.S.; I re­call the quiet mien of Ndidi Obonyano at the A.C.S. and it was a rude shock to be her class­mate once again at the Fed­eral Univer­sity of Tech­nol­ogy Minna. Sun­day Adole Jonah, Depart­ment of Physics, Fed­eral Univer­sity of Tech­nol­ogy, Minna

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