We ran the race in batches of fifty persons, male and female. I came back the fifth position in my batch. Running had never been an issue for me, I grew up in the Village so hunting games in the forest had prepared me for the race, the only difference was that here I was running on plane and smooth terrain as we ran round the circumference of the Barracks.
Upon arrival, our names and details were recorded in a hard cover note book, the names of the first ten persons were recorded while others were declared disqualified instantly and were advised to leave the barracks immediately. We were then taken inside the Gymnasium for push-ups and sit-up exercises. I did well in all the physical exercises while more Persons were disqualified.
At the end of the day, forty of us qualified from all the batches and were eligible for medical test the next day. I could not go home that day because we had to report at the military hospital early in the morning with our early morning urine and sample of our feces, this was to be collected before we taste anything in the morning.
I knew my Mother would be very worried at my absence from the house and I also knew that Baba Miko would have questions to answer. I had never slept outside the House in all my growing up life. Mama at this stage did not know of my plans to join the Army. I wanted it to be a surprise to her, I knew she would oppose the idea but Bab Miko had encouraged me to go all the way as there was nothing to lose if I fail, he also told me that I had to take certain decisions as a man without seeking my Mother’s opinion.
After four days at Ede barracks, I was among the Fifteen Boys and two girls of Osun state Origin that were short listed for the 1990 Nigerian Army recruitment exercise. We were to gather together in two weeks at the Barracks from where we would be driven to Zaria for a nine months training at the “Land of no going back.”
I went back home and went straight to the building site to meet Baba Miko but was shocked to see my Mother seated at a corner with swollen face, she had her scarf tied to her waist and she was bare footed. Immediately she saw me, she stood up and started walking away.
Oya! Oya! Just be going with your Mother like that! Baba Miko said: pointing at my Mother’s direction.
I knew better than say anything or apologizing to Baba Miko at that moment because I knew what my Mother must have put him through.
It was a herculean task convincing my Mother to let me go to Zaria for the recruitment exercise, whenever I remember the drama that ensued in the house on the day I finally left Esa-Odo to meet our contingent at Ede, I weep. A mother’s love for her Child is pure. Mother and Son wept inconsolably, Villagers were gathered to see me off as well as proffer several pieces of advice.
The Villagers kept singing into my head “Ma gbagbe Iya e o!” do not forget your Mother o! Of course I am all she had lived for, how can I possibly forget her? I have no other person in the world but her, we lived for each other, but I needed to go and see the bigger world outside my Cocoon.
To Be Continued