By Gbenga Awomodu
In a few weeks, I will say goodbye to the undergraduate years. Like it happened to me when leaving the primary school and even the secondary school, I have started to have a deep sense of nostalgia. Barely five years ago, we all wore our matriculation gowns and felt really cool about ourselves. We never really saw beyond that day… No one really knew what lay ahead. Today, I look back and see fantastic moments and bashed hopes, deferred dreams and hope renewed, up times and down times, good times and not-so-good times. I will miss a lot about UNILAG. The Lagos Varsity Christian Union has been my home away from home. If I were to write about my experiences in LVCU, it would take a whole book! Today, I share some of my experiences at the Lagoon Front Resort…
The University of Lagos is perhaps the only university in Africa bordered by a lagoon. The lagoon front is a major tourist attraction in the university community. It was given a serious face lift last year under the leadership of Prof. Tolu Odugbemi, the immediate past Vice Chancellor.
Sometime in Year One (2006), some weeks to my second semester examinations, a senior I had known in the secondary school met me at the Lagoon Front under one of the numerous trees that dot the beautiful landscape. He greeted me in an unusually husky voice that was in tandem with his shabby appearance. After the basic introductory banters, he asked me for my department and course of study. “Hey, Chemical Engineering… that is good! Hope nobody has been disturbing you o?” He then went on to tell me tales of students in higher levels who took advantage of freshers like me who were naïve novices. Well, I was able to convince him I didn’t really need his help… I have never seen him since then!
In mid-2008, a big volcano hit me badly. I had just checked one of my results, and what I saw made me simmer. It felt like someone had jabbed a dagger right into my heart! I had just seen the lowest score ever in my life!! How could I have scored this low; even though the lecturer had contributed a lot to this dismal and unacceptable result? My spirit was troubled and I hurried to the Lagoon Front, perhaps somewhere in the cool of the late afternoon, like the ebb tide, my soul could find some rest and my spirit some calm. I spilled out tongues I could not understand… I wrestled with God in my mind and spoke so fast I wonder how he still heard me. I must have spent about an hour in my groaning but when I left the Lagoon front, I had received some peace in my heart. But we humans hardly understand his ways. Despite the lecturer’s word to review our scripts, over a dozen of us had to write the course the following year… Still, I trust God, for he knows best and who am I to challenge him?
I have often visited this same Lagoon front to do my last minute revisions, moments before the commencement of exams. In these last two years, I have written most of my exams at the Julius Berger Lecture Theatre, a three-minute stroll away from the Lagoon Front. During the examination period, it is not rare to spot scores of students doing some last minute cramming and revision. While the ‘learning colleagues’ from the Faculty of Law who have strayed like lost sheep from their Law Library are trying to properly file the series of legal cases and definitions in the new cabinet they just acquired in the expiring semester – their brain memory space that is -, the young Engineers in the making are busy gnawing away at gigantic formulas and differential equations like sick fellas chewing bitter paracetamol pills. But some people come there not to read, but on romantic picnics. Remember, this is a tourist attraction, a relaxation spot even for people not members of the university community. Sometimes I wonder what the studious students think in their mind when they see twin lovers at different spots under the coconut trees tangled in hot embrace and telling themselves sweet nothings, while they are busy pacing the length and breadth of the shores, trying to stuff their brains with as much information as possible for their impending exams. How many of them can actually stand the repugnant smoke from the pipers, usually a group of guys who visit the Front to feed on marijuana and cigarette. Occasionally you see two mature lovers doing justice to one or two bottles of beer. In short, here you could make motley of friends!
Sometimes, I just visit the Lagoon front to experience the cool breeze, indulge in the relatively quiet ambience, and simply spend time all alone. How I love the inspiration that flows at times like this! Penultimate Sunday, after the LVCU service, I needed to compose a song for my local church so I took a quick trip to the Front. I frantically begged God to give me a song, and He did! In the less than forty minutes I got the first verse and chorus ready. (If I may add, I completed the song two days later, and the Youth Choir presented the song and came first last Friday. They now represent the Archdeaconry at the Diocesan level)…
Last July, I took a stroll to the Lagoon front, my earpiece perfectly nailed into my ears, cool music seeping into my head. I love music. A lot! …I made an unusual decision, picking a quiet spot to the extreme left, near the wall that borders the Lagoon and the Guest Houses. For the first twenty minutes, I observed as the canoes brought in passengers from the other end of the Lagoon into UNILAG and loaded waiting passengers. The female canoe paddler reminded me of the popular saying, “What a man can do, a woman can do better.” She looked happy and contented in her made-in-Naija English jersey and pair of thigh hugging jean shorts; she steered the little boat with such ease and skill that her deft handling caught my rapt attention. I made a mental note there and then to return and get her picture (Lanre Shonoiki, my cool friend had to part with 100 box to take this shot sha. The female captain smiled as she squeezed the note into her tight pocket)… A few moments later, two young chaps approached me, a guy in a hearty gist with a beautiful girl. They held hands and were all smiles. In twenty seconds, they walked past me and stationed themselves right behind me. Though my plugs were still intact and the music was still on while I tried to manage inspiration to write a poem, the chirps of these two lovebirds reminded me of their continuous lurking presence at my back. Once or twice I had to look back, and there they were cuddling and stirring into each other’s face. I think the guy was trying something funny… Their giggles and the girl’s occasional silent screams punctuated those moments. Eventually, it was time to leave and I stood to exit. A few metres away, my curious mind turned my head backwards to discover something: the guy’s face was now buried in her face. He was teaching her how to kiss (or maybe it was the other way round). The poor girl must have been praying in her mind that I leave. I imagine how much I had delayed their action. Anyways, that was not totally new. It is not entirely strange to behold cuddling couples in the most creative and desperate positions, even in front of the Julius Berger Lecture Theatre in the cool of the evening, when the path is least traversed and nobody is really watching… They seem to be telling whoever cares to listen: this is our choice. If you like, stare. Really, what you do with your time is your choice. Ain’t it?
(c) Gbenga Awomodu, September 2010