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By Gbenga Awomodu

King Jaja Hall, University of Lagos

Many will never forget in a hurry how we were sent packing from Jaja Hall of the University of Lagos. At the end of previous sessions, when we were not in our final year, it was not unusual to see students depart from school as soon as they were done with exams. Suddenly, loneliness descended on some of us like cold water on a cold winter night! Though I love some quiet and do a lot of serious thinking during quiet times like in the middle of the night when everyone is sleep or during the weekends when most people have gone home, I begin to feel like going home too, as soon as school becomes deserted after the session. I just botch initial plans to stay back in school to relax.

This year, things were quite different. Suddenly, final year students did not want to go home and bid Jaja Hall bye so soon! We had barely finished our final exams and many still had Final Year Research Project to submit. Many had Class Dinner and similar events to attend later in the week, a few days after the completion of exams. Everyone just wanted to stay, relax and enjoy some extra time after exams. But a rude shock hung in the air. The school authorities had ordered that students vacate the hostels on Sunday, September 19, 2010. Later it was extended to Tuesday, September 21, 2010. But some students still had papers that same day. Despite pleas and consultations with even the Dean of Student Affairs, there was no going back. Not even the final year students were given any preference in this matter.

Jaja boys are notorious for many things, but one stands out of the pack. They love to yell “Go Away!” Whether it’s a bevy of beautiful ladies (or chicks, as they are popularly called) passing by the hostel, someone making incoherent or semi-coherent announcements via the epileptic Jaja Hall public address system which had been bedeviled by perennial ‘sour throat’, or the hall mistress making announcements and reeling out rules, warnings or general codes of conduct, Jaja boys do not hesitate to scream “Go Awaaay!!!!” on the top of their voice, from the fourth floor down to the ground floor. Even as the hall mistress (a.k.a Mummy Jaja) kept reminding everyone to start packing their luggage and prepare to go home, the ‘troublesome’ tenants replied by telling her to “go away”. This dragged on and she threatened to stick to her plans. But no one really took her seriously, except for the ‘chicken-hearted’ chaps in lower levels, especially Year 2, who started moving out of the Hall in droves.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010 came and Mummy Jaja made her good her promise to evict the now unwelcome residents. Though she had managed to evict most people, some drama ensued towards the end of the day. From about noon, as occupants entered the Hall, they were constantly reminded that this was the final day and that they should go to their rooms, pack their belongings and sign out of the residence for the session. Many final year students, who had ‘plans’, remained adamant; they just kept going in and out of the hostel like they still planned to stay till the end of the year! As evening fell upon us, the energetic Mummy Jaja refused to bulge. She remained at the gate and with the aid of her male administrative staff held students in the hostel hostage. The only condition for leaving the hostel was that you packed your things and sign out. Power supply was deliberately cut from the student rooms, especially on the A-Wing. This was meant to frustrate all of the remaining students out. But, many of them still told the hostel authorities to “go away!”

That night was the Lagos Varsity Christian Union’s end-of-session Praise Night, so I tidied up, took the few things I needed, hoping to evacuate the hall finally the next morning. I would later hear of the additional drama that played out till late in the night. In fact, I was told that the students even had to go see the Dean of Student Affairs that night. After so much noise, pleading and whatever, light was restored to the student rooms and everyone was mandated to leave the hostel the following morning before 9AM.

Anyways, Praise Night was awesome and we danced away our sorrow at the Chapel. When I returned to the hostel on in the morning of Wednesday, September 22, 2010, I knew there was no time for sleep. I emptied my locker, made a call home, and by 9AM, my belongings were home, ahead of me. I would not be able to visit the Lagoon Front every morning like I had planned. Jaja Hall wasn’t the neatest, but it was a very good escape from the colossally unkempt hostels at New Hall. Now, that’d be for another post!