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  • Post By Jibrin Hassan
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A memorable period in the life of a junior student was immediately after examination. During this period there were no classes to attend, only general fatigues to keep the compound clean before going on holidays. There were always threats that failure to clear all the grasses will jeopardise the holidays. Even though no academic activities were going on, students were not allowed to go to town for anything especially at night. Yet some of us could find our ways through which we could sneak out to go to the Rex Cinema to watch Indian films. This brings me to my ordeal with some of our teachers who were very strict on us. Not because they hated us, but because they wanted to instil some discipline in us.

I have been a lover of Indian films since I was much younger before coming into the Nigerian Military School. Not outrageously far from the school is a cinema hall Rex Cinema in the Sabon Gari area of Zaria. During one of those happy periods in the school, which was after exams but before the holidays, I decided to do what I loved to do most within that period, that was sneaking out of the school compound to go to the cinema to watch Indian films.

I wanted to go early enough so around 6pm, I started making my moves on how to get out of school (certainly not through the main gate). Incidentally, one of the officers saw me going to that fence and judging from the way I was dressed, he knew I was not going for any duty or assignment. He knew I was going to cross that fence and go into the town. So he called my name, and when he called me, I turned to see him and he saw me and said, "Come here! Where are you going?" Immediately he said so, I scaled the fence and off I was gone. He didn't know where I went to, he now drove into the school and met the duty officer then who was another Captain. Then he said to him, "I saw Hassan crossing that fence, and going into the town." I don't know who must have informed the duty officer that I had gone to the cinema because he was standing in front of the cinema hall when I arrived. When he saw me (I had not seen him yet), he grabbed my hand and said, "Stupid boy. Get to my car." I had been caught red handed. I don't know what made me act the way I did because at that moment, I hit his hand off me and dashed into the cinema hall because I had already bought my ticket.

When I entered, I pondered the fact that another officer had seen me. I enjoyed the film but not without some uneasiness. After the film show, I was certain that the duty officer had already gone. Could it be that he left and later returned? I don't know. Could he have waited there till the end of the film? I don't know. I was coming out of the cinema hall when I sighted his skin haircut. When I saw that head, I said to myself, "Ah ah…this is serious." I went back to the cinema hall thinking of what to do because the duty officer was right in front of the only gate that led away from the cinema hall. I finally entered the toilet and got outside the hall through the window. I left the duty officer standing by the entrance waiting for me, I dashed through the bush and scaled the fence when I got to NMS.

I got to the gym and wondered what to do since everyone was at the dismissal parade ground for tatoo. I passed the parade ground and entered where we used to call the New Block and sneaked myself into my room. I removed the dress I wore and soaked them into a bucket. Then I wore a tracksuit and a pullover. I robbed mentholatum into my eyes to give the impression that I was sick. Incidentally, my lunch and dinner were all kept in a plate by my side. I climbed unto my bed. As I said earlier, the whole school was on the parade ground for tatoo. I was absent and no one could account for me though one of my equally mischievous colleagues said I was sick. Is he in the hospital? For any serious illness, boys were admitted either in Depot hospital or in the teaching hospital. But no one could say I was in those places and the clinic we had in school had no beds for admissions. So if I was sick, they asked, where was I? Someone said maybe I was in my room. So the officers left for my room.

I was lying down on my bed when I had the kwa kwa kwa sound of the officers' shoes. RSM Kumasi was shouting, Stupid boy! I am going to kill him! I was frightened. I contemplated running out but ultimately continued with my game. By the time they opened my door, lo and behold, there I was lying down. The first stroke of RSM Kumasi's koboko landed on me Gboooah! Stupid boy! he shouted. I stood up, shivering and breathing irregularly.

"Sir... sir, I am ...not feeling well sir"
"If you are not well, did you go to the hospital?"
"Yes sir ... yes sir. I went to the hospital sir ... you treated me sir.." I said pointing at Captain Umoh, the medical officer, who was amongst them.

I went to the hospital, he treated me, he gave me some drugs, see the drugs he gave me, I said, showing my excused paper which showed that Captain Umoh had given me two-weeks excuse duty with special diet. His signature was even on it! When I gave the excused duty to Captain Umoh, he said, Yes, I gave him this excused duty but you are supposed to come for your injections!

"Sir, I couldn't leave the room, sir," I said with a sorry face. "I have been lying down here since morning sir."
"You are a liar!" said the first officer who saw me.
"When I called you, you looked at me and you ran and I saw when you scaled the fence!",
"Me sir? I wish I could sir. I didn't leave this room since morning." The other officer now said,
"You are a stupid boy! I held your hand and you hit mine."
"Sir? Me sir?" I said with an even more pitiable face. "

Sir…Captain Umoh has confirmed he gave me excused duty with special diet…. see my dinner and lunch ... how could I have gone to the town sir when I have been here since morning?" The duty officer was astonished.

"You mean ... I held you? And I said "stupid boy"? You hit my hand?"
"Sir.," I began, still shivering and breathing irregularly, "I wish I could do that sir."

Both officers were quite confused. One said he had called my name and I had turned and seen him and another said he had held me in front of the cinema hall. The latter said he stood in front of the cinema waiting for me but didn't see me come out. Sir, I couldn't have been in there because if I was, you would have seen me come out, I said, feigning disbelief at what I was hearing. I really looked sick and a doctor confirmed he treated me so with that they had no choice but to leave me.

Two days later, the officer who had called my name while I attempted to scale the fence, called me and said, Monsieur Noir! You were the one that..., Sir, I was not the one sir. Look, look, even if you were the one there is no more punishment. Just tell me the truth. Believe me sincerely, sir, I was not the one. Okay, he said. And that was all.

Many years later, as a Captain with the Nigerian Army Military Police, I went to Army Headquarters, which was in Lagos then, and while climbing the stairs, I bumped into the duty officer who had held my hand at the cinema on that fateful day in NMS. He was now a Colonel. Morning, sir! I saluted. Morning, Jubril, how are you! he replied. Fine, sir. We passed each other and then I turned and said, Sir, I want to tell you something sir. He looked at me and said,  Stupid boy, so you were the one? I was the one sir, I said. He remembered. We both laughed. Later on, when I was a Major, it so happened that the officer who had seen me and called my name on that night, who was now retired, was teaching French at the secondary school my wife was also teaching at Victoria Island, Lagos. He noticed that every day, a Military Police driver would bring my wife to the school and come to pick her up at close of work. So one day, he asked her if her husband was a soldier. She said yes, and told him my name. He thought for some seconds and asked if I was an Ex-boy. She said yes. He ran his finger across his cheek as a way of asking if I had a facial mark. My wife again said yes. Then he shouted black? She said yes. Tell him to come and see me,  he said, with a sparkle in his eyes.

When my wife got back home, she said, Daddy, there is this colleague of mine ... he teaches French in my school. He asked me if you were in NMS, I said yes. He asked me if you have this mark, I said yes. He said black? I said yes, then he said tell him to see me. So try and see him. Maybe you will know him. I know him, I said, smiling. I called his name and she said, Yes! The following day, dressed in my uniform I went to drop her in the school myself. I entered the Common Room and on sighting him, I said, Bonjour, Monsieur! Monsieur, Noir! He said in reply. He hugged me warmly and then I said, Sir, you remember that incident? He kept quiet. You know I was the one, sir? You were the one? I was the one, sir. Come, sit down here! he said to me. He wanted to narrate the story to all those seated in the common room but I begged him to spare me as we both laughed. I am sure he told them the story and other mischiefs by Military School students.

On a very serious note, I must confess that those our teachers, the likes of Capt. Dotun Gbadebo (Now the Alake of Egbaland) Capt. Atu, Capt Akilakpa, Capt. Udoh, Capt. Fakulujo, Capt.Lawal, Capt. Ikioda and others, were committed to their responsibilities. They actually played a great role towards moulding us to be what we are today. They went beyond teaching us the academics but also facts of life and all. They will all enjoy our respect to the end of our lives.

Jibrin Hassan

"They went beyond teaching us the academics but also facts of life and all. They will all enjoy our respect to the end of our lives."

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