By Bisi Lawrence
This page took a new form away from “hard-core” social commentaries on a whim. The space for review of, and reactions to, current events became glutted with a variety of opinions about politics, politics, and politics – enough to make one’s head spin.
However, it was fairly clear that it must be what the readers want, else there would not have been so much enthusiasm for its projection into every subject” even dating.
O yes, it was actually in one of those sob sisters’ columns: “Would you date a man who is a member of a different political party from yours?” Well, I don’t know about you, but when I used to date – about a millennium ago -I always had something very far from politics in mind. Anyway, that was the impulse that brought this new setting to life — the urge to provide an alternative.
At the corner of the mind lurked the notion that if did not catch on, one would very swiftly retrace one’s steps to the political terrain. In fact one almost did, as the hustings suddenly fell on interesting times with “the election that was not. But It should all come topside up from today, and I will be there bright and early, to enjoy myself, as usual.
You can do that very easily if you are a student of human nature. There is hardly any other place where people take such a light hold on their dignity as in a polling area. Don’t take my word for it. Go out today and watch – and, of course, vote too.
Now, I’m beginning to digress again. But the point I am trying to relieve myself of is that it would appear that there are a number of people who don’t mind reading about politics but with an admixture of other subjects too. They like a bit of history, or travelogue, or just a simple yarn. They have been sending in some reactions, and I think we should first attend to them.
Echoes .. “I read your “Tuneful Weapons “, It was down to earth. Keep on writing. My God be with you, Amen. “ (0802.332.7411)
And amen. Please append your name next time.
Echoes …. Thank you for your historical enlightenment .. God bless you and give you long life to inform us more. NOSIKE (0802.220.5981)
Echoes. Thank you for the well of history to which you have exposed the likes of me. I am in Poconos, USA. I would be coming to Lagos between July and August. Would allow me to sit in your presence, maybe I can learn a thing or two about how my beloved Lagos is progressing, and maybe I can learn a thing or when I return to resettle. Thank you, sir. ANTHONY ADESOJI ADEBOWALE (+15709725516)
I can assure you that you will be welcome.
Echoes: Last Saturday, your description of the 1959 elections appeared to be that of the events that followed the 1964 elections between NNA AND UPGA. S.E. EMIOWALE (0803.327.2,762)
That was a “boo-boo”. Pardon me. Of course, you are right. Thanks a lot. One depends on good people like you to make suggestions and corrections that make all the difference, all the time.
Broad Street in Lagos has many other streets crossing it, or joining it at various points on its lengthy stretch through the city. On these adjoining streets were a host of interest places enough to fill a town on their own. Some of them have now disappeared, like the two primary schools, one belonging to the Anglican Communion and the other to the Methodist Mission, consumed by the insatiable need for development which, as it has proved in several cases, is not the same thing with progress. At other times, of course, the inevitable march of advancement simply overwhelmed the situation.
For instance, the Anglican School mentioned above was the Christ Church Cathedral School, the CCCS. Another ‘C’ was sometimes added to its initials, and that represented ‘Central’, for that was what it was. A Central School had only the last two classes of a Primary School, that is, Primary Five and Primary Six. While some schools had all the classes from One to Six, several stopped at Class Four.
That was where many pupils ended their education years ago, leaving a lean remnant to move to the last two classes. Since they were usually not enough to form single classes of their own, the pupils left over were gathered together in a “Central’ School like the CCCCS. But with progress in education, every Primary School was later able to fill its classes up to Primary six, and Central Schools disappeared like dinosaurs ..
The school itself was located in front of what was the Church Missionary Society (CMS) Press.
An acre or two of that area were occupied by the CMS on both sides of the street down to the Marina on one side, and Odunlami Street on the other, to create a “CMS Enclave”, as you may want to call it.
On the Odunlami side, next to the CCCCS was the oldest secondary school in Nigeria, the CMS Grammar School. It had no football field, but trained its team some three miles away and produced one of the best soccer teams in Lagos. Among the great schoolboy footballers of the day was “Captain” Fashola who was acclaimed as the best of his days. I doubt if his relative, Babatunde Fashola of Lagos State, ever saw him play though the governor’s passion for the beautiful game recalls the exploits of the “Captain”.
The school compound was only large enough to accommodate a tennis court, on which the boys played cricket, and produced, characteristically, the best. Such was Dr. Jimi Coker who went on to captain the University of Dublin m the fifties – an uncommon feat for a black man in the fifties.
The CM Grammar School was, at one time, the alma mater of everybody who was anybody — the Chief Justice, the Chief Medical Officer, etc. That could not be otherwise since it was first in the field. However, several of its illustrious alumni later left to complete their education at the King’s College. Would you believe that IKEMBA Emeka Ojukwu was one of them? That was where he and Victor Banjo first met. The school was a while back re-located to Bariga on the mainland.
On the other side of the street was the CMS Girls School, which was removed to Ibadan under the new name of St. Anne’s College – that, by the way, happens to be the alma mater of the former Minister of Finance, Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Uweala – and right behind that is the Cathedral Church of Christ, Marina. That deserves a page all its own, and we shall have to come to it next week. On the other side of Odunlami Street stands the regal structure of the Bookshop. The CMS Bookshop was the pioneer and also the largest institution of that kind in Nigeria for decades. That is in front of where the statue of Herbert Macaulay stands today.
Incidentally, Herbert Macaulay’s residence was close by on Balbina Street at the next junction.
It was a one-story building with a low, wide garret full of shelves and files of all descriptions. That was how far we children were permitted to go, and that was enough for us because all we went there for was large mounds of cake. Our leader was his grandson, the late Dehinde, through his son
Gladstone Macaulay who had little time for us. But the old man did, and would come downstairs with that black bow tie in place, to hand us the cake we pined for. That was around 1942/43. We knew he was a great man, but we did not realize how important he was in the history of the nation. He had become a bit unsteady on his feet and had an inviting trembling voice, but his handshake was firm and sincere. We were always delighted to shake hands with him – little cake-hunting “imps” of between ten and twelve years of age. As I recall, he died three years later, and the city of Lagos witnessed the kind of funeral reserved only for royalty.
Across the road on Balbina Street is the court which colonialism forgot behind. Behind it is Santana Street after which it was named.
It has a legendary past. It was here that a famous case was decided decades ago. It would appear that a gentleman, by the name of d’ Alphanso, a socialite of his day, fell upon hard times. He wrongly decided to shore up his finances through insurance fraud. Unfortunately, he told a very close friend of his, a lawyer, about his criminal intention. His friend calmly waited until he had made the fraudulent claim which he then revealed to the police. D’ Alphanso was arraigned, and after a sensational trial, was sentenced. The whole city was stunned. Such treachery was unheard of in a society where friendship was acclaimed as an ideal.
However, d’ Alphanso was ahead of his adversary. He had smuggled a revolver to court, and as the judgment was pronounced, he aimed it at his treacherous friend and shot him dead.
Then he rammed it into his own mouth and committed suicide right there. The funeral of d’ Alphanso was a riot! A host of people came out to pay their respects to the gallantry of a man who could be described as an anti-hero, on the other hand, only the lawyer’s widow made up his funeral cortege.
I wasn’t there. It is one of those stories you grow up with. But it is true, all the same. Some of the principal actors were still alive ten to fifteen years ago. The stories associated with Broad Street are endless. More later.