My first cross country rehearsal as a class one boy at my Alma mater, the Prestigious Nigerian Military School was anticipated with so much enthusiasm, bated in the hope that it would be an adventure of sight seeing the country side and attracting the morale boosting cheers of spectating indigents of communities through which the marathon race coursed. It would soon be obvious, that my excitement was misplaced.
Back to the start point of the race course, which was at the intersecting road between Bravo and Alpha companies, the race was kicked off with a shouting order by our Boy CSM. At the order to start race, I responded with a spurt, tearing through the racing crowd of mates and seniors to emerge with the frontrunners within seconds, combusting enormous energy and inhaling massive gusts of oxygen, not realizing how short lived my pursuit for competitive glory would soon total into a nightmare.
Barely 5 minutes into the race and few meters past “Koye”, the famed “puff puff village” neighboring our school, my energy had ebbed or better still, completely sapped, forcing me into a rapid slowed down my running pace at first, and then quickly followed by coming to a halt to catch my breath. Something I did intermittently in rapid succession, leaving me with a few other “academy black tortoises” like myself far behind to saunter through the remaining course of the race. At least, so I thought. No sooner had I and a very few others like me started enjoying our stroll did two seniors come from the rear, grabbing my left and right hands each to their sides and began pulling me along, compelling me to run at their much faster pace, pushing my body beyond its familiar limits.
When I could no longer bear the strain and fatigue induced by running at their pace, my discretion kicked in and began to plead with them to allow me take a break to catch my breath. “Please sir! Please sir”! I pleaded in hushed tone, but all fell on deaf ears. As we raced on, onlookers noticed the physical struggle I was experiencing in maintaining pace with them, which elicited their sympathies, prompting many of them to weigh in with chattering appeals as we ran along. Realizing that my situation was attracting increasing voiced sympathies from onlookers, I changed my tactics by suddenly screaming out at the top of my lungs, “ALLOW ME TO DIE”, with all the fire in my body about three times. Alas! it worked like magic. They let me off instantly without a word, leaving me behind to glee over my false sense of victory. I reasoned and assured myself “ehen, this is the way it should be”. Well, I would soon be proved wrong.
Now left alone, I strutted through the remaining stretch of the race from the Sabo part of town leading to the Depot NA gate (near the graveyard) to NMS gate, down to the road leading to my company, Alpha company. Immediately I leaped over the wide drainage divide to my company, I heard a loud call out in my direction “You! that bast**d, come here!”. Lo and behold, it was one of the seniors I had embarrassed in town, who had been patiently waiting for my royal arrival. He sent for his compadre, with whom they both unleashed what I will better leave to your imaginations. I was abundantly and effectively indoctrinated with the ethos of public comportment of a boy soldier. All my civilian doubts were abundantly cleared. I appreciate the discipline many of our seniors instilled in us. It has counted for a lot of growth many of us have experienced in our chosen fields of endeavors outside the Military.
I CELEBRATE NMS @66 and all those who developed our capacity to lead early in life.
God bless the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
Olajide Abiola writes from Abuja.