A New week! A New Author! African Stories is thrilled to bring you a new author with a completely different genre and style of writing. Ojay Aito, a story teller and a graduate of Industrial Chemistry finds he likes ink better than chemicals. His online series “Life of a Barack Boy” debuting today on African Stories tells the tales of living within the fortified four walls and the life form that rules it. Taking inspiration from everyday living in Nigerian barracks, Ojay amply puts down the mirror images and hopes to spare you the horror of experiencing life with a man in uniform.
We hope you find it refreshing and different as we did.
Episode 1: In The Beginning
There are a few things you can’t change about yourself. One of them is where you were born. Yeah, guess you know already – I was born in the barracks. First, let me ‘axe’ you, “How many barracks are there in Nigeria? I mean all military and paramilitary barracks combined. Guess no one has really thought about it, not even the Defence Minister. Imagine there was an association of all ex-barracks boys and how nice it would be to be the spoke man of the group.
You would never need to bother about how well your spoken English sounds, because everyone would understand the basis of your colloquialism. Communication ends in your understanding not necessarily how well it is passed or so they think.
Second question most people never really thought about: Which is the origin of the Pidgin English? Was it from the Niger Delta as widely insisted on, or was it from the barracks? Well, I might not have a factual answer to that, but I do know for certain that the Pidgin English is a living language and the lingua franca of the barrack world. It has passed through different stages of evolution and has not only survived but thrived wonderfully as against other indigenous languages, and even the original English language.
Back in the days, our parents would warn us, and sometimes even spank us when we seem to fall short of necessary words to express our feelings in the white man’s language. Little did they know that people like us will make millions of Naira simply by becoming Pidgin English voice-over artistes.
Still on the characteristics of this lingua franca of ours, what language would take two English words and merge it into one of itself if not the Pidgin English? For example the words “wound” and “injure” can simply be “wounjure” in Pidgin English not necessarily depending of the gravity of the wound or injury, but of the person that just inflicted the damage…lots of example coming in the course of this piece. This write-up isn’t to help support the need to preserve this language of ours, because like I said, it lives and it will take care of itself.
I am set to lead you into the first twenty years of my life – just a bit of what I can put into words. You will find out that you are familiar with the stories being told; bring back the memories and perhaps take you on a reverie into ‘Barryland’ as known as Barrack Land – the formative years of our lives not only as ‘barrack-children’ but also as Nigerians in the late eighties and early Nineties – a period where uniform ruled.
The episodes of this script will depend on how I remember my past (and yours too). I am called a barrack boy surmising that my dad is a barrack man and my mum a barrack man’s wife. But that isn’t the real case in my family. My dad isn’t a military man. He is a Teacher, an academic. It’s my mum who is an Officer. It’s just like having your mother as the President of the country, and
your dad is the First Gentleman of the Nation. Not that my mum acted in the father role at home, but my family was different, having orderlies salute my mother with rapt attention and just bow and say “Welcome Sir” to my dad when they come home from work at the end of the day.
From this little introduction, you can get a glimpse that my family is what we referred to as the ‘Ajebo’ part of the barrack family. Not that I acted like an ‘Ajebo’, but it was impossible for others in the main barrack blocks not to see us who lived in the quarters as fortunate, and therefore special. This came with many advantages and disadvantages as well. There were two worlds, and two different life styles in the barrack. The children of privates and junior uniform men who were the majority went to the notorious Army Children School, which has about 8 to 10 different schools in one. While we the officers’ children attended Command Children School. We had school shuttles
come to pick us from our respective homes and then drop us off after school. We had special shops we went to get our groceries; we had telephones in our houses, water running in our taps, security guards at our gates, laundry services every weekend, and many more. And what did my real barrack boys get? Nothing. Okay,
they had to share the toilet with two or three other families when the plumbing was bad(it was almost always bad anyway); they had to share laundry rooms and stores every day, they didn’t have any security (apart from pilferers around, the Shina Rambos never really got a chance to come into the barracks).
But with all the differences between us, we still had part of our lives interwoven – Neither side complete without the other. And we had soul friends from across spiced with arch enemies from within. And life could never be sweeter than that of a
There was always something cooking.
Ojay Aito blogs weekly at ojayaito.com and he is @1ojay on twitter.