I was registered at St. Paul’s Anglican Primary School 1 in the mid ’70s for my primary school education by my late dad. As the name suggests, it is a Christian missionary school. There were four schools on the premises and we all used the same army green colour as our uniforms. Apart from the use of figure to distinguish one school from the other, each school had a touch of different colours taped around the pupils’ sleeves.
For school one it was yellow, school 2 had pink, school 3 green and school 4’s was blue. School 2 later changed to St. John’s Anglican Primary School while school 4 later moved out of the premises to the late Fela Anikulapo’s first Kalakuta Republic compound around Yaba, Lagos, after the military government had seized the land from the iconic musician following the altercation he had with some “unknown soldiers” as they were labelled then.
The practice then was that parents were to present birth certificates of their children to show that they were six years old, the eligible age a child is qualified to be admitted into public primary school. This replaced the age-long tradition of asking the wouldbe pupil to place his right hand across his head and use his fingers to touch his left ear. Armed with my birth certificate, my father dashed across the popular Agege Motor Road, Alakara axis, to register me at St. Paul’s.
The school was just adjacent our residence. My birth certificate reads: WAIDI ATANDA. ATANDA is my praise name, the one the Yoruba call ‘oriki’. My father preferred it should also serve as my middle name. The birth certificate also contains my parents’ names, my place of birth and of course the day I was born.
So, between my dad and the teacher who registered me, I don’t know who committed the blunder, I was registered and known as: WAIDI ATANDA throughout my six years at St. Paul’s. So, my middle became my surname. I did not like the idea of using my middle name as my surname when my other siblings were using BAKARE, my father’s name as their surname. The opportunity to right the wrong came when I was to be admitted into a secondary school. Apart from the desperation to change my surmane, I also thought of changing the spelling of my first name from WAIDI to WAHEED.
I saw the latter spelling somewhere and fell in love with it. In my childhood innocence, I fancied the new discovery of how my name could be spelt and better pronounced. On the day we were to be registered for our ‘G2′ exams in primary six, my adrenaline shot up and my heart was in my mouth. How do I tell my teacher that I wanted to change the spelling of my first name and still add BAKARE to my name? I have forgotten my teacher’s name but his pseudonym still stick to my memory even though this happened between 1980 and 81.
He was called Mr. Super. He was tough and a lover of punitive measures to correct pupils. Every mistake made by the pupils attracted his long cane and he rarely forgave errant pupils. He was dexterous whenever he used his cane. His pupils were extremely careful not to incur his wrath except that he was so unpredictable and one could not be too sure about what could anger him or not. There was something creepy about his look and the way he held his cane even if he was not ready to use it.
It would be a terribly bad day for any pupil that made him to remove his glasses, wristwatch and roll up the sleeves of his shirt before using his cane. In a trembling voice, I told him about the mistake made when I was registered and my intention to correct it.
My eyes were out of their socket literally when he acceded to my request. His approach to my request was casual and perhaps depicted naivety on his part. I don’t think any teacher will now allow a pupil to just change his name by mere asking without the parents’ consent and not backing it up with a sworn affidavit. My first school leaving certificate reads: ATANDA (surname) BAKARE (middle name) WAIDI (first name).
By the time I got my admission card as it was then known, my name appeared on it as BAKARE (surname) ATANDA (middle name) WAHEED (first name) and this is how my names appear in all my certificates and vital documents. Of course I never thought of any consequences of what I did as a child and backed by my teacher’s naivety until a former Senate president, late Chief Evan (s) Enweren, struggled without success to convince the senate committee that Evan and Evans did not carry the face of the man that was accused of falsifying his name to cover up his past bad deeds.
Enweren was eventually removed from office on November 18, 1999 and the rest is now history because it was proven that Evans was Evan. Quite a number of top politicians had run into trouble waters over inconsistencies in their names and acquisition of certificates, the latest being the controversial Senator Dino Melaye. This is what you get in a society that places so much emphasis on certificate acquisition at the expense of what individuals can do with their brains.
There are so many people who have falsified their ages just to seek employments because Nigerian corporate world places too much emphasis on age as a prerequisite for employment. So, if there is no difference between six and half a dozen, there cannot be a difference between those who claimed to have university degrees when they did not actually visit the four walls of higher institutions and those who change their date of birth as if they are changing clothes.
Since the senator’s controversy broke out, it has been discovered that his name was not on the graduation list of the year he claimed to have graduated from the Ahmadu Bello University (ABU), Zaria.
This may not be enough to say he did not graduate from the institution. I don’t know if my name was on the brochure of the list of graduate of the University of Ilorin in 1997 since I didn’t attend the convocation ceremony because of the distance between Delta State where I did my youth service and Ilorin in Kwara State and I did not know how the brochure looked like. But for all other institutions I attended, I still keep their brochures showing lists of the graduates.
As for my primary school, I also have some memorabilia to show that I attended St. Paul’s and I can still remember the full names of some of my schoolmates since the majority of us attended the same secondary school: Surulere Grammar School, which was later changed to Akintan Grammar School in Surulere. But if WAIDI and WAHEED become an issue, I won’t handle it the way Melaye did. I have outgrown such theatrics and tantrums, they are preserve of kindergarten.
I won’t stoop so low to conquer the way Melaye did with his funny video. There are better ways of responding to issues that bother on one’s reputation beyond the Awada Kerikeri (jesters’ circle) that has become the idiosyncrasy of the distinguished senator. If the hood doesn’t make a monk, mere wearing of an academic gown does not make one a graduate. The vice chancellor of the ABU has said Melaye graduated from the institution. So, I won’t say otherwise.
But ‘bad belle’ people are still worried about the discrepancies in the name of the distinguished senator and are still waiting to see how he will reconcile this. Is there any modicum of integrity left in a man who claimed to be a graduate of the prestigious Havard University and the London School of Economics and Political Science only for the institutions to say the claims were lies from the pit of hell? How I wish we can summon the heads of those institutions to come and eat their words so that they can shame the detractors of Melaye that those letters disowning the senators are fake.
Let me concentrate on the discrepancy in WAIDI and WAHEED and leave Melaye’s matter before someone summons me for maligning the integrity of a distinguished senator and proud holder of seven degrees.
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