It was in 1992, towards the end of October. 6 weeks into resumption at Nigerian Military School, (NMS) Zaria. Life as we knew it had been altered forever. Things changed so fast that we had almost forgotten what life was before military school.
The first 2 weeks of resumption was bliss. We had resumed ahead of the old students for what was known as a “Cadre course”. A crash course that was meant to bring us up to speed with basic military knowledge and traditions so that when the school resumed fully, we would not be new to activities and nuances. Talk about fattening the lamb before taking it to the slaughter house.
We were not alone though; we were with some final year (class 6) students (boys) that had also come for their own cadre course – except that theirs was to prepare them to take on appointments (what is known as senior prefects).
These “appointment holders” were nice to us. They laughed with us, played with us, gisted with us and made us feel like we were in some private school.
Some casually warned us that “parade will change” when school resumed, but none of us really believed that it would be that bad. They did not prepare us for what was coming. Many of them made us feel like all was well when actually, it was the calm before the storm.
And then the rest of the school resumed.
We realized that the class 6 boys that we had been mingling with were LORDS and we were CRABS. Very far apart in the food chain.
We saw SHEGE!
And every time we thought that we had seen it all, the SHEGE was tuned up a notch higher until it got to SHEGE PROMAX- then they would rinse and repeat.
I must have received more than 100 knocks and slaps cumulatively on the day they resumed. One of the such slaps made me appreciate the level of research that Disney does in producing their Tom and Jerry series – You can actually see stars and hear birds chirping if the slap or knock is intense enough.
But back to that fateful day, 6 weeks into our resumption and one month post full resumption. It was durbar. A durbar is like a townhall meeting with the commandant. All boys and staff must be present for his address. Feedback will be requested but whether it was expected is a different kettle of fish.
Everything went smoothly.
The commandant welcomed us. Shared some updates. Motivated us. Then asked for how we were faring and if we had any issues.
Everybody kept quiet. And all would have been well if the devil had not decided to use one of us.
“Excuse me sir…” he raised hand
There was tension in the room. Everybody froze. Over 500 eyes shifted to this unfortunate scruffy looking crab. The silence was deafening. If only he listened to the eyes that were staring at him. I remember hearing one of the class 2 boys behind us saying “Shieeet” under his breath
“Speak up young man” the commandant said. I think he was more curious to know the crab that displayed such confidence. I am not sure.
“Excuse me sir, why don’t they all us to bounce (walk) on veranda.”
Each company or hostel had a veranda and a quadrangle. Junior boys (Class 1 to 3) were not allowed to walk on the veranda. Junior boys were not even allowed to walk. But this was like the least of our problems. I didn’t think that it was an issue but apparently, this crab thought it was
I cannot remember how the commandant reacted.
What I can never forget and why that day is memorable however is the Job(punishment) that we all served afterwards and how it was cascaded down the rank and file. We had the effrontery to open our smelling mouths at a commandant’s durbar.
The punishment had nothing to do with the school authorities. It was from the Boy RSM (Headboy) and Appointment holders and it cascaded downwards. The punishment was for failure to have groomed the crabs enough to understand that we were to be seen and not heard.
The appointment holders first dealt with the class 5 boys. The class 5 boys unleashed their venom on the class 4 boys. While classes 1 to 3 were handled by Regimental Provosts. The provosts were every junior boy’s nightmare.
One thing that struck me though and this is at the core of military training and the basis of a life lesson that we all learned – is the fact that at no time during this punishment was the culprit alone singled out.
We all served our equal share. It was blanket punishment.
One for all – All for one.
And this has always been the tradition.
One person can get the whole squad into trouble and as a set, you were always as strong as your weakest link. This made it easy for us to bond despite our different backgrounds.
This bond will follow us through the years. It is the reason why Exboys (Alumnus of NMS) are very close to each other. We went through difficult times together in our formative years and had to work as a team to survive and thrive.
30 years has passed and this bond is still strong.
Last month, our course mates who went on to be members of the 51st Regular course in the Nigerian Defense Academy were promoted to the ranks of Colonel and Navy Captains or rednecks as we call them. As with military tradition, a day was set aside to decorate them with their new ranks and it turned out that 3 of our course mates in the navy were to be decorated in Lagos. That day, at NNS Beecroft. Apapa, we gave them a show. You needed to see the applause that followed when each of our course mates was called up to be decorated. We were like randy men cheering topless model doing a catwalk. We would clap, cheer and whistle as their citation was being read
The FOC (Flag Officer Commanding), upon inquiry, smiled because he understood the clapping sequence and rhythm because he is also an Exboy. That is probably the reason why we were not bundled up and locked up for disturbing the peace with our excitement. That is the kind of show of love that comes with having a circle of friends with whom you have walked through fire with.
Last week, one of my course mates and arty man – Adewumi Mobolaji was nominated for Mortgage bank MD of the year and his company, Abbey Mortgage Bank Plc was nominated as Mortgage bank of the year. He was up against 2 other contenders. Truth is, Abbey is easily the oldest and biggest mortgage bank in West Africa with over 30 years heritage listed on the NSE but the prize was open for the MD and company that could pull the highest votes.
Immediately the news came out, exboys swung into action. You need to see the level of mobilization. My set – the 40th POP (Passing Out Platoon) organized quickly – with one of members taking on the role of campaign manager and started to mobilize our individual networks.
Military officers pushed their course mates and subordinates. Some even appealed to their seniors.
Professors and Lecturers campaigned to their students and colleagues
Those in Government agencies mobilized their colleagues
MDs and CEOs cajoled their staff.
Even diaspora community was not left out
University alumni networks, friends, families were all rallied to push the votes for one of our own.
We were pushing people to vote and demanding for screenshot as evidence. Our campaign manager asides from mobilizing was also tracking the votes. At a point it went from being a 40th POP campaign to being that of the entire Exboys’ community campaign.
A member of 77 set passed the message to his network. NMS 77 will mean that most of my classmates were not conceived when he got into NMS. That was the level of “all for one and one for all” that was came through for Bolaji.
At the end, even though it was keenly contested – He had the highest votes. At least at the last count when voting was closed. To us, regardless of what happens afterwards, it is a Win. He won.
It was a win for all Exboys.
I guess that the blanket punishment that we served 30 years ago is eventually yielding benefits, right?
If you think that every Exboy or member of the 40th POP that has needs to mobilize support like Bolaji or the Newly promoted officers did will automatically get it then you are wrong.
The truth is that many of our members, including Exboys, will never be able to garner this level of attention or support, if any at all. Nobody will even attend their wedding or even turn up for them on a Friday night to drink and eat catfish.
Don’t get me wrong. What we learned and experienced at the Military School plays a part in how close we are but it doesn’t guaranty any type of support or turn up in your time of need.
Some people may expect and be disappointed when they believe people should help them solely because they were classmates or grew up together. They will always be disappointed because you can only draw from what you have invested in
Bolaji and the freshly minted rednecks did not get this level of support because we served blanket punishment together 30 years ago.
They got this level of support because over the years, they have built up what is known as SOCIAL CAPITAL
This is the cruxs of today’s write up
Social capital can be thought of as the potential ability to obtain resources, favors, or information from one’s personal connections. But this can only happen if one has invested/ made deposits into their connections’ emotional bank account. And just so that we are clear, social capital has got nothing to do with throwing money or giving expensive gifts to buy peoples friendship.
Because the truth is, how you make people feel is more important than what you give them.
Social capital is investing time and emotions into the things that matter to people. So Bolaji and the newly promoted officer will turn up for events/ hangouts even though we know that their schedules are super tight. They will respond to WhatsApp messages, pick up the phone, listen to you, attend your events, like your Facebook, Instagram, and LinkedIn posts, patronize, promote, and support your business, and the list goes on. They do this not just for exboys, but all the circles that they have a leg in.
There are people in life for whom you will go the extra mile, and those for whom you will not lift a finger. When you think about it, the ones you will remember are the ones who have touched or impacted your life in some way.
Social capital is very important, It gives you leverage and can opens doors for you.
Unfortunately, you can’t fake or buy social capital. You must invest your time and emotions.
And it is never too late to start.
So start today to be more intentional about how you treat your connections and people in general. Be a part of their solution, do not amplify their problems in any circle you find yourself then see how your social capital will grow and very soon, just maybe you too will have people fighting your battles when the need arises.