ONCE UPON A CHILD: A MEMOIR Episode 4: Gboromiro

Long before the era of Big Brother, when ladies’ skirts stopped well below the knee and the modest ones insisted theirs kissed their ankles. Days when the neckline of dresses hung just below their collar bones. Not for fear of cold or anything, but because the bosom of a woman was a chest of secrets, and as folks say, it’s no longer news if it’s “been around.” So cherished was this secret that lowering your neckline by an inch would detract from its “hallowedness”.

I’m talking about days when men wore their trousers around their waists. When their ties yawned tiredly over their bulging abdomen. Biro’s in colours black, blue and red laced the fringes of their breast pockets, and sometimes, left malicious stains – that promised to vanish with each wash, but never quite did – behind. Days you wrote letters for months on end before a lady agrees to have a drink with you. Those were days when your knees kissed the earth as your paid obeisance to your elders.

Days we told our own stories…

We had reality shows like Nkan Nbe, Feyikogbon, Gboromiro, etc. *Gboromiro was a reality show back in the 90’s, where disputes over family properties, money and other filial pathologies were resolved. The defendants were given fair hearing while the Avengers – about four elderly men, fierce arbiters of justice in their *egbanto-line – presided over the case.

Unfortunately, my recollections of the program are hazy because I had barely been taken off breast milk myself. But I could never forgive the children or *obakan of Ologbe (late) Wetincall “ton gbe ni popona ketalelogbon l’ojule konkola Somewhere lagbagbegbe Wherever for ruining my Sundays for me.

How I hated Gboromiro. It was where families came to wash their dirty linens. Some dirt don’t come off easily, you know? But when they finally did, they left behind ugly miniscule holes. Such that when you held it against the light, you regretted being the perpetrator of such heinous crime, but you hate to take credit. What use are hole-ridden dresses, anyway? So, you toss them on the floor where they’d spend the remainder of their days collecting dirt. I guess that’s how the loser felt after the ruling. Dirt.

Don’t get me wrong, Gboromiro was a classic and saved many families from destroying their bloodlines. You know how folks get over properties in this part of the world. The respondents shift restlessly on the wooden bench regretting ever bringing their family to public ridicule.

Everything about the program bothered me, from the hoarse baritone of these patriarchs that never tried to soothe bruises left behind by their sharp-edged, venom-laced sarcasm. Even their Adam’s apple throttled with such malice and I’d wonder when they get to swallow these lumps in their throats. Oh, that must be why they are always so angry, it’s that lump choking them. Doubtless, life must be hard for them, for I know what it means to choke over a mussel of meat.

The courtroom looked dark and dank. Well, couldn’t tell for sure for our decrepit black and white TV always insisted on turning even the brightest of colours to somber greys. Just then, you’d know that even TV’s hit mid life crisis.

It aired on NTA, so families nationwide (at least the ones of Yoruba extraction) would suck their teeth at the “shameless” families. Fathers got their lawyers to draft their wills the next day. It didn’t matter if all they had to their names was a patch of dirt somewhere in *Mosafuneto Local Government, anything to secure peace when they’re gone is worth the trouble.

Well, some fathers can’t be bothered, they sold their properties and enjoyed the money before any child got to bring their names to disrepute. Others who didn’t have anything to bequeath hid behind their anger. Cursing in advance any children that dares to fight over their property, to which the children unanimously rolled their eyes; wondering what there was to fight about beyond their next meal. Even that, they couldn’t guarantee.

But I didn’t ask to be part of this ominous procession of words and wills and spleen and bills and bile. I wanted to run off and play with my friends, but Maami would see to it that I go not. Clamping me between her knees like that while I squirm fruitlessly out of her grip. But Maami was one tough ole lady. Her gaze are set on her equally old TV. The baba at the edge of the table is telling defaulter to “sharrap” but she’s close to her favourite part now, that’s where she tells everyone who mama asked to $%&%#¢•°°•|`€®®¢£”*@%&. “Sharrap my fren,” the third baba would have none of it. And then, the courtroom became a mad house and the rest of country joined in the commotion.

And just when the conflict hits a crescendo, Baba hits the table to command absolute silence. They pull their heads together, scribble some mean cursives and nodded in unison. That’s when families at home sat at the edge of their seats, waiting for the Ancients to pass the verdict. They look up and just as they about to say the words, Eleganza Omo Okoya displays a wide plethora of Jollof rice coolers… because commercials.

Other times, it’s Laide Perfumed Jelly or Mojis Antiseptic Soap serenading irate audience who can’t wait to get back to the reality show (insert my signature laughter). That’s when Maami quickly went to ease herself or something; daring me over her shoulder to “moof an inch.”

Her second favourite program was Feyikogbon (use this one learn lesson). All I remember about the programme is its name. Feyikogbon this, Feyikogbon that. Usually Maami would sigh just in time to squeeze in “hmmm aye gbege o”, like I care. When I grew older and understood the meaning of ‘aye gbege’ (life is fragile); I’d reply “ko gbe anything joor” (in my mind, that is).

Afterwards, NTA 2 Channel 10 had Kola Olawuyi regale us with eerie tales of metaphysical proportion. Those tales defied logic and Science yet they scared the shit outta you. If it’s not a bleeding river, it’s a talking well or a wailing tree. And when I hear the theme song “iri keri do Akolawole… to kun fun orishirishi nonsense…” my heart would start thumping. Again, it evoked awe and horror. Totally scary, depressing but irresistible and watch, I must.

So back to the gbege sturv. At the time, Maami was the rallying point in her family, as she was the *olori ebi, the go-to in times of trouble and she’ll be there Gboromiro-ing for every Tom, Dotun and Haruna. We had the regulars like Iya Wasi (I’ve told you about Iya Wasi before), Baba Tisha, Baba Shumfo Shumfo (that name is story for another day), Baba Semiu, Iya Biodun, my favourite was Iya Simowu, my grandaunt a.k.a Iya Makoko a.k.a The Last Trouble Bender.

Their words were gingerly spiced with expressions like C of O, *Power of Anthony, *oko obi, because Maami was landed gentry. From property to domestic disputes, she’ll preside over the case. Somebody in the family give you bele and is not ready to take responsibility, you just find your way to her doorstep, she’ll get you redress.

But of everything they said, one thing was sure, this Anthony must be very powerful, and no one could convince me otherwise.

To be continued…
©Arinola Ogunniyi 2019.

Don’t laugh alone, tag a friend like I do.

Cc Seye Ogunniyi Karen King-aribisala Hope Eghagha Chimdi Madua Monalisa Abimbola Azeh Sophie Adebambo Jolaosho Kunle Omope Jesujoba Popoola Ezinne Udemadu Azunna Tolu Akindolire Olubunmi Famuyiwa Olorunfunmi Adebajo Olafimihan Mercy Damilola Oguntade

*Gboromiro is short form of “Gbo oro mi ki o ro”, meaning “Listen to my plight.”
*a kind of fabric worn by Yoruba’s
*step siblings
*an expression for remote areas
*head of the family
*power of attorney
*cola plantation

Post Author: Arinola Ogunniyi

I tell simple everyday stories we take for granted in ways you wouldn't have imagined them. From dated stories, myths, reviews, "street-lores" to topical issues, these mind bending series will leave you begging for more. And if you trip over my sentence structures, it's part of the experience. You can call me the Last Story Bender. I mastered the rules of language to break them.

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