Growing Up in the 90s


I remember rapping in primary school for Uncle Sola, my teacher, who also raps. We would rap together, and he would let me have the second verse after he took the first verse. Somehow, we would rehearse every day during break time and sometimes after school hours. It got to a point, he told me, that if I practiced and got so good, he would take me to the United States of America.
I was about nine years old then and I believed him. I remember getting home all excited and telling my parents that Uncle Sola was going to take me to the United States of America because we had rapped together. I don’t remember what response they gave then, but I remember their shrug and the concern on their faces, a deep desire for it to be true, even though they knew it was a bucketload of crapware.
What did I know? I was just a kid who didn’t know what puberty was yet and grew up on the outskirts of Lagos. In those days, the only bank I had ever been in was LBIC (Lagos Building Investment Company) and I remember queuing up for hours on end just to make a deposit into my father’s account; there were no computers, so, the cashier had to write the amount deposited in a ledger and on the customer’s passbook.
In those days, I had never seen a mobile phone, a computer, a flat-screen TV, or a cell tower. There were a couple of phone booths scattered around the largest residential estate in Nigeria but never mustered the courage to enter one. In those days, power supply was guaranteed for at least 18 hours a day, unless of course there was a major fault that would require NEPA (National Electric Power Authority) officials to come and fix or replace it. In those days, our pastimes included flying kites, making paper planes, a game called sure, catcher, after round one, tic-tac-toe, and messing.
TV had programs for children from 4 pm and there were no 24-hour stations. Only those who were considered rich back then (now realize they were the middle class), had cable TV and the rest are condemned to whatever was dished out by NTA2 Channel 5, NTA (Nigerian Television Authority) Channel 10, NTA Channel 12, NTA Channel 7, LTV (Lagos Television), OGTV (Ogun State Television), and the newest kid on the block, AIT (Africa Independent Television).
In those days, the Walkman was a dream gadget for young boys everywhere. Nintendo’s Gameboy, Brick Game, and gaming consoles like Famicom, NES (Nintendo Entertainment System), SNES (Super Nintendo Entertainment System), and Sega were the order of the day and the DeFacto business for young entrepreneurs was opening a gaming center where boys of various backgrounds could come and show their skills in Mortal Kombat, Street Fighter, Killer Instinct, and the popular Super Mario.
Those were the days of Okin biscuit, shortcake, crackers biscuit, and the huge cabin biscuit, which was the default birthday celebration snack. Condense was the name of the homemade popsicle, and Lolly was the name of the industrial one. Balewa was the name of the local candy that came in a variety of colors. Baba Dudu was another local candy that was packaged differently.
Football competitions were called form, and the organizer was called association. The trophy is an ingenious contraption.

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Akin Ibitoye

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By Akin Ibitoye