CHRONICLES OF A BARRACK(S) BOY
I grew up in a military barracks. Several in fact.
My dad served with the 81 Mechanised Battalion for over 3 decades… We transited through Kaduna, Birnin Kebbi, Keffi and Ibadan. Not that I lived in them all because at a point I gladly zoomed off.
I felt free when left. I cut off what seemed like the umbilical cords of my association with the Nigerian military.
It still shows in the way i approach check-points today whenever I drive.
I have both fond and painful memories of growing in Northern Nigeria within the confines of the barracks when the soldiers within their walls were relatively highly disciplined.
The fond memories were the days if my innocence and the painful ones were the times I mistakenly took my dad’s discipline for hate. Today I am grateful to accept knowing with certainty, that that very upbringing contained the required ingredients for my fulfilling today and my future greatness.
I have had to regularly draw upon lessons from a past I once was not so proud of, a past which I now flaunt and use at every turn and almost all of my training events to pick and teach lessons from.
The lack of comfort and sophistication from that past may just be responsible for my regular quest for excellence and success today.
“Barrack boys,” we were so called for long and still are. A term many of us so well hated and later on ironically cherished. It was associated with failure and mediocrity. It was related to unseriousness and criminal behaviour. It was synonymous with stubbornness and the potentially “never-do-wells.”
Many kids had a different experience like the popular music producer, Cobhams (himself a barrack boy) said, “I didn’t grew up on ‘that other ‘great side’ of the military barracks.” Senior Officers Quarters it was called. Not the Privates and the Sergeants Quarters many of us sprung from. I do not know much about their experience on the other side of the divide but a recent conversation with a dear friend, Amanyi Mike, who grew up within “that other side,” accorded me some rude awakening that it wasn’t any rosy over there as we anticipated it would be either. While we envied them, Mike told me, they felt almost the same way we did.
I don’t know if its as a result of the harsh treatment soldiers gave their spouses and kids, seemingly a backlash from the way they were themselves treated at work or it was a coincidence.
I remember when my father was promoted and to be decorated with the rank of a sergeant. Those were moments if joy and pride. I never knew a day would come when I would write and talk about this because back then, I didn’t cherish and almost hated my growing up years, and refused to be identified with the military and to be called a “barrack boy.”
How drastically have things changed for me personally. Now I realise that I am either totally indifferent or particular grateful that my life’s path thread through those precious experiences.
I have had to go back to a few military barracks to teach officers and men in formations as a way of giving back to the communities that raised me. I did so at Guards Brigade in Abuja and at the Army Cantonment in Rukuba, Jos.
Yet my soul thirsts for more. I see a lot of the kids I grew up with with childhood dreams unfulfilled while mine are far surpassed. I meet and hear of a very few comrades from my growing up years who have really pushed much boundaries in life’s endeavours.
I wonder sometimes where all of my friends and childhood buddies are.
I share this and then wonder what the high points of your story and growing up years are like
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