The School where I had my primary education was as crowded as a poultry range; and as noisy and as filthy as well. The school was a good place to pick up potentially fatal germs and bad habits. However, human-beneficent things can come out of such a dump as where I went to school in my formative years: things like the idea of FOOD BANK.
Ako ile je, which is Yoruba for “eating from the dust” was a pastime for us kids. Me and my gang of alley cats plied Dustbin Foraging to perfection in those days. Ako ile je had great perks and thrills for us barack pikins. It was untill Adebayo- one of our number- died of a disease they told us was diarrhea, that we kicked the habit of foraging in dustbins for discarded lunch.
It started with pooling and feasting on our lunch together. We shared variety of gourmet pleasures with much love and happiness. We were having great fun untill Adebayo started the trend of Dustbin-Foraging when he brought a sand-crusted and ants-infested piece of badly eaten chicken wing as his contribution to our gang’s food bank. In those days Chicken was a luxury that only families of top-ranking officers could afford on ordinary days.
Adebayo was the son of a mere civilian. He was privileged to have gained admission into our school- an exclusively Army Children’s School. Adebayo was in my class; he shared my desk with Bukky, and I didn’t like him. He was gaining too much attention from Bukky, the cynosure of every eyes in the class. The dimpled and neat Bukky was the class teacher’s daughter- another civilian, and Adebayo as a Yoruba was her tribesman. I was from Bendel State and the alien on my desk that sat three. I sat in the middle between the blob of fat that was Adebayo, and Bukky; but they would be chatting across me as if I was not there at all. Although I spoke yoruba fairly well, Bukky and Adebayo always shut me out of their private world. Even during play outside the classroom, Adebayo was always crowding my space, by throwing his weight around around me, stealing the shine of what little spotlight Bukky beamed on me.
The trend of foraging in dustbins became a juvenile pastime of sort- a game of who would come up with the crunchiest or juiciest cast-off, even though the booty from barrack dustbins were mostly rotten and unfit for consumption.
Adebayo started it all, Bukky followed suit. I who had no qualms about doing anything to be in Bukky’s line of vision followed suit. Rebecca the wide-eyed, nose-picking Idoma girl, who would do anything I say or do, followed suit. Sule the lanky chap from Gongola State who was mooning after Rebecca, followed suit. Dustbin foraging became the holy grail for we, fairly odd group of geeks.
Even when I get to the top of the game by pulling out the crunchiest or juiciest piece from dustbins, Adebayo always had a way of knocking my hustle, and stealing my show with his rather gross habit of munching on the craps- maggots and all- to the admiration of Bukky. It became my life’s goal to outdo Adebayo. A tough mental and physical struggle for me, but I gave up contending with the greedy blob when Chukwudi tried and got knocked out, puking all over his shirt front and taking ill for days, and leaving our team.
The game of foraging in dustbins for crunchy or juicy craps never died out until Adebayo passed on. Until he succumbed to diarrhea, Adebayo was the undisputable Champion and reigning King of Ako ile je.
When I consider the contemporary global tradition of #FoodBank I wonder if I may not have helped start it. Maybe today’s tradition of Food Banking has nothing to do with me. Perhaps it was a social norm that I inadvertently indulged in. Maybe Dustbin Foraging, or Ako ile je, is also a global trend today. Who knows for certain?