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My Soup Mug

by - July 12, 2022


 An educationalist with a love for childlike creativity once said, the element in how your passion changes everything is this; You can’t find yourself when you’re trapped in a compulsion to conform.

 I never knew a mug would mean so much until I unwrapped the shiny material that had been presented to me on the night of our house party. The commonly owned mug with a tomato soup recipe branded on it was a five-year vision come through. Presented by my friend and house captain during the customary house party, after our last inter-house sports competition in BMJS. 

I’ve never been able to fully understand my love for marching, maybe it had something to do with how organised the parades looked, or just the beauty in the coordinated arm swings and leg raises. At every point in my life growing up, If an opportunity to march presented itself, I took it. 

The first time I took part in a march past was in primary three, before then, I had just started in a new school, where all students had been mandated to rehearse for the Independence day match that was going to take place at the Teslim Balogun Stadium.  The following week, permission forms were sent out and many parents, including mine, ticked “decline” by the part of the form that required their consent. I remember watching my schoolmates on tv a few days later trying to find anyone I could recognize. 

By the time my first inter-house sport at my new school came up, I quickly put down my name as someone interested in marching. Every day at break time, the marchers from Red house would meet at a hut beside the block of classes away from the playground so that other houses would steal none of our moves. Moves back then were used to describe any extra marching styles or salutes we had other than the usual mark-time, forward march, and turns.

 Sometimes it involved weird and slightly inappropriate catchphrases one of which went like this; 

The commander; Rise ay kukuma.
 Response: Ikebe no dey heavy the owner, meaning a butt is never heavy for the owner of the body. 

One of my favourite moves was the two paces mark time, which I’d introduced to the group thanks to my older brother who was a student at Airforce secondary school but to make it simpler for us he’d tagged it two paces-give-it-to-me. Although the score was never really kept or considered in primary school, houses would often argue for the best amidst what we had seen. 

Marching in secondary school was different, unlike in primary school, inappropriate catchphrases were not allowed, and scores were kept. Between the four houses, Paley, Howells, Archbishop, and Babington, I was in Paley house, known for its longest streak of winning the annual sports competition while simultaneously losing march passes every year. 


Me in SS2 at a house party wearing a medal from volleyball



In Paley’s house, marching was a sport reserved for seniors who wanted to take part in something besides the typical sports. So the only way a junior could take part was by either being the princess or having a school mother who would speak to other seniors for your sake. In my case, I had to wait till I was in JSS2. Our commander was the older sister of a close friend, so in total we were just three juniors that could march. 

From my first rehearsal, I could tell why our house lost every year, for starters the march past meant little to the commander, for her it was just a means to have your name taken down as a participant in the inter-house sports, second, we did the same routine, which had been taught by our patron an ex-police officer. Compared to the other houses, our routine had no highs, or like in primary school, no moves.

We also started rehearsing later than most houses. Practice was typically every day from 6:00 pm in between our old dining halls, and every day we would practice the same bland routine that I and a few others who shared the same sentiments kept too quiet about because the patron who was the Senior Christian religious studies teacher and commander who was also the labor prefect frightened us. On march day, I couldn’t stop looking at the Howells house lineup at the start point. 

Unlike us, they did a lot more than just putting their hair up in a bun and wearing white sneakers with green socks. They had at least fifty people marching on the field, and among them, each girl had a silver sash that glittered at the seams and a tiara that sat on their middle part slick back hairdo. The guys also wore sashes with long blue Adidas socks to match the girls’ blue hose. Right there on the field, I knew they would win. 

Maybe this was why I moved counterclockwise when the commander yelled for a left wheel, causing me to walk out of the lineup towards the end of our routine. 

We came last. 

Even though we ended up winning the inter-house sports another year in a row, I couldn’t help feeling hurt about our position in the march, we could have been better, we should have done better. That was the first time I realized I wanted to command, but for every year I tried, I was reminded that I couldn’t command seniors, even though I was in senior school. As long as someone in a class ahead of me was marching, I couldn’t command. 

Unlike I was led to believe in my junior school days, commanding gave the student power to change the march, unless the patron disliked it. So despite participating in other sports, I always found my way back to the cemented space between the marches and delivered the same routine I’d learnt in JSS2 for four years until I was in SS3. 


me in the black hose the night after inter house sports in SS2, no comments 


SS3 finally came, and I was made the commander and I remember feeling my nerves almost winning the battle in my head in the days leading up to our first practice. I couldn’t help thinking “nobody sent me”. The idea of coming up with another routine and changing a few rules scared me. I sympathised with the commanders before me, just maybe they also thought about changing things up, but at thirteen, it was daunting. 

My only mantra for the time to come was we must not come last. 

The first thing we did differently was to open marching to juniors, a strategy that we hoped would cover lapses like the one I made in my first year, then secondly we incorporated moves, from baton spins to a grand entrance for our princess that involved a bit of acrobatics. One thing our plan needed was time, and so immediately after the inter-house sports season started we began practice.

 On some days marching clashed with my volleyball practice, but as we agreed practice would begin without me, and I would join with a few other friends who were also juggling other sports with marching. Over the years, I’d also noticed what I considered favouritism, which I can now translate more to politicking also played a role in the results of the march. So when the time came to pick our princess, we selected a JSS1 student who we’d learnt from her school mother that her dad was going to be one of the chair people that day.  

A week before we hit the field to march, I couldn’t get the picture of Howells’ house out of my head. I remember myself and a few friends including the house captain, going to our matron’s room two blocks away from our hostel, after our night prep to ask if she would help us shop for items that would give us a fighting chance against Howells house aesthetically. 

It was march day, and as we hit the field, I’d never felt more confident about a march in five years, from our looks which comprised black hose for girls paired with the most micro green feathered fascinator hat I’d ever seen, to green Adidas hose for boys. Our batons were also decorated with green and silver ribbons and we’d had two cans of confetti handy to launch the grand entrance of two princesses which had been a last-minute decision to surprise the crowd. 

They each had on tiaras, with white satin gloves that ran up their arms, and each held a green and white flower arrangement, one for the chairman, and another for our principal. 

I’d never forget the feeling when the results were announced, even though the plan was not to become last, that year we won. 

We could barely hold our formation because we were new to this. 

That year, Paley house came second overall, ending a seven-year winning streak, but if I’m being honest that mattered little to me, I had this new mug as a symbol of a four year passion. 

It took exactly four years and three months before I ever marched again, and even though my platoon at NYSC camp came second to last, I always had my soup mug. 








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