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19 Jul 2014

In UNILAG, Life Begins At Night

In the University of Lagos, ‘night’ does not signal the end of a day but the beginning of another. From the rapturous songs at fellowship meetings to the wild laughter from the halls of residence, there is hardly a moment’s rest. Most students leave their classrooms and the various reading halls around 6.00p.m. Their next port of call is usually their hostels where they rest for a while and wait for darkness to set in. From this time till after midnight, it is a life of passion and glamour and noise.
Centre of ExcellenceBy far the rowdiest place on campus is New Hall – a stretch of five different hostels. New Hall is the centre of the school, not because it is situated in the middle (it would be difficult to determine the school’s actual middle). Students often call it ‘Centre of Excellence’, borrowing Lagos State’s slogan, ‘because (like Lagos) it is a place where one can find just about anything one might desire’ – a student told Saturday Tribune. The converging point is space between the two male hostels and the three female ones. There are at least three restaurants here and a number of other points where different kinds of food and snacks are sold. The suya (roast meat) point is particularly conspicuous. Male and female students in groups of twos and threes can be seen clustered around the suya seller – or, ‘Mallam’, as he is called.

Let Us PrayThe University Chapel has a spacious park. It is on this tarmac that most Christian organisations – called ‘fellowships’ – conduct their regular meetings, mostly between 7:00p.m. and 9:00p.m. Just opposite, on the other side of the road, is the amphitheatre. Larger fellowships also meet there at night. On Wednesdays, almost all of the fellowships gather at both locations at the same time. The songs, prayers, clapping and dancing, and speaking in tongues often result in a cacophony better seen than described.
Love in the darkThere are several love spots on the campus, and it is at night that they really come alive. Many of them are called ‘Love Gardens’. But the best known of the lot are those at the Faculty of Education and the Senate Building. Here, male and female students (almost always in pairs) sit on the many concrete benches provided there. But where more privacy is required, they stand in the darker corners and speak in gentle whispers. The more daring ones sometimes go as far as the Lagoon Front where the undercurrents of the Lagos Lagoon together with the songs of birds and the chirpings of insects strike the appropriate chords.
Higher LoveIt is from 10 p.m. that the most clandestine activities begin. These typically happen at virtually all the female hostels. Saturday Tribune observed that private cars (and sometimes buses) often come to take female students away. At Moremi, for example, as many as five cars were sighted in one night. Also the same night, a white bus was parked at the entrance of New Hall, and girls were seen boarding it. Asked where the bus was going, a young man by the door said they were going for an event. ‘The girls will serve as ushers,’ he said.
But a student who spoke to Saturday Tribune insisted they were all going for a party. ‘I know they are going for a party. This happens every day. But Fridays are special days. They will come back around 5:00a.m.’
After-Exam PartiesWhen Saturday Tribune visited the campus last Friday, most students had just completed their First Semester Examination. To celebrate this great feat, a lot of parties had been planned, all of which would take place on Saturday night, at various locations outside the campus. A number of students wore shirts that had details of the events printed on them. Around 7.30p.m., the awareness campaigns took a different dimension. Cars were seen racing about the campus with loud music and wild noise echoing from them at the same time.
In front of Sodeinde Hall, large speakers were mounted, and energetic young men and women danced fiercely to the hip-hop songs. A number of students stood around them, cheering and dancing and singing.
Large banners advertising these parties had been positioned at various corners of the school. One of them scheduled to take place at Elegushi Beach, read: ‘Party All Night… Dress Code: Be Beachy’. Another had the inscription: ‘SMH2Nite: Official After-Exam Party’: A rider explained the code: ‘Something Must Happen 2nite’. Yet another had a headline that screamed: ‘Malpractice’!
Night of PoetryBut parties and outings are not the only things that happen at night. While the awareness campaigns were on at New Hall, last Friday, the University’s auditorium was almost filled to capacity. A high-profile poetry event had been organised in honour of Professor Wole Soyinka who recently clocked 80. Tagged ‘Dialogue Through Spoken Word’, it was a gathering of poets. A good number of students were there too. Performers after performers regaled the audience with the sheer power of words. One would easily forget that New Hall and the auditorium were on the same campus.

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