Boys aren’t Just that — “boys”.
My Boys Brigade Story; Important lessons that have my life and accelerated my career growth.
How I joined Boys’ Brigade
I’ve been part of BB for as long as I can remember; call it “love at first sight”! I will try not to make this long but I hope my memory doesn't betray me — people that are closer to me can testify to my ability to picture events exactly the way they happened regardless of how old they may be. lol, I am not Sherlock Holmes!
Early 1996, we were spending time at one of our maternal grannies’; Mama Ewe of blessed memory and she had forced us to attend church with her. My twin and I were so happy since that means we are escaping the beatings from the Ustaz (Arabic for teacher) which is inevitable during Arabic memorization and recitations. Our madrasa (Arabic for Islamic School) or ile-kewu had its own fair share of instructors that will beat the entire doctrine into your head; our class teacher, fair in complexion, thick accent closer to Ilorin or Offa, with six huge tribal marks adorning his cheeks and a black spot on his forehead as a result of consistent prayers and bowing wouldn’t spare you regardless of your age if you miss any of the Arabic alphabets.
Now you know the reason my twin and I were elated to follow Mama Ewe to her Orthodox church. On getting to the church, we were escorted to a huge round uncompleted edifice which we later knew to be the permanent auditorium of the church. We could hear children singing; “Read your bible pray everyday bla bla”, noise coming from everywhere, a tall dark man shouting and beckoning on the attention of these toddlers, petting them with Cabin biscuits and sweets — it dawned on us that this is a place to reward stubbornness with sweet things. lol! We had seen a home and an escape. Not quite long before settling in, we started hearing noise from outside — that, I later understood to be the Boys Brigade band and percussions. They were neatly dressed and led by younger men blowing trumpets and playing the percussions; marching in excellent orders. That, I later knew to have been the awareness parade from one of the oldest BB companies in Nigeria then 1st Ijebu Company attached to Oke Ita Methodist Church.
We were mind blown and didn’t know when we left the church and followed these strangers around the town of Ago Iwoye. We were only dragged with our ears after stressing the beautiful woman that has shown us this new life. Unlike when Jesus’ parents found him at the temple, we were flogged and punished severely and Iya’beji was called to come and take his two stubborn twins. Like soldiers, all that didn’t matter! We have been won and there was no going back!
That seed kept growing in our hearts daily and we longed to at another time meet with these little soldiers.
Unfortunately, we were not able to join the BB as members till the year 2001, after we have stubbornly proven that we were never going back to Madrasa and miraculously, my mom — a full-blown Alasalatu joined us and my grannie to attend this Orthodox church. The firstborn; Yusuf, then a semi-Ustaz (now a Rev’d) codenamed Battalion had been conned (lol, yes!) to also join us and was immediately forced to join the church choir and Boys’ Brigade so he could stay in the newfound religion. He was able to persuade Iya’beji to release us to come with him to BB rehearsals at the 1st Ijebu company then later in 2002 when rehearsals at our local church (Idode Methodist Church, later 14th Ijebu Company) became frequent, our long time wish became a reality.
The journey so far;
That simply journey changed my focus, strengthened my discipline, the decision for Christ and resulted in diverse badges, honours and I grew through the ranks; first as Duty Boy and being the first Anchor boy to be promoted to Lance Corporal in the history of 1st Ijebu Coy in 2007 attending several NCO training, winning 4 Battalion Boy of the year and becoming an Officer in 2011 after several years as Staff Sergeant, went on to pioneer The Stedfast Club (The collegiate arm of The Boys Brigade) which has grown to several campuses in and outside of Nigeria, helped start 5 companies, and trained over 500 boys over 10 years who are now college students, entrepreneurs and leveraged the skills acquired.
Present; 2021 brought several landmark achievements;
- Registered a new company of The Boys’ Brigade. Nigeria with over 50 boys and 5 officers.
- Installed as Captain of the 29th Lagos South Company attached to Wesley Chapel Lekki.
- Elected the General Secretary/Administrator of the Lagos South Battalion Council.
I’m most grateful for the support of my mentors; The Rev’d Yusuf Adebowale Obasan, Victor Olumayowa Agbolade Lt., Sir Diete-Koki Charles-Jeffrey ANTO, Mrs Olajumoke Solesi. my current officers-in-charge; Olumuyiwa Ogunkoya Lt. (now Captain MTI Cadet Coy), Obasan Kehinde Lt., IK Benson Lt., Emmanuel Uko. W/O, my Chaplain; Very Rev. Ayo Richards. and the league of Patrons & Patronesses led by Sir Demola Aladekomo who’s ensured our mission of training young boys’ leadership skills, discipline and life talents by combining drills and fun activities becomes a reality.
Lessons from The Boys’ Brigade
Over the years, my twin and I grew into the community and to this day, still hold close to the friendship and bond we’ve created in BB. BB has also left a lasting impact on my life through my years as a boy until now. My experience in BB is summarised into these 3 main lessons;
1. Teamwork is more important than you may think
Teamwork is the biggest requirement for any group whether corporate or informal to succeed. I learnt this through activities such as Band(One band, One Spirit), drills & parade; if any of us makes a mistake, the whole team is down for punishment. You peer with anyone and everyone once they fall in your squad even if you don’t like their faces. Your success is always tied to the next person hence we knew from a tender age to help the weak and draw each other’s strength. This is because we knew that if we didn’t accomplish our task together, we’re all going to receive the same punishment. This teaches us to be inclusive towards others who are different from us or outliers. This lesson on teamwork taught me the importance of allowing everyone to feel welcomed and purposeful.
2. Leadership means Service; What will Jesus do?
The delimitation of ranks, sections and posts posit strict hierarchy that is to be strictly adhered to, otherwise punishable, however, we were shown constantly how the ranks only meant being responsible for and serving someone lower. NCOs are charged with caring for boys below their sections, Officers catering for NCOs and Post bearers (Captain & Chaplain) catering for Officers — everyone puts the interest of the person lower above theirs. No NCO goes to sleep or even eat when the boys below their ranks haven’t eaten or slept. Officers ensured everyone is catered for, even if it meant sacrificing the little they had AND OF COURSE, BOB-A-JOB! We were taught community service, helping the elderly, the helpless without demanding anything in return. It was a race to outshine each other’s kindness.
The constant question of “What will Jesus do?”. “Have I left this place/person better than I met it?” — those were things that were driving us so we could tell the best stories after the BB Card has been collected.
3. Discipline — learning, unlearning and relearning from one's misgivings
We were taught the real lesson of discipline, obedience and self-respect. We were challenged to always be the better version of ourselves, admitting our mistakes without passing the blame to everyone, accepting help from others, unlearning and relearning new ways to do things. We could replay the same set tune for weeks to get it to perfection, the long hours of rehearsals before important events, the fine-tuning of all processes in the early hours before any presentation and the tons of training, certifications, exams and honours to be earned before one can be qualified for the next rank. In BB, I learnt that the journey, experience and mistakes are considered winnings even when you lose the actual reward. We are rewarded with badges of honours for some achievement even when we didn’t make the mark for the next rank.
These lessons made a huge impact on me as they have played a vital role in my life outside of BB which craved my path to take up leadership positions — if there’s anything you like about Obasan, it was built through the BB by Gods grace.
2022 and till forever
2022 is here and we are ready to go beyond to provide opportunities for children and young people to learn, grow and discover in a safe, fun and caring environment which is rooted in the Christian faith. I hope these lessons and my story will inspire you to grow in Christ too and get involved, you can make a difference to children and young people in your community by volunteering in The Boys’ Brigade — the oldest boy-focused organization in the world established in 1883 at Glasgow, Scotland.
With Sure & Steadfast,
Obasan Taiwo James-Yakub Lt.
Captain, 29th Lagos South Company
Secretary & Administrator, Lagos South Battalion