April 13, 2021
BY Andrew Keili
Everyone has abiding memories of his or her alma mater. Over time, some of these memories, even though they may have been for unpalatable events at the time are still viewed with fondness. Somehow we believe some of them helped shape our lives. For us at CKC, the crocodile was part of us. All generations of CKC students had some interaction with our beloved crocodile. Those in the Boarding Department may have looked back at the then pristine tennis with fondness. The older “boarders” may look back at the kondor, cooked and dished out by the cook, the aptly named “Thermogene”, despite the maggots in the “abobor” or suspicion that his sweat beads made it into the soup.
All of these were phases, but the crocodile was ever present. Locked in its pen through all the changing scenes of our lives since the school’s inception-through the war, through changes in Principals and students, it kept entertaining us, wagging its tail and splashing water and never being violent. As one old student recently said: “The CKC crocodile became the emblem of our beloved school. How we loved and cherished him being around us. The crocodile touched our lives with his friendliness. Thank you our dear friend who became a symbol and a part of our beloved Christ the King College.”
And truth be told, despite the spate of recent criticisms, we did care for our crocodile. The care of our beloved mascot, including keeping it in a clean environment and constantly feeding it with morsels of meat occupied the time and attention of the school administration and Old Boys. I recall, as President of COBA in the 90s, we had just completed a lengthy agenda item on the upkeep of the crocodile at the AGM. It had been a heated debate and whilst accusing its carers of making away with its meat, we nevertheless pledged more funds for its upkeep. The next item on the agenda was looking into complaints about the Principal. Many alumni had called for his head. My friend and classmate Chris Squire, always radical and unconventional put his hand up. I straightaway knew we were in for some trouble. He remarked “Fellow Cobians, it seems we have a very easy problem. We have a hungry crocodile which is not being fed its allotted share of food. We also have a Principal we want to get rid of. Why don’t we just feed the Principal to the crocodile!? We all burst out laughing.
But how did the crocodile get to CKC in the first place? Anthony Sheriff, my senior who was President of COBA, UK has provided an authoritative viewpoint- “CKC transferred to the new site in 1954 and that was the year that crocodile was donated from Bonthe to the school. The crocodile was donated in 1954 as part of goodwill gifts to the newly established science secondary school in the provinces that was offering Botany and Zoology (then). There were also a collection of royal pythons, rabbits, and tortoise in the biology lab which was located on the first floor on the edge of the Chemistry lab, sandwiched between the Physics and Biology labs.
All visitors to CKC definitely went to watch the crocodile after visiting the school laboratory.“
The death of our beloved crocodile has opened us up to all kinds of criticisms-and they have been scathing. One BTB (Bo Town Boy), Lansana Saccoh who attended Ahmadiyya Secondary school in Bo has been our most vocal critic. Saccoh says:
“Sixty two years life in prison sentence by his captors without the possibility of parole— serving in distress, under unsanitary conditions, in excruciating pain with distinction and gallantry.”
Saccoh not only accuses of animal rights violations but also says we abandoned the crocodile in death and have not given the poor animal its deserved honours. With great lamentation, he sympathises with the crocodile questioning him in death:
“Have your own children, and family just as your captors, came to seek amusement by looking at you in a small cage? All those who met you at that institution CKC and left to become prominent people in society including your captors who also had passed on to the ages before your untimely death were buried wearing beautiful tuxedos with makeup and beautiful smiles on their faces in expensive caskets. But here you are, the most senior of them all and the most loyal and well known alumnus buried by three graveyard workers only, with none of your schoolmates around to bid you farewell, tossed into a hole naked- naked by three strangers who are not alumni, with no iota of respect and no funeral ceremony.”
Saccoh is really effective at pricking our collective conscience as Cobians. And as if that criticism was not enough, a Bo school friend (an oxymoron) of mine joined the fray……”This was a ferocious apex carnivore being kept in a tiny enclosure without enough meat”, he remarked. I asked him…..”Watin na you yone pan hog money? Did we ever beg you for meat? How many times did you have meat in your own kondor? Why were you never given your own crocodile?
Saccoh warns about plans he has heard from alumni, who he says are shedding crocodile tears about having an aquarium to house another crocodile. “Don’t even think about it!”, he warns.
For us as alumni, we have lost a dear friend. It may have faced an ignoble end and its burial was not what we would have liked. I am however certain that our dynamic President Kwame Yankson and his executive will spur us into action to not only atone but take positive action to honour a beloved friend. May our beloved crocodile rest in peace and may its memory be a blessing to us Cobians.
Ponder my thoughts.