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Ibadan:penkelemes or orekelewa?

July 30, 2009


running splash of rust

and gold – flung and scattered

among seven hills like broken

china in the sun (J.P Clark)

I’m yet to decide. Quaintly rustic Ibadan, my new home, strikes me as a city of penkelemes in need of a makeover. Not the free sort The House of Tara (orekelewa) offered during the launch of its first boutique in Ibadan. Billboards adorned with pictures of elegant women lined the Bodija road. Toned by time and red dust raised from passing cars, they paid a complement to the signature rusty roofs of the city. Now the billboards have been freshened up, plastered with new faces and phrases: “be different”, “look glamorous”, “free make up classes” etc. I wonder if Ibadan is listening.

One night in search of engine oil to douse the thirst of our over flogged generator (our primary source of electricity) Ibadan introduced me to her nodes: Mokola, Sango and Ojoo. Enquiries at a fuel station at Sango received a negative response though the attendant was kind enough to direct me to Mokola. No single street lamp flickered along the entire stretch: from the sprawling premises of the University of Ibadan (UI) to Mokola. Rather, headlights of other cars, makeshift metal stores powered by 2.7KVA petrol generators and light from local lamps of innumerable petty traders provided light for the unlit street. Dapkap, a mini-mart, and a Pentecostal Church were the exception.

Stalls with light were trading in multimedia products: home videos and music CDs. The music of several Nigerian artistes marketed their wares. Dbanj, P-square, and 9ice, the usual suspects, blared echoingly into the evening. During a brief holdup, I watched a pastor briskly walk the short length of the church; seamlessly transiting his prayer in Yoruba and English. Both he and the congregation generously involved the public in their casting and binding session via a megaphone; a recurring decibel in these climes.

Every morning I wake to the calls for prayers from at least two muezzins – I can almost recite the prayers off-head. In fact they are burnt onto my grey-celled hard disk. When the call is not from a minaret it’s from a church. Fairly frequently, I’m jolted awake by vigil prayer sessions (by both Muslims and Christians) interspersed by an odd overnight party or two. Ibadan is buoyantly religious.

This can be gleaned from copious posters advertising conventions anchored by prophets, doctors, pastors, evangelists and others of that ilk. It is also referred to as the ‘capital’ of Catholic religious institutions in Nigeria. Excluding the major seminary, all types of religious orders (except the Jesuits) abound. His Grace, Archbishop Alaba Job, is generously accommodating of Catholic institutions.

Whereas, Ibadan’s bus drivers have an unflinching obligation to white Nissan vannettes encircled with two blue parallel lines. Each licensed plate number has the phrase ‘Pace Setter’ written above it. Contrary to the phrase, the city, like its buses, trudges on with ennui. Cheeky cynicism?

Compared to the hustle of Lagos, Ibadan is languorous and tends to be more forgiving of traffic errors: missed turns, double parking etc. But woe betides you if you irk a driver. Colourful curses (in Yoruba of course) are dispensed without restraint. Yet the absence of a LASTMA can make driving a nuisance. Odd bus-stops are whimsically conjured by drivers. Their knack for obliviously veering into the road and then looking to see if a car was approaching is a sight. Street signs (where there’s a street name) are in short supply.

Not so the names of shops. Some are a mouthful. For instance Kanisuro anuoluwapo (let’s be patient, God’s mercy is bountiful) food and drink restaurant.  Others sound pretentiously swishy eg, Palladium Kitchenette. Some signposts are a riddle in irony.  One of such sign boards reads “New tokunboh phones available for sale” Tokunboh? Isn’t that the term for second-hand goods?  Along Iwo Road one other sign reads “Original tokunboh phones for sale”.

Navigating through Ibadan is even more puzzling. It is an acquired skill; accumulated from missing your way and memorising landmarks. Alternatively, keeping your eyes peeled while hitching a ride with the initiated can reveal vistas of byways. Mind you, a split second of distraction may disorient your sense of direction.

Ibadan, once the commercial hub of the former Western Region, still bears some mark of its famous days.  Buildings bearing names of prominent trading companies can be found on Lebanon Street.  The city is now more of a spoke in the wheel with Lagos as the centre of commerce. Its numerous warehouses store goods daily transported to Lagos. But Ibadan hasn’t lost its trading touch. Its streets are littered with blackboards offering phone call airtime for as miniscule as twenty naira. Pay as you go never got so ingenious.

Inescapably, the name Zard is synonymous with business in Ibadan. The four letters which appear in black on a yellow background can be found on buildings, signposts and lorries plying the Lagos-Ibadan expressway. The Zard Foundation is behind the Ibadan International School (IIS), a posh kindergarten to secondary school.  Its squeaky clean premises are a delight. More so is the politeness of the multinational students who never fail to greet you as you pass by.

Children hobbling to school, dressed in a jumble of school uniforms, in pairs and groups (sometimes unattended by an adult) are a regular sight.  The children here are also primly respectful. A bow of the head by boys and a courtesy by girls never skips a beat. Chances are that in the near future, Ibadan will be the suburban place of refuge. Families seeking to escape the harrying urbanisation of Lagos will find Ibadan conducive.

Ostensibly, Ibadan seems to lack places of interest. But a chance meeting with Dr Pat Oyelola, doctor of African history and educationist, unearthed troves. She was generous to a fault with suggestions about sites, monuments and buildings eg, Mapo Hall, Oyo Ile, Ajibode stone tools, Hinderer’s house, Bower’s tower, the Dominican chapel (designed by Demas Nwoko) and the University of Ibadan which was designed by architects that pioneered modern tropical building.

Dr Oyelola, a Nigerian by marriage, has lived in Ibadan for decades. Her enthusiasm about Ibadan’s cultural history is infectious. Buoyed by such zest, I visited Bower’s tower located on one of Ibadan’s seven hills. The tower was erected in 1936 to honour Captain Ross Bower, first resident and travelling commissioner of interior Yorubaland.

One wonders if J.P Clark was inspired to write the poem ‘Ibadan’ while staring down at the city from that height. My curiosity has certainly been piqued to explore what lies beneath and around the rambling brown rusty roofs of Ibadan.

One Comment leave one →
  1. July 31, 2009 3:05 pm

    Ignatius of Loyola was born in Northern Spain in 1491.he was a soldier

    ibrahim Babangida was born in Northern Nigeria in 1941 also a soldier

    1491 is just a rearrangement of 1941.

    Ignatius of Loyola founded the society of Jesus on August 15 1543

    Babangida was born August 17 1941″

    Ignatius took up arms for the Duke of Najera.Broke his leg and injured another was known to limp,had surgery and spent a long time recovering after being taken home by French Soldiers .

    Babangida fought in the Nigerian Civil war. Susstained a leg injury,radiculopathy known to limp,,had Surgery and spent a long time recovering in the Hospital in France

    Najera is associated with the river Najerilla

    Nigeria is associated with the river Niger.

    The slang for Nigeria is Naija

    Ignatius of Loyola died July 31 1556

    Babangida laid the foundation staone of the presidential villa Abuja on July 31.Babangida is a General and Ignatius a Superior General

    There was a reverend Father by the Name Babangida Audu at the Ignatius of Loyoa Church in Ibadan now Secretary of the Catholic National secretariat in Abuja.

    Loyola was a spaniard. He lived in the Castle of Loyola in spain

    Babangda lives in a 50 bedroom Mansion in Minna,Niger state.

    Tijani Babangida and Haruna Bangida are perhaps the two most prominent Nigerians in Spain

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