Ibadan: Diary of a visitor
By Annabelle Macford
When I was informed by my former office that I’ll be working in Ibadan for a few months, I felt indifferent. As a Lagos brought-up, I assumed Ibadan would be more or less like Lagos State. And of course there was this perception that Ibadan was a “very big” city, so I thought to myself “what the heck, if I can cope in Lagos, I can cope in Ibadan.” As soon as I got into Ibadan, I asked the natives, mostly youths, for the direction to my hotel and to my amazement, most of them could not understand simple English Language!, I switched immediately to the usual pidgin English that we speak on the streets in Lagos, but this made matters worse, because they were just smiling sheepishly at me. I was relieved when at last I was in the comfort of my hotel room.
The next day welcomed me to the main Ibadan town. The first taxi I took jolted me to reality that indeed I was in a slow and annoyingly ‘lazy’ city. I waved at the taxi and started running towards it which was the usual occurrence in Lagos. The cab driver who had switched off his ignition started laughing at me, he spoke in a rather deep Yoruba dialect to the passengers and they started laughing too. All I could hear was “omo eko ni”(she is a Lagos person). I had to ask the driver if he was going to park all day laughing, before he sluggishly started the ignition again and started crawling. I could not hide my displeasure at the pace of the rickety vehicle. I had to ask the driver to speed it up a little, expecting the other passengers to support me, instead they said “diee diee ni o”(we have to take it easy). At that point I gave up and sat back as the almost dead automobile went on like a tired and battered camel.
Ibadan City is mostly populated by Yoruba Muslim. There are few Ibos, who as usual have taken the better part of their business line, selling clothes, and other merchandise. There is also a minimal number of Hausas in Ibadan, some of them as usual beggars while some sell fruits. Others simply engaged in the traditional Hausa business of ‘changing’ dollars, suya-making, and sewing the Hausa attire. The Hausa have a section in the city where they have colonised as their home.
The major business in Ibadan is transportation. From the motor bike, to the tricycles, to the cabs and then to the buses, you’ll find all of these in Ibadan, and that makes transportation relatively cheap in this city. Here, one motor bike as a matter of routine carries two passengers. Now, I see that confused look on your face, but it’s real. If one stops a bike and tells the bike his/her destination, the person has to wait for the bike man to get another passenger who is going to that same destination. There are lots of factors that make this totally disgusting. Firstly, both passengers are strangers to each other, secondly, the bike men don’t care if the second passenger is of the same sex with the first passenger, thirdly, and worst of them all, is that in some cases women sit on these bikes with their babies tied behind their back, thus making the number of passengers three.
Throughout my stay in this wonderful city called Ibadan, I noticed that even a PhD holder who was born and has lived in Ibadan must have an accent. You just need to hear him talk and then, you won’t need to ask if he was from that city. Sometimes I wonder if it’s from the food they eat, but if it was, I’m sure by now I would have started speaking just like them, because I had a fill of the Yoruba delicacies, ranging from Amala, Iyan (pounded yam), Gbegiri, Ewedu, and so on. At a time I had to ask “can an Ibadan woman do without palm oil in her kitchen?”. Every recipe must have palm oil; nevertheless, I had fun eating their food.
The main markets in Ibadan are the Dugbe, Alesiloye, and Gbagi markets. If you want to prepare for a party and you need the reigning lace, Ankara, Aso oke, shoes and purses, the market for you is Gbagi market. Alesiloye is more like the conventional market where you can find a range of varieties.
The hilly topography of Ibadan makes gym business less lucrative. What do you need a fitness centre for, when everyday just walking around your street you would have been panting and sweating profusely? And that is why when it rains heavily, it becomes a totally different story all together. The canals overflow, the red mud flows out on the streets, sometimes water gets into the homes, destroying their property. You hear about the flood washing away motor bike riders. Ibadan is a better place when it’s not raining.
I found the city less sociable. There are few places of interest, aside their regular drinking pubs, which you can find on basically every street. By 9am, you find young men already in a beer palour drinking. The only places of interest were the zoological garden, stadium (outdated), and the Premier Hotel, which is flaunted as the flagship hotel in the city.
Ibadan comes alive on Saturdays, you find heavy traffic everywhere because of parties, they just love to party! A typical Ibadan party must come with different patterns of ‘aso ebis’ (uniform), lots of food, and drinks. If you’re not partying, going out on Saturday will be a wrong move because the road will be so busy, you won’t find any space to drive through.
In spite of the oddities of the city, I enjoyed Ibadan to the fullest, because it taught me how to ‘take things easy’. It is called patience, a rare virtue these days but Ibadan instilled it in me.