By Paschal Chisom Obi
I grew up in the Eastern part of Nigeria. In our Macmillan English text book then were pictures of places, with the histories, myth, and politics. I created a box of memory and imaginative tools of these places. Aba and Onitsha as a place of trade and handwork.
Lagos, a land of commerce and industries. Ibadan and Abeokuta, land of tourisms, culture and agriculture. Since then, I’ve long anticipated visiting the West, especially the city of Ibadan. After my secondary education, as providence would have it, I got admission at Ibadan. I arrived in the city on 14th August, 2013. It was during the vegetative season of the year, when the air was calm and pleasant. Having spent four years of rigorous school activities in this place, here am I on a cold silent night, writing about this city called Ibadan.
A native of Ibadan once told me that his father cannot boast of knowing every part of the city, for it is the oldest and largest city in Nigeria, having a wide-spread metropolitan geographical area. At Nigerian independence, Ibadan was the largest and most populous city in the country and the third in Africa after Cairo and Johannesburg. The principal inhabitants of the city are the Yorubas. Ibadan had been the centre of ancient administration of the Western region, and parts of the city’s ancient protective walls still stand to this day.
Ibadan is the capital city of Oyo State. Some say Oyo means, “Own your own.” This can be seen in the light of the peaceful and quiet life going on in the city. This city can boast of having 90% of all Nigerian tribes and 25% of foreigners in it. A blind man can tell you that he is in Ibadan because of their way of greeting, their sense of respect for elders. A deaf man can also say so because of the rich cultural and religious practice which is reflected in their dress code, language, food, music and dance. Weekends are respected; for a new comer in the land, Saturdays will always seem like Sundays, because life is taken at ease in the city.
In spite of the city’s large population and geography, there is still an efficient means of communication and transportation. The national postal system is still functional.
Companies, establishments, and individuals still receive and send letters, messages and applications through it. There is an international airport in the city. Ibadan roads are strong, wide and interconnected, and there are flyovers to different areas. The railway lines cuts across some of the major roads. When the train is passing, everywhere vibrates like an earthquake. Its sounds echo like that of a thunderstorms and all the road users stand at attention. When drivers hear its sound, they turn off their car ignition, and put their hands on their jaw. Some of them use the opportunity to count or collect their money. Thank God for the train, for it brings about some moments of patience and reflection to all road users. The slow movements of the train made me understand that life is but a slow journey. Hence, the slow and steady sailings make our life fruitful and worth living.
Ibadan is blessed with fertile land. The intense heat of the harmatarn makes it possible for trees to produce good and massive fruits. The nights are gentle, cool breeze calling for the use of thick cloths to cover the body. Every nook and cranny of the city are mud and brick structures of schools, courts, mosques, markets, hospitals and sometimes shrines. Some of these ancient establishments are either extended or used for other meaningful purposes.
This ancient city is a center of Academic Institutions, tourist centers, and religions. From my school: Dominican University, Samonda to Command primary school, Ijokodo which is opposite my community, I counted up to 7 Primary schools and 8 secondary schools along the road, 46 Pentecostal Churches and 8 mosques, 2 big stadiums, 7 refreshment centers and 2 cinema houses. Ibadan has a conducive atmosphere for education, learning and research. The University of Ibadan is the oldest university in Nigeria. It has produced many personalities in all sectors of the economy. Wole Soyinka, Chinua Achebe, Dr.Nnamdi Azikiwe, Christopher Okigbo, Iya Abubaka (A mathematician and politician who held multiple-level appointments during the second Republic and a senator for Adamawa North from 1999-2007) and many others were all products of the University. However, the Catholic Arch-diocese of Ibadan can boast of having about 54 religious congregations in it.
It is interesting to note that some of the young boys in Ibadan still keep afro hairs, wear fella and bongo trousers. Sometimes they prefer trekking home. There are special open shades for hangouts purposes were youths meditate, discuss or celebrate. The traditional hair styles and make up enable their young girls to look natural. Some of the women cover their hairs with Hijab and this makes them look decent. Elders are identified with their traditional attire, cap and sometimes facial marks.
I call this city a land on the rocks, a land of hills and a city in valleys. One could see the bigger picture of life in Ibadan. From the hill, you can see the natural, rowdy, and dusty with heavy rusted brown roof all over the city. Women going to market, the children coming back from school, and the taxi drivers shouting up and down. When at Ibadan Polytechnic, one could see clearly the road leading to Schoenstatt Father’s Community, Ijokodo. Also, when at the University of Ibadan, one could also see clearly the roads leading from Sango to Dugbe. This enables us to easily grasp the broader view of life; that we are not alone. With the sparkling of the sun, one could easily mirror his or herself through the shadows. The intensity of the sun makes it obligatory that after a long afternoon walk along the street, one needs a cold water to cool his or her body.
Toward evening, the cloud exchanges greetings with the sun, while the birds of the air begin their usual chanting. This time, one would realize another family, identity and population of people in Ibadan. Parents and workers make their way home. In the long shuttle buses, you will see the young and the old, some sitting while others are standing.
As they travel to their different destinations, they either discuss, or listen to the high lifted music’s from the bus. At nights, when people’s images are not easily recognized, the rainbow-colours of the street light radiate life so much so that their splendour and beauty give praise to the Lord (Psalm.19). At this time, the horn of the train produces such loudness that its ‘echo’ could be heard from any part of the city.
Beloved, each place has its joys to be treasured. Having experienced few States in Nigeria, I will say that life here in Ibadan is natural. I therefore call this city, a “home for all.” For it a wonderful place to born, a conducive seedbed to breed and to grow up in, and a nice place to be. Even the standard of living is affordable. Our task therefore is to preserve and enhance nature. This is part and parcel of our calling. Pope Francis exhausted exhaustively on this in his encyclical letter Laudato Si. He is of the opinion that in preserving nature we learn to identify ourselves with the Creator (God).
We must not always teach our children with artificial drawings. Let them experience tribes and cultures, the hills above, the plain land, and the rocks. This will help them to discover more about God, says St. Francis of Assisi. St. Augustine, therefore, posits that we learn to love our neigbour and our Creator in creatures. Hence, those who contemplate the beauty of the earth create reservoirs of strength that will endure as long as life lasts. No wonder why our ancestors lived longer!!!