To most Nigerians of a certain age bracket, it wouldn’t be news to hear of someone somewhere in Lagos talking of going to Lagos or somewhere in Zaria talking of going to Zaria. In both cases, the speaker is simply talking of moving from whichever part of the two towns into the ancestral part of the cities. So, the guy on the campus of Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria talking about going to Zaria is heading for Zaria City, the traditional portion of the town. So also the guy in Ikeja talking of going to Lagos! Lagos in that sense refers to a particular spot in Lagos the mega city.
That is also the case of someone on the campus of the University of Ibadan, (UI), for example, talking of going to Oyo. The difference, however, is that even after so many years in Ibadan, this reporter had remained ignorant of the case of Oyo until very recently. It was thus strange hearing someone at UI that morning talking of going to Oyo. How could one be in Ibadan City, the capital of Oyo State of Nigeria and be talking of going to Oyo?
It required a little lecture for the confusion to be cleared. The Oyo the speaker on the phone was referring to is Oyo Town, a particular and an important part of Oyo State of Nigeria. Sensing how slowly the listener was getting up to the idea, the speaker invited him to follow in a dash to Oyo he was embarking upon. It is a 30 – minute journey, said the speaker who shall remain unnamed. So, the journey began. The road is nothing in the range of what one sees in emerging global cities in Asia and the Middle East but it is a relatively good one. It is a dual carriage way with no so noticeable potholes yet. It turned out to be a smooth journey, what with a ‘driver’ who has more at stake in life than the passenger so curious about Oyo town.
Go ahead and call it the referent traditional heartbeat of a city for the Yoruba nationality but it competes favourably with any other towns in terms of modern facilities. In Oyo Town, there are no less than three universities. The visiting team even went to one of them to say hi to someone. That was Ajayi Crowther University whose Vice-Chancellor, Prof Dapo Asaju, was in the news that week for putting his foot down on aberrations becoming the norm among students and some parents of university students in Nigeria. Built and run by the Anglican Communion, Ajayi Crowther University rose on a 1947 school and even has a Medical School. There is also Atiba University and, on the way to Oyo, we saw the signboard proclaiming Kola Daisi University. One did not confirm whether the university is in Oyo Town or just near it. Beyond the universities, this is where the oldest school of Survey in West Africa is located. There are two colleges of Education, one technical and the second one for physically handicapped students. It is not a university but Saint Andrew’s College is a big name school across Nigeria and it is located in Oyo.
It would be difficult to talk of any city or township in Nigeria as luminous. Most are chaotic and lumpen in character. In fact, former president, Olusegun Obasanjo, once called Lagos a jungle. Of course, he was right. So, Oyo Town is not gleaming. But it appears to have its own logic to which it responds. That cannot be otherwise with the banks such as Polaris and Zenith, vehicle selling spots, supermarkets churches and hotels and so on that one noted.
The two places on the itinerary of our ‘driver’ covered, it was time for the return journey to Ibadan. This was when the Alafin of Oyo came into the picture. It happened as part of the intermittent bits of information obliged the first-timer in Oyo when it was said that this is also where the Alafin lives. If the information had come in earlier, it might have been possible to add driving into the palace and, by some luck, behold the ever emphatically Afrocentric Alafin. If there had been such a dash into the palace and such a flash of luck, one question certain to pop up would have been the monarch’s magic of ageing. At 82, he just had twins or a new child not long ago. So, in addition to trying to find out the roots of his Afrocentric consciousness, it would have been interesting to hear one or two things about ageing from him. And if one were bold enough, commend him for what seems his equal opportunity approach to managing multiple wives. At each ceremony or on many occasions, all four always stepped out with him. Yes, this monarch would have been an interesting one to interview. But we were nearly on the road back to Ibadan and one could only bit his lips quietly. Of course, the Alafin is the Paramount ruler of the Yorubaland whose spiritual head is the Ooni of Ife.
Perhaps, such quick dash in and out are more interesting than where one spent a longer time. It was a brief journey into History!