After I left the Baptist Girls High School, I knew my next destination was the sacred Bilikisu sungbo grave, so I took a cab to Shapon where I had been told I’d get a bank. I was fast running out of cash and I had just 70 naira left on me. I got there within 5 minutes with the cab having to pause only when there was a bump ahead. I paid the driver 40 naira and was handed back 50 naira since he didn’t have 10 naira. Within a few minutes, I had refueled my pocket with a few pieces of the Nigerian naira.
Chamber is Dead
While I waited in front of the bank to connect with a cab that will take me to Panseke, Omila called.
Omila is my immediate elder brother who barely calls me. I don’t call either but I’m sure he loves me more than anyone could explain. I had barely said the normal ‘hello’ when he dropped the bombshell – “Tunde, Chamber is dead! Please come home from wherever you are because chamber died instantly in a ghastly motor accident while he was on his way back from a friend’s party”. Before I could ask for further details, he hung up.
Torn between giving up and going all out
Saying cold shivers ran down my spine sounds cliché right? But this was exactly what happened as torrents of thoughts flew through my mind in an uncoordinated manner.
“Won’t I die on this my trip to Ijebu Ode?”, “Hope this isn’t a warning signal to refrain me from seeing Bilikisu sungbo?”… I thought as I checked the time on my phone which was still with me. It was a few minutes past 1pm but I was too weak to know how many minutes past.
A tough decision it was, but I hopped into a cab which parked directly in front of me. The journey has to continue. “Something must kill a man”, I muttered when I remembered a man who dies without a legacy should have stayed with God instead of coming around to litter this beautiful edifice called earth.
“Negro has to continue this journey. We’d all kuku be dead in the long run”, I smiled as I remembered the famous quote of J.M Keynes.
City Center Park Abeokuta
The driver must have driven for close to 20 minutes but I wasn’t paying attention even when I had decided to be brave. We drove through Panseke and on asking him where I could connect with a cab destined for City Center Park, he decided he was going to drive me there since every other passenger had highlighted.
I asked how much he was going to take and he replied by saying 170.
City Center Park Abeokuta was where I was told I would get buses heading to Ijebu Ode. This place is a secluded and organized motor park where travellers will have to sit in an arranged manner after being given a number by the secretary in order of their arrival.
I almost decided against travelling to Ijebu Ode when I was hande number 91. “Ninety-one bawo?” I almost screamed. To make matters worse, Abeokuta to Ijebu-Ode is roughly an hour and thirty minutes’ drive ceteris paribus. The worst of all was that the next bus didn’t come until after twenty minutes and the last passenger who had boarded the previous bus was number 53.
NB: Whoever isn’t around when his/her number is being called will automatically miss the bus.
Therefore, when the next bus came around 2:00pm, I was glad that many people were missing their calls since it seemed more like I’d get a sit in this bus. I got really happy when 90 was called and no one responded. I was about sitting on the last seat with my number ninety-one tag proudly placed on my right palm when I heard a voice from the extreme end of the park. “Emi ni ninety o!” I almost gave up when a frail looking woman moved briskly towards the already moving bus. She had apparently gone to buy “Kokoro Abeokuta” – one of the most popular snacks in the rocky city. She entered and the bus zoomed off.
I vowed to go back home to Dare if the next bus didn’t appear within the next 10 minutes. 8 minutes passed and while I thought about going home, I also thought about my number ninety- one. Since it was so sure I’d get a space on the next bus, I convinced myself to stay behind.
Just like the road had my conviction, a bus and a cab drove in. Though painted with the same colour, the cab looked more attractive. “I don’t want to join the bus”, I decided as I remembered Chamber again for the umpteenth time. So I asked how much the cabs charge – “700 naira”, replied a dark man who looked like the park coordinator (at least he had been acting like it since I arrived). I forgot to mention that the buses charge 600 naira.
So I hopped in the cab. 100 naira shouldn’t deny me my life. I almost got angry when the driver said we had to be 2 at the front seat but allowed it slide on realizing that the day was far spent.
Road to Ijebu Ode
The cab left some minutes past 2pm leaving the bus behind. I felt fulfilled because the bus offended me. Before I could be brought back from my reverie, our cab had sped past Ogun State Immigration Office. I hadn’t finished my admiration of the building before we got to the Ogun State Judiciary Office. Dega village welcomed us but the driver ignored the signpost bearing the message as he maintained his 100km/hr speed. He did the same for the duo of Olorunsogo village and Obadeyi Village. The road was as smooth as a newly manufactured tile. All we kept seeing were green leaves sprouting out from both sides of the road, and traditional sheds designed for roadside traders.
The journey continued as the fierce breeze kept tormenting my rough face. The feeling of travelling to an unknown place made me grin for some seconds before being conquered by the thoughts of how cruel death was. How I wish it could come without inflicting pains on its victims.
The driver continued his disobedience as he sped past Odofi-Oke and Kajoa. Then as he made to take a turn to the left, I beheld a magnificent Nestle factory just before a round-about where one road leads to Lagos while another, Abeokuta. Then it dawned on me that we had almost gotten to Ijebu-Ode.
Iperu Remo and Odogbolu were the last two villages we passed before getting to a bridge which connected us to Ejinrin road. I didn’t need a prophet to tell me we had gotten to Ijebu Ode.
Finding Oke Eri
As I touched down, I wasted no time in flagging down a bike, who on hearing that I wanted to go to Bilikisu sungbo kicked off his bike and sped off. “What could be wrong?” I managed to mutter after the 4th biker did almost the same thing. Then one of them drove to where I was and asked if I could pay him 1,000 naira for taking me to and from there.
I wanted to ask why the other bikers didn’t want to take me there but quickly refrained as doing that might make him change his mind. I didn’t haggle the price either (for the same reason). I couldn’t afford to go back to Abeokuta without seeing Biliki’s grave!
After many twists and turns, we got to Oke Eri village where the grave of Bilikisu sungbo was located. As we asked for directions to the place, the villagers pointed us in the right direction but insisted that we needed to get permission from the Baale (village head) before we could be granted access. My stomach instantly got upset when we were told Baale was a little bit sick hence, we couldn’t meet him. But the preservering spirit in me was just too alive and so we asked who we could see in Baale’s stead. We were told to go a bit further to one old building by the right to ask simply for ‘Baba”.
They added that if we fail to find Baba, there’s no one else that can show Bilikisu’s grave to us.
I suddenly went numb.
Featured image credit: blackhistorystudies.com