This is the first day of our 72-day road trip around the country; Chris and I. We’re going to be sharing everything we find with you guys.
Remember that Nursery Rhyme about the Pussy Cat:
Pussy Cat, Pussy Cat
Where have you been?
I went to Ijebu to see the Queen.
I know they didn’t teach you like that in school but manage it like that.
Leaving Lagos on a Sunday morning is always a good idea.
Quiet, mostly. Except for the man calling passengers who was saying “Elese ma ja wire o, Oloyan, ma kan side mirror.” (Don’t use your leg to remove my wire or use your breast to break my side mirror as you’re entering the bus.)
The next time the public car really stopped was when we got past our bus stop in Ijebu, just over an hour or so later. Which brings me to the first lesson:
Travel lesson 1: Always tell the driver where you’re going. Remind him as many times as you can. He can’t beat you.
We passed our bus stop and the bikes had to take us back to the village we were going, Oke Eri.
Our first stop was at the home of the caretaker, an 80-something year old man that still has the stamina to have a child who’s younger than 6.
He led us to the Baale’s house. (Baales are basically leaders of communities who aren’t kings).
“The road in front of this place was tarred in 1990 by Raji Rasaki,” the Baale later told us. Raji later became Military Adminstrator of Lagos state.
We finally met Baale; Olaitan Olugbosi, a 93-year-old who at first didn’t look like he wanted to tell us anything.
But he did; and this brings us to the next lesson;
Baale Olugbosi has Baale’d this community for about 41 years.
Travel Lesson 2: Be courteous. I swear it won’t kill you. People respond to courteous strangers more, for the pretty obvious reasons.
Then came the epic rant.
“This place is listed as a tourist attraction and yet it is in shambles,” the Baale said in his Ijebu dialect.
According to Baale, when the contract for the renovation of Olumo Rock was signed, the contract for Sungbo’s shrine was also signed for renovation.
“When Gbenga Daniel came here,” the Baale said, “I was the one that took him there myself.”
And of course, he had a few things to say about us journalists.
“All you people do is write but we never really even see the impact. Nothing has changed.”
I wanted to explain that that’s our job, talking and making sure people never forget, like now. But that might be contradicting our Travel Lesson Number 2.
“Oya, caretaker take them there. We’re allowing you because it looks like you’re reasonable. We’ve been turning down reporters, telling them to go and get a permission letter from Abeokuta”
Off to Bilikisu’s grave.
But who is Bilikisu?
Or Bilquis (in Arabic), or Makeda (in Ethiopic), or Pilegesh (in Hebrew which means Concubine).
She’s the Queen of Sheba, the one who, according to the biblical Songs of Solomon, blew Solomon’s mind.
The first thing I found most interesting about this place is how people come here to revere a woman, but yet, women aren’t allowed to go beyond this gate.
Beyond this gate, the Queen of Sheba is believed to have been buried.
Just beyond the gate, Baba asks us to take off our shoes. So we walked down a winding path, all the way I’m barefeet.
Walking in, it’s easy to see why the Baale was really pissed. Not only is this place dilapidated, it doesn’t invoke awe or command respect.
This is the place she’s believed to have been buried. That’s all there is to see here.
No plaques with stories. No photos. Nothing.
It’s really just a small gated place and a large roof over our heads.
The Queen of Sheba’s Grave in Ijebu, Nigeria
This large roof is to accommodate many more people at a time on special occasions.
When we left, we only stopped by briefly to drop baba off, and off we were, on Okadas to Ijebu-Ode.
Food first, because we can’t come and die.
I really wanted Ifokore so badly, but our bike men said they didn’t know where to find one on a Sunday. Ifokore is a porridge made from Cocoyam.
So we settled for this place where I had Tuwo.
Let’s just say I’ve had better Tuwo in my life.
But we move.
Next, the palace of the Awujale.
The Awujale is regarded as the paramount king of Ijebu Land, and he is one of the most powerful traditional authorities in Nigeria.
The 93-year-old Oba Sikiru Adetona has ruled since 1960.
The palace was easily the hardest lesson we learned today.
Travel Lesson 3: When visiting a place, make sure you get to find out if there are open days and close days. We visited the palace of the Awujale of Ijebu Land in Ijebu Ode, only to discover that it’s not open to visitors on Sundays. And on some Saturdays. But we aren’t giving up so easily. We’ll be back in the morning.
You know one of the most interesting things about this road trip? It’s that we’re going to make many more mistakes. But we’ll make them, just so you never have to.
All the photos were shot on the Samsung Galaxy S8+.