Have you ever searched an entire town for a particular food and didn’t find it? Wait till I tell you what it is.
First of all, can we talk about how chilled Ijebu is? Ijebu on a Monday felt like early morning on Sunday in Lagos.
We started off today trying to make up for the disappointment of not getting into the palace yesterday.
So when we hit the road, we had only one destination in mind; The Palace of the Awujale of Ijebu Land.
The site of the palace is most likely to be the same one that’s been in use since forever. But while the Awujale himself might not be as old as the throne, he’s not so young.
Meet Dr. Sikiru Kayode Adetona; the paramount ruler of Ijebu Land.
Oba Adetona was born in 1934 and ascended the throne in 1960, a few months before Nigeria’s independence.
Our first disappointment.
“Good morning, we’re travellers passing through, and we’d love a tour of the palace.”
“That’s not possible,” a palace staff said. “You can’t just come and say you want to enter the palace. You have to write an application letter.”
“How long will it take for this letter to be approved?”
“One to two weeks. But at least one week.”
What? Just to enter palace.
If there’s anything I believe will kill Nigerian tourism, it’s approvals. Permission to see This and see that. Bear in mind that the Baale of Oke Ire asked us to write a letter to the Ministry of Tourism asking for permission to see Bilikisu Sungbo.
“Can we at least take photos?”
“Yes, but only the front.”
Chris asked, “where does this king get his money from?”
Well, I don’t know where he gets all of it, but a significant part of it is from homage.
Every year during Eidul Kabir, a festival called Ojude Oba is held. The sons and daughters of the Ijebu kingdom come from far and wide, to pay homage to the kings. Imagine how millionaires and billionaires pay homage. The festival also helps in maintaining the influence of the Awujale.
Off we went.
Before leaving Ijebu Ode, I had one more task; I needed to find the traditional food of the Ijebu. A kind of porridge, a different kind, One made with cocoyam, Ifokore.
This porridge is such a big deal to Ijebu people, but at first it was so strange we just couldn’t find it anywhere.
We checked the Bukas. We checked eateries. We check everywhere. Then we got to this restaurant called Curry’s where we learned that the yam is not one season. Sucks.
I her up eating Ifokore, garnished with dry fish and every other garnish you can imagine. All of them, fused together with palm oil and kitchen mastery.
We’ll have to come back for it, I guess.
We hailed bikes to take us to the Sagamu-Ore expressway. Which brings us to our Travel Lesson 3.
Whenever you can, take Okada when travelling through a new city. You might think it’s risky, but it’s worth it.
Rolling through Ijebu on Okada is how I found this miniature version of the famous Christ The Redeemed statue.
And this Church.
It’s the Holy Trinity Church.
We reached the park, and learned another important lesson.
Travel Lesson 5:
If you can, travel with a private vehicle. Especially if you’re trying to make every second count.
We spent over an hour at the park waiting for the cab to fill up.
And off we went to Ore.
We reached Ore late in the afternoon. Ore is a special town. It’s probably one of the most strategic towns in the entire country.
In 1967, it was very significant during the Nigerian Civil War. Biafran forces tried to overrun Ore. If they had succeeded, they would probably have called for reinforcement and headed straight to Lagos.
Perhaps, the Nigerian map would have been very different today.
Today, Ore is more famous for something else; the food.
Every bus leaving Lagos and headed for other regions, whether North or South, must stop at Ore.
In fact, the economy of Ore is heavily dependent on these stops.
I met this great guy while waiting for the now pouring rain to chill. Kentebe John Paul.
Call me JP, he said. In this picture, he was showing me his Facebook. Apparently, celebrities stopped there a lot too. So he took photos with as many of them as possible.
“The most important factor for the success of a restaurant in Ore is not really the passengers,” he said.
“As long as there are passengers, food will always be sold.”
It’s the drivers.
Drivers are such a big deal here that in the Vincent’s Restaurant where JP is General Manager, there’s a Driver’s Lodge. Here, a driver just has to present his ID card, and he gets free food.
“We also give drivers Ten thousand naira after thirty stops.”
As long as there’s an incentive to stop, there’ll always be customers, and of course, sales.
“Up to 210 buses stop here everyday,” JP said.
There are three peak travel seasons in Nigeria.
April, during Easter. August, during school breaks and “for some reason,” JP said, “Igbos travel a lot.”
The real boom is at Christmas, when people, mostly Igbo, travel back for The Holidays.
It’s amazing how a tribe that once tried to capture this town, plays a significant part in keeping it alive till this day.
We met Edwin.
I’m fresher and finer when I’m off duty. And boy oh boy, he is a fine man.
Edwin is so amazing. He’s a Security Officer at Vincent’s Restaurant. He’s originally from Delta State, but the hustle brought him to Ore.
We talked about work and dreams, and he said:
“I read somewhere that if you don’t love what you do, then quit. I don’t have an alternative now, so I’m learning to love my job. The money is not great, but it will have to do for now.”
JP and Edwin won’t be forgotten quickly. Add to the fact that JP offered us free meals. In the Drivers Lodge. That’s a huge deal.
Everyone we found seemed to get along pretty well with these guys.
And there were these charming women who only looked up once in a while from their meal of Boli and Palm oil.
“Is that Samsung S7?” The one looking up asked. “S8,” I said. “S8 plus.”
It was time to leave.
When I tweeted about the road trip. Someone sent me a message saying he’d like to host me and Chris.
“I want to be respond for your stay in Ondo.”
So he asked us to come to Ondo Town. And come we did.
His name is Tunde, a Corper.
“I don’t know you very well, so I won’t take you to my house,” he said.
“But I already got you a room in a hotel.”
And so, he insisted on paying for our room. This hotel, where I’m writing from.
The Generator is on from 6pm till 6am.
Our next stop is Idanre Hills. This DJ we met at Beejay, John, placed a bet that when we get there, we won’t want to leave.
I guess we’d have to find that out.
The Hills are calling.
*All photos were shot on the Samsung Galaxy S8+.