Reporter’s diary: Osogbo seems like a city in slow motion

Oladeinde Olawoyin in Oshogbo

By Oladeinde Olawoyin
Osogbo. It’s a musical radio belt, and Emperor Pick Peters (‘Omo Ode’) pounces on King Sunny Ade, pummelling him on the airwaves with fiendish delight. It’s the capital city of the erstwhile State of the Living Spring, but the radio signals are coming from a westerly distance of about 48.1 kilometres: Ayekooto 88.3 FM, Iwo. A young (intern) announcer comes on air, providing temporary relief. He would soon leave the air space awkwardly, his voice a melange of excitement and fear. Again, Emperor Peters resumes the KSA pounding, dragging the king of world beats like a bad generating set:
“Omo Eran da?
Omo Ode de…”
The Osogbo atmosphere isn’t exactly clammy, yet it feels a tad cold. It’s as though we are in the few weeks heralding the season of harmattan—–that dust-laden wind that converts the whole place into a huge deep freezer. I am not freezing, but I am wondering how King Sunny Ade survived this sharp-tongued Emperor Peters in their heyday, despite Peters’ relative obscurity in his latter years. How did he survive this man who just called him “Omo eranko lasan!” (The son of an animal!) literally and figuratively? Ah.
From Ayekooto FM studios, another feminine voice comes on, clear and mature, confirming the time. 12:29 pm. The voice announces a change in date for an event scheduled to hold in Telemu. I love the sound of the name of that place, T-e-l-e-m-u.
But I don’t love the fate of its people. Telemu—–like Asamu, Osuntedo, Ile Afa, Orita Baba Abiye, Orita Awo, Orita Ara, part of Ile-Ogbo, among others——is one of the villages lying noiselessly on the 55-kilometre Ibadan-Iwo-Osogbo highway. The road is perhaps the most deserted “highway” I have seen in Nigeria, riddled with potholes and gullies, raising fears of kidnapping and other criminalities for villagers and commuters. The government(s) should fix that road! Eyesore.
Soon, the feminine voice returns to assure us that the musical belt continues shortly, with Peters’ music. Ah, is this Emperor Peters-KSA kerfuffle designed by Ayekooto FM as a mortal kombat, with Peters clearly holding the sword and KSA gasping for air? Armageddon! The announcer’s voice fades away slowly, and Peters returns to the microphone. But this time, the “Seidor System” crooner is possibly here to cement his self-acclaimed position as “Wizard Guitarist”, serenading us with perhaps the most enchanting guitar solo performance I have listened to in a long, long while. Ah, this Peters is indeed a wizard.
Osogbo seems like a city in slow motion, never in a hurry to get things done. Imagining this from the chaotic madness of Lagos, I love this unusual ambience. But soon, about half-a-dozen poorly painted Korope buses zoom off towards Ikirun-Inisa-Offa Road, with (un)characteristic impatience. It’s as though these delinquents are hell-bent on destroying my perfect picture of a serene city. I struggle to read through the inscription on the back of one of them. I chuckle. The inscription says “Suru Lagba” (Patience is Supreme). Irony.
I’m fascinated by the cleanliness of Osogbo. Unlike Ibadan, where dirt and fecal materials compete for space with humans, the city (centre) seems deliberate about its culture of hygiene, and there is a part of it that loudly advertises the imprint of the city’s constituted authorities. I’m imagining yet again that Osogbo is the most underrated city in Western Nigeria. I love it. Now, graffitied images of places I have been blur my imagination. Abere. GRA. Aiyedun Layout. Alekuwodo. Fan Milk. Fakunle. Gbongan Road. Ile Awiye. Isale-Osun. Ofatedo. Oke Baale. Oke odo. Olaiya. Olorunda. Pepsi Cola. Powerline. Ring Road.
I switch off the car engine and step out towards the NUJ Press Centre on Iwo Road. What is there to see? A huge fence defying the imposing height of an oncoming truck. A woman’s make-shift ‘container kiosk’ defaced with campaign posters. A young lady preening down the road like bejewelled peacock. On the path leading back to Osogbo Grammar School, there is an elderly man sitting on the edge of a paved gutter, hope and hunger and uncertainty written in capital letters on his poverty-stricken face. I wait.
Behind him stood a huge high-tension electric poll hosting the campaign poster of Ademola Adeleke, now governor-elect. But While the chubby, happy-go-lucky man in the poster is smiling, this elderly man isn’t. He is neither happy nor sad, his demeanour a mismatch of hope and despair. I watch him look away as the slightly torn poster swings slowly to the rhythm of the wind, stifling a smile.
I finally move away gently from the scene, and indeed the city, imagining the old man hoping (and praying!) that Adeleke’s guber tenure takes NOT the shape of this campaign poster being blown away gently by the afternoon wind, swaying neither here nor there like the rhetoric of scheming politicians.
*Oladeinde Olawoyin is a journalist and public affairs analyst