By Hameed Lawal
When I got the message at short notice that Association of Nigerian Authors (ANA), Oyo and Osun chapters will be travelling by rail to Abeokuta for the first ever meeting of south-west ANA that comprise Oyo, Osun, Ogun, Ondo, Ekiti and Lagos states, christened “Jamboree”, I looked forward to the trip with excitement. The excitement arose from the fact that the trip would afford me the opportunity of first train ride.
Though the sight of a train is not strange to me. As a kid at Kaduna, I remembered vividly the childhood adventure of going to hunt for grasshoppers in the bushes beside the train track. I could also recall that, on few occassions the sight of railway on motion crossing the road with its booming horn at Ibaan and Lagos but I have never travelled by train before until this memorable day.
To meet the call time of 4 pm, I left Oyo town as early as 2 pm, and arrived railway station Ibadan, the take off point at 3:00pm. While awaiting the train at the railway terminus, Ibadan, the sight of abandoned passenger and cargo coaches, aging structure housng the offices elicited memories of train services in the 1960s, 70s, 80s and early 90s it went comatose and the recent attempts to revive by the federal government. While some of us who had boarded train in these golden years recalled that the long wait for the train was a characteristic trait of train services, first timers reasoned that, if transportation by train is revived and modernised with efficient service, it has the potentials of being an alternative to road transport for passengers and goods. An added advantage is that of releaving Nigerian roads of heavy duty vehicles.
After about three hours waiting, the train arrived Ibadan terminus at 6 30 pm. As the train zoomed off at snail speed towards Abeokuta, it was a jolly ride. Though the journey (usually about one hour, 30 minutes by road) took us about two hours, 30 minutes, there was no dull moment. As the train moved swerving left and right, the long journey to Abeokuta turned a memorable one with readings, riddles and jokes from ANA members. While this was on, the curiousness and inquisitiveness in me made me to stroll to other sections of the moving train.
The seats were as comfortable as that of luxurious buses and plane, with two toilets, bar and restraunt to give the passengers the hospitality of an hotel while ona long journey. However, with the door to one of the toilets yanked off or removed for repairs, the odour of urine assailed the nose of passers by and passenges sitting near to the toilet.
We arrived Abeokuta terminus at about 9 pm, disembaked and the train and continued its onward journey to Lagos. Two buses arranged by the host chapter, Ogun picked us from the terminus to the secretariat of Nigerian Union of Journalist (NUJ) Abeokuta (Ile Iwe Irohin). At Ile Iwe Irohin, we were given a worm reception by the chairman and his Secretary. After a welcome address by the chairman and information on the programme line up for the meeting we were treated to sumptous dinner of Ofada rice which is a major agricultural product of Ogun State. Other programmes lined up for the following day September, 1, 2016 are the visits to Professor Wole Soyinka’s residence and Chief Olusegun Obasanjo’s presidential library. We later retired to Moshood Abiola Polytechnic Guest House to pass the night.
Programme began the following day, 1st September, 2016 with the zonal meeting at the NUJ Secretariat (Ile Iwe Irohin). It was revealed to us that the meeting was the initiative of the Chairman, Oyo State Chapter, Dr. Solomon Iguare. It was resolved that, the zonal meeting should be sustained to strengthen interface of creative writings and creative writers in the south-west. Subsequently, a committee was constituted to suggest the modalities of reviving moribund Ekiti State Chapter. After our break fast of yam, bread, fried egg and tea, we left Ile Iwe Irohin in a convoy of two buses to tourist sites of Professor Soyinka’s residence and Chief Obasanjo’s library. The plan to visit Fela’s family house and Olumo Rock was suspended due to logistic problems and time.
Our first port of call was the nobel laurete’s residence at Kenta Idi Aba. Though he was not around to receive us, his domestic servants ushered us into the compound. The house which occuped large expanse of land was built mostly of burnt bricks. As we could not access the interior part of the building, we proceeded to the amphi theatre within the residence. We took group photographs and had a reading season before leaving the enviroinemnt enveloped with green vegetation for presidential library.
At the presidential library Kobapo Road, Oke Mosan, we marvelled at the large expense of land housing the library, a five star hotel, a mini zoo and a rocky bar, which were tourists delight. A stroll round the library environment reveals that, it only occupies a small portion of the land with the relaxation spots of the hotel, mini-zoo and the interior and the exterior rocky bar occupying large portion. The jamboree cum field trip ended with this visit which leaft us with sweet memories of these tourist sites in ancient city of Abeokuta. We thereafter left the library for the park to charter a commercial buse back to Ibadan. Unlike the train, the journey by road from Abeokuta to Ibadan lasted one hour, 30 minutes.