OGBA: A Product of Homesickness

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Home is ringed by four stretches native to a malevolent heat of which neither touches the other as most borders do. Celestial Church Street is a lady hidden from view, draped in muted colors except for her crowning jewel, an ivory tower in royal purple and metallic grey. She is wise and knowledgeable, the cradle in which Agidingbi’s schools and churches find their being. She is perhaps most beautiful in the warm embrace of the daily sunset that rings her in a halo of vivid purples, pinks and golden yellows. Her perfume is the musty sweat of boys playing ball – slick and sweaty members of the youthful male specimen moving in an almost magical synchronicity – in the ruffles of her gown, laced with odorous smoke from the neighboring burning refuse heap and the sweet spicy cooking from the nearby buka. She needs this perfume to cloud the stench of a few open latrines and gutters around her feet, in every shade of green blending into one malodorous cesspool that stubbornly clogs the nostrils of her visitors on their way in, and out. Her voice is the blended cries of students and their teachers during the day interspersed with the occasional clang of the bell, the slip slap of running feet on her roads by the eve and the steady whine of generators when the night comes to end the day. During the more festive periods and on Sundays, her tone turns celebratory. The Celestial Church for which she has her name throws away the hush of the evening and replaces it with the sounds of drum and loud riotous singing, the students in the nearby hostel join in, dancing.

Acme road is her nearest suitor, a man in suit on his way to work. His shoes are yellow and a bit worn, the coughing tricycles commonly referred to as, Keke-Napep. They sing too, varying tunes of ‘gege a gege’ and ‘fagba fagba’, declaring to all their chosen routes and asking for passengers, their drivers’ voices a supplicatory melody. In the early hours of morning, however, all is calm and clear and that is when he is most open and honest. Businessmen, teachers, bankers and even the occasional church administrator or two, hasten to open their businesses and buildings, their eyes greeting in the twilight before dawn. They know the rules, for now they are just men and women, but with the rising of the sun they must become their roles, charismatic and purposeful. Acme’s suit is rough, sewn with patches that blend into each other; motorists take time and care to tread the tar. When the wind comes – as it is prone to do – on its back rides the smells from the food processing plant down the street and the scent of chocolate permeates the air, sweet and cloying.

Ogba Market is his sister. She squats and a plethora of colours opens up from underneath her skirts, where all transactions take place. The chickens console the cattle during Ramadan and vice versa during Christmas.  The traders converse in a language only they know; Yoruba giving way to Igbo and Pidgin underlying it all with Hausa sprinkled in and some of the more minor dialects. Their customers are an array of people, children with bladed tongues in worn clothes that hang a little large on shrunken bodies, housemaids with piercing eyes and fingers that roll relentlessly over their budget and theIjebu madams of varying ethnicities who have left their jewelry and finer clothes at home –they want a fair price. Garri suns itself in large woven bags, giving way to dented Jerri cans and lush green leaves droop in homage to the darting flies. Crayfish is the prevalent smell, a sort of olfactory base that reminds everyone of dinner, soups in enamel bowls accompanied by mountainous mounds of swallow. A spicy earthen smell that feels all at once deliciously familiar and slightly nauseating.

Daranijo Street and Oloko Crescent are the Siamese twins that hold court. They are two grown men with androgynous looks. Houses in various states of beauty and disrepair cling to their bodies, and here all is silent except for the occasional whine of the generator and the barks of Pa Oloko’s dogs. They smell of everything the others smell of, for here is where the characters that populate the others, rest their heads. On hot afternoons, one might sometimes taste the delicious aroma of Iya Aboderin’s baking from further down. The hisbiscus tree also litters the front of Baba Yabere’s house with a sea of red that never exists for more than six hours at a time, either the wind or Yabere sweeps them. The residents here rarely have parties and know each other almost intimately. This is their home.

        Home is where I am most honest and free. It is a space delineated by more than just physical boundaries, more than these four stretches and the space in between. It is instead somewhere beyond and yet wholly within. It is the feeling of my heart beating in tandem with the sun. Ogba.