Last month, I had an uncharacteristically interesting day out. So I'm going to tell you all about it. Why was it so uncharacteristically interesting? Well, that’s because I did two things I had never done before and one that I hadn't done in a long time.
First of all, I woke up early in the morning (uncharacteristic already!), and went to the train station with my Dad to board the train going to Ibadan. Our stop was in Abeokuta. It was my first time boarding any train in Nigeria so the whole thing was novel.
My Dad had arranged for his Driver to pick up our tickets earlier in the morning so that when we got there, all we would have to do was collect our tickets from him and board. So when we got there we collected our tickets but waited a little while for all the intended travellers in our group to arrive. Just before the train took off, the last few members of our little group arrived.
In total, there were 8 of us. My Dad and I, My uncle Joey and his Friend, My uncle Damola and his friend, and My uncle Fela and his daughter. On the agenda for the day, was a visit to the Olusegun Obasanjo Presidential Library in Abeokuta, and the well-known Olumo Rock. I had been to the Library once before, so this part I felt was more for our guests (my uncles and their guests had never been).
In fact, the whole trip had been planned with our guests in mind. Two of my uncles were visiting from the US and wanted to do some sightseeing while they were around. Meanwhile, my Dad had never been on the train. So they decided to make a day of it. And I went along for the ride (pun intended).
Speaking of which, let's get back to the train ride. So we all got first-class tickets, meaning that our train ride was as comfortable as it could be. The chairs were nice and soft and well-spaced apart. There was food and drink available for purchase. And the ride itself was slow and steady, enough to take a nice nap if you were so inclined.
Anyway, in about an hour and a half, we arrived at our destination, where, my Dad had also arranged for a ride to take all of us to the Presidential Library. After such a comfortable ride in, it was a shame to find out that the ride from the station to the Library was quite the opposite.
The road was untarred and full of potholes for a long stretch after the station. The van tossed us up and down and left and right as it made its way toward our destination. Eventually, we reached some proper roads that led us to the Library. Here, we met up with Mr. Vitalis Ortese, our guide for the day.
In truth, Mr. Vitalis was much more than a guide. As the Managing Director of the Olusegun Obasanjo Presidential Library (OOPL), he could speak on every aspect of every exhibit. From how it came to be, to future plans and daily matters. While we had official tour guides to take us around the facilities, Mr. Vitalis was always on hand to answer questions and give deeper insight. So essentially we had VIP treatment throughout our visit to the OOPL.
Thanks in part to the sheer depth and scope of this part of the agenda, we found unfortunately that we could no longer accommodate the trip to Olumo Rock and still make it back in time for our train ride to Lagos. Because of this, and in order to still give us a wonderful experience, Mr. Vitalis arranged for the whole group to visit the palace of the Olowu of Owu (one of the 5 kingdoms in Abeokuta). This was the second thing I had never done before.
As it turned out, the Olowu himself was on seat when we arrived at the palace, and so as not to disrespect him we all paid him a visit. Being that it was all our first time coming before a Yoruba king, we were told what to do, and how to greet him upon entering his presence. It involved each of us prostrating before him and hailing him three times (to which there was a response each time), and then taking our seats.
After this, we were presented to his majesty as visitors who wanted to explore the palace, get a genuine experience of Yoruba culture, and learn what we could during our visit. His Majesty was quite gracious and had his own side introduced, all the chiefs present (male and female), and their significance. He accommodated us further by speaking in English and telling us about the Owu kingdom and the traditions of its people. He also told us about his reign and some of the initiatives he was promoting. Then he invited us on a tour of his palace.
It was amazing to see the history and hear about the customs of this group. There were pictures dating all the way back to the first Olowu of Owu in the palace. There were all sorts of rooms for all sorts of purposes throughout the palace. An area for his people to use computers, for their kids to play... although we only took a brief tour, one could see that the palace was truly a multipurpose facility. Not just about the seat of the throne.
Once we were done touring the palace (which was kind of rushed because the time for our train was fast approaching), we headed back to the Abeokuta train station and caught our ride back home. Everyone seemed to have enjoyed the day out. Both the tour of OOPL and the exposure to Yoruba culture via the Olowu and his palace. For me, it was a day that I won't soon forget, and a reminder that I need to work on my Yoruba. 🙈