I am incurably attached to Ibadan. I was born and bred in that city and I’m always so nostalgic about that city of brown roofs. Apart from the hospitality of the people, one reason I’m in love with the city is the cost of living.
On Saturday, I took about 10 people for lunch at Mama Ope. If you don’t know, Ibadan has many fantastic local eateries with specializations in different delicacies. For Mama Ope, no one in Ibadan does rice and beans like she does. Her fried stew comes with a special recipe. It’s the same quality and taste anytime and has been like that for years- right from when she started in a small kiosk opposite Veterinary at Mokola. Of course, she not only prepares rice and beans but she has other varieties also.
Inastrait is the best Amala and Abula (Gbegiri with ewedu) restaurant in the whole wide world ( Gbegiri is made from ground beans). Inastrait (adapted from the world “illiterate”- the late founder of the restaurant who was unlettered described herself as “Inastrait” and the name caught on) is seated on Mokola hills beside the Cultural Centre. Life is not complete without her steaming plate of Amala, Abula and goat meat. You even have the opportunity of looking into the steaming pot of meat and choosing the particular meat you want. Life certainly doesn’t come better than that. The late founder’s daughter who now runs that restaurant embarrassed me one day when she greeted me in the presence of colleagues who came with me from Lagos, “E ku Ojo meta” (it’s been a long while). My colleagues wondered if she was my
Facebook fan. Before I finished the meal, she had sent a souvenir of face towel and ceramic cup as my gift to my table. So much for loyalty.
Then, there’s Mama Soji on the way to Eleyele- not far from Magazine Road roundabout. Her pounded yam is the best in town. Off Adamasingba/Mokola Road and not far from Fessy Electronics is Mama Samson. If you want Amala as early as 7am, Mama Samson is the place to be. You just won’t mind the fact that she keeps pets and some dogs which will stroll around as you relish the hot plate of Amala- and my, oh my, she uses a lot of red oil for her soup that I often wondered if she was given free of charge. The way she handles the serving spoon and divides the actual soup from the palm oil is reminiscent of the way the Red Sea was parted. Of course, Mama Samson is our own Moses.
At Bodija Oju-Irin, in one container beside a mechanic village is another woman whose crowd competes with the queue at GTB branches. On one occasion years back, I took my Branch Manager and some visiting superiors to that eatery and the shock on their face was just too apparent. All of us were on a long queue with bowls in our hands and we pushed and shoved as we shouted, “Emi lo kan, e da mi lohun” (It is my turn, please attend to me). One of the people with me was sure the woman must have used juju and he asked us to leave immediately. That was the last time I went to that place. Her own specialty is also Amala.
In downtown Oniyanrin area is the famous Laskabo. Laskabo (a loose translation meaning ‘my plate is full’) is as old as the city itself. I remember sneaking out of church on Sundays when I was a teenager just to have a taste of her ‘Amala Lafun’. I sneaked out as the pastor announced the title of the sermon and I was usually back before the sermon was over- my father always asked me for the topic of the sermon after church.
Time will fail me to talk about Iya Ila who has an eatery on Ojoo road leading to Agbowo/UI. Her stock fish is her stock in trade. The woman who runs an eatery on Polytechnic/Apete Road (opposite WAEC) prepares the best “Ogunfe” (goat meat) in town. She usually kills about three goats per day. At a time, there were about four major eateries at the back of First Bank on Secretariat, Agodi. That was the rendezvous for most civil servants some years back. I wonder if that joint is still there. Classic Food Canteen has colonized Iwo Road axis. Some years back, there was the rumour that she puts juju in her food and she was even invited to a local radio programme- but she survived.
Was she a victim of people who were jealous of her success? At Challenge axis (not far from Fidelity Bank) is also a very famous local eatery. I’ve forgotten its name but I used to send a runner to buy food from there back in those days. In Agbeni Market, anytime I visited a particular customer, I never left without being treated to her hospitality- a steaming bowl of Amala with “assorted” meat. For the uninitiated, “assorted” meat means “orisirisi”- from “roundabout”, “nnkan inu-eran”, “abodi” and “ponmo”. If you have not eaten “agemawo” (ponmo with a bit of meat), you need to repent urgently because the time is at hand. And not far from Adelabu Shopping Complex at Orita was one canteen where the woman was very popular for her “bush meat”. On my way to Babcock years back, we used to stop over every evening to have our fill.
I’m sorry for digressing but back to my gist. After about 10 of us had our fill on Saturday ( pounded yam, Amala, rice and beans with guinea fowl meat, “bokoto”, beef, etc), I almost entered a state of shock when I saw the bill- a paltry N7,850. That’s an average of N785 per person. All the people with me burst out laughing- of course, they were Lagos people. A few weeks back, a local mechanic fixed my vehicle and collected N13,000 from me- labour inclusive. One major car repair outlet in Victoria Island billed me N70,000 for the same issue and couldn’t even fix the problem after collecting the 70k. Prior to that, another major service centre billed me N270,000 for the same problem. My Ibadan mechanic fixed it for 13k and the vehicle has been fine since.
Just yesterday, I heard about a guy who protested to his landlord because his rent on his 3-bedroom flat was increased from N100,000 per annum to N120,000 per annum. Yes, just a 20k increment. I can attest to that because in 2000, my rent on a 2-bedroom flat was less than 50k per annum and I always boasted that I never saved for rent in my life until I relocated to Lagos. When I moved to a 3-bedroom bungalow that had such space in the premises I could conveniently park over 20 cars, my starting rent was 75k per annum and then it was increased to 120k over a period of 3 years. That was in 2006-2008/9 thereabouts.
And so today, I brought my car for periodic maintenance to Akinloye, my Ibadan mechanic. The last time it clocked 5,000km and I took it to the service centre in VI, my bill was over 50k. Thinking of whiling away the time, I took a taxi drop from the mechanic village to Ventura Mall at Samonda. The taxi driver initially said N650 but I haggled and eventually, he took N150. I couldn’t believe it. Coming back, I decided to take a proper taxi. That one took N30. I had to forgo my change of N20 because I gave him N50. He thanked me profusely. And now my mechanic, after outlining the cost of all the things he bought, charged me 3k for labour.
I just love this city so much.