I had the privilege of being a part of a survey that holds once in five years in Nigeria. It began with one month training where participants were fed fat, like people who had been sent to the fattening room. Only that some of us didn’t have an idea that the fattening room preceded the slaughtering room, permit me to use that expression. Nothing prepared me for the reality that was going to come with the field work itself. Having been fed well, accommodated in air-conditioned rooms, one would have thought that was going to be the norm when the job commenced. After all, that had been my experience with previous field works that I had done.
After the training, a time came to heed a certain call. Ondo beckoned and I had little or no choice than to answer, albeit reluctantly. Believe me, it wasn’t a journey I looked forward to with enthusiasm. Not like I hadn’t schooled or worked in other parts of the country. I schooled in Oyo town and Ibadan for my secondary and university education respectively, and I had been to other states outside the South west. But nothing in my previous experiences prepared me for this journey and the job.
I arrived in Ondo state on a Tuesday in February. Thank God for a team member who accommodated me. We all converged as a team on Wednesday morning and thus began our journey to commence our work in over twenty communities in Ondo state.
Our first port of call was Ikare-Akoko where we met with the community leaders who welcomed us with open arms and arranged for our accommodation. They did the best they could, but that hotel was like a relic from the past. It was more or less like an abandoned hotel that had to be resurrected with speed and alacrity because of these “visitors”. Of course we stayed there with all gladness, after all, the bottom line was for us to get somewhere to lay our heads. And the community people were warm and friendly.
From Ikare we moved to Irun-Akoko. Again, the community leaders received us well enough and we got a good place to stay. Saturday and Sunday became like every other week day for me and it got to a point where I just lost touch with the days of the week. I couldn’t tell Wednesday apart from Friday.
After Irun, our next destination was Akungba, where Adekunle Ajasin University is located. The accommodation we got there was the best so far. It just felt like we should stay in that hotel throughout the duration of the work. Ironically, that was the place we spent the least time.
From there we moved to Okeluse. Was I shocked, or scared or irritated when I saw pigs roaming about freely in the community. I can’t remember when last I saw pigs at such a close range, I can’t stand them and I couldn’t help but wonder again how some people get to eat pork meat. I practically ran back when I saw one big pig walking towards the same direction I was going. I just couldn’t wait for us to leave this vicinity.
Oh lest I forget, we went to pay homage to their oba (king) upon our arrival. After the introduction had been done by our supervisor who also informed him about our mission, the oba jokingly chipped in that he would “gbese l’emi”. For those that don’t understand Yoruba language, when a king says that, it literally means he wants to marry the lady. In those days that monarchs were powerful, once a king made that declaration, the lady automatically became his wife. Kings were that powerful in the ancient times, no one could question or challenge their authority. We all laughed over the king’s comment and my supervisor jokingly answered that if he was ready to part with a million naira each for the other members of the team and also release the Toyota Sequoia parked in his garage, they would gladly release me. I was just thanking God we were not leaving in the ancient times and this was all a big joke. So for a ‘paltry’ Toyota Sequoia and some millions of naira, someone would have married me. What would they even tell my family members, that their only daughter had become betrothed to a king?
So we did our work in that community amidst pigs roaming about, as well as other domestic animals. I almost forgot to mention. When I was coming to Ondo, I was warned to be careful about eating meat because dog meat was a delicacy for them there. Little wonder people from the state are known to marry people from another state in Nigeria that have a reputation with dogs too. So, in the beginning I was scared of eating meat and was careful not to eat any funny looking meat. When we got to some communities and dogs were like normal parts of their families, I could not help but think that those that said they eat dog meat here must have a reason for saying so. It was also in this community that we were told they don’t have toilets in their houses except for houses built by rich men which were very few by the way.
We went to Elegbeka afterwards, this was a community dominated by Ibira people. Some of them didn’t understand English language and couldn’t speak Yoruba either, so we had to use translators in some cases. Where we lodged was a bit far from where we worked. There was a particular day we had to stay as late as 9:30pm because we were scheduled to leave that community the next day.
From Elegbeka we went to Idoani. The first time I heard Idoani was when I was in secondary school. My brother had some friends in FGGC Idoani. We got to Idoani and we were welcomed by one of the community chiefs who also offered to accommodate us. We had to go and fetch water from a borehole that was a little distance from his house. That borehole was exactly the pumping type we had in my secondary school. Need I say it brought back memories?
To make matters worse, I started having running stomach. It was said to be as a result of the soup we ate in the last community we visited. They called the soup “epo igi” or something like that. They said it was prepared from the bark of a tree and it was good for cleansing the system. I wonder why nobody had warned me. The last thing I wanted now was to be cleansing any system and running in and out of the toilet. After taking tetracycline that morning and my stomach still wasn’t settled, I resorted to taking garri. Gist has it that garri is good for running stomach, but I think the garri I took only worsened my case. By the time we got to the field to work, I started feeling funny. I had to take some drugs and was asked to rest. That was how I didn’t get to work in this community (painfully though), even though I later learnt that this was another community of pigs.
Having finished with Idoani, we moved to Owo. On getting to the palace of the Olowo of Owo, we saw a notice that said ladies were forbidden from wearing trousers into the palace. I didn’t need to be told whether or not to still go inside the palace. I know the way our people can be with tradition and culture. Unfortunately (or fortunately), my team members couldn’t get to see the oba so we had to head back to Akure that night after several attempts to secure accommodation proved abortive. It was under a heavy rain that we drove to Akure. Thank God for journey mercies because at some point our driver couldn’t see the road clearly.