Ilorin: A Tango with the Unknown

I remember saying I do not like Ilorin, I can’t remember why, but that was long ago. I made my first trip to Ilorin mid May through rain and shine, literally.

Never one to pass up on a trip, the rough journey belied the wealth of experience that awaited me in the South-western repository of culture and craft.

En route Lagos, the innate stress of the city started creeping back. I knew this because of the familiar throb I felt in my forehead spreading towards my eyes. Safe to say, a migraine returned from its break too.

Knowing I needed to do one of the things that make me happy, I mentally thought about bopping around a few towns and cities. On cue, a call came in from a friend and I got an invite to visit a town I hated even though I was yet to explore. Guess who jumped at the offer, me.

PS: Thou shalt not let a chance of exploring new places pass you by.

DAY 1

So we set out on this beautiful Sunday, navigating through the twisted roads of Ijaiye towards Berger and out of Lagos — me, a friend and his protégé.

It was a tug of war keeping the car tyres firm alongside our sanity on the Lagos-Ibadan road. Too many holes larger than pots, too many crazy drivers and a life threatening swerve from a trailer which would have toppled us over, we made it into Oyo in one piece.

Oyo town soon made it worth the while with its fresh air filled with notes of freshly prepared food, agricultural produce, and beautiful scenery — grinding mills, mud huts coupled alongside modern buildings, kids playing around, older women plaiting hair under the cool shade of the trees on a row as if it were a plantation by the roadside.

There were lots of signposts/billboards in the area in very concentrated Yoruba whose meanings I found a bit difficult to decipher due to the absence of intonation marks. Unsurprisingly, Oyo is said to be one of the first settlements of the Yoruba people.

Leaving behind Oyo town and the trailer tyre-imprinted road snaking through the rain forest, we approached Ogbomoso where we spotted a beautiful rainbow which excited me like a child. In spite of the rain, the drive was all fun until our encounter with the police, with their finicky attitude and dubious ways. Their best tactics of holding on to your driver’s license just so you’re forced to do their will was exhausting.

We arrived Ilorin a little after 7:00pm, heading straight for Grace Lodge along Coca-cola road where my friend’s colleague had secured temporary accommodation for us. Sadly, Grace Lodge is not ideal for those who care about themselves, and at 10:55pm we had to leave due to lack of water and ideal hospitality right after a restaurant just along the same route, treated us to a sour meal.

It was almost 12 midnight when we arrived at the new hotel we had booked online no thanks to police delay. They had stopped us to complain about my friend’s outfit. He was wearing a sleeveless t-shirt and shorts (we had changed from our travel clothes at Grace Lodge).
We spent the night at Bovina Hotel, which I concluded its name was derived from Bournvita.

Note: I asked no one for confirmation.

DAY 2

Our main purpose for visiting Ilorin was to sort brand activation and experiential marketing for the a motorcycle brand. About 9:00am the following morning, we set out towards Offa, which is about an hour’s drive, after joining the rest of the team.

Passing through Ilorin and settlements along the way, we encountered about 5 to 6 police checkpoints. If it wasn’t the biker with us, it was the main promotion bus or the SUV I was in that has to pull over. One of the stops had the biker going back to a town nearby to make a payment before we continued to Offa.

During this break, I wandered into the greens while my friend listened to the tale of a crazy robbery stunt pulled off in Offa prior to our coming which he shared with me on our way back to Ilorin. The robbery was the reason for tons of check points on our way and the police station being shut down.

The armed robbers had shown up in town as uniformed men and positioned themselves strategically. They robbed every bank in Offa and shot all the police officers at the station.

In no time, after our arrival in Offa, we had pulled a big crowd courtesy of the stunt biker. We took the activations to 6 other locations before we left the team around 6pm for Ilorin while they went on to Oshogbo.

DAY 3

It was our final day in Ilorin and we set out to explore before leaving. Our first stop was at a local loom we had discovered in Agesin, Dada district while trying to locate the popular Dada pottery. My friend approached them to seek their consent before we went on to interview them and take some shots.

A tree serves as their stall with about 12 males huddled under a tree, some in front of the wooden loom, and others helping out. Thoughts of Silas Marner flickered in my excited heart as I proceeded towards the guys under the tree.

It was an array of color, bright, bold and beautiful as the craftsmen wove their magic.

About 10 minutes after leaving the loom, we arrived at Dada pottery. My friend went in to speak with the woman in charge, she had charged us 10k which we eventually beat down to 3k for access.

Few minutes after, we met the potters and their clay pots. All the potters are women who had all inherited their craft from their mothers. We explored the area, took pictures, and played with some happy kids. It’s such a cool place to visit, if you want to see craft, different shapes of pots made with love and care and the people who make them.

We left Dada pottery for Sobi hills which took us a while, but as soon as we saw the hill all the hurdles were forgotten. There are two hills. One larger than the other. We climbed the smaller hill as we did not have much time left and were yet to eat.

Visit the Sobi hill to witness the breathtaking view of Ilorin; you’ll love to stay awhile.

As with many other hills in Nigeria especially in the West almost every hill has a church, Sobi hill was no exception. Boldly, inscribed on the rock is ‘ORI-OKE IYE’ which was not in session. Guess they had to give the angels time to pick up answers to their prayer from God in time for its delivery.

Afar off, on the larger hill, sounds of prayer could be heard as they made sure all their enemies got what they deserved from the Lord according to their will. We took some pictures, made a joke about mountain goats, laughed and left about 45 mins after.

It was almost 4pm when we exited Ilorin. The journey home was a little prolonged by the uniformed men, but we arrived Lagos safely around 8:20pm.

P.S. I like Ilorin!

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Olubunmi Atere

Known for Content Editing, Travel, Art, Music, Project /Production Management, Social Media Marketing & Content Development in no particular order.