I have followed my dad on occasion to the abattoir in Ikare-Akoko. Daddy Awe is swift as an eagle, when you walk with him, you must play catch up. It feels like his feet barely touch the ground. Till today, I always follow him like a dog on the leash…breathless! He will make a good Londoner. Londoners walk like evil spirits! I knew the path after travelling it a number of times. The famed Yoruba theater practitioner Jimoh Aliu lived on the Independence Road at the time. He was always visible working on their colorful costumes.
It was a Saturday, dad gave me N3.20 and he listed what I needed to buy.
Meat – N1.50
Fish – N0.50
Atarodo – N0.10
Efo – N0.10
I alighted from the cab and began the walk to the abattoir. Chief Jimoh Aliu and his crew were rehearsing. I stood there, transfixed for what could easily have been 2 hours. I had no idea of time. I was only 10 years old and it was my first solo errand to the abattoir. I stopped by, enjoyed the rehearsal and learnt a few incantations and an “ìbà” song. Dad had told me to ask for Liadi from Iwo.
After having my fill watching the theater folks, I proceeded to the abattoir. Before long, I started seeing vultures. I had encountered them while I was with my dad on our previous visits. When you are with my dad, no one will tell you to be at your best behavior. A look at his eyes will confuse you. You will get the message. It is an unspoken code. You face front, listen and speak only when asked.On this day, I started counting the vultures. Thereafter, I sang the song we children sing in my village when we see vultures, eagles or hawks.
Okulo gba gba, eye igan!
Okulo gba gba, eye igan!
I must have counted more than 200 vultures. I was busy, I looked at their royal baldness, at some point I could distinguish them.
By the time I had my fill, I had forgotten the butcher’s name. I was overtaken with panic. I know my dad will put sense in my Medulla Oblongata if I fail to get the meat and I trust I can’t just buy anything. Dad is eternally brand loyal! Only st Louis Sugar, Ovaltine before they misbehaved among others. The beef we ate always tasted yummy.
This was 1976. No phones. At that point in my life, Baba Sheri was the only Muslim I had seen. I had heard names but I had no serious exposure to Muslims. So I approached a man and asked if there was a Suberu, he said no. I went to another person, “e joo sa, mo nbere Sunmonu” – no Sunmonu. I started reeling off the few Muslim names I had in memory, no way! I knew I was toast. They were winding up, preparing to go to the market. I started crying.
After what looked like eternity, I recalled my dad mentioned Iwo. I approached a man who had been sympathetic earlier on. “E joo sa, Iwo ni Okunrin yen sa. Sir, the man I’m looking for is from iwo.” He started mentioning names, none clicked. Suddenly, he asked me, “ibo lo ti wa?” Where are you from?
Me : “Arigidi ni sa!”I am from Arigidi sir!
Him: “Ha! Se omo tisa ni e?”Are you the teacher’s daughter?
Me : “Béèni sa!” Yes sir!
Him: “Liadi ni baba e ma nra eran lowo e!… Your dad buys from Liadi.
I jumped up for joy! “Béèni sa, e seun sa, Liadi, Liadi, Liadi.” Thank you sir!
Liadi knows the amount my dad will spend on meat and he knows he buys the hump (ike eran). He went ahead cut the meat, wrapped it and gave it to me. He added a few crunchy “biscuit bones” and told me to enjoy it with my siblings. From there, I went to the market and bought the ingredients.
By the time I got home, my shadow was long. The sun was no longer overhead. I knew what laid ahead. I got six strokes from atori cane. I couldn’t eat the biscuit bones until the second day.
Till this day, I don’t wait to see street attractions. I face where I am going like a Muslim corpse.
Who doesn’t love childhood reminiscences ?Bámidélé Ademola Olateju shared this on her facebook page. She’s a writer, information systems specialist and farmer as well as seasoned journalist. A spirited modern essayist. Twitter @olufunmilayo She also regularly posts about her forays into upcountry Yoruba land.