Loud cheers, camera flashes like diamond sparkles from the distant spectators, flags raised, an anthem being song; you on a podium with a medal on your breast, proud of your third place in a major Olympics event. Is that what’s on your mind? I hope not.
The bronze city is the seat of power of the heart beat of the Nation – Edo State. The State is home to a monarchy that can trace its unbroken dynasty back for centuries. She prides herself with the famous face of FESTAC, metal artifacts and a beautiful terrain. Alongside all these wonders, there is a lot of talk about some unusual practices. You go to bed at night and rise the next day looking up to find a cow on a high tension electric cable. How unusual can things get in the bronze city?
Benin! My last visit there was a little over a decade ago, but I still remember a couple of things when reminiscing about the city. However, my most recent visit flooded my mind with memories I thought I had lost: memories about the people, the food, the language, the landscape and the architecture My ears twitched on hearing pidgin English spoken once again from this part of the country; it was live comedy.
“How you wan enter the moto?”
“Driver Stop!” – An indication when someone wants to highlight from a commercial vehicle.
The red soil, a noticeable features of the city, forms a dusty cloud over the city during the dry season. This turns into a chocolaty paste on the “untarred” streets when it rains, bringing to mind a scene from Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. It is a challenge for a visitor from a mega-city where you do not have to shovel out clay during clean-ups.
A general greeting on entering a commercial vehicle was something I never got used to; it is nevertheless interesting to see and will be a good addition to the transportation culture in the western part of the country. Another interesting sight can be caught if you happen to be on Ring Road at twilight: hundreds of bat, in search for food, taking flight from trees planted in an abandoned secretariat and its environs. What a beauty!
There are a lot of infrastructural development going on also in the city. The Comrade buses (equivalent of Lagos BRT), with their lemon coloured exteriors, move people around assisted by the wine coloured mini-buses wrestling their way through the uneven intra-city streets. The tireless effort of the Comrade Governor to have tarred roads, some of which are ready for use, has made the flow of traffic an issue for the city. We know the Lagos metropolis takes first place in traffic jams, but good road networks and management have helped quell it. The Coal state is also known for its good road networks. Who knows, once the roads are finished in Benin, it may take third place and earn a well deserved bronze medal. A suggestion – go visiting some time, you will love it.
Author: Olofinkua Joseph