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Notes on the Geography of Nigeria: Ibadan

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Picky about lane-striping? Relax. Be grateful that you have four lanes to yourself. And, yes, this is the main highway stretching 80 miles between Lagos (population 11 million?) and Ibadan (maybe 3 million?).

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Look at that! The trucks have politely stepped aside.

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Just don't go to sleep.

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Makes a mess. Antiquarian Footnote: A longtime resident of Ibadan left this description of the road as it existed in the 1930s. Lamenting the fact the the roads of that day were not properly surveyed but instead followed ancient paths, he wrote "there is the example of the busiest road in the whole Protectorate, leading from Ibadan into Lagos, which allows only just enough room for two vehicles to pass over most of the distance and presents a sharp corner every few hundreds of yards across a flat landscape.... No doubt they will continue to do so for another generation." Henry Lewis Ward Price, Dark Subjects, 1939, p. 61-2.

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Welcome! The name Ibadan translates as "the meeting place in the fields." Quite the meeting.

Kenneth Mellanby, who arrived in the late 1940s to take charge of the new University of Ibadan (at that time called the University of Nigeria), wrote that though Ibadan was "the largest town in tropical Africa... [it] is hardly a town at all in European eyes--it seems simply a vast, untidy, amorphous aggregation of rusty tin-roofed shacks... an extensive range of single-story buildings erected around a series of intercommunicating courtyards, with no 'modern conveniences' and few concessions to modernity...."

Nigerians can be equally severe. Professor Mabogunje wrote in the 1960s that Ibadan's congestion “defies description,” presents “a fantastic problem of locating people” and leaves officials with the “virtual impossibility of orderly numbering.”

See Kenneth Mellanby, The Birth of Nigeria's University, p. 37, and A.L. Mobogunje, "The Morphology of Ibadan," in The City of Ibadan, ed. by P.C. Lloyd et al, pp. 46 and 55.

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Here we are at the Ibadan City Hall, much better known as Mapo Hall from the hill it crowns.

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The building, originally unpainted, is supposedly modelled on St George's Hall, Liverpool. Certainly the resemblance is strong, and "Taffy" Jones, the English engineer who designed the building, had probably passed through Liverpool on his way to Nigeria. Jones--formally Robert A. Jones, 1882-1949--was a Yoruba-speaking Welshman employed by the Ibadan Native Authority as their road engineer. He was in Ibadan 34 years. Versatile guy.

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Captain Ross was Resident-in-Perpetuity. OK: not really, but he was Resident from 1906 to 1931, which is almost the same thing. Most of that time he actually spent 35 miles to the north, at Oyo. His successor wrote of him that "he infused discipline and a spirit of progress to such an extent that it will be many years before his name fades out of the Yoruba mind." It would be interesting to learn how many years it took; I suspect not too many.

See H.L. Ward Price, Dark Subjects, 1939, p. 273.

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The interior of the hall is now rented for private events.

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This view from the roof looks southeast over Oja Iba, the city's historic social center. "Historic" has to be taken with a grain of salt, because the city was established early in the 19th century. Various chiefs took hilltops at that time and built compounds soon surrounded by their subordinates. For some 70 years they had the place to themselves, but the British arrived in 1893. In 1901 the railroad came and established a pattern of segregation, with a European commercial quarter developing near the tracks and to the west of Oja Iba. (The dividing line corresponds roughly to the Ogunpo Stream.) The Europeans established their own residential quarter, too, at Agodi to the north. Oja Iba's importance was reinforced, however, by the construction of Mapo Hall and the British government's local offices, housed in the building seen here with the long porches.

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May not look like much, but by the standards of the day this house at Oja Iba was a mansion, appropriately trimmed.

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Here's the view from Mapo Hill northwesterly toward the European commercial center. The broad street was also the work of "Taffy" Jones. H.L. Ward Price, the Resident for whom he worked, wrote of Jones that it was "his tact and reputation which enabled him to drive fifty-foot-wide streets straight through the heart of Ibadan, cutting through hundreds of houses, without meeting any opposition, or having to pay unreasonable compensation." This particular street was called King George V Avenue, though it is now simply Mapo Street. (See Ward Price, p. 278.)

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And here, due north, is a hill where the British erected a monument. We can go over there.

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On the way, we pass this. What can it be? The painted sign says Ayeye, meaning Ceremony or Celebration. Smaller letters say Customary Court.

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Ward Price was in Nigeria from 1912 to 1937. At the time he laid this stone he was Resident, which is to say the successor to Captain Ross. He was an expert on Yoruba land law. Shortly after retiring, he added another volume to the library of colonial memoirs. It remains worth reading, though the title was a bad joke even in 1939: Dark Subjects.

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The title of Olubadan translates from the Yoruba as Lord of Ibadan.

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We're still making our way along the ridgeline.

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Rules, rules, rules. The taps suggest that somebody has paid attention to mosques.

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Here we are. I know: you're underwhelmed.

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Bower was the first Resident. The tower is said to have been built by the same Taffy Jones who designed Mapo Hall.

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A nearby house, reputedly that of Captain Bower.

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The view back towards Mapo Hill.

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From the tower toward the commercial center.

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The building on the left, for the Co-operative Bank, was Ibadan's first highrise and though it's upstaged now was the work of two very progressive architects, Maxwell Fry and Jane Drew. The building opened in 1961 and was much brighter then than now. The building on the right, Cocoa House, opened four years later. Ibadan, in case you're wondering, is the biggest city in Nigeria's cocoa-producing region.

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Approaching the commercial center.

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Cocoa House on the right; Heritage or Cocoa Mall on the left.

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The mall's a recent addition.

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The nearby war memorial has been stripped of its plaques.

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Here's something familiar.

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The train station has been demoted.

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What's playing?

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Shall we try the Anglican church?

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It's St. Anne's, and it's doing well enough for a new home.

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There's a churchyard with familiar stories.

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Out they come; out they go.

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Another one. Reginald Tutt was headmaster of the Hadleigh School, Essex, from 1917 until the late 1940s.

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St. Anne's is on the western side of the Ogunpo Stream, the historical dividing line between the European and African sides of the city. Here, seen from a bridge across that stream, is a view of St. David's, a church on the Nigerian side.

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The stream itself.

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The church was built in the last decade of British rule.

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Interior.

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Adjoining school grounds.

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Home of David and Anna Hinderer, pioneering CSM missionaries who worked here decades before British rule.

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The entry to another kind of mission, the University of Ibadan. During World War II part of the site had been an army hospital. Abandoned, the site had been overgrown and its buildings eaten by ants. Still, a site was a site, and some 2,580 acres were acquired. None of it was virgin: the land not part of the old hospital was cultivated by some 345 farmers. They were compensated for the loss of 54,000 cocoa trees and 20,000 oil palms but not for their land itself, because they were given land somewhere else. Out of sight; out of mind.

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The mission now was education.

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A number of architects were suggested by the Royal Institute of British Architects; Max Fry and Jane Drew were chosen.

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By 1953, the old 56th General Military Hospital's wood buildings were gone, replaced by concrete.

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Dormitories.

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Lots of other buildings followed, most of them less innovative than the Fry and Drew contributions.

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A lot of land was left over and available for other uses.

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Inside.

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That would be African breadfruit.

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An office building across from the campus.

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Another campus, this one guarded.

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And fenced.

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It's the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture.


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