Of Secret Loves and Gods of Flesh

by Tope Salaudeen-Adegoke (Nigeria)

Making a local connection Nigeria

There is something about Friday night as well that insinuates debauchery and revelry. On blotto, isn’t Nigeria noted to be the highest consumer of Champagne, just after France where it is traditionally produced? On debauchery, I can remember my time in Ibadan when I was working in a law firm. We usually closed office on Friday very late just to sit back for rush hour to ease off. This always afforded me the occasion of mesmerisation whenever I was returning home and a taxi was taking me through the districts of Dugbe, Iyaganku, Ring Road. These routes were dominated by discothèques and night workers, but you will never suspect anything sinister during the daytime. But I want to believe Benin City on Friday night is among the most sinister of African metropolises. It is a surest passage to discover the paean to the city’s beauty and affluent secrets – everybody knows about the secrets, even as far as continents away. Bodies of women from this city tell it on the bed of prostitution in Europe and America. On this Friday night, the beauty and true character of Benin City yielded to me at once. I was on my way to meet with friends at GRA who were on a travel project, Borders Within: The Trans-Nigerian Road Trip. They were merely having a stopover in the city for few days. We had met the previous day on the Ugbowo Campus of University of Benin, Benin City. I wound my way to Ring Road on a campus shuttle. I walked along the Oba market to a taxi park going to GRA. The circular road that enclosed the museum at Ring Road has always fascinated me. A museum at the heart of a city and a busy road encircling it. This was also a fascination and hazard for another traveller, Noo Saro-Wiwa in her book, Looking for Transwonderland: ‘Benin’s former glories had now retreated behind the four walls of its museum. Reaching the place felt like a life-threatening challenge, seemingly designed to test one’s commitment to its antiquities. The museum was sequestered within the confines of a busy roundabout that forced visitors to sprint across four lanes of ruthless traffic to reach it.’ It was a rutted ride; it took probably about forty minutes. On my return trip, I discovered a den of prostitutes I had never seen in the city.