Monday 20 June 2022

Ìjẹ̀shà-Ìjẹ̀bú: A town of pain

A cause for appreciation

Waking up this morning from a dream that left me thinking I could do better with courses and causes, and I meant the kinds of courses of choice to travel and the causes that should be supported, the focus came back to myself.

When I spoke to Brian yesterday, I found every excuse I could, not to call my father on Father’s Day, I even checked as we were speaking if it was really Father’s Day in Nigeria, and then I got two Father’s Day messages from my brothers. Meanwhile, everyone online was celebrating Father’s Day and more poignant were those who shared memories of their fathers who had passed on, either recently or a long time ago.

In my wakefulness, I realised there was a lack of appreciation for the fact that I still have both my parents and they are thankfully doing well apart from the vagaries of old age. However, there are issues that I need to address about relationships that I only began to review as I stepped out for my walking exercise.

The town of my parents

I have a consequently very useful and good relationship with my mother, I cannot say that much about my father, and I think I know where that stems from, it goes way back to one event that seems to have defined so many things. It is the confluence of the irrational and the rational in what we call our experience that becomes the narrative whether it is plausible or not, makes no difference to the existential relevance of that perspective to the person involved.

My father, our little town of Ìjẹ̀shà-Ìjẹ̀bú with its big history, my maternal grandfather, some aspects of numerology which could just be coincidental, but one cannot ignore patterns of a sort.

Ìjẹ̀shà-Ìjẹ̀bú or Òdo Àyányẹlú in Ogun State is not to be confused with Ìjẹ̀bú-Ìjẹ̀shà in Osun State exists with a history that could hair-raising as much as it is intriguing, that it leaves people from there either quite passionate about the place or seriously averse to being there. We all have been touched by an enduring aspect of that town that even my mother would pass through the town on her way to a consultation without stopping to see anyone.

It is the retirement home of my father and many of his peers, yet you can mistake the place for a stairway to heaven, but like my paternal grandmother who lived to over a hundred years old, longevity has blessed many even as tragedy has befallen some.

Ìjẹ̀shà-Ìjẹ̀bú became a project and a dream, its children, many of whom from my parents’ generation travelled abroad for studies returned with aspirations to build their village, give the upcoming generations better opportunities, and infest their children with the same enthusiasm. We all seemed to play along, as it was where we met with cousins, developed new friendships, and had amazing conversations with lively elderly people. We looked forward to visiting, but the novelty began to wear off.

The schism and falling away

In my case, it was sometime in the middle of 1985, we had gone to Ìjẹ̀shà-Ìjẹ̀bú for some event and then some of my friends invited me to party in another town. I went to ask my dad and he might have had his reasons, but he did not grant the permission for me to go, and I shamefacedly passed my regrets to my friends who from what I learnt had a very good time.

Much as I was a difficult teenager, I was not given to vices or the kind of criminality that would involve the law, I can say in many ways, I was quite restrained and more so with my religious inclinations, but between my father and I, there has always been this simmering conflict that by the end of that year, I left home and did not see my father for probably another 18 months after.

For that refusal of permission to go to that party, I swore to myself that if I ever were to return to Ìjẹ̀shà-Ìjẹ̀bú, it would be in a box. I have not returned for 37 years and in that time, I missed many significant events that would have required my presence there or thereabouts.

On reflection and possibility

Then maybe as I thought about this morning, there is an undercurrent of fear that if I do venture, that might be the case, I do not know, and I have not attempted to test out the premise. It has become a kind of handicap, and this is the first time I am sharing this information, for what it has done in terms of our relationship is my seeking to define myself so differently from my father as much as possible without totally succeeding in being that different.

However, with that recessed in my memory commanding my inclinations, great import has been that distance has helped avoidance along with other explanations that could be summoned to protect the situation I have created for myself.

After a morning of introspection, I did give my father a call, I might even see a path to visiting Nigeria after 31 years, I don’t know if I will see Ìjẹ̀shà-Ìjẹ̀bú again, but I can understand how a complete breakdown in communication and relationships can instigate lifelong consequences. Gosh, I have nieces and nephews I have only met online, I am known of, but who knows me?

Postscript: My father launched a book about the history of Ìjẹ̀shà-Ìjẹ̀bú in April this year, there is much to learn about who we are, where we are from and what defines us. I saw the draft and my copy is wending its way to me, he is a formidable and quite accomplished gentleman.

Part II: Ìjẹ̀shà-Ìjẹ̀bú: A time for healing

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