Journal of Negro Education

The Morning Train to Ibadan Author(s): John Henrik Clarke Source: The Journal of Negro Education, Vol. 31, No. 4 (Autumn, 1962), pp. 527-530 Published by: Journal of Negro Education Stable URL: . Accessed: 10/04/2011 21:29
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F: Trainto Ibadan Section The Morning

Associate Editor, Freedomways Magazine
IS EAR from beingmyfavorite will, no doubt,influence future the of Africancity. It's cosmopolitan mankind. air mixture African In the station of and the incongruous there wereseparate eatand Europeanwaysof life leftme sing- ing facilities third for classtravelers. This In ularly unimpressed. spiteof myfeel- duplication made no sense to me and ingsaboutit,I mustadmit Lagosis nota seemedrather silly. This is a new stacitywithout attractions. Lagos is a col- tionbuiltunderBritish supervision. Britorfulcity with a dual personality-oneish cityplanning Africa in alwaysleaves footin the 19thcentury and the other muchto be desired. I purchased cup a one stepping, withawkward to- of tea and a sweetbun before rapidity boarding ward the 20th. the morning trainto Ibadan. Some of I left the hotel,absurdly called "The the cars were almostfull a half hour the timeof departure.I walked thatwas before of Palace,"witha feeling relief the to closely related happiness. The Palace through trainuntil I found a seat near a window. Chatting Nigerian was absolutely the worsthotel that I multi-colored dresses and in have everencountered all of myyears womenwearing head pieces give the of travel. The spell of earlymorning largebandana-like a Nearlyall of was still upon the cityand I had more train circusatmosphere. the womenhad children. More passenthanenoughtimeat my disposal. I deluggageand some cided to walk the mile and a half to gerswith odd-shaped their belongings bags and in the Lagos Train Terminus. The cab carrying boxes soon filledup the train. Friends drivers, already on the streetin full of stoodintheirservices force, offered and accepted and relatives the passengers side and on theplatform, out giving last with bad humor, though my refusal as minute instructions advice, and sometimes I was an escaping thief. in anxiousand serioustones,as if the were about to departfor the The road to the Terminus stretchedpassengers one of the worstslum areas moon. At exactly through eighto'clockthe train its to that I have ever seen; crosseda long started journey Ibadan. bridge overa lagoon, intruding upon the A beggarcame on pleadingfor the landscapein the heartof the citywith priceof his morning meal. LeavZing Latouchesof magicalbeauty. gos, we passed through Yaba, a residenAt thestation showedmyticket I and tial suburb where most of the better and watched expression theclerk's the on live. face class Africans a few Europeans as he weighed hand bag and viewed Shops, theatresand small hotels were my the through settlement. the ticketagain, frowning disbelief. scattered in He was surprised see an American to At Ebute Mutta, the firststop, the traveling thirdclass. I have been in left beggar Africaover two months now, traveling on. Afterthe trainand threemoregot one moresub-station we stop in mostly out of the way places that were out of Lagos. When we leftthe tourists never see. This is as it nmost third stop,Mushin,the country-side beshould be because I am not a tourist. gan to unfold. Shacks and huts puncinterest Africabrought tuated the in My life-long blankets of green foliage me hereto myancestral hometo see and before us further stretching than the at try to understand, least part of the eye couldsee. temperament and importance this of continent emergent and its people who From my accumulatedprovisions I 527




sandwich I was and There was no lull in the excitement. made a largesardine it of stillin theprocess consuming when More thirdclass passengers were boardstop.Two ing the train. A ladycameinto the car Agece,the fourth we reached a moved rapidlyto the back carrying large strawsleepingmat on conductors of the train,talkingin excitedtones. herhead,one childin theclothcradleon and to They werehurrying the first sec- herback and a bundlein one arm.Other were equally burdened, ond class cars wheresomekind of com- passengers some of werecarrying the motionwas attracting attention cooking facilities. the people waitingto board the train. for market In spite of my fascination third I called out in vain to a chatting class travel, still have some prejudice I woman who was sellingboiled guinea dispelled eggs, two for threepence. The againstit thatis being rapidly fojwl me train pulledawayas she noticed and by sceneslike this. Third class accommakes it possiblefor a lot of triedto reachthe windowwhereI was modation people, with verylittlemoney,and an sitting. excessive amount luggage, travel of to at A beggar boardedthe train at this a fare they can afford. But for third he most a stop,carrying sign saying was deaf classaccommodations, peoplein Afof wouldnot and dumb. He woretheattire a Mo- rica who fitinto thiscategory keptMohammedan. be able to travel trainat all. by poorly hammedan-a and torn His long whiterobe was dirty The ladywiththe strawsleeping mat in severalplaces. For a hat he wore put downthe first load of herbelongings a red fez. He looked to be of Hausa in he though was much shorter and brought a tinpan thatwas much extraction, wash tubs. than mostof the Hausa people that I largerthan most American Her littlegirlcame over to me, greeted have seen. me warmly the Yorubalanguageand in at At 9:15 we stopped Kajawya. The climbedinto my lap. I answered her market womenalong tlle tracksoffered with a smile as she continued talk. to for nerve When she finally nothing sale thatI had enough discovered thatI did Kajawya not know her languageher small face was leaving to eat. As thetrain I noticedthe "deaf and dumb" beggar lost some of the bright glow of friendand laughing talk- shipand plainly standing the tracks, by showed bewilderment. its men. The childwaited dressed of ing to a group similarly withadmirable patience while her mother founda place forher forest manybelongings foundtimeto take The train through thick a moved and from engine her. Her mother the area. The stray cinders was noticeably preghad spoiledmy cheap bargainbasement nant. suit. Still another beggarcame through As the trainstarted move forward that wearing signannouncing a the train to of he too was "deafand dumb." The so- the chatter the newlyarrived passenweremuch gers. acquaintingthemselves methods thisbeggar of liciting with the than thoseof the last others,rose to crescendos clashing more intriguing of one. Ile was calling attention his soundsand created,for me at least, a to kindof confused signwith a tin rattlethat made a sad, strange jubilation. From kind of music. He was also the windowI saw the greencountryside haunting its and more energetic unfolding primeval more imaginative splendor. About than the last beggar. He tumed com- a halfhour laterwe stoppedat a small almostag- villagesurrounded a thickforest. I pletelyaroundseveraltimes, by in out his plight. Even sat in the windowspeculating gressive acting about the his mannerof names of the diversespecies of trees withoutthis ceremony along the tracks. The train dresswas colorful enoughto get him all scattered stoodpanting, if anticipating jouras the the attention needed. A pang of neythatlay ahead. . . seemingly he wonderand disappointment touched ing, as I was wondering, depression why thisstop whenhe leftat thenextstop. was made. We were nowherenear a myspirit



colstation. one got on or off. No My Amer- weredressed smocks different of in icanmindexpects reason everything.ors. This made the completely a for white The Nigerianpassengers were still fill- robe of the assailedman standout with ing the car withcriss-cross sharpness. His face bore a conversations. contrasting passiveexpression.He seempeculiarly The child of the lady withthe straw ed neither nor againsthis assailants. for mats and all the otherbulkyparapher- He stood and listened though listenas naliahad fallen asleep. The train started ing was a penitence, totallyunrelated jerkily, awakening childwho looked to guilt. the up at her mother one surprised for moment and closed her eyes again. Still Every seat in the car was occupied no one, exceptme, seemedto care why now. Marketwomeninvadedthe train the train in had stopped thefirst place. along with the new passengers.Movementin the aislesbecamea problem-a I left my seat and walked through rather hecticone. The local argument the thirdclass cars untilI reachedone outside of the traincontinued, heated marked: CANTEEN. This was the and confusing.The ladywiththe large closest to approximationan American din- pots and pans prepared some food for ing car I could find. A cup of tea cost herchild. The childwas beautiful.To me threepence. The scant choice of me she seemedover-dressed. could be I I back absolutely foodwas not impressive. arrived becauseI am not sure wrong anoth- whatbeingoverdressed at myseatas thetrain making was of consists in this er stop,forno reason thatI couldunder- or any other partof Africa. built stand. Up ahead of us I saw a city thrust its As the trainstarted forward on the side of a hill. It lookedto be ended on new. The shiny tin-roofed houseslooked the argument the platform man as if they had been freshly painted. The abruptly. The white-robed got into the thirdclass car behind us. The city was Aro. the groupof men wearing multi-colored The marketwomen at this station smocks him who had been addressing in items sale heated tones,were lookingtowardthe did not have anyattractive for . . . mostly sugarcane and agidi. Agidi train showed now. Theirfacesuniformly consists of mainly maize (corn) meal. It a flush satisfaction, if they had won as of in items the somekindof victory.Probably, beis one of themost important just diet. My favorite West African market ing heardwas all they or wanted needed. a arrived few women,the fruitsellers, secondsbeforethe train pulled away. potsand pans The ladywiththemany in a I bought bunch of eightbananas for had one fullof agidiwrapped banana threepence. leaves. She took one ball of agidi from A fewmilesawayfrom we reached Aro made no attemptto eat it. She held a largecitycalledAby. Somepassengers the food in her hand and watched me left at Aby. For less than one minute as though I was likely to take it from the aisleswereuncongested. Soon,more her. A group of men carrying briefcases dressed people came aboard. and flauntingairs of officialdom colorfully walked Some were carrying straw mats. Where through the train. are they takingthose mats? A lady pushed a largedishpanundermy seat. At the next stop some of the passenA childwas tiedto herbackand another gers with the straw mats left. A new one was growing her abdomen. On passenger came into the car carrying in the platform near the windowwhere I what seemed to be a large cat fish. One an was sitting argument in process. of the "deaf and dumb" beggarsended his was A white-robed was in the middle tour at this station and was met by man of a clusterof people, standing stonily friends. He took offhis sign and stood silent as their uninhibited wrath was by the tracks, laughing and talking as poured upon him. All of his tormentors came up to greethim. Hereotherfriends
the pan and gave it to the child, who



after is goingto be difficult me to stareme through seat. She was not my it for curious. I believethatanybody Nigera is really hostile. She was intensely in deaf and dumb. thinkshe had realizedthat I was, at and therewas least,not a local African The little girlseatedopposite took something of the ordinary me aboutmy out offher headpiece, unfoldedit, covered presence a third classcar on themornin herself and went to sleep. The train ing trainto Ibadan. moved through valley. At another a stop a stout Nigerian woman boarded train the We reached a village of red clay carrying largebasket barkand some houseswithtinroofs. A trainto Lagos, a of on was -earthenware and dishes. She leaned fullofpassengers, waiting theside pots out of the window and gave instructions tracks. I saw a fewdropsof rain. The of to threepeople standing outsideas we rainmademe moreconscious wanting from got underway again. The station was and needinga bath. The cinders onlya largeplatform withno cover. A theengine, into flying the open window, smallherdof goatswas grazing nearthe had ruinedby cheap suit. I mustretracks. They lookedup for a moment mindmyself neveragain wear a light to as theheavy suit on an Afnoiseof theengine colored basement straining bargain was becoming in incongruous the midst ricantrain. of thispastoral scene. The new passenstopwas made at 2:05 P.M. Another ger founda seat,made a new friend or The stout woman with the basket of an rediscovered old one. pots barkand theearthenware and dishes The littlegirlwho had been sleeping got off,while handing her belongings underher headpiece up and opened adroitly got a and continuing conversation one of the potsof food. She prepared withher friends. Fifteen minutes later, a mealfor herself, using bananaleavesfor the trainwas pullinginto Ibadan. The a plate. Her mother the gaveherone glance conductor walked through cars, anof approvaland continued conversa- nouncing: a "Ibadan! We are now in Ibation with anotherpassenger acrossthe dan!"' aisle. At 12:40 the train made another The man with the large cat fish one of its unscheduled stops. We were brushedagainstme on his way to the near a village of small farms. Finally to continued give the trainresumed journey, its the door. The conductor jarring out his needlessmessageuntil he came littlegirl'sfood in its banana-leaf plate. of The manwiththebig cat fishhad hung to me. His observation me was slow and thorough. above his seat. No one, his property "American?" asked. he except me,bothered stare thissight. to at "Yes." The train movedover a long stretch of track. Forthefirst straight timeit reach"Everbeen in Ibadan before?" ed a speed thatmight have been thirtyfive milesan hour. of became a mixture His expression His nextmesher The little finished meal,threw prideand condescension. girl the banana-leaf plate out of the window sage was also needless. "You are now in the largest city in and rediscovered presence. For a my he I moment thoughtshe was going to West Africa," said.

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