Yoruba Hometowns: Community, Identity, and Development in Nigeria

By Lillian Trager | Go to book overview
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4
“We Are Just Sojourners Here”:
Ijesa Migration

We are just sojourners here, whereas our place of abode is at home; attachment to home is always there.

—statement by a Lagos-based woman who is a chief in Ilesa

(June 18, 1992)

A most noticeable feature of their developing culture in the economic sphere is the ubiquitous “Osomalo…. They are to be found in every nook and corner of Nigeria and beyond, pioneering trade and bringing back home their profits to develop their home towns by putting up impressive buildings and contributing to their development efforts.

—Bolanle Awe and B. Agbaje-Williams (1997: 12)

A lecturer at Obafemi Awolowo University once described to me how in the 1970s he would travel to Ijebu-Jesa simply to view a house that had recently been built there; at the time, he did not know who the owner was but was so impressed with the design and beauty of the structure that he would take visitors to see it. The house, owned by a prominent Ijesa man who lived in another part of Nigeria, is one of many that now dot the landscape of Ijesa towns. They are usually located on the edge of the built-up area of the town, but occasionally in the heart of the town; some of those constructed in recent years are mansions or estates with several buildings, in contemporary architectural designs, surrounded by walls and impressive gates. These houses contrast sharply with most of the other buildings in the community, mud-brick and cement structures that are often dilapidated. But they represent the current success of the most wealthy and prominent Ijesas residing outside their hometowns, just as the fathers (and sometimes the mothers) of these individuals earlier built houses in the Brazilian architectural style that dominated during the 1930s. Although some visitors are struck by what appears to be an ostentatious display of wealth, townspeople usually point to these edifices with pride, as they represent the success of their “sons of

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