Opinion: Where Is The Leafy Culture? By Ifadola Eweje

running splash of rust
and gold, flung and scattered
among seven hills like broken
china in the sun
-JP Clark

The politics of former Vice-President Atiku Abubakar’s recent visit to Ibadan, capital of Oyo state was drowned by his comments on a city that is fast shedding the tradition of filth. Acerbic observers once called this lifestyle the leafy culture, on account of the leaf-based way of packaging food in the area.

Almost every consumable and staples were clothed in leaf: semi-solid corn meal (eko), bean cake (akara), bean paste (moin-moin) etc. It wasn’t only the food vendor and chefs who were guilty of this general bestowal of honour on the green stuff; the housewives were also culpable. At home the receptacle of food was ewe (leaf), unless the food had to go with soup usually abula (gbegiri and ila or ewedu).  Still the amala would have merged from the leaf.

This resort to the leaf was not limited to wrapping food.  The broad variants of ewe were spread on the floor for defecation and for cleaning the body after the act. At the end, leaves from the various businesses of the day littered the streets and home, the same way used water sachets dot the landscape in our urban and semi-urban centers today. This constituted serious health and environmental hazards.

That was the leafy culture that existed some years back when Atiku was working in Ibadan as a Customs officer. But Atiku, returning recently to the Oyo state capital on a visit to Governor Abiola Ajimobi was confronted with a shock find: the leafy culture had disappeared!

In its place, a new city is emerging to make room for the new vision of the day, where Oyo state would live up to its status as a pace-setter, thanks to an ambitious drive by Ajimobi to transform the state at breakneck speed.

The former Vice-president said as much in his discussion with the governor. He declared: “What gladdens my heart is that I always see changes anytime I come back to Ibadan; changes in additional infrastructure development; changes in city renewal; changes in quality of life; changes in orderliness on the street and changes in cleanliness of the street. That is what good governance is all about, and I want to commend you and praise you for these achievements, and I pray the good people of Oyo will continue to give you the support that you need to continue to do this good work that you have been doing.”

Simply, what the ex-Vice President is saying here is that there’s been a difference between what obtained in Oyo state yesterday and what we see today. We had a dirty leafy culture in the past; now, under a new dispensation we are having a clean leafless culture characterized by healthy sanitary conditions and salutary orderliness in the street.

It is not enough in the life of a society to have changing of the guard in government through periodic and obligatory elections. If that is all there is to democracy and governance, we would have learnt little or nothing from those who conceived democratic institutions as vehicles of development and progress. There would also be nothing wrong with military coups that changed rulers (violently or bloodless) at will in our recent past.

But real wholesome change must come with change in government leadership.  Even leaders who are retained at the ballot see the need to effect cabinet cleansing by way of dropping of some aides for the injection of fresh blood. Above all, the supreme document driving our democracy, the Constitution insists that the President and the Governor can’t go more than two terms regardless of how superlatively they perform.

So the point should be that along with leadership change, there must be a progressive pursuit of policies and programmes that bring in a better life for the people. It is no exaggeration then to claim that the change in Government House in Ibadan from one administration to another in 2011 has been accompanied by a philosophy and ideology uncompromisingly determined to put a full stop to a rowdy, unhealthy and life-threatening city life. Government is making a difference therefore.

Keen watchers say what the Ajimobi administration is doing is a long work in progress. JP Clark’s “splash of rust… flung and scattered among seven hills like broken china in the sun” is still visible when you stand on Mapo hill or atop Adeoyo cliff. But the “gold” is beginning to emerge in the clean neighborhoods, in the streets liberated from the iron grip of lawless motorists and passengers, in the new-look motor parks taken away from the control of violent factional gangs and finally in the delivery of a new citizen now savouring long-denied dividends of democracy.

The leafy culture of Ibadan has become history!

Eweje is a traditional medicine practitioner in Erunmu, Ibadan.

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