top of page

Watermelons in Old Bodija


Abupepo always provides some kind of a complain, to keep life interesting. One of his more original complaints was - Why there are no watermelons in Ibadan? – he asked me one evening. Usually, his complaints come in the evenings.


Since the issue was raised, the ears of the guesthouse residents, are on alert to capture any piece of information about watermelons in the South West of Nigeria.


Rumors started flowing, without specific directions, that some Dutch Oyinbo (Peeled people), just started experimental farm, somewhere near Ogbomosho, in an effort to grow watermelons in Nigeria. Nothing goes faster than rumors in Nigeria, especially when it is about watermelons.


After some investigations, we manage to get one pale watermelon; which, didn't remind us of the red watermelons from the valley. It was a Dutch, whitish, pinky, watermelon, rather than the red sweet common watermelon we all know.


In fact, Abupepo was so disappointed with this Dutch watermelon, that he considered never to fly KLM again. So, instead of eating the watermelon, we took the seeds and planted them, in the Old Bodija guesthouse backyard.


He cleared a small area from the weeds, and carefully placed the watermelon seeds. Generally - he says - I am against the term "weeds" because it is an insult to local indigenous plants, that have the rights to have flowers and fruits, like most other plants.


Just because people don't want them in their garden, they call them "weeds". But, for the sake of the watermelon dream, he cleared these plants. Weeds.


Landscaping Consultants should always use local indigenous plants, instead of imported plants. Because birds and insects, are not familiar with Imported those plants. Those Imported plants, cause confusion in the eco system. Frustrating the system! He spoke.


A typical Nigerian, at least back in those days, would not plant flowers for decoration, nor for any other purpose whatsoever. Not in their backyard, nor in the front yard. Especially, not for decoration!


In Europe, the land of the peeled people, all decisions are made in order to live better!! In Nigeria, decisions are made in order to live!!


There is a huge difference' in the basic values between "Live" and "live better". A completely different set of values, and another world.


A good Nigerian shall plant corn, yam, cassava, pawpaw, and could even plant watermelon.


In Nigeria, the yard is used for a true, meaningful purpose. This is Nigeria for heaven's sake. Not peeled people land. If there is a small yard, it is better to grow food. To survive. To live!! Food is more important than white roses.


In Nigeria everything grows fast. The humidity is high and temperature is warm and tropical. One morning I couldn’t open a drawer in my office. When I checked the drawer, I saw that from one of the drawer's joints, came out a root. scarry!?


The rainfall in this area is heavy and sudden. Only the locals can tell how the system works and behave. The sky might be clear blue, and suddenly dark green clouds come from nowhere and the show begin.


The watermelon's seeds sprout in a short time and to be sure, I asked Madam Apunanwu, the cook, to water the seeds a little bit every day, around noon, so that the shoots would not dry. This is very important.


Madam Apunanwu was a dedicated, hardworking house keeper and a cook. She is an expert in preparing food, which only under specific conditions, can be edible.


Work was not easy for her. Especially, moving between the rooms, since the doors manufacturers did not consider Madam Apunanwu measurements, when they designed the doors' openings. Madam Apunanwu had fundamental dimensions to considered, under any circumstances.


Madam Apunanwu size is somewhat, associated with her food tasing habits. Like a good and responsible cook, she tastes the food before serving and during preparation, like the big chefs do.


Madam Apunanwu tasting requirements can reach up to 50% from the food quantity. She tastes the food to ensure that the food shall not accidently be tasty.


Sometime, if she finds that the food is somehow tasty, Madam Apunanwu might taste 100% of the dish. That's how her massive size was developed.


Madam Apunanwu's measurements are also a huge advantage in several areas, particularly when she goes to the market, and especially when she goes to Dugbe Market.


Those Market women would think twice before they shall consider an aggressive negotiation with Madam Apunanwu. Nothing in Ibadan markets is purchased, without an aggressive and long negotiation. But with Madam Apunanwu the negotiations were friendly and it was evident, that the market women acknowledge her good measurement.


Generally, Madam Apunanwu is a very intelligent madam, thus she has a good understanding capability. She is pursuing the cockroaches as if it is green mamba. She cannot understand how the cockroach is back, after she smash him few times. For 2 months she kills this one cockroach again and again and he is coming back.


She asked for Abupepo help. He tells her that these cockroaches exist 320 million years. For comparison, humans (homo sapiens) exist only about 200 thousand years. That show you that those cockroaches are very successful, in surviving with their worst enemy, the humans.


Madam Apunanwu opens her big eyes.


Humans fight those cockroaches, with chemical and biological weapons, that cost billions, and yet, those cockroaches survive all these wars. These cockroaches can survive nuclear war.


Abupepo says that even if we take the best scientist and give them 100 billion dollars, with all the materials a cockroach is made of, they will not be able to build a living cockroach. That's how sophisticated and complex are these cockroaches. We should respect the cockroaches.


Madam Apunanwu say – Ah-Ah!


Usually, I came around 13:00 pm for lunch at the guesthouse. It was Thursday, around noon, when the driver tells me that he spotted a suspicious, nervous cloud.


The driver tells me that he is know this awọsanma wuwo (heavy cloud) because this awọsanma wuwo was around, about three weeks ago, and even than he didn't like this cloud. And now the cloud looks even more wuwo.


The driver was born four times under the spirit of Abiku, the Juju that allow babies to be born, die, and reborn, until the Juju is satisfied with the results. 


Without much of a warning the super awọsanma wuwo drops his merchandise on Bodija. Just the noise of the rain, on the car's roof, could turn you deaf. Strong streams of water wash the roads and the roadsides become small rivers.


We arrived at the guesthouse and I asked the driver to get near the door as close as possible, allowing me to jump in.


I went straight ahead to the kitchen. Madam Apunanwu was not there.


I started calling her Madaaam …!! -  Madaaaaam …!! Madaaam …!!, but there was no madam. I started getting worried. Madam Apunanwu is always in the kitchen tasting the food.


It was when I raised the curtain, that I saw her.


Madam Apunanwu stood outside, in the backyard, above the Dutch watermelon shoots, completely wet, the heavy rain was pouring, in her left hand she holds a blue plastic kettle, while she waters the watermelon shoots. So, they will not dry.


And that is the end of the story, except that Madam Apunanwu had to go to see her family, somewhere in Anambra state, and I continued watering those shoots by myself. Within four days the shoots went dry.


They missed Madam Apunanwu.


© All Rights Reserved

bottom of page