Route 008: Omotoke Motunrayo
But, there are places I’ve visited that women aren’t allowed in, like the queen of Sheba’s grave, she’s believed to have been buried in Ijebu-Ode, and apparently before dying she laid a curse that any female that sees her grave will die. The myth is she was sick and women didn’t help her. — Omotoke Motunrayo, Egbeda
Our questions are italicized.
What is your favorite memory about the street you grew up on?
I grew up on Agbogunleri Street, Idimu, Alimosho LGA, Lagos State, and my favorite memory is the street’s carnival. Growing up, we usually had an annual street carnival competition in April with other streets where the best display would win. One time, my brother was gloriously dressed in this attire as a king with two brides on a horse and some mad band. We killed it.
Oh, and there was this mallam that had been living in our neighborhood even before I was born. He is still there to date. He is the real deal — you fit knock baba shop 3 a.m. for coaster biscuit and milk and e go open shop.
When was the last time you visited your childhood street?
The last time I visited was June/July this year for my dad’s burial.
A lot of people kept saying ‘we’ve missed you o’, ‘you didn’t come to visit us’.
The event of the whole day did not allow me to settle in and take in changes, also I haven’t left home that long ago.
What’s the longest you’ve had to travel for something?
Kebbi — Lagos
If you mean as part of a trip, three months. I spent the time exploring northern Nigeria. It was the last leg of my most recent adventure. I was on the street every other day.
If you mean hour-wise, it has to be my trip from Kebbi to Lagos, which took around 18hours or maybe even more.
While exploring northern Nigeria, what’s something you did not expect that happened?
At the time, I wasn’t expecting it to be as homely as it turned out, I also expected a dry land but it turned out lively, interesting, and beautiful.
For instance, I see Kano like Lagos, very bubbly.
I remember going to Tulo-Tulo in Yobe state and getting stuck in a community, I couldn’t go forward or back because it was about 9:00 pm.
I met this nice woman who understood little English, we were in the same cab going there and she took me in for the night and asked her child to prepare my bathwater. Mrs. Aisha, I think I still have her number.
What’s your daily commute?
I don’t go out in Lagos. I am mostly indoors, only on rare occasions.
I have been indoor for the past 2 weeks. Except when I go out for production, for that, I go from where I stay, around Egbeda, I take a bus to Oshodi, take the BRT from the bus terminal to Yaba, walk to Tejuosho market for my production. When I’m done in 4–5hrs, I go back to Oshodi, then Egbeda. At Egbeda, I always stop at ‘The Place’ to get food before taking a bike back to my house.
Car, Okada, Bus — what do you consider the best mode of getting around?
I’m Team Okada any day, any time. If it’s possible to fly a bike from Lagos to Anambra, I’m taking it. I think my love for okada comes from the fact that I don’t have to be stuck in Lagos traffic and enjoy the vibe. I think I need a “true love” power bike experience.
What’s the farthest distance you’ve gone on a bike?
I steadily go far distances on okada o. I traveled from Ikyogen in Benue state to Cross-river.
It was a 6hour ride.
I remember checking my map and it was saying Obudu-Cattle Ranch was about 2hours away from where I was and by bus, it’d take 12hours so I just took a bike instead.
Unfortunately, the shortcuts were no longer available so it took us longer than it would have, I had to stop to eat and stretch my legs.
We even had to fix the bike on the way because Obudu-Cattle Ranch is one of the highest points in Nigeria and we had to ascend when we were approaching. I still choose that over cars.
I like trying different bike experiences in different places, like in Enugu, most of the riders are women and they are considerably more gentle than the riders in the north.
What’s an obvious part of [Lagos] that you’ve never visited?
I don’t think there is any place I haven’t visited o.
What would you say is the difference between Lagos when you were younger and now?
Haha. That I grew up.
I grew up then understood Lagos. It might have been terrible and I just wasn’t old enough to notice.
One moment you think things are changing and the next it has scattered, look at how the BRT buses have become solę buses
Okay, on second thought, my immediate environment that’s from Ikotun to Iyana-Ipaja used to be pretty empty, my friends and I would have to go to the Island or Ikeja to have fun, but now we have Dominos pizza, more than two Chicken Republics, clubs, bars, and even a cinema.
During my WAEC, we only had one place to go to toast ourselves, if any boy carries you to ‘Hunters’ then you’re a big girl.
‘Hunters’ is now an amala joint.
What’s one place everyone should visit before they turn 20?
Okay, this is hard, because I didn’t even visit anywhere before I turned 20.
What I will say though is, leave your hood or place of birth at least once before you’re 20.
That way you can see beyond what your background has presented you with.
Oh, and if you’re in Lagos, go on the Lekki Conservation canopy walk. You need to see the beauty of the Lord above sea level.
What made you decide to start traveling for a living and when was this?
I didn’t plan on traveling for a living, it just happened in 2018 I got tired of staying in one place and needed a change.
I did not know people could explore until I saw some people do it on Instagram, I wanted a lifestyle change and went for it.
Does your gender shape how you travel in any way?
Uhm, it doesn’t change how I travel, I just believe I can do anything regardless of my breasts haha.
But, there are places I’ve visited that women aren’t allowed in, like the queen of Sheba’s grave, she’s believed to have been buried in Ijebu-Ode, and apparently before dying she laid a curse that any female that sees her grave will die. The myth is she was sick and women didn’t help her.
There’s a place in the Oba of Benin’s palace you can’t enter as a lady.
Agulu Lake in Anambra too, women can’t enter some spots there, imagine leaving Lagos early and traveling all the way to be told you cannot sightsee because you’re a woman.
Not to talk of people including family members not understanding why a girl would be traveling up and down, I know they’d see it differently if I was a boy.
When was the last time you visited a new street?
2 weeks ago, Ekiti Street, around Akowonjo. It’s great for an evening walk, neat and quiet.
What’s something you know about Lagos that not too many people know?
Nothing really! I no too like the state like that, it’s limiting for an adventurer like me, there’s little to do here.
What’s a route you know by heart?
What’s the quickest route from Lagos to Ogun?
The best route to follow is Iyana-Ipaja, once you get to the toll-gate in Otta you’re already in Abeokuta.
What’s one thing you always look forward to seeing on your street?
The Ewa-agonyi woman, she’s our afternoon supplier.
What’s the most you’ve had to pay to get from one place to another in Lagos?
Ah! One time I paid N15k for Uber from Idimu to Ibeju Lekki. Money wey go carry me reach Abuja remain change.
So how much do you typically spend going to Abuja? And what mode of transport do you use?
It ranges from 7k to 15k, now with everything going on, it’s on the higher side.
I go by road, take registered buses for safety although I’ve had times where I just take cars on the road going that way. I find it more adventurous, stopping at spots and taking them in.
Also, because I don’t have money for flights haha
The last location you texted or tweeted is where you’ll live next, it’s:
It’s Akowonjo, Egbeda. My house.
You’re going to a place you’ve always wanted to visit and can only take one thing: where are you going and what are you taking?
I have always wanted to visit India and I’d take my phone, I can’t do without it.
Omotoke Motunrayo is a travel expert and domestic tourism promoter. She is the founder of the Alarinka community. Omotoke has explored the 36 states in Nigeria as a solo-traveler.
Routes by GatePass is mapping African stories one route at a time. This project sits at the intersection of life stories and mobility in African contexts. Through Routes, we explore how African lives are shaped by mobility, migration, journeys, and modes of transport; and how places take on the stories of the people who have visited or passed through them.
Do you or someone you know have an interesting mobility story? Do you have a hack for moving around your city, or know something about your city’s history that not too many people know? Tell your story. We’re open to submissions and looking forward to reading!
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Editor / Publisher — Wale Lawal
Sub-Editor — Muyideen Dosumu
Interviewer — Aisha Hameed
Illustrator — Samson Msheila