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Inside Ibadan’s Century Old Herbal Market



The Ibadan Herbal Market has carved a niche for being the largest trading centre for traditional medicines in West Africa attracting traders from various parts of the region for over 100 years. ADEBAYO WAHEED (Ibadan) reports

For a first time visitor, there is nothing spectacular about Bode Market situated in the heart of Ibadan, the Oyo state capital and the largest city south of the Sahara.

In deed, it is just another market in Ibadan. Located along the Gate-Molete Road, precisely at Bode, on a large expanse of land housing over 300,000 stalls and shops is the magnificent, century-old Ibadan International Herbal Market.

Started as a family business, the market now stocks all kinds of herbs, roots and branches that cure different ailments including those orthodox medicine has been unable to take care of.

The market has grown from the few shops and roadside sheds and a few patrons to receiving visitors from different countries including, Togo, Benin, Ghana, Côte d’Ivoire, Cameroun, Brazil and London.

Human traffic to the market on daily basis is enormous, as people come from different parts of the world. Apart from people who transact businesses on daily basis, more people visit the market every nine days for buying and selling of herbs while others come to inquire about medicine for one disease or the other.

Speaking on the foundation of the market, 88-year-old Elder Salaudeen Oyakojo said the land which host the herbal market belongs to his grandfather, Oyakojo who died several years ago.

He disclosed that his grandfather was a warrior and farmer who was stationed at the Bode area to oversee the security situation and that he always alerted his people in Ile-Ife whenever there was going to be an attack on Ibadan by warriors from the people of Egba and Ijebu.

Oyakojo who disclosed that the market was established over 100 years ago, said “initially it was sellers from Ijebu that came to the market after every nine days to transact business on food stuffs.”

According to him, after five days, they would return to the market for clean-up exercise together with some of the street traders who on daily basis displayed their goods and wares.

Oyakojo who now controls the market disclosed that the shops were rented out to the sellers between N500 and N100 on monthly basis while others pay on daily basis.

Speaking on the significance of the market, he said apart from being a source of income to the family, both the sellers and buyers were the most beneficiaries.

“People come from different parts of Nigeria and outside the country for commercial purposes. Also, we have buyers from West African countries and others like London, Cuba and Brazil to purchase and sell drugs at the market,” he said.

On the challenges facing the market which he recalled that five years after the demise of his father, some of the shop and stall owners challenged the owners, especially on the payment of their rents.

“The matter was serious that the state governor, Senator Abiola Ajimobi, the Olubadan of Ibadan, Oba Saliu Akanmu Adetunji and the Nigeria Police have to intervene to avert violent clash and breakdown of law and order.

“At a point, we were invited to the Nigeria Police Zone 11 headquarters, Osogbo, where the matter was partially settled,” he added.

He said the warring factions were warned against disrupting the peace at the market and that if they could not comply with the rules and regulations of the market owners; they should move out to another place which is the NITEL land near Molete and quickly added that some of them still come to Bode to transact businesses especially in the evening.

While noting that the NITEL herb market is not as big as that of Bode, he said they warned against causing disharmony.

On the state government’s support, Oyakojo who acknowledged that the present administration in the state had been up and doing, disclosed that on weekly basis sanitary inspection officials visited the market not only to ensure clean environment but also to teach the traders on the need to keep the market clean.

He said Governor Ajimobi also built about 20 shops in the market which was under the control of a committee in charge of the market.

Also, the Iyaloja, Alhaja Sikirat Akinde, who claimed that she was elected about two months ago following the demise of the former Iyaloja, described the market as one of the ancestral markets in Ibadan.

The 80-year-old market leader said like Oja’ba and Oje markets, they were not under government control, adding that like Oja’ba, it was being controlled by the princes and princesses while Oje was under the management and control of family members.

The market woman leader who disclosed that she was born into the trade, said she grew up assisting her late mother in the selling and buying of herbs.

“I have seen and known everything about the market. Since when I was born, my mother used to sell at the market and I grew up to know the market.

“I grew up in the market, I got married here especially when I am a native of Ibadan. Since I grew up, there is only one leader and after her demise, there was no other leader until when I was chosen about two months ago,” she said.

“I was elected by both the buyers and sellers at the market based on my experience and behaviour. In fact, my election was supported by everybody.”

According to her, the market has been under the control and management of some elders from time immemorial, “it was inside the bush and gradually the market continued to grow and expand on daily basis.”

Initially, she disclosed that the owners were not charging fees on the shops and stalls but in the last 40 years, toll and rent payment was introduced.

Corroborating the claims of Oyakojo, she said between N500 and N100 was paid on monthly basis while some others paid on daily basis. She also added that people come from different parts of the country and other places like London and Cuba to buy and sell herbs in the market.

A trader, 28-year-old Azeez Taofeek said he decided to join the business six years ago after all efforts to secure a reasonable employment failed.

The 2013 Higher National Diploma (HND) holder from the Polytechnic, Ibadan said he took the decision to join her mother’s business instead of waiting for the unavailable monthly job.

“I don’t think I can leave the business now unless I see job with vehicle and probably an accommodation because I have not seen any other job that can be compared with herb business,” he said.

LEADERSHIP Weekend gathered that apart from the spiritual belief that God has not created any disease without remedy, so also, there is no sickness created by God that has no medicine.

One of the regular customers to the market who claimed that he has been coming to the market for more than a decade, Alhaji Abubakar Muhammed while speaking with our correspondent, said unless a patient is destined to die of a particular disease, the remedy could be found at the herb market.

He said on several occasions, many patients of various diseases had been healed through the herbs while others were unlucky.

Recalling his experience years back, the self-acclaimed herbalist told our correspondent that a patient was brought to him after all efforts to get successful medical remedy at various hospitals failed.

“The person in question was having swollen legs and stomach before he was rushed to the hospital for medical attention.

“After months and spending huge amount of money, he was taken to two other hospitals from where they were told to look inwards.

“The patient was brought to me and after serious and many examinations, I decided to consult with some leaders at the market who after, prescribed some herbs for me with strong warning that I should adhere strictly to the instructions and usage.

“To God be the glory I can say precisely, that after two months, we noticed some changes and within six months, the patient recovered and was discharged.

“If one believes in the efficacy of herbs for the treatment and cure of diseases, it will definitely work for him or her. It is not by power or might but by the grace of God,” he declared.

Also, a woman customer, Alhaja Simbiat Adepegba, told our correspondent that the market which had been in existence for more than a century had played significant role in the alternative medical services.

The customer who is also a herbal medicine seller said that apart from being cheap, herbal medicine had come to stay and would continue to contribute to the development and growth of medical service delivery in Nigeria.

“Government should try as much as possible to inculcate herbs into the health care delivery system of the country. Government needs to encourage its usage among the citizens and promote it to the international market.

“With the few customers attending this market from outside the country, if encouraged will generate earnings into the government covers.

“This is our own, we need to encourage its usage and make it acceptable in the international market for the benefit of the people and the country as a whole,” she said.

However, she called for effective monitoring and control for the usage and selling of herbs.



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