Hidden in the maze that is the prestigious University of Ibadan, lies a serene pocket of green space that has grown to become one of my favorite escapes. With the ever expanding drive to replace vegetation with concrete, spaces such as these are becoming a lot more rare despite being important resources for knowledge and tranquility.
Finding the botanical garden is easy thanks to Google maps and entry to the park costs ₦200 each. The moment you walk through the gate, you're struck by the beauty of the park. The air is still and fresh, the only interruption to that is the gentle rustling of leaves and the soft chirps of the birds. The area spans over 100 acres but only about 70 of those have been developed. It is divided into different sections, and it shows the variety of habitats and the different plants that grow in them. There are guides (mostly students) who show you around and highlight the names and uses of the greenery - some of them quite interesting.
Trekking through the endless foliage, you start to notice how little you know about plants and you realize how disconnected you are. Our obsession with concrete and steel has had devastating effects and we have lost plenty of that knowledge. Before colonization, these lush havens served as natural pharmacies for our ancestors, who in turn worshipped nature as deity. Our ancestors before us were meant to serve as guidelines in our own version of modernity so we don't forget that nature is the source of all things.
Our style of architecture has also taken a hit. 'Modern' buildings now have little to no plans for natural ventilation, having to rely heavily on air conditioning units to maintain a livable temperature. Gardens have been replaced with hideous plastic grass carpets, trees being a thing of the past, and yet we complain about how hot it gets. As we modernize and prioritize economic growth over sustainability, we continue to lose our link with the natural world and ends up being more costly.
Anyway, one of the most enjoyable things to do at the botanical garden is to set up a station in the shade and soak up the environment. Bring some blankets, Bluetooth speakers, snacks, drinks, and have a relaxing time. It's very peaceful here, and that has made it a popular location for meditating, prayer, and all kinds of reverence, so be sure to share the space.
You're not going to go to a botanical garden and not learn about plants so here are a few that I found interesting. Neem is a natural insect repellant that cures multiple skin diseases, reduces swellings, and promotes good skin health, can you imagine that as an ointment? Aloe Vera is a supernatural healer of wounds, promotes good digestion and great for skincare, imagine that as a drink, or a core ingredient on locally made cream. Guava leaf promotes good digestion, manages cholesterol levels, maintains good blood sugar levels and so much more. The flowers of the hibiscus plant, with it's unique flavor are rich in antioxidants, regulate blood pressure and weight, and fight against cancer cells. And these are only a few of the thousands that grow like wild fire in this region.
The plus side is that we are merely scratching the surface of what's possible and with ingenuity, an enabling environment and a positive mindset, I'm excited to see all the possibilities.
We can slowly start to make our way back to nature by reconnecting and immersing ourselves in natural spaces like botanical gardens, forests and farms. These are good first steps from which we can begin to rekindle lost bonds, so that we can reap the benefits in sustainable ways.
The garden could use some attention however, as certain parts of it have seen better days. The greenhouse, though stunning, needs to become functional again but by and large the garden is in great shape. A few upgrades here and there, and an intentional marketing drive could definitely attract visitors and patrons to the space, further promoting the education drive on plant knowledge.
If you can make the time, you should definitely visit the botanical garden. It's inexpensive but the knowledge and peace of mind you stand to gain is priceless!
There's a canteen outside the garden as well, they serve all sorts but the Pounded-Yam, Egusi and palm wine are my go-to!