Africans on the Move: Transnational, Intranational, and Metaphorical Migrations
Bamidele, owner of the train,
Please take me home,
Please take me home,
To my father’s house, o-o
Bamidele, owner of the train.
In some songs, Bamidélé is substituted for Akìwowo, who is the main character in Àráoyè’s poetry. Late Baba Olátúnjí, Nigerian master drummer who was also an immigrant in America popularized this tune by using the Akìwowo name. Baba was old enough to know what happened when trains were brand new in Nigeria, and for him, Akìwowo was a famous conductor who faithfully ensured that the passengers on his train did not miss the train. Àráoyè’s Akìwowo both recalls Baba’s and is in synch with
our childhood memories of “Bamidélé, olókò ilè”. It recalls Baba’s lyrics in the sense that there is a common name. It is in synch with our childhood memories because the central character is a trainmaster.
The poem also speaks to the theme of migration because it alludes to a restlessness in the constant movement of the train. It indirectly alludes to the never-ending rural-urban migration of alájàpá and of women who bring produce from rural to urban locales. Of course, the train also carries travellers who want to visit kith and kin, it carries business people, and it carries everyone who needs transportation. The train may be decrepit and slow today, just like that in Àráoyè’s poetry, but in its heyday, it was a romantic, faster mode of transportation that provided some very valuable communication linkages between rural and urban Nigeria. That the trains are now in their disreputable state is yet another indictment of the wanton neglect of Nigerian infrastructure by the country’s post- colonial governments, a fact that is familiar to most Africans who experience the same in their own countries. As the Yorùbá say, “arúgbó s’oge rí– “the elderly were once fashionable.” The trains too were once fashionable, preferred, and novel enough to spur creative poetry and songs. These immigrants would dearly love for the Nigerian government to bring back the efficiency, utility, and poetry of the trains and railroad. Other African immigrants would similarly love their countries to refurbish and rehabilitate the continent’s crumbling infrastructure, and keep their ends of the social contract by providing even better and more extensive infrastructural facilities that would enhance the possibility of communication and economic development within and between the continent’s countries.
f i l e : / / / D | / P u r e H o s t - d 3 0 0 4 6 1 9 1 - e m i g r e 1 2 3 / a r c h i v e _ 0 2 / e d i t o r i a l . h t m ( 1 9 o f 2 7 ) [ 3 / 2 1 / 2 0 0 5 9 : 3 4 : 0 8 A M ]