In January, popular blogger, Linda Ikeji published a piece that I described as unprofessional and derogatory – a defamation of the city of Ibadan just to get hits and comments. She described how Ibadan people are not well informed on how to use escalators and she said we take our children to the Heritage Mall to play on the escalator. On Monday, I was at the Heritage Mall, I also visited Cocoa Mall and the new Ibadan Mall – not to forget the Ventura Mall at Samonda and I got an idea of why the malls are always filled with people during public holidays.
For starters, the concept of malls is pretty new in Ibadan. I remember when I had to travel all the way to Lagos to watch movies at Silverbird Galleria. Before we had the malls, there were very few places to have outdoor fun in Ibadan. The Trans Amusement Park that ought to be the fulcrum of outdoor fun in Ibadan is in a deplorable state following years of abandonment.
The zoological garden at the University of Ibadan used to be the major place to go for fun in Ibadan as it has a wide array of wildlife animals; business is also good there considering the fact that the place is now wearing a new look.
So, some parents who are tired of going to the zoo all the time often had to take their children to places such as Koko Dome, a nightclub that has a swimming pool. Other than that, we have to wait till when Gbenga Adeyinka brings his Laff Mattazz comedy show to the city or the next edition of Glo’s Laffta Fest hosted by Basketmouth.
There are also numerous church programmes, NASFAT members meet on Sundays and political gatherings.
But ever since the malls started, it has become a beehive of activities. Cinemas are there and several restaurants are operating in the mall some of which made the top 10 best restaurants in Ibadan. For those that are selling what the people want, market is good. While for companies that are underperforming, they are on their way out of the malls. One of such is KFC.
Except the Ventura Mall, Shoprite is in all the malls in Ibadan – the city is also the home of the franchise’s largest store in West Africa. And you know how it is with Shoprite – as long as you have money on you, you will always see something to buy.
So, more than any other time in the history of the city, there is a place that has everything – well, almost everything. Unlike before when children could not go because only very few children-friendly were available in the city, malls are giving parents a reason to bring their children along when they shop.
There is a mini train at Cocoa Mall where children and lovebirds could be chauffeur-driven around, the Ventura Mall has a game arcade where the children came play all sorts of games and Shoprite has several trolleys babies can hop in and parents can push around as they shop for groceries in the numerous stores.
I remember when some ill-informed online commenters said Ibadan people only go to Shoprite to take pictures. I laughed knowing that such an act is not restricted to Ibadan, it cuts across and extend beyond Ibadan to the rest of the world. We all have that picture of our brother in London or USA taken in a store. If it is acceptable over there, why is it a sin if it is done here?
And by the way, shoppers in Ibadan are some of the big spenders, and the cinemas are recording large ticket sales.
There are several instances when I couldn’t get a movie ticket because they had been sold out. On no single occasion had I seen that happen in Lagos or Abuja.
On Monday, I saw a Hausa family – a man with his three wives and eight children out of which six were beautiful girls. They wore their matching Ileya dresses and were very happy as they posed to take pictures at the entrance to Cocoa Mall.
I looked at the faces of the children and wives and I realized they weren’t happy just because they came to the mall; I found out they were glad to be at a place visited by other people of different backgrounds but with whom they share the joy of holidays, the rare gift of a loving family and the unique blessing of a peaceful society.