[Note: I was in Ondo town in September 2009 to cover the funeral of lawyer and human rights activist, Gani Fawehinmi, for my paper, NEXT. My first night in the town I stayed at the Akiavic Blue Roof Hotel. Below is a review I did back then, but never published. [My articles on Gani may be found here (obituary), here (funeral) and here (on my visit to his house the morning after the funeral)]
Akiavic Blue Roof Hotel
237 Brigadier Ademulegun Road, Ondo town,
By Tolu Ogunlesi
After having got used to life in Lagos it never fails to be a pleasant surprise when I discover a hotel or bar where Smirnoff Ice is not sold as a minor luxury. (Yes, Smirnoff Ice! – unlike the average journalist I’m only a minor alcoholic).
Welcome to Akiavic Blue Roof Hotel, located along Brigadier Ademulegun Road, Ondo town. It’s not only the mouthful-of-a-name that makes an attempt at grandness. Even the architecture tries. From the outside it is an imposing blue-and-white structure (blue-roofed, of course) set amid spacious grounds. Once inside you discover that it is a series of blocks, A – D. By the gate is an internet cafe, filled with young males, and open 24 hours a day.
The hotel, which appears to be one of the leading lights of the town’s hospitality industry, is a compelling mix of shabbiness and attempted-luxury. Guests are in town to bid Gani farewell, so business is great tonight. Hotel rooms in small towns are typically inexpensive, as a rule, and for sums that would not get you a broom closet in a Lagos hotel you’d expect to live relatively well in a small town hotel. Room prices range between N4,400 ($30) per night and about N10,000 ($70)
White and blue
It is clear that business is good tonight, and the available rooms are dwindling fast. The room I get, for the equivalent of fifty dollars, is a “suite” – two large-sized rooms, one serving as a living room, the other a bedroom.
The entire hotel is done up in white and blue, white walls, blue doors, blue curtains, even the ceiling doesn’t escape unscathed – white boards held in place by blue strips of plywood. But it’s called “blue roof hotel” isn’t it?
Even the plastic dustbin in my “living room” (that sounds good, eh?) is blue. And there are paintings on the walls. Well, not exactly paintings, they look more like almanacs mounted on wooden boards, and framed. The one in the bedroom is a nature painting – serene stream, clear sky, lush vegetation.
The living room painting features four excited babies, clad in diapers and anticipating the future – each of them has donned the paraphernalia of one profession or the other – chef’s peak, nurse’s stethoscope and cap, academic’s cap. It is perhaps no coincidence that the most excited of them all wears a lawyer’s wig and has a gavel sitting between his feet. This is after all the hometown of “legal luminary” Gani Fawehinmi.
Above the painting, the wall clock has come to a stop at 12:37. The fridge is empty. When I open it a musty smell escapes. The TV works. The water heater mounted in the bathroom works.
No more than an attempt
Supper is rice and stew and goat meat. Make that “goat bone”. But at N500 for the plate I can’t complain much. Waiting for it in the tiny restaurant “Nigezie” makes it hard to forget I’m no longer in Lagos. It’s a best-of-both-worlds scenario, really, the tranquillity of Ondo bundled with the feel, piped in by television, of Lagos. MI and Banky W are telling us their favourite videos, and all the swag I associate with Lagos is present in full force.
The next morning I order yam and egg (N400; room service is an additional N50); it takes far more than the promised fifteen minutes to arrive, and the egg is no-frills, but I enjoy it. The pack of juice (big-sized) that ‘washes it down’ costs only N400.
There’s much to recommend Akiavic Blue Roof. Inexpensive. The politeness of the staff never flags. There’s cheap internet access (the quality is debatable). But as I get ready to face the business of the day, I’m not sure if I’m ready to spend another night. The hotel does make a serious attempt at luxury. But an attempt is just what it is. An attempt.