Oke Layipo, a historical asset in Oyo State, can sustain Nigeria’s economy if properly managed, writes EMMANUEL JEREMIAH
From the Eiffel Tower in Paris to the Empire State building in New York, monuments are artistic splendour that beautify city skylines. They are the face of the cities that harbour them and are deliberately preserved over the years to tell stories of the deep cultural heritage of the people and the city.
In Ibadan, Oyo State in South West Nigeria, one of the monuments that stand out is Oke Layipo. Built in 1936 in memory of the late Capt. Ross Bower, the first resident and travelling commissioner of interior Yorubaland, Oke Layipo, which is also named Bower’s Tower, the 85-year-old 60ft tall tower with a 47-step spiral staircase sits on the hilltop of Oke Are in Agala Forest.
Unlike several other monuments and historical landmarks spread across Nigeria such as the National Theatre in Lagos, Olumo Rock in Abeokuta or the Sacred Grove in Osogbo, Oke Layipo is relatively unknown. This is due, perhaps, to the prolonged neglect of the site that has made it become a shadow of itself.
For a very long time, Oke Layipo used to be a centre for tourism, events, relaxation and a domain for foreign investors, which promoted economic surge in the community. From reports gathered, Bower’s Tower was a source of revenue for the government through the issuance of tickets for entry and exploration by visitors.
Mr Ade Bolaji, a labourer in the neighbourhood, told Financial Street that Oke Layipo used to attract foreign traders and tourists, who visited to explore the asset and research its rich historical background.
However, about eight years ago, foreign investors stopped visiting the tower as it had become decrepit due to lack of proper maintenance on the part of the government, Bolaji added.
But there is a ray of hope, as some of the respondents disclosed the intention of the current administration in the state to give the place a new look.
Antecedents of Oke Layipo
The supervisors of Oke Layipo, Mr Oni Olusola and Mr Samuel Adewale, explained to Financial Street that in the 18th century, there were several conflicts among the suburbs of Yorubaland, which prompted the British Empire to wade in and resolve the conflicts. According to them, Ross Bower, alongside other British soldiers, were sent by Queen Victoria to settle disputes on tax evasion among traditional rulers and to abort planned wars instigated by them.
While speaking on how Oke Layipo came to be, Mr Adewale revealed that in 1893, Ross Bower was surveying the forests and discovered a place that one could stand to view all Ibadan clearly. Through the lens of a sniper, Bower could view attacks from a faraway hilltop, which used to be a forest.
According to reports, Igbo Agala was a thick forest where all sorts of atrocities happened and people hardly visited. But in 1993, during the election crisis, the place was opened to the public and Ibadan people went to the forest to cut wood to use as fuel to cook, which led to its deforestation.
The name Oke Layipo was given to the tower because from its top, you could have a panoramic view of the city.
Stories have been attached to the name of the tower and one of the very popular one is, “Ibadan lo mo, o mo Layipo.” The supervisors revealed that the name “Oke Layipo” was coined by Oba Adeyemi I, during the first tour in the tower, which birthed the Yoruba proverb “Ibadan lo mo, o mo Layipo.” This means that any resident of Ibadan that doesn’t know Bower’s Tower is not an original indigene of Ibadan land.
Bower administrated the city’s affairs from the tower. He was famously kind unlike his predecessor who was wicked. Bower’s kindness earned him the love of the people and the natives of Agala agreed to erect something in his memory. The tower was built by Taffy Jones.
However, the history of Bower’s Tower that has spanned over 80 years, no longer holds its richness. Negligence on the part of government to raise the monument to standard, with what is obtainable at other tourist sites, is gradually making it to become one of Ibadan’s slowly forgotten heritages and a past glory in the fabric of their culture.
For any state to experience sustainable development, it is imperative for such to properly manage its human and natural resources. This implies that the economic development of a state depends largely on how local and foreign investors are interested in investing in their goods and services.
Several reasons have been bandied about the reason Nigeria’s economy is depreciating. Reports have proven that investors, especially foreign traders, have lost interest in the asset, which is as a result of lack of value placed on investment by the leaders of the country. One of these investments is Oke Layipo, a historical asset and legacy that can sustain the economy of Nigeria, if properly managed.
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