By Anote Ajeluorou
Abeokuta, capital city of Ogun State, is home to the Egba; it’s also home to some of Africa’s illustrious sons and daughters. More than these, it’s home to Olumo Rock from which the city derives its name, ‘under the rock’, a place of safety for the beleaguered Egba during times of war. The imprint of a nest of safety that Oluma Rock was in ancient times is still visible in the bowels of the towering rock and forms part of its tourist attraction.
But there’s more to the ancient city of rusty rooftops and hilly terrain. It’s a city of many firsts in Nigeria. First church; first hospital; first newspaper and first psychiatric hospital and many more define the city. But these historical firsts are not known to many outsiders and would-be visitors. Sadly, the state government which ought to derive maximum benefits from highlighting these tourism potentials the city possesses has done little of nothing to push this economic frontier. The result has been a wasting tourism corridor, with just a little light shed on the Olumo Rock when the Gbenga Daniel-led administration gave the rock a face-lift by developing its surrounding and building an elevator that rides to its top from where the city’s breathtaking view can be assessed with stunning effect.
But that is just one aspect of the city’s many splendours which little or no promotion also hides from would-be visitors. However, a standard coffee-table book Abeokuta… Beyond the Rocks, with a vast pictorial layout that puts the city in proper perspective, has been made and ready to be launched on July 4, 2015 at June 12 Cultural Centre, Kuto, Abeokuta. The launch is in partnership between Ogun State Government and Nigeria’s foremost culture centre, Terra Kulture, Lagos.
It’s the effort of a concerned son-of-the-soil Hakeem Adenekan who felt saddened that there was no literature to explain the rich cultural attractions of his city to outsiders who might wish to visit or indeed attract them to visit and help boost the local economy.
While giving insight to the book idea, Adenekan wondered, like most ordinary Nigerians, what the country’s leaders usually bring back as real value from their numerous, wasteful trips abroad when they can’t execute a mere coffee table book to showcase the different attractions in their states, if only for its ego-trip. Having gone abroad for study and other sundry trips and seen firsthand how small things like a coffee table book about cities are held in high esteem, he felt compelled to produce one, as a wakeup call on those whose statutory duty it is to do so back home.
“Like I usually ask people, especially those in government, why don’t you bring something new to Nigeria like the many good things you see abroad to enrich the stock of what we have here?” Adenekan noted at a press briefing to herald the launch. “We talk about tourism and all that. What we do in Nigeria is scratch the surface. To realize this book, we went to the archives. The title is from a small survey we did in Lagos, on what people want to see if they were to go to Abeokuta, as tourism destination. People want to come to Abeokuta to see Olumo Rock. But there’s more to the city than Olumo Rock. We had to create this compendium that is internationally acceptable.
“The idea came to me while in the United Kingdom studying. We just want to document and keep our history. It’s better for us to start our own documentation and not allow it to be done for us by white people. It took five and a half years to put this together. We took aerial photographs of Abeokuta landmarks using a helicopter.”
Adenekan said the challenges he faced while producing the book ranged from Nigeria’s perennial apathy about keeping records, which is near zero, ‘area boys’ wanting their own share and weather conditions so the photographing could be right. He lamented Nigeria’s poor record-keeping and, on occasion, he had to resort to the British museum to get certain facts about his own country.