The people of Ibadan, once the largest city in sub-Saharan Africa, have a saying: “You know Ibadan, but you don’t know Layipo.”
Layipo is their translation of the 47 spiral stars – which can only allow a person go only in one direction at a time whilst the person on the other person waits – within a monumental tower located in Beere, called Bower Tower. It was erected in December 1936 in honour and memory of Captain Bruce L. Bower, the first British resident and travelling commissioner of interior Yorubaland from 1893-1897.
So, if this tower is part of the city lore, why has the State Government not spruced it up as a major tourist destination and source of internally generated revenue?
That was the question asked recently by listeners of a Yoruba Language programme on Noble FM 107.1 broadcasting from Ibadan.
Once on the circular landing at the top of the tower, one can get a commanding view of a vast stretch of the city – as far as the eyes can see – and can make out many of the city’s other familiar landmarks, including the Mapo Hall and Cocoa House.
“From the top of the tower, you can almost see Ikire town,” a female caller said. Ikire is about 32 kilometres from Ibadan.
The show host Adegorioye Ariyo allows that the tower is even in a better shape compared with years past.
“About 6-8 years ago, when one got there what should have been a revenue earner for government had been turned into a watering hole for touts and hemp smokers, making the place; this scared away other residents who would have normally hung out there for sightseeing or recreation, for which the tower is perfectly suited,” he said.
There is also no guide on site, he added. “Visitors have to first go all the way to the ministry in charge of tourism to introduce yourself and explain your mission before heading back to the tower. After you do that the day is far spent.”
“We plead with the government to ensure the place is effectively managed, because is it a world-renowned attraction. It should generate income for government and add value to both the people and the community.”
Callers into the programme express the same concern, urging the State Government to beautify and maintain the tower and its surrounding.
“If the place is better kept, there is a lot of benefits it will bring to the state,” one caller said.
“It is shocking that government and even Ibadan people are not that concerned with its upkeep,” said a much older caller, who first visited the tower as a pupil in 1964. “Nowadays I only see it from a distance but everything should be done to make the place attractive to visitors.”
Also going down memory lane, another caller recalls that in the past, there used to be a radio (BBC Service) around there where the public could listen to news and programmes, night and day.