3 May 2016
From the outside, the Cocoa House quite proverbially looks like a shadow of its glorious past. The towering structure made up of a score and five floors looms over the busy commercial district of Dugbe in Ibadan as if trying to remind everyone of its impressive history.
As the first skyscraper in the whole of West Africa, the building was – and in some circles still is – the pride of the people of Western Nigeria. Thus, it seems befitting that the museum chronicling the history, culture and people of the Western Nigerian region should be located on its topmost floor as the Oodua Museum and the adjoining Hall of Fame.
It is on the twenty-fourth floor of the building, but you must take the elevator to the twenty-third and climb up the stairs behind the huge, brown oak doors. At the top, there is a corridor that leads to the Museum on the right or the Hall of Fame on the left.
Inside the corridor, the low sultry tunes of a traditional song plays through the speakers hanging on the wall. Cool air is blowing from the air conditioners and the hallway is lit with flickering but dim red hued bulbs. Together with the batik materials made up of intricate designs and colors plastered through every square inch of the walls, the corridor feels like a shrine that is to be walked through in reverence and with hushed voices in low tones.
The Museum is crammed with replicas and memorabilia of a time past in the history and culture of the Western Nigerian people. Items detailing their way of life and living lie inside wall nooks and crannies, hang and dangle from walls, stationed and propped in a way that transports one back to a time from before.
It bequeaths an eerie feeling down the spine as you walk through and pore over documents like the Yoruba Treaty of 1886 or the masquerade on display, all the while resisting the urge to touch them because of the many warning, ‘Please Do Not Touch’ signs.
The Hall of Fame is a room dedicated to the people of Western Nigerian history which the region can never forget. Pioneers and Icons whose sacrifice and achievements put the region and the country as a whole on the map and who fought in their various capacities for a free and democratic country. It is a shrine of important names and faces, all neatly documented on the walls of the main room, and each one highlighting the unique and significant roles each person had to play in the history of Western Nigeria.
But your visit is not complete without watching the historic videos on record, in a small studio room off the main Hall of Fame. A dozen audio visual clips from Western Nigerian history are available for viewing, including the historic first broadcast of the Western Nigerian Television (WNTV) and the ceremony showing the iconic Awolowo, alongside his wife and other dignitaries of old held captive in that moment in time on a frame in a film.
History is not Nigeria’s strong suit. It seems like we have spent some time trying to pull ourselves away from our historic past. But on that one floor in that one building located in the heart of Ibadan, Oyo state, you can transport yourself to a time and a place where the present is existent but only in protection of the past. Like you’re in a time machine looking back, seeing and feeling it, but knowing that you can never quite live it again.
Author: Aderonke Adeleke
Writer. Music lover. Movie junkie. Social Media Enthusiast. Aspiring dancer. Aspiring photographer. Social Introvert.