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Bower’s Tower: The Glory of Ibadan City

Posted: May 8, 2015 at 2:36 am   /   by   /   comments (0)

The story of the city of Ibadan will not be complete without the story of Bower’s Tower, the towering monument from which you see the whole city without  hindrance. Our man, Bamidele Ogunwusi, who visited the Tower, writes.

It is no news that Ibadan is reputed to be West Africa’s largest city. It is surrounded by hills but one major feature of the city is the Bower’s Tower which give anyone who stands  on top, a glance of the four corners of Ibadan metropolis.

The tower gives a panoramic view of all the important places in the ancient city. One can see a bird ’ s eye view of the University College Hospital (UCH), University of Ibadan ,  Cocoa House , Dugbe Market , Agodi Gardens , Iwo Road , Ife Road , Olorunsogo and the defunct Lagos / Ibadan Toll Gate . Other far- flung places like Adamasingba , Felele, and many more become visible. Some of these places are far flung but standing atop the tower gives one a bird’s eye view of them.

According to Madam Florence Adedeji (80), who has been living in Oke Are since her youth, Bower’s Tower was erected in the 1930’s by the Ibadan Native Authority but was unveiled by Captain Robert Lister Bower who was then the Resident and Travelling Commissioner for Ibadan and the Interior of Yorubaland in the South Western Nigeria. The hill was named after him.

She added: “It was here (atop of the tower) he was overseeing what was going on in the city and he administered his government from here and other Yoruba towns”.

Omotayo Taiwo another resident and an old staff of the tower observed that the tower was named after Bower in appreciation of his contribution to the development and growth of Yorubaland “. He was not the one that built it but he unveiled it in 1936”.


The road to Bower ’s Tower

The over 60 feet tall tower is on the hill top of Oke Are in Igbo Agala (Agala forest) area of Ibadan . It is the highest hilltop in the city . The Tower has about 47 spiral staircases , designed by one Taffy Jones in the early 30’s .

It was unveiled on December 15 , 1936 by Sir Robert Tower. Written on the side of the tower are these words: “BOWER ’ s TOWER ERECTED DEC . 1936 IN HONOUR OF CAPTAIN ROSS L . BOWER. 1ST RESIDENT AND TRAVELLING COMMISSIONER OF INTERIOR YORUBALAND (1893- 1897). However, all the words written on the tower have faded with the names of ministers who renovated the place over time.


Do you really know Ibadan?

For the love they have for the Tower and for allowing one to see the many wonders of the city from its top the Ibadan natives have attached so much importance to the Tower. They have thus created myths and legends out of it. From the common natives to the learned, scholars and researchers they have coined stories and mythological phrases around  ‘Layipo’, that is: The Tower!

These have become household words and common lingo of the ancient city . These have become part of the daily words and activities of the city. Therefore, it is common to hear such things as: “Whoever comes to Ibadan and has not visited this Tower (called Layipo) to view the city does not know Ibadan ( Ibadan lo mo , o mo Layipo)”.

Mr. Omotayo Taiwo who owns and operates a bookshop in Beere said: “This is where we call ‘Layipo’ because one could see the nook and cranny of Ibadan from this Tower. You will turn round on the tower to view the whole Ibadan. It is interesting to know the meaning and the message”.

According to Taiwo , the word ‘ Layipo’ was derived from the nature of the spiral steps which leads to the top of the Tower , which you have to turn round and round to get to the apex of the mountain . “ It is these turnings that made it to be called Layipo”, he affirmed.

The Tower itself has become old and small . The building , though still strong , does not befit the standard of modern day structure due to its lack of space.  According to an insider , no one envisaged it would become so popular and notable when it was constructed, “ We need to praise the authority that constructed it because there is no building constructed today that can rival this one except that it is not wide enough (the narrow stairs) to accommodate two people at the same time”.

Another resident, Madam Emily Ogunwole added that ‘Layipo’ means that when an Ibadan man asks for a favour and the other answers yes, don’ t be sure because he has not added that he has  agreed, that is Layiipo for you in Ibadan. It means don’t trust an Ibadan man or don’t take them for their words until they have really told you that they have agreed and accepted your proposal, that is the second meaning of ‘Layipo’”.


The Igbo Agala (Agala Forest)

The road leading to Bower’s Tower could make any one without a steel heart melt. The tarred road of Oke Are leading to Igbo Agala is motor- able . However, any vehicle that is not strong could roll back because of the high terrain. A first time visitor would have to be patient, smart and be at alert and strong , because viewing the valleys on both sides of the road could arouse fear and make one fall head long.

According to Madam Adedeji: “We were told that it was from here, Igbo Agala, that the Resident Bower administered his government and controlled the Ibadan people. No wonder it was feared and dreaded. Igbo Agala was a thick forest, and all manners of evils were perpetrated there . I remember in the 60 s when a man called Sade was gruesomely murdered by unknown persons , and his bodiless head was found here.

The photograph of the head was shown all over Ibadan. Then it was a terrible place as criminals turned the place to a no – go – area. Area Boys turned the place into their abode with all manners of behaviour. Criminals turned the place to their meeting point, Indian hemp smokers paraded the area with rituals and sacrifices offered there. This is the place where masquerades do their own rehearsals (Igbo Igbale) and wear their costumes before they set out . No one goes there and comes back alive, in fact , those living in the vicinity tremble with fear. Anything could happen. But I thank God, it is now a different story”.

The one – time dreaded Agala forest has become a tourist attraction and has been cleared of refuse dump , deforested and turned into prayer city . Churches of different denominations and ilk have turned the place into a place to hold their activities , with over 150 tents constructed for hosting prayer sessions, while many others use either leaves, palm fronds or corrugated roofing sheets, as well as stones to form circles for praying in the place . Also, some others use nylon to cover their tents .