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Folu Oyefeso

Visiting The Odua Museum and Hall of Fame in Cocoa House, Ibadan



I often wonder what happened to the big agricultural industries in Nigeria, particularly cocoa farming. In a lot of my research, a common theme among prominent historical figures were the great fortunes that came from cultivating cash crops. In modern day Nigeria however, I am sure they still exist but unsure as to what degree as I don't really hear much in the grapevines.


Iconic Cocoa House in Ibadan, Nigeria – a historic landmark in the city's skyline, symbolizing the region's rich cocoa industry heritage.
Iconic Cocoa House in Ibadan, Nigeria – a historic landmark in the city's skyline, symbolizing the region's rich cocoa industry heritage.

This piqued my curiosity and to understand better, I paid a visit to one of the most iconic building structures in the south-west - the Cocoa House, Ibadan. It is a 26 story skyscraper located in Dugbe, one of Ibadans main business districts. The building was completed in 1964 and commissioned in 1965, the construction work done by an Italian firm Messers Cappa and D’Alberto and is the first sky scraper in West Africa.


At 105 meters tall, it was constructed as an emblem of the hard work and ingenuity of southwestern farmers and their industry. Cash crops like cocoa, rubber and timber were a testament of the lucrative business and structures like the cocoa house tell decades old stories about it. The skyscraper used to be called 'Ile Awon Agbe' which translates to 'House of the farmers' but soon came to be known as The Cocoa House, to better explain its origins.


Chief Obafemi Awolowo, visionary leader and champion of the Cocoa House project, renowned for his contributions to economic development and social welfare in Nigeria.
Chief Obafemi Awolowo, visionary leader and champion of the Cocoa House project, renowned for his contributions to economic development and social welfare in Nigeria.

The project was proposed by Chief Obafemi Awolowo, who was the first premier of the western region at the time. He had the backing of some of the most powerful and learned individuals of the period and championed multiple initiatives that largely benefitted the public. He is credited for promoting and providing free education and healthcare in the region, as well as other society-led philanthropical and political movements, many of which still hold present day value. To commemorate some of the achievements of their ventures, a museum was established on the 23rd floor of the cocoa house, called the Odua Museum and hall of fame, and it costs 300 to visit.


Let's talk about cocoa

The plant is quite important because it's the raw material of the chocolate industry, a $130 billion market (2021). The West African climate has perfect conditions for growing the crop, and so the region has a comparative advantage in its production. We have steady temperature, humidity and regular rainfall, which are all factors that favour the optimum growth of cocoa trees. Other positive factors are the soil quality, the traditional knowledge of the local farmers and the relatively low labour cost in the region.


Traditional Yoruba farming tools displayed at Odua Museum and Hall of Fame, showcasing the heritage of cocoa cultivation in the region.
Traditional Yoruba farming tools displayed at Odua Museum and Hall of Fame, showcasing the heritage of cocoa cultivation in the region.

In the past, Nigeria enjoyed bountiful profits from the sale of the cash crop and were one of the largest producers of the region - alongside Ghana, Ivory Coast and Cameroon. Infrastructure played a huge role in this and the development of the Dugbe railroad in 1901 was a perfect addition to the economic blueprint of the trade. It is important to note that raw cocoa beans were being exported, we didn't process them into the varieties of chocolate products, and yet it was still vastly profitable. Countries like Ghana have seen the vast potential of this market and their government purchases every kilogram of cocoa grown in the country, a great incentive for farmers.


The colonial influence on the cocoa industry is worth taking a look at, because this was the point of decline/stagnation. Despite the industry being in full flourish, with multiple intellectuals and businessmen at the helm of affairs, the advice of expatriate economists was sought out. These economists set up 3rd party organizations with the guise of developing the industry but their policies benefited themselves while punishing local farmers. Eventually the farmers couldn't cope with the unfavorable conditions and many small scale cocoa farmers went out of business.


Statistics from the last couple of decades show some growth in the industry however, albeit slow (2.21%, 1981-2020), indicating the need for government bodies, private investors and farmers to put some weight behind the trade. We stand a lot to gain from this crop, and this time, maybe we can produce high quality chocolate products that can be exported for foreign exchange.


It was interesting to see the different types of relics the museum houses, and I got lost in the details for quite a while.


Vintage media devices including television, radio, cameras, record players, and fax machines, capturing the evolution of communication technology over the years.
Vintage media devices including television, radio, cameras, record players, and fax machines, capturing the evolution of communication technology over the years.

All sorts of things from farming equipment, old media devices, royal crowns and other artistic installations, musical instruments and traditional textiles all come together for an educational blast to the past.


Handcrafted and hand-painted ornate gourds, serving both as storage containers and elegant traditional vases, adding a touch of sophistication to any space.
Handcrafted and hand-painted ornate gourds, serving both as storage containers and elegant traditional vases, adding a touch of sophistication to any space.

They have recently renovated and are excited to welcome visitors from far and near. We cannot underestimate just how much there is to learn from the past, and without that knowledge, we are building a future in the dark.


Belled talking drum, a cultural centerpiece and prominent feature in the movie 'Saworoide,' symbolizing the rich cultural heritage and rhythmic traditions.
Belled talking drum, a cultural centerpiece and prominent feature in the movie 'Saworoide,' symbolizing the rich cultural heritage and rhythmic traditions.


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1 commentaire


Babalola DARAMOLA
Babalola DARAMOLA
20 déc. 2023

Nice

J'aime

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