Bowers Tower : A dying Colonial Heritage
This historic edifice which stands at about 65 feets tall is named after Captain Robert Lister Bower who served as Resident and Travelling Commissioner for the interior of Yorubaland.
There are mixed feelings about the impacts of colonialism and the relevance of erecting a tower in memorial of a representative of a former overlord. This sentiment has been vividly captured by S. Ademola Ajayi in the abstract of his work titled Bowers Tower: A Historical Monument in Ibadan, Southwestern Nigeria where he described this feeling thus ‘The memorial tower symbolises a plethora of meanings. On the one hand, it is perceived that the peoples reflection of the footprints of Bower in the annals of their history necessitated the erection of that historic monument as a memorial of his relatively peaceful era, socio-economic development as well as his general administrative acumen in the course of his service among them which remain indelible. As a rider to this, the monument serves as a reminder to the Ibadan people in particular and the Yoruba in general, of the man who firmly established the loyalty of their forebears to the British imperial crown. Paradoxically, many perceive the tower as a monument of humiliation and diplomatic manoeuvring’’ Both sides of the argument is well covered in his work and I enjoin my readers to read up on both positions with an open mind.
The tower has since served as a tourist destination for visitors to have a broad view of Ibadan metropolis atop the tower. However, recent visit to the site of the tower reeks of tale of neglect and total abandonement.
The road leading to the tower once had the dreaded Agala forest which was demystified during the June 12, 1993 struggle as the quest for survival led residents to encroach into the forest in search of firewood to cook. The road is now well worn and is dilapidated due to erosion. In addition to this, the forest reserve on both sides of the road leading to the tower has been encroached upon by various religious sects taking up positions of worship along the stretch.
A sight of the tower from the entrance leaves a sour taste in ones mouth as the monument now looks more or less like a ghost town with the entrance, surrounding fences and huts meant to serve as relaxation spot are now overrun with bushes,
Once inside the premises, the journey to the pinnacle of the tower can be likened to taking a leap of faith as the spiral staircase leading to the top is now well worn and one is bound to feel that it would collapse under the pressure of human weight. But a trip on the spiral staircase brings to mind that Ibadan indegenes are being eulogized as Omo Layipo in reference to the spiral steps.
In documenting this decline, recalling three previous visits before now informed my opinion of what obtained at the monument before now. My first visit was as a primary school pupil in the late 90’s and I was fascinated by the view of the city aided by a binocular, the event of my first visit more or less became a historical reference point to my classmates (who incidentally were student historians like myself at the time) during our university final year trip to the same spot as we could only catch a glimpse of the city by how far our eyes could see as the binoculars had vanished.
The third visit was also a group visit and it coincided with the World tourism day celebration in 2015 which was marked by the Oyo state tourism board at the foot of the tower. Various speakers at the gathering reiterated the need to renovate the tower and other heritage sites, as well as natural landmarks for tourism purpose as it is now a money spinning business.
The Oyo State government should be counting the cost of inaction by abandoning the tower in a dilapidated state as tourism is now a major employer of labour and an avenue to boost Internally Generated Revenue (IGR) in an era of dwindling oil revenue.
This piece is a call to action written in optimism that relevant persons and authorities would deem it fit to do the needful and resuscitate this dying colonial heritage in the hope of the employment opportunities attached to it, as well as return on invest.
On the whole, the trip to Oke-Are by the crew of Ibadan Insider was eventful as one can still have a panoptic view of the city and its famous brown roofs even without being on the tower and below are snippets of the city’s aerial view as captured by Ibadan Insider in-house photographer