The five-year reconstruction journey of the John Randle Centre for Yoruba Culture and History, Onikan, Lagos, ended on Tuesday, January 24, when President Muhammadu Buhari inaugurated the edifice.
Ex-Governor Akinwumi Ambode laid the foundation in January 2018 as part of his administration’s plan to turn the Onikan axis into a tourist hub in Nigeria and Africa.
“Recently, the Centre has become redundant, serving uses other than those for which it was built before falling to great neglect and disrepair. As a result, the Lagos State Government decided to redevelop the Centre. In the past, the Centre provided recreational services to the Lagos populace but the new J. Randle Centre will do a lot more,” he said at the groundbreaking ceremony.
Ambode added that the Centre’s redevelopment was part of the larger Eko Park. “The realization of J.K Randle redevelopment and eventual execution of the Eko Park, the upgrading of the Onikan Stadium, the mounting of 55 feet Eyo Statue, upgrading of the Lagos Museum and the upgrading of the former State House in Marina will catalyze the rest of the regeneration of Lagos Island, restoring it to its former glory, while reinforcing this great city’s position as one of the world’s most vibrant, cosmopolitan and exciting places to experience,” he said.
Demonstrating the same commitment to the growth of the creative sector as his predecessor, Governor Sanwo-Olu completed the Centre and invited the President to inaugurate it. The deputy governor, Dr Obafemi Hamzat, members of the state executive council, and Minister of Information and Culture, Lai Mohammed, Sports Minister, Sunday Dare and the Ooni of Ife, Adeyeye Ogunwusi, were among those that witnessed the occasion. Others were the Erelu of Lagos, Abiola Dosunmu, ace cinematographer Dr Tunde Kelani, actress Joke Silva, and actor Abiodun Ayoyinka.
Before Tuesday’s inauguration, Sanwo-Olu and members of his cabinet periodically visited the site comprising a swimming pool, tennis court, an exhibition hall, a multi-purpose hall, a library, orientation rooms and learning spaces, gift shops, and a lounge to assess work progress.
Always on time, President Buhari did not give any speech. He only commissioned the edifice and toured it alongside the dignitaries. They viewed the exhibitions specially mounted at the Centre, another laudable effort in preserving and propagating Yoruba history.
Speaking after the event, Commissioner for Tourism, Arts and Culture Uzamat Akinbile Yussuf said the museum would stimulate the state’s economy by bringing tourists from within and outside the country.
She said, “apart from this Centre being a museum, it is a multi-faceted and all-encompassing tourism asset that portrays the indigenous culture of Lagosians and the entire Yoruba race. It is, indeed, a centre that creates an avenue for younger generations to have first in-depth knowledge about our culture that is nearly going into extinction, so it is a knowledge sharing centre.”
The Information and Strategy Commissioner, Gbenga Omotoso, added, “it is a very bold attempt to sell and revive our culture and tap from tourism in the area of the economy.”
The site architect, Damilare Ojewole, who took visitors on a tour of the facility, further explained that the Centre brings to the fore the origin of Yoruba culture.
Ojewole said, “we have exhibitions on naming ceremonies in the old, divinations, it reveals the various masquerades in Yoruba land, we have contemporary art section, fashion and more. At another session, we have a gadget for visitors to check their names’ meanings and a good ambience for tales by moonlight. The permanent exhibition here celebrates the language, rituals, festivals, deities and ancestry of the Yoruba people at this time. It will ensure that the legacy of Yoruba culture and history is kept alive in Lagos.”
Friends of the late John Randle, who died at a relatively young age, built the Randle Centre in his honour. The J Randle Memorial Fund managed the property, also set up in his memory by the original trustees.