Clement Adeyi, Osogbo
The 2006 National Census figures put the population of Iwo in Osun State, at 191,348, ranking it as one of the most populous local government areas in the state. The major occupation of its people is farming, standing it out as a major trading centre for cocoa, kolanuts, yams and timber.
Iwo is a land of rich cultural heritage, like any Yoruba community. It is also a town locked between tradition and modernity. But would tradition give way to modernity in the land? Would the rich culture and tradition of the land be sacrificed on the altar of modernity?
The Oluwo of Iwo, Oba Abdulrosheed Akanbi, responded: “There must be a blend of both bends with which people could have fulfilment. All we need for socioeconomic development is industrial revolution backed by mining of the rich mineral resources and tourism potential in our land.”
It is against this background that he built a tower and named it after the founder of the town, Prince Telu Adekola. The tower, christened Telu Square, has gold colour, stands hugely at a major junction in the heart of Iwo town.
On top of the tower sits a statue of a parrot. It signifies how presence of parrots around the area where the palace is located, was used by Telu Adekola to found Iwo as instructed by his mother, Oluwo Gbagida, when the descendants migrated from Ile-Ife to settle there (Iwo). Olouwo Gbagida, was the only female and 16th Ooni of Ife.
Telu Square shares immediate environment with the Oluwo’s palace. It remains a cynosure of all eyes, especially people coming to the town for the first time. Oba Akanbi said: “Tourism development is an instrument of socio-economic development. To drive the agenda, I decided to start by building the tower as a monument. It is the first of its kind in Yoruba land.
“There are several tourism potential in different parts of the country, especially in Yoruba land. But when I got to the throne and discovered that they are not being maximised, I had to take the gauntlet by advancing the cause.
“In America, there are about 300 tourism centres. In Thailand, Dubai, London and different parts of the world, there are millions of tourism centres, which are parts of their economic endowments and development. But it is appalling that we have a lot here in Nigeria that are not being developed to harness the embedded benefits.
“In my domain, Iwo, I discovered that there are no remarkable endowments that could inspire socioeconomic development. I decided not to be absolutely tied to Isese in Yoruba parlance, which means culture, tradition and customs that preach attachment to old practices. That is why I decided to build the tower as a monument.
“Instead of developing tourism centres, our people build altars and shrines and use them for diabolical practices. If you build a statue in your domain for worship, who do you think will come from any part of the world to worship it? They cannot attract prominent tourists to our land nor inspire economic development.
“When people go to Trafalgar Square in Canada, London Bridge, Tahil Mahal in India, they go there to see tourism wonders that inspire development in the place. They don’t go there to see shrines and deities. They don’t go there because of Christianity, Islam or tradition.
“To be able to attract global attention to my kingdom, we need public monuments such as you can find in America, Europe and advanced places across the globe. There is no way you can attract global attention into your domain with religion. Everybody has traditional religion and deities.
“That is why you need to develop new attraction centres such as the Telu Square. I hope to build more monuments. They are proofs of modernity and development. I need to emulate great monuments of the world to attract global attention to my domain.
“Through that, we shall also be able to attract foreign investors for economic development and make Iwo Osun State’s economic hub.
“An Australian, Susanne Wenger, of blessed memory brought a lot of dynamism and development to the Osun-Osogbo Grove which has become a global tourism attraction. I am sure she copied it from other advanced countries of the world because she was a westerner. Some tourists go there not to worship the Osun goddess but to see the beautiful tourism works of Sussane Wenger.
“It is the Ark of Triumph which means Apoti Aseyori (box of success) in Yoruba. It signifies success for Iwo land. We succeeded we are still succeeding and will continue to succeed. That is what the ark signifies. I will continue to work towards the success and make Iwo a great land that will become a global reckoning.
“Iwo will be a mega city one day. Ark of triumph is marking the beginning of the realisation of the dream. I am building another monument at Ikajola area in Iwo. Niagara Ford is just a border town between Canada and America. Casinos are there. Thousands of people go there. It is due to tourism attractions.
“Very soon Iwo will become an attraction for industrialisation and mining and a bit of agriculture. We have gold and diamond. Through the tourism monuments that I am building, the tourists that would be attracted would hopefully bring investments for our development.”
Does culture forbid anything in Iwo? The Oluwo said: “The only forbidden thing in my reign is that there must be no deity in the palace because it is supposed to be a house of God. I am not the king. God is the king. I am only a representative of God. A king is a shadow of God.
“That is why there should be no bowing down to anything else, except God. That is why church programmes are held every Wednesday at the palace where Christians from different denominations are led by pastors to pray and worship God. Muslim activities are also held on Fridays.”
A petty trader, Mrs Habibat Adesina, from Molebe’s Compound, Iwo, has a shop very close to the tower: “The tower has made this junction very popular. This is because it is not found anywhere in Osun State. It is the first of its kind.
“People travel from different places to come and look at it. They take the picture of it and go back. Many of them buy things from my shop here. I have been making good sales compared to the past when the tower was not here.”
Ismail Jubril, a student of Baptist High School, Iwo, from Olowo’s Compound, said: “This tower has brought development to this town. You cannot find it anywhere in this state.
“Many tourists have been visiting Iwo to take a look at it. I am sure it will soon bring development to us here. The next thing we want him to do is to bring a university here and give us scholarship.”
Ogunbade Olaoluwa from Mogaji’s Compound, said: “The Telu Tower is a mark of tourism development. Farming which is our occupation here is not everything. We need something like this to grow our town and make it popular. When tourists come here, they will buy our farm produce. They will stay in hotels. This will help grow our economy.”
Taofeek Abdulfatah is from Ajesewere’s Compound: “The Telu Square is amazing. I have not seen it before or anywhere. We know it will bring development to the town through tourists that are visiting Iwo to look at it. But this is not enough. We want a university here. Oluwo is fighting for Federal College of Education to be brought here. May God let it enter our hands, amen.”