By Moshood Adebayo
Beyond the facade of its dereliction, this building is a unique one in Nigeria, with rare records of national and global achievements and greatness attained by the individuals that once dwelled there as a family.
The one storey building, on NEPA Road, Abeokuta, the Ogun State capital, was one of the few architectural delights, a cynosure of all eyes in Abeokuta, when it was built several decades ago.
But until few weeks back, it was a shadow of its old self; a derelict and dilapidated structure, begging for attention, just as it constituted environmental nuisance, standing menacingly in a prominent location the capital of the gateway state.
The structure became an abode not only for reptiles and rodents, but miscreants who lurked around, with many dwelling there unhindered when the last of its occupants died, years ago.
This is the story of a storey building, where Nigeria’s first woman to drive a car, Mrs. Olufunmilayo Ransome-Kuti lived and raised many of her children until they were of age and left for greener pastures.
Sunday Sun gathered that the children included the former Health Minister, Prof. Olikoye Ransome-Kut, human rights activist, Dr. Beko Ransome-Kuti and musician and Afro-beat legend, Fela Anikulapo-Kuti, who are all deceased
For the records, the dilapidated structure was said to have been built by one of Nigeria’s early educationists and pioneer President of the Nigerian Union of Teachers, late Israel O. Ransome Kuti.
The uniqueness of this building does not lie in Fela alone, who was born there on Saturday, October 15, 1938, but also in his parents and siblings, who also attained national limelight through their activism and professional achievements before they died.
Olikoye climaxed his achievements and greatness by becoming a minister for health while Beko, a medical doctor, was a renowned human rights activist. Their only sister, Dolupo, was a nurse and last of the siblings who lived in the building until she died.
After years of abandonment by the Ransome-Kuti family, the Ogun State Government recently commenced renovation works on the building, with a view to turning it into a museum and tourists centre.
This development initiated by the administration of Governor Ibikunle Amosun to turn it into a tourist attraction has received accolades from people both within and outside the state.
Chief Anthony Adefolu, Nlado Ake, described the involvement of the state government in the effort to renovate the building, which he described as edifice of its time as a welcome development.
While lamenting over the lack of maintenance culture in the country, the Egba chief expressed fears over what would become the lot of the building after the tenure of the current administration in the state.
“The government has done considerably well by making it a state project, but considering what became the lot of the National Theatre, Onikan Stadium and other national relics in the country, I want to appeal that departments and ministries in charge of tourism should ensure that there is continuity in its maintenance,” Adefolu said.
The Towulade of Akinale, Oba Olufemi Ogunleye, commended Governor Amosun for the renovation initiative and said that preservation of the building would ensure that Fela, his siblings and parents would always be in the minds of the people.
His words: “The news of the commencement of works on the building by the state government which was abandoned for years gladdens my heart.”
“Kudos to the state government and those people behind it. It is a lofty and laudable idea by the government which in turn will preserve the legacy of the Ransome-Kuti family. They are sons and daughters of Ogun State and indeed Nigeria, who should not be forgotten.”
Mrs. Adetoun Odunewu, who also spoke about the building said: “I am happy at the takeover of building by the government, which I think will attract thousands of tourists to Ogun State every year.”
“The government’s efforts at making the building a state historic centre and museum is highly commendable. It will afford the younger generation the opportunity of knowing more about the Ransome-Kuti family,” Mr. Musiliu Onifade, a teacher said.
Olusegun Adebiyi, an artist, expressed delight that the entire building was not pulled down, saying that doing so would have destroyed history. “The tourism potential of the house is enormous. It is heart-warming that the building would only be renovated and not rebuilt.
He also charged Amosun to do similar things to the homes of other late artistes in the state. He mentioned people like Ayinla Omowura, Haruna Ishola, Yusuph Olatunji and a host of others.
A government source at the Oke Mosan office of the governor confirmed that the government had taken over the building which would become a museum and tourism centre after the completion of the renovation.
“As I’m talking to you, works have commenced on the site and will not stop until the project is completed,” he assured
Also, Yeni Kuti, one of Fela’s children confirmed this on phone, saying: “Yes, the Ogun State government has taken over the building while renovation works have started in earnest and we are happy about it.”
Sunday Sun gathered that the house upon completion will have on display personal belongings of members of the Ransome-Kuti family, particularly Fela’s siblings and parents.