Began by ex-Governor Akinwumi Ambode in 2018 and completed by the incumbent Babajide Sanwo-Olu, the Centre will further advance Yoruba studies within and outside Nigeria.
Lagos State Governor, Mr Babajide Sanwo-Olu, again affirmed his passion for the creative sector on Tuesday, January 24, as President Muhammadu Buhari inaugurated the John Randle Centre for Yoruba Culture and History, Onikan during the Lagos Projects Festival.
The inauguration, attended by many prominent creative sector players, including ace cinematographer Tunde Kelani, actress Joke Silva, and actor Abiodun Ayoyinka underscored the Governor’s commitment to the ‘Entertainment and Tourism’ pillar of his THEMES agenda.
A landmark in the Onikan axis, the Randle Centre was built in 1928 for recreation and entertainment before it became decrepit. Sanwo-Olu’s predecessor, Akinwumi Ambode, acquired the Centre from the Memorial Fund that previously ran it, demolished the structure and started rebuilding in 2018.
Before its inauguration on Tuesday, the Governor 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.
Though President Buhari did not make any speech, there was excitement as he toured the facility alongside Sanwo-Olu, his deputy, Dr Obafemi Hamzat, members of the state executive council, and Minister of Information and Culture, Lai Mohammed and his sports counterpart, Sunday Dare. The Ooni of Ife, Adeyeye Ogunwusi, Eleru of Lagos, Abiola Dosunmu and members of the diplomatic corps were also part of the group.
Commissioner for Tourism UzamatAkinbile Yussuf later said the museum comprising different exhibitions, including masquerades, gods, music and artefacts, 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.”
Her Information and Strategy counterpart, 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. He said that the Centre educates individuals about the creation of the Yoruba empire through ‘Ile-Ori’, ‘Ori-Olokun’, ‘Esu’ and more.
According to Ojewole, “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.
When the government demolished the original Centre, there were condemnations from a section of Lagos society who criticised what they believed was disrespect to the great athlete’s memory. They changed their tune when they learnt the lofty plan for the Centre that has now been inaugurated for the glory of Lagos and the entire Yoruba race.
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