Despite the open fact that Abeokuta, the capital city of Ogun State, is just 45 minutes drive from Lagos where I domicile, and the fact that my parents originated from the city and imperative also, it seems very herculean for me to visit the city as regularly. And I had my tertiary education in the city, too!
But in my usual mannerism, I broke the jinx and hit one of the best roads in Nigeria, Lagos-Abeokuta Expressway, for my weekend escapism without much ado. Ahmed, one of Abeokuta’s top tourism managers, was on hand to meet me.
As usual, the first point of call to any tourist to this city is to the King of rocks, the Olumo Rock. Olumo Rock stands majestically in the inner part of Abeokuta. It is about 350 meter above sea level and is the most visited rock in Nigeria, if not West Africa, because it is very easy to ascend. History has not been able to explain how it got there, except we want to rely on the knowledge of rock formation in our science class.
Olumo used to be the haven for the Egba in the 16th century during various battles of the Yoruba civil war. Olumo shielded the people from all kinds of clashes in the region – either from the Dahomey, in the present day Benin Republic, which shares border with Ogun state or from the Alaafin’s soldiers, who held sway over the Oyo empire.
The Egba progenitor, Sodeke was buried very close to the rock because, according to the myth among the people, he can still be invited to protect the Egba in case war breaks out. According to folklore, when he would surface anywhere on the rock when summoned.
Olumo remains the most visited rock in Africa. It has now assumed an important modern role of playing host to tourists from different parts of the world, moving away from sheltering the Egba people.
If you can find your way to the rock, you will find out that the rock still serves the safety purpose. I was told that no one has ever fallen from the top of the rock which shows that the rock is ever watchful of her people and by extension foreigners.
Currently, Olumo Rock receives up to 30 to 50 tourists every day. It now has a modern look, which is also touching every part of the state. It has an elevator that can take tourists to the topmost parts of the rock, but the more adventurous tourist can still use the rocky steps to ascend the rock.
The Olumo Tourist Complex, where the rock domiciles, has an art gallery where beautiful works of arts from different artists – contemporary, artifacts and historical – are displayed.
Oyedeji Banji, the curator of the gallery, was very pro-active both in his work and in delivering the stories behind the displayed art works when he took me round the gallery which I found fascinating.
The Olumo Tourist complex also has a hall for events of all kind. Also, there are offices for the officials working in the complex. There is also a very big space for cars and probably for outdoor events. The well gated complex is well kept and leaves the rock well protected from any forms of indecency.
Perhaps, Olumo Rock can be compared with Marble mountain in Cape Town, South Africa. It is Nigeria’s pyramid of Giza in Egypt. It is our own Sossussvlei in Nambia. Also it’s our own London Bridge in England and probably our own Niagara Falls in Canada.
A weekend escape to the rock city would leave a lasting refreshment and wonderful experience with you.
Tribute to the late General Manager of Olumo Tourist Complex
The General Manager of the complex, Mr. Usman Kolawole Anidugbe died recently. Coincidentally, my visit to the complex fell on his post -mortem birthday. An artists’ night was held in his honour at the cultural centre, Abeokuta. He happened to be the father of the rave of the moment, Kiss Daniel. I pray God keeps his soul in paradise and give his family the fortitude to bear the loss, amin.