Library locked in forest of elephants
Evelyn Osagie 20/10/2010 00:00:00
Adeyipo is fast becoming a tourist destination. Located on the outskirts of Ibadan in Lagelu Local Government Area of Oyo State, the village has become home of culture, tradition and knowledge, attracting scholars. Yet, it is still lacking basic social amenities.
As one of the over 200 villages that was once part of the Igbo-Elerin District, the place has not lost its natural appeal. When translated, literally, Igbo-Elerin means "Forest occupied by elephants". According to the oldest man in the place, Baba Eniayewu, elephants once occupied the place. "Then, it was a thick forest." Even though, elephants no longer tread its path, nevertheless, Adeyipo, today, remains an enclave surrounded by thick forest; home of traditional drummers, singers, dancers, story-tellers and rara chanters, having its natural habitat intact. These local artistes are always on ground to entertain visitors at occasions.
In addition to its arts, its serene environment has continued to inspire filmmakers, writers and musicians, serving as a setting for literary, artistic works and films. The novel, The Virgin by Bayo Adebowale, which Tunde Kelani’s adapted in his film The Narrow Path, is set in the village. Academic films depicting poems studied by senior secondary students such asEbiks waec Poems on CD have also been set in the place, among others.
Interestingly, the village is a small community with not more than 10 buildings belonging to eight families, and a population of not more than 700. Small as it is, the place prides itself as home to a unique edifice – the African Heritage Research Library and Cultural Centre (AHRLC).
For years, visitors have continued to troop into the place in search of knowledge. On a visit to the place, one will find AHRLC, a documentation resort of a sort, where one can camp and do research at the same time. Researchers on any subject relating to Africa will find the place helpful; its libraries are full of such books. The place houses the African Heritage Research Library, Afe Babalola Rural Community Service building, N.O. Idowu Visitors Chalets, Victor Olaiya Music of Africa Library, and African Talking Drum Museum.
The place, founded by Dr. Bayo Adebowale in 1989, has as its Chief Librarian, Chief Yeye Akilimali Fanua Olade, an African-American who has worked in AHRLC since inception. Overtime, it has come to mean different things to each visitor. Students of literature would find the place an interesting repertoire.
According to Olade, AHRLC has hosted many dignitaries and groups from within and outside the country, who left their marks behind. "We have had the opportunity of hosting the Governor of Oyo State, Otunba Adebayo Alao-Akala, ex-governor of Oyo State, Chief Omololu Olunloyo, Ambassador Segun Olusola, former Minister of Justice and Attorney-General, Chief Akin Oluyinmi (SAN), former Commissioner of Women Affairs, Community Development and Social Welfare, Oyo State, Princess A. Babalola, Egbe Omo Yoruba USA and Canada and Prof. Akinwunmi Ishola, Hon. Abike Dabiri, Chief N.O. Idowu, Chief Afe Babalola (SAN), Prof. Femi Osofisan, Prof. Demola Dasilva, Adebayo Faleti, Tunde Kelani, among others," she said.
Olade said the AHRLC project is the manifestation of how one man’s dream can affect many lives. Aside storing research materials, she added the centre is an all-round educational and cultural centre geared towards serving the academic needs of enlightened Africans and the people of the community.
She said: "The centre runs a Rural Community Development and Literacy Centre aimed at educating and enlightening the non-literate inhabitants of Adeyipo and villages such as Akokura, Kufi, Aderogba, Ladunni, Apon Onilu, etc. The library was established with the mind of meeting the educational needs of scholars, researchers and students, and, the non-educated indigenes - farmers, petty traders and artisans."
Speaking on the founding of AHRLC, Olade said: "When the Director of the centre, Dr. Bayo Adebowale, first established the library in March 1988, it was at Ila-Orangun, Osun State. It began with 500 books, journals and magazines, at Prince Isaac Adebayo’s home. Later, it moved to an old post office building in the central part of the town; while in Ila-Orangun, the collection grew to 12, 000 volumes, she said.
With a mind of moving educational enlightenment to his people, Olade said: "It moved to Adeyipo in 1992, and by this time, the collection and vision had grown. Today, AHRLC is a centre of culture and knowledge; a depository and clearing house for all publications on Africa, Africans in the Diaspora of the Americas, Europe, Asia the Pacific and the Caribbean Island. We have the largest collection of books on Africa. AHRLC currently has over 100, 000 volumes that cuts across all branches of knowledge as they relate to Africa. And our chalets are open to visitors wishing to lodge while carrying out research. "
As an indigene of Adeyipo, Adebowale said: "The need to give back to his community, inspired the moving of the library to his hometown. The love for education motivated the establishing the library initially.
Aside books, Adebowale added that: "The music library and museum is aimed at preserving African musical heritage. Recently, the centre named a poetry section in honour of the acclaimed poet, J.P. Clark. And we are currently working on a Wole Soyinka African Writers’ Enclave which would run a writer-in-residence programme."
Surrounded by such impressive qualities, one would have thought Adeyipo would have experienced tremendous development. However, this is not the case. The place is in dire need of government intervention. Visitors still have to contend with the bad road leading to the place, among other amenities that are lacking. The road from Idi-Igba to Adeyipo is actually a bumpy and jagged broad path consisting of red earth in dry season that turns muddy and almost impassable during the rainy season. Describing his experience to the place, J.P. Clark called the experience a "turbulent ride".
Aside the writer, the community people are lamenting everyday over the state of the road. Most of them are farmers. They complained they are faced with tremendous suffering while transporting their goods to neighbouring towns.
A woman, known simply as Iya Alakara, wondered why the government had abandoned them. She said most of their children going to school also contend with the road, leaving their socks and uniforms dirty. Speaking in Yoruba, she said: "They (the government) have refused to come to our aid. Please tell them to give us light and water. A ni ina".
A female writer, Chief Ada Onwu, once wrote "AHRLC is a wonderful library. The Oyo State government should be interested in it, and see to the terrifying state of the road leading to it."
The bad road is not their only challenge. There is no pipe-borne water in the place; the people are still ultilising a small stream, and very recently, a well dug by AHRLC. Visitors at the centre will also need to arm themselves with purified water, as there is no borehole.
Like the villagers, visitors who intend to lodge in in the place, also have to contend with fighting the darkness as the place is yet to be connected with electricity. A staff of AHRLC who pleaded anonymity lamented: "The governor and some government officials have been here several times. In fact, when the governor first visited on December 20, 2007, he promised he would do something about the road and the electricity, but till date nothing had been done."
As it is with most lofty projects managed by one person, the centre is also faced with its own challenges; hence, the need for financial assistance from individuals and corporate bodies. Some of the structures, particularly the chalets, are beginning to experience cracks, probably due to lack of constant maintenance.
Olade, who welcomes support from well-meaning groups, called on the Government to fulfill its promises towards the centre and the village.
On his part, Adebowale said he is not unaware of the teething problems facing the centre but, added that determination against the odds had kept the dream aliveWhile praising the centre’s advisory board for its effort at ensuring the edifice continuous existence, Adebowale said: "It is our desire to continue to share or wealth of knowledge with the natives and the world. This has kept the dream alive. I cannot but appreciate the friends of AHRLC which have not left us alone to the arduous work of this centre. We call on the government to come to our aid, in terms of amenities for the people of Adeyipo," he said.