Mapo Hall is the iconic ancient structure located on Mapo Hill (known as the Oke-Mapo) in Ibadan, Oyo State of Nigeria. The hill is the most prominent of the other seven hills in Ibadan, thus the hall offers a bird’s eye view of the city from a unique position to tourists. It is an ancient colonial-style building, which serves as a physical reminder of colonialism and the resilience of the people of Ibadan as part of Oyo province.
Mapo Hall was designed and constructed by Engineer Robert Jones, also known as “Taffy”, a Welsh who worked in southern Nigeria between 1910 and 1944. He was a member of the Ibadan Native Authority in 1923 as a road engineer, where he remained until he retired to Wales.
It is pertinent to mention that the project was executed through communal efforts and financial contributions of people in the towns and villages around Ibadan, like Gbongan, Ode-Omu, and Ikirun, which now fall in Osun State. Interestingly, tax defaulters were also used as labourers to work in construction.
The construction took four years, between 1925 and 1929, costing £24,000. The hall is bothered by roadways with its main entrance on Ogunmola Street.
The construction was completed and declared open by Sir Graeme Thomson during the reign of Oba Shiyanbola Ladugbolu, the Alaafin of Oyo and Oyewole, the Baale of Ibadan. Mapo Hall includes a small museum that displays antiques such as the chains used to confine tax evaders and remnants of executive power during the colonial era.
Mapo Hall was the focal point of Western Nigeria’s political life. Over the years, the hall has played host to major political and social events in the city, shaping the socio-political direction of Nigeria in general. Politicians who crave to make impressions in the Southwest use the hall as a platform.
The sixth annual convention of the National Council of Nigeria and the Cameroons (NCNC) was held there on 5th May 1955, it was where Nnamdi Azikiwe delivered his presidential address; the Western leaders of thought also met there in May 1967, and it was there that Chief Obafemi Awolowo outlined his thoughts on the civil war in Nigeria and stated that “I can see no vital and abiding principle involved in any war between the North and the East.”
In his Presidential election campaign in 1983, Chief Awolowo also held a campaign rally there and made the famous quote – “Kaka ki Kiniun se akapo Ekun, kaluku a ya se ode ti e l’ototo ni,” meaning “the Lion would rather hunt separately rather than be the bag bearer for the Tiger.” Also, the former Governor of Oyo State, Abiola Ajimobi, enthroned 21 new kings in Ibadan land at the Mapo hall in 2017.
The hall has hosted important political and social gatherings that helped to shape Nigeria’s socio-political landscape.
After years of neglect by several administrations, former Governor Alao Akala renovated it on 6th September 2007. It is now available to tourists and other private ceremonial uses like weddings, conferences product launches etc. The centennial celebration will be in the year 2025.
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