A few days ago, I took a trip to Oro town in Irepodun Local Government Area of Kwara State, the home town of Alhaji Lai Muhammed, the Honorable Minister of Information and Culture.
The trip was a courtesy visit to meet with political associates of our group, Kwara Must Change, some of whom had traveled down to Kwara from Lagos.
Within my short stay in Oro, what I heard, from people, whom I had assumed to be Alh. Lai’s supporter is, to say the least, disappointing.
With bitterness written all over their faces, they narrated different tales of Alh. Lai’s misdeeds and misdoing, which cannot be regarded as a rant by foes. However, what they said or did not say is not the reason why I feel disappointed in the minister, but what I saw in Esie museum, the first museum in Nigeria with the largest soapstones in the world. To put it mildly, I encountered what broke my heart in the minister’s home town.
In 2015, when Alhaji Lai Muhammed was nominated as minister of the federal republic, his major opposition came from Kwara South. At the time, many accused him of not being a Kwara based politician, a claim I found to be very unreasonable.
However, as ridiculous as that argument seem, the agitation against Alhaji Lai was so much that I had to become more like his unofficial spokesman.
Even though I do not know him personally, nor try to even get to know him, I saw myself always defending him and in the process, stepping on many toes. Maybe, just maybe this is why the outgoing state government always insisted that Kwara Must Change is being sponsored by Alh Lai, a claim far away from the truth.
After Alhaji Lai became minister of Information and Culture, the attacks against him didn’t subside. A lot of people from Kwara, particularly Kwara South continue to describe him with demeaning adjectives.
In 2016 specifically, we had what can be described as heated exchange with a lot of people on the social media about Alhaji Lai Muhammed which pitched me against the outgoing Kwara South Senator, Distinguish Senator Rafiu Ibrahim.
I recall vividly that within the heated exchange and in an attempt to defend Alhaji Lai Muhammed, I made a particular reference to the daughter of Senator Rafiu, a reference he found very offensive. To express his annoyance with my reference to his daughter, the senator had to send me a private message, urging me to desist from bringing his daughter into a political discussion on the internet. We disagreed fiercely and later agreed mildly with no love lost.
So, it saddens and humbled me, to realize that Alh Lai may actually be guilty of some of the allegations made against him by many of our comrades in Kwara South.
While in Oro and still finding it hard to believe many of the things said about Alhaji Lai, we decided to take a walk to Esie, where we have the Esie Museum, the first museum in Nigeria and the one with highest Soapstones in the world.
Esie is the center of culture, not only in Kwara State and Nigeria but also in the whole of Africa. Esie became famous for the existence of the Esie Human Stone Images whose existence has attracted the attention of tourists and scholars around the globe.
As a result of the unique discovery of the Ere Esie, the first national museum in Nigeria, in which the colonial government placed great premium, was erected in 1945.
For years now, different groups have been advocating for improvement and investment in our tourist industry and with the appointment of Lai Muhammed as minister of information and culture, one would expect that the man who came from a cultural area like this would find it appropriate to give this historical center the deserved attention.
This museum is one that requires just a little bit of attention by government and investment and it would become self-sustaining, but unfortunately, nothing absolutely have been done.
What this basically means is that the first national museum in the whole of Nigeria, with the highest soapstones in the world, is located in the home town of the Honorable Minister of Information and Culture and yet, the place got no attention whatsoever.
It was also reliably gathered that since becoming minister, Alhaji Lai had never visited the Museum, not to talk of giving it the required attention. I must then ask, how would Alh. Lai, minister culture, if Nigeria’s cultural centers are deserted like plague?
As I walk away from the historic museum, what continues to bother me was that, if the first museum in Nigeria, located in the home town of the Minister in charge of it could not get the required attention, not even an ordinary visit, what hope do other museums across the country have?
If Alh Lai cannot help his home town shape its historic asset in the interest of the nation and the benefits of his own people, what else can he do? This is really saddening.
I later learned that despite the total neglect of the museum, the management of the historic center is doing its best to keep the place alive and functioning.
For example, it was said that every children’s day, 27th May of every year, the center organizes children’s day celebration, where it promotes Nigeria’s cultural values among children as well as create forum for children from different background to meet, interact and learn. Over 1000 children from various parts of Kwara often participate in the programme and this year’s children day celebration will come up next month.
Let me conclude by saying that, should Alhaji Lai Muhammed finish his tenure as minister of information and culture without seeing to the proper development of Esie national museum and make it an attractive historic center with sustainable public and private funding mechanism, he would really have been a very huge disappointment.
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