Ever heard of Cocoa House? I bet many have not, especially those who don’t have long noses for African landmarks. Or, I should add, those who say notin dey Naija. But here is a shocker: Cocoa House is the first Skyscraper in Africa! You can pretend you are not surprised, that is, if the news is new to you. But you have to be surprised. This edifice was a wonder in its heyday. Naija sure got stuff, you know.
For me, I first heard of it when I was about 15. My parents were so proud of this African-wonder edifice that they never stopped talking about it as the tallest building in Africa, in their ‘good old days’. You know how parents can reminisce.
The first time I visited the amazing house, I was awed. Indeed, it must have been what they say it was in 1965 before overtaken by Schlesinger Building in South Africa. After all, that was just five years after Nigeria’s independence.
On my latest visit, I was told the 25th (last) floor, also a penthouse, was a museum known as the Odu’a Historical Museum and Hall of Fame. The museum was amazing! I could hear my fore-fathers talk! Mehn, it was real.
Cocoa House, is in Dugbe Business District of Ibadan. It has 25 floors, 105 metres tall.
Chief Samuel Akintola and Obafemi Awolowo, alongside other Yoruba eggheads, spearheaded its building with trade proceeds from local cocoa farmers in the Western Region. It was commissioned in 1965 by Chief Akintola, the Premier. Cappa and D’Alberto Construction Firm handled the building of the house. It was primarily conceived as a morale booster for farmers, hence, its original name Ile Awon Agbe (House of Farmers).
The house now belongs to the Odu’a Investment Company Limited, jointly owned by Oyo, Osun, Ogun, Ondo and Ekiti States. At inception, Cocoa House served as the corporate headquarters for several investments of the then Western Region Government such as Wemabod Estates Limited, Cocoa Industries Limited, Epe Plywood Limited, the Odu’a Printing Press, Nigerite, Lagos Airport Hotel among others, which today, are operating under the Odu’a Investment Company Limited.
On January 9, 1985, the house was gutted by fire and it took the Odu’a States seven years to reconstruct it. On August 3, 1992, the new Cocoa House was jointly commissioned by the then Odu’a States Governors, Chief Kolapo Ishola (Oyo), Mr Bamidele Ishola Olumilua (Ondo), Chief Olusegun Osoba (Ogun) and Alhaji Isiaka Adetunji Adeleke (Osun).
However, the real rebirth of the Cocoa House was brought by the new management of the Odu’a Investment Company Limited led by Mr Adebayo Jimoh. He did a massive renovation and installed two new cone lifts, new water tanks, better sewage system among others.
Cocoa House is one of the happening places in Ibadan. It now houses the Cocoa and Heritage Malls as well as Shoprite, Ibadan.
Well, next time you visit Ibadan, come around the first skyscraper in Africa, will you?