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In Ibadan Media City, culture, technology collide

Prototype of Ibadan Media City

The importance of culture and creativity to urban regeneration is a policy development that is gaining currency in the world over. Some governments are even providing an altogether more focused and pragmatic creative industry policy that entails the manifestation of a purpose-built cluster of creative industry activity.

From Europe to Africa and America, cities are choosing to adopt sophisticated marketing campaigns in order to promote themselves, internationally, as a result, Creative London, Creative New York, Creative Sheffield, Creative Toronto have become new slogans that cities have used to garner international reputation as somewhere amenable to creative professionals.

One of such cities emerging in Nigeria is Ibadan. Creative Ibadan.

Located at the heart of BCOS complex in Basorun, Ibadan, the idea behind it is to use the latent resources within BCOS as the takeoff ground for the project.

BCOS sits on a considerable estate of lands, about 65 acres of lands, of which less than 20 per cent has been used.

Conceived by Governor Abiola Ajimobi of Oyo State, Ibadan Media City is to serve as the innovation hub and regional headquarters of the creative economy of Western Nigeria in line with the ideas of UNESCO Creative Cities Network (UCCN), which was launched in 2004 to promote creative and sustainable urban governance.

Only last Friday, the XII yearly meeting of the UCCN, which ended in Polish cities of Krakow and Katowice —- joint hosts and Creative Cities of Literature and Music —- reinforced the desires of countries to refocus the creative economy.

Themed ‘Creative Crossroads’, the meeting provided culture workers and missioners opportunity to exchange and share ideas, experiences and good practices on how to advance culture and creative industries for better cities.

Celebrating the collaborative spirit, which lies at the core of the UCCN, and drives member cities’ local and international action, members looked at how they could better stimulate social cohesion and intercultural dialogue, and recognise cultural diversity in their cities, how the digital era impact the city of tomorrow, as well as how global concern over the future of the planet urge urban communities to reconsider their production and consumption patterns, and lastly, how culture and creativity could improve the quality of urban life.

These overarching issues form the fulcrum of the Ibadan Media City Project. According to Yomi Layinka, chief executive of the project, “the concept is to create a hub of media and entertainment businesses and practitioners that will propel the very proud heritage of the Yoruba people, not only to us at home, but also to the Yoruba in the diaspora and to the black world in general.”

The Guardian gathered that the location, state-of-the-art facilities and focus on industrial partnerships will give mass of independent specialist creative, digital and media organisations opportunity to create an innovation led ecosystem that nurtures the development of talent for the creative, media and technology economies.

It also gathered that in order to attract the creative professionals to live as well as work in these media cities, often there would be high specification living accommodation built alongside the creative industry facilities. These include, extensive public areas, comprising cinemas, concert halls, restaurants, function and conference centres, retail areas, theme parks and studio tours.

Media cities provide a vibrant cluster for hanging out, training and thus, gaining access into networks at the peripheries of major media projects. For example, the overall ambience of Soho in London, with its bars, cafes and clubs provide the environment in which advertising professionals learn.

Layinka said the project was borne out of the desire of Governor Ajimobi to modernise Oyo State. “Having dealt with insecurity, infrastructure, he looked at that aspect of human endeavour that would best encapsulate total development.”

He explained that the project is essentially to bridge the gap between culture and technology, as well as market the aggregate Yoruba culture.

Though, first of its kind in Nigeria, the Ibadan Media City is modeled after a few ones around the world such as, the Dubai Media City in the United Arab Emirate, Media City in Salford, Manchester, and others in Seoul, Korea and Copenhagen, Denmark.

Governor of Oyo State, Senator Abiola Ajimobi. Photo: Twitter/AAAjimobi

Other cities that have similar areas include: the fashion industry cluster of Faubourg Saint-Honore in Paris or the jewelry quarter in Birmingham. Here in Ibadan, Mokola offers an example of a cluster of printers and graphic designers and illustrators just as Somolu does, in Lagos.

Beyond the vibrant clusters, there are also the incubator spaces; often purposefully designed spaces that are rented out at relatively low rates to small scale creative industry workers with the specific intention of creating a vibrant, collaborative environment.

“We intend to build a theme park and resort where families can come for holidays,” he quipped. “There would be an area dedicated to major Yoruba icons, whose statues make up the Walk of Fame. Once you get in, these Yoruba heroes and heroines would bid you welcome.”

Layinka continued, “the idea is that urban city planners have found the idea of a concentrated media city project to be a major feature of urban centres in need of regeneration. In most of these cities, the concept was to create a hub that acts like an energy-giving source for that region. So, our ambition with the project is to create a regional media hub that is located in Ibadan and can serve the whole of West Africa.”

Creative cities focus on any of seven areas of creativity: Crafts and folk art, media arts, design, film, gastronomy, literature and music. The same is the focus for Ibadan; however, Yoruba icons and architecture will have pride of place.

The desire is for Ibadan to be a genuine community, where collaborative relationships can grow and flourish. It’s a concept reflecting the way the creative industry is moving, as the boundaries between ‘new’ and ‘old’ media become increasingly blurred. This is a brave new world, which will require talented people from different disciplines to work together.

The project chief executive said, “we intend to build a studio where a lot of major productions could hold and not just for producers in Ibadan, but for producers across the country and the world at large. We are talking about a broadcast studio that can host major events like Big Brother Nigeria, Big Brother Africa, major sporting events, drama and films.”

Smiling, he said, “the last controversy about Big Brother Nigeria being shot abroad will stop. We also intend to build an entertainment mall that will comprise cinema, shopping centres and so on.”

According to Layinka, “we also intend to build in the media city as support for all the other facilities, a four-star hotel, such that visitors could come into the city and spend their weekends. They could attend events, watch movie down the road, go to the production studio and see what is going on there and take their children to the theme park to see what is going on there.

“And lastly, a Media Academy, which is primarily to train a new generation of creative workers, be they producers, software code writers, fashion designers, music stars and managers in the entertainment sector. The academy will be where you supply the manpower needs of the hub and by extension expand such that producers or software code writers in Akure, Ado-Ekiti or Lagos would find a convergence here.

“Don’t forget that I said it is a hub and so it will be a community of creative artists and media practitioners, who are at the cutting edge of their crafts and who can cross-pollinate in a contemporary, dynamic and energetic manner and by extension impact their immediate community in Ibadan, South-West and certainly across Nigeria. The major reason we need that is because these are the times that call for innovative thinkers, for people who are thinking out of the box and have the energy and capacity to bring new ideas to the table.”

Why Ibadan and not Oyo, Ogbomosho, Eruwa or any other town in the state, Layinka answered, “the city is a critical space in the landscape of the Yoruba nation and it must take the initiative in developing and evolving into the modern society that we must continue to aspire to have.”

History has it that Ibadan came into existence, in 1829, during a period of turmoil that characterised Yorubaland at the time. It was in this period that many old Yoruba cities such as old Oyo (Oyo ile), Ijaiye and Owu disappeared, and newer ones such as Abeokuta, new Oyo (Oyo atiba) and Ibadan sprang up to replace them.

Layinka added, “because of the geographical, socio-cultural and historical place of Ibadan in the Yoruba nation, no better place is suited to lead in the renaissance, using culture as its platform and media as a transformation agent.”

Said Layinka: “The land has been there and the question is what do we do with it? So, what we want to do with it is to build this media and entertainment city, which would preserve BCOS and expand it and then have about five business units that are related to media and entertainment.”

According to local historians, Lagelu founded the city, and was initially intended to be a war camp for warriors coming from Oyo, Ife and Ijebu.

As a forest site containing several ranges of hills, varying in elevation from 160 to 275 metres, the location of the camp offered strategic defence opportunities. Moreover, its location at the fringe of the forest (from which the city got its name) promoted its emergence as a marketing centre for traders and goods from both the forest and grassland areas.

He is optimistic that the project would change the culture landscape of Western part of Nigeria. He said what has been driver of major projects under Governor Ajimobi is Public-Private Partnership model.

The governor who has a private sector background “understands that the sustainability of projects requires that the managers have a clear plan of their Return on Investment and not the traditional system in which government creates projects especially for patronage and political gift-making. PPP is the model because not only does it free government to concentrate on its core functions, especially in the face of dwindling resources, it also invites private sector participation, which brings in financial resources and more importantly management capabilities, to ensure that the decision-making processes are sound and based on business and not political considerations.”

He said, “when you have private investors involved in a project of this magnitude, they know what it costs, they have their contacts, they have experiences and can create partnership and alliances in terms of where the product is made and how it is sold across the world. That is the model that is being used; the government essentially is creating an enabling environment for its major takeoff in terms of the land assets it would yield and the private sector come in. We are inviting and talking to a major multi-national corporation already involved in entertainment businesses, big brands that will come in from across and outside the country to have a stake in the project.

“We thought about PPP as one major tool for ensuring sustainability of projects. It is the prerogative of every government to take decisions on whether projects are viable or sustainable, because it was ostensibly voted in by a majority of the people having considered the manifesto of the candidates and their pedigree. People will vote for the new government trusting that it would do good on behalf of the community, so if that government comes in and does not think that this idea or any idea for that matter is viable, it is its prerogative.

“However, it is also the prerogative of the people that vote the government in to tell it what they want and what is desirable for them. That is why there are mechanisms like town hall meetings and so on for telling government that the decisions it takes are either good or not good. So, I think there is a moderating mechanism for ensuring whether the project continues or not apart from the PPP strategy that as said is likely to guarantee sustainability because it is beyond the government; it is a business concern that must keep running on its own.”

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