by Reuben Daba
There’s hardly a more controversial statue in Nigeria than that of the three white cap ‘elders’ statue in Lagos. Originally placed opposite Ojodu Berger bus stop at the point of entry to Lagos from the Ibadan end of the expressway by the administration of Colonel Raji Rasaki in 1991, their positioning continues to be a source controversy up till date.
The criticism against the statue are two-fold: First, people complain that the elders have an unwelcoming posture, especially since the statue was placed then at the entrance to the state. The second criticism is spiritual in nature. Critics say that the incessant accidents that occur at the place where the statues stand are as a result of spiritual elements of the monument.
In 2004, the statues were burnt down at night by unidentified persons, but that did not deter the state government as it re-fabricated the work of art but moved its location to a spot opposite the Michael Otedola Estate.
But that is where the situation got eerier. For some reason, the new location of the statue suddenly began to experience incessant accident cases.
During the January fuel subsidy protests, the statues were again burnt down.
Vanguard has a report on the three elders statue, read below:
Lagos State Government speaking to Vanguard about the latest damage to the three wise-man statues popularly called ‘Ere Meta’ put the extent of damage inflicted on the statue by anti-fuel subsidy removal protesters, at 75 percent which government said caused the delay in their return.
Speaking in an interview, Director of the Lagos State Council of Arts and Culture, Mr. Adesina Elegbede, added that the protesters who mistaken the effigies to be a Federal Government property, attacked it burning it beyond recognition.
According to Elegbede, “It took the state government months to get the sculpture to site because we were unable to get the contractor, Dr. Bodun Shodeinde who designed it in 1991. And when we got him, we had to wait for him to evaluate the extent of damage, the cost and the duration of repair.”
Although he did not disclose the cost of the rehabilitation, but said that it took the state government time to allocate the fund for the rehabilitation of the statue; the reason was that the fund was not captured in the 2012 budget.
Speaking further, Shodeinde said that due to the extent of the burns, the work took more days than expected, adding “53 days was earlier scheduled for the full repairs but it took three and half months before we could fix it.”
The Sculptor however, faulted the present location of the sculpture saying “the present location of the 21 feet by 14 feet sculpture placed on a 7 feet pedestal, has affected the purpose of the statue.”
Shodeinde explained that the sculpture was designed to depict the state cultural heritage which distinguishes it from other states, and to usher in visitors and tourist into the state. He however said that the purpose has been defeated with the present relocation of the effigies.
On the best location, Shodeinde said, “The best location would have been across that road at the entry point to Lagos on the Lagos-Ibadan Express road.”
It would be recalled that the sculpture was removed from the express road after it was first damaged and rehabilitated on December 17th, 2004.
According to him, “it can be constructed on a purposeful built pedestrian bridge that would serve dual functions of beautification and pedestrian crossing.”