From a distance, the house, built of a combination of burnt clay brick, red Nigerite roofing sheets and concrete pillars, lies prostrate like a lion. Under the smiting equatorial sunlight, this lion is yawning after what seems to be a delicious meal. But in place of spiky canines, this giant cat has grey pillars as teeth, upon which half of the structure rests. And in its big mouth stands a sport utility vehicle with which the owner goes hunting and traveling on Nigeria’s crater-ridden roads.
This lion of a building is owned by the lion himself, Professor Wole Soyinka, the Nobel Laureate and author of the Lion and the Jewel. This Abeokuta, the Ogun State capital property is bedecked with a different kind of jewelry-nature. Certain landlords would, when they want to build, have hewn down every tree and shrub on a virgin piece of land in what Soyinka once called an orgy of arboreal phobia. They would end up building unprepossessing structures of pure concrete everywhere and architectural self-congratulation that contribute nothing to curb the depletion of the ozone layer.
However, the literary giant simply allowed every single tree to stand. In fact, he even added his. This is noticeable from where his property begins – the elbow of a road where all pretensions to government’s asphalting ends. Soyinka’s house is eco-friendly.
As the journalists, who twice, missed their way, finally detoured into Soyinka’s four-hectare woodland, they were welcomed by a guard of honour – a canopy of trees, swaying palms trees and climbers above which birds of different plumage chirped. They drove straight through this flora envelope towards the den of the lion himself.
Instead of granite or asphalt, the road immediately leading to the building is paved with well manicured grass, which, to the left, extends to the bank of a brook. To the right, this organic rug covers a velvet slope upon which stands a number of fruit trees: cashew, guava and others. Also, half of the structure rests on this slope. Indeed, it is a house erected on nature’s staircase, an undulation that descends, in a gentle gradient, into the running river where antelopes come to drink and Soyinka’s younger brother, Femi, a professor of Medicine, comes to fish.
After driving deep into the forest, the reporters made it over a river that flows under a culvert constructed with barrels. Then they turned left beside a low embankment, constructed with a combination of granite, sand and cement. In the front, the building squats among trees, a palm tree standing sentry at the left side. The palm’s luxuriance could be a result of fertilizer application or its closeness to the river or a combination of both. But it is doubtful that a person like Soyinka would apply artificial means to make his plants grow.