The city of Ibadan in southwestern Nigeria is the site of Cocoa House, the first skyscraper in tropical Africa. The building is a modest 24 storey high-rise structure, property of Odu'a Investment Company Ltd. Cocoa House is a major landmark in Ibadan.
Though Lagos Metropolis, as the industrial and commercial hub of southwest Nigeria, claims pre-eminence over Ibadan, from a historical perspective Ibadan is Lagos's big sister. Beginning from the middle of the eighteenth century, Ibadan rose to prominence as the dominant military power among Yoruba towns of the forest belt of southwest Nigeria. Its military power was unchallenged until the imposition of British Protectorate in 1893.
The city was the seat of the government of the defunct Western Region in the 1960s, and under the premiership of late Chief Obafemi Awolowo, Ibadan established itself as the most progressive city in Nigeria with a formidable list of "firsts" which made her the envy of other cities and role model for progressive political and social culture. Ibadan was the site of one of the first universities in sub-Saharan Africa. The city, under Chief Obafemi Awolowo, opened the WNTV, first television station in Africa. Ibadan also was the site of the first skyscraper in tropical Africa, Cocoa House.
Cocoa House: Side and Back views from main parking lot
The building formerly called "Ile Awon Agbe" (i.e. "House of Farmers") is now popularly known as Cocoa House. It was the tallest building in Africa in the 1960s. The regional administration of Awolowo was proud to tell the world, in the era before the Oil Boom, that Cocoa House was built entirely from proceeds of international trade in agricultural commodities such as cocoa, rubber and timber.
The whole of Ibadan stood still on January 9, 1985, when news spread that Cocoa House was on fire. The city's fire fighters watched helplessly as fire, which began in the top storeys, gutted the entire building. Ibadan's fire fighters had neither the equipment nor training for fighting fire in a skyscraper. It was lucky that the fire began after offices had closed for the day, possibly from an electrical spark in a malfunctioning electrical equipment.