It occupies about 75 hectares of land, hilly and undulated. Luscious greenery. It is tucked inside the serene forest of Oke-Mosan, free of noise from human activities and almost overlooking the new secretariat of the Ogun State government.
Birds chirp endlessly on tree branches. At one end of it are patches water, glittering from the blazing sun and which someone familiar with the area identified as an artificial lake.
Welcome to the Abeokuta Golf Club, the largely elite resort and sports ground. Life is back at the facility in its full swing as the original owners take control, after many years of being plagued by puzzling controversies.
Notable Nigerians, military brass, including Senate President David Mark and General Domkat Bali (rtd), have played golf there. It has hosted also the late foremost nationalist Pa Peter Enahoro.
It is the training ground for Nigeria’s number one professional golfer and the first Nigerian to play at the US Golf Open championship, Lasisi Lateef.
When in January 1987, it opened its gate to the public for use as a resort of sort and light sporting activity, it was pride of place and article of common heritage, particularly for the residents of the state capital who cherish golfing.
At its take-off, the club had the late Col. Agunbiade Lawal as first Captain. Mr Segun Oluwaseye served as the secretary to oversee its affairs.
Its annual general meetings, at which new officers were elected, were observed unhindered after Col. Lawal, the late Ayo Obaseki and the late Chief Siji Koku had equally manned the saddle as captains between 1988 and 1990.
But soon got mired in controversy over how to elect a successor when the tenure of Mr Segun Oluwaseye (Captain) and Dr. Boye Okuboye (Secretary) lapsed in 1991.
The Nation gathered that since that time, things began to go awry with the club. It began when a Caretaker Committee, headed by the late Apagun Oluwole Olumide, allegedly overstayed its tenure of six months by over 18 months, coupled with moves made to change the name of the club to Abeokuta Golf International Limited(AGIL).
The club has had to contend with controversies than harmony, since then resulting from the running of the facility which was largely a one-man affair under late Olumide, who was also believed to have invested his time and some resources into the club.
The Nation gathered that at a time, the Certificate of Occupancy of the land hosting the club was equally mired in a controversy.
The founding members alleged that the C of O was substantially altered five months after it was signed by Chief Segun Osoba on October 29, 1992, thus rendering it “invalid.”
The late Apagun Olumide was even accused of tampering with the original concept of the club house, which resulted in legal battle at the time, and it was learnt that the late Olumide later began to manage the facility in the name of Golf Resort Plc.
Expectedly, some of the founding members who were not happy with the situation elected to stay away with the attendant dwindling of membership strength and patronage of the facility.
But in June 2011, Ogun State Governor, Senator Ibikunle Amosun, on his first working day barely 24 hours after being sworn into office, ordered caterpillar into the Abeokuta Golf Club, where it found an ‘unwanted structure’ – a storey building, within the premises and flattened the building in less than an hour.
The demolished building touched off another controversy between the then new administration of Amosun and Abeokuta Golf Resort where Olumide, who joined the Abeokuta Golf Club in 1991, was until his death, the chairman.
The government had claimed it brought down the building because it was an “illegal structure” as it contravened an order served on the owners since October 24, 2010, during the era of Governor Gbenga Daniel.
According to Amosun’s administration, the ‘illegal’ structure was not part of the Golf Course as it was 3,000 metres away from it.
Besides, fearing that espionage activities could possibly be carried out from the controversial building against government’s interest by foes, it further reckoned that ”somebody can stay inside the structure and view the activities inside the secretariat. This ordinarily constitutes a security threat to government and we do not think there is anywhere in the world where government would tolerate a private building standing so close to its headquarters which normally houses the most important government documents.”
But before his death, late Olumide said the building was pulled down out of “vendetta” and also a deliberate ploy by the government to spite him and other share holders of the company.
According to him, the building was included in the parcel of land allocated to Abeokuta Golf International in 1992, with a Certificate of Occupancy No. 01825, dated January 1, 1992, and signed by Chief Segun Osoba, the then governor of the state.
In Olumide’s reckoning, the administrative procedures leading to obtaining the Certificate of Occupancy began in 1991, by the then Navy Captain O. O. Joseph, who succeeded Chief Osoba’s administration, with a view to repositioning the project into a world class golf resort facility to be promoted and funded by the private sector.
But while the controversy over the demolished building was yet to fizzle out, Olumide died one evening. His body was found inside an artificial lake within the Golf Club and at a time no other person was around. His remains were recovered the following day. Although an autopsy was carried out on his body to determine the cause of death, the result has not been made public to enable anxious residents of Abeokuta know what happened.
However, the state government has since 2012, retrieved the property/club from the late Olumide and handed it over to the surviving founding members and others to manage in public trust.
Today, the 27-year-old club faces a brighter future. Calm and orderliness prevail while monthly internal competitions are observed to enable members’ handicap to be exposed, tested and adjusted.
One of the founding members, a business tycoon, Chief Akin Akande, told The Nation that after “much hitches”, which he said are not peculiar to Abeokuta Golf Club, the facility has returned to originals owners to manage.
Akande said the last two competitions that took place there in 2012 and 2013, drew players from sister clubs – Ikoyi, Ikeja, Sagamu, Ewekoro, among others, who participated with trophies and other prizes carted away by winners.
He said: “After much hitches, at the end of it all, the club is returned to the original owners. Golf is a game of the mind and those who love golf now come to this place. And we would continue to improve on what we have to make the facility attractive and enjoyable to golfers.”
Also, the Vice-Chairman of the Club, Dr. Tayo Apampa, said things are looking up at the facility as well as the membership strength since the state government handed over the place back to them in 2012.
Apampa, who is the proprietor of Korede Hospitals, Abeokuta, said aside the fact that a lot of improvements are going on at the club coupled with the series of golf tournaments that took place there recently, kind hearted individuals and corporate organisations have equally expressed interest in sponsoring worthwhile activities at the club.
Apampa said:”The horizon is bright, the government returned the club to the original owners in 2012 and instructed that the Board of Trustees (BoT) should be registered. That has been done. If you check the club’s notice board, you will see the laminated certificate of Board of Trustees and so, we now have a registered Board of Trustees.
“The BoT have been working with the Working Committee to organise series of tournaments, a lot of greens have been constructed, and we have donors who sponsored the greens. Recently too, Otunba Olusola Adekanola, was invited to the club and the club house renamed after him.
“He has committed himself to several improvements going on in the club, the enlargement of the greens, improvement of the club house and sponsoring of monthly competition.”
The seasoned physician noted that what makes the Abeokuta Golf Club course stand out among others are the challenges it pose to players as evidence in the gradient and topography of its course.
“One of the things people consider about golf course is the challenges it present. We have as members some people that are 82, 75, 70-year old respectively.
“They all walk at the 18 Hole Course and when you do that you must be assured of your physical fitness. The gradients of the course are the challenges, but at Abeokuta Golf Course, the challenges are the topography.”
According to him, no fewer than 90 persons are now members of the club, including 82-year old Justice Ademola Bakre (retd), who doubled as its chairman, while Pro-am (Professional-Amateur) competition are expected to be held at the facility later this year under the sponsorship of Otunba Olusola Adekanola.