Sacramento, the Place Where Beauty, Modernity and History Meet


The fifth largest economy in the world, and one of the wealthiest states in United States, Sacramento, the capital of California, is certainly the place to be, as Funke Olaode found out recently during a visit

What readily comes to mind when California is mentioned? Of course, its entertainment industry, Hollywood in Los Angeles, Silicon Valley, the home of ICT, Napa wine, energy in Texas, agriculture, San Francisco, the commercial nerve centre, and so on. Indeed, everything in California looks inviting! And Sacramento, the capital, captures all the beauty and attraction of one of the world’s wealthiest subnational states.

This triumph of beauty and industry was in all places I went during a recent visit to California for the annual peace award organised by the Centre for African Peace and Conflict Resolution of the California State University, Sacramento. I had been invited by the legal icon, Mallam Yusuf Ali, SAN, who won the 2018 Peace Humanitarian Award of the institute.

I flew about six hours to Sacramento after attending the World Bank/IMF Spring Meetings in Washington DC. Arriving at the Sacramento International Airport, it was obvious I had landed on a famous state. Orderly, neat, with polite airline staff, the feeling of home, apparently, the vibe that the city and airport authorities wanted to create, was palpable within me.

It was spring, so the weather was a bit hot in the afternoon, with a gentle, cool breeze in the evening.

Sacramento is home to the government of California. The Capitol building houses the bicameral state legislature and the office of the governor. A peep inside this gigantic edifice takes you down memory lane regarding the counties that make up California. How each of them is distinct with their respective landmarks, and how the state has progressed since the 1850s.

California lies at the confluence of the Sacramento River and American River. The district of old Sacramento, which is still kept as tourist’s haven, dates back to the city’s Gold Rush era, and retains the hoary facade and relics, like wooden sidewalks and wagon rides. California generally used to be part of Mexico until the United States took the South West part of Mexico, comprising California, Arizona, and Texas. Before Sacramento became the capital, the capital once resided in Los Angeles and later San Francisco. But for the past 100 years, it has been in Sacramento.

Explaining what makes the city remarkable, my tour guide and Director, Centre for African Peace and Conflict Resolution of the California State University, Sacramento, Professor Ernest Uwazie, who had lived in the city since 1991, said there was something about the town that endeared people to it.

“When I came here 27 years ago, it wasn’t as big as this,” said Uwazie, “but it remains very peaceful, a place to raise a family, particularly for someone like us, that are used to a conducive environment for learning. So it is not too crazy and also not too quite.”

The city’s fairly tropical weather is not too hot and not too cold. Being a state capital, it has a lot of government offices, and power still resides in Sacramento. It is a place of willing and dealing as a political power house. And just as Benue State is regarded as Food Basket of Nigeria, California is part of the central valley that produces a lot of food for America. And, of course, Napa Valley, a wine haven, which is about an hour drive from Sacramento, is a wine arena where you see wine ranges, wine tasting, and a getaway place.

When you talk about California’s position as the fifth largest economy in the world, definitely, you talk about agriculture, the Silicon Valley, which is where you have the IT capital of the world: Google, Facebook, Oracle, etc.

Of course, Hollywood is there. Those definitely constitute the economic hub or the engine.

The state is also heavy in energy because it produces oil as well. California State University, Sacramento, founded in 1947 is one the 23 campuses of the California State University. Though it is an independent tertiary institution, it is one of the strongest campuses in the state with over 28,000 students.

Old Sacramento State’s Historic Park

Despite its modernisation, certain things still stand the state capital out in terms of monuments, particularly, the Old Sacramento. According to Uwazie, the Capitol building used to be in Old Sacramento, which is flood prone, before the authorities moved it about two miles to its present location.

A first time visitor’s journey is not complete until you catch a glimpse of Old Sacramento. Founded in 1849, this 8-block area offers a visitor centre, museums, antics, and a variety of history tours. Here are elegant, long-standing museums documenting the history of California via exhibits, artefacts, and more. There is Delta King, a wooden like ship where visitors can dine and wine. Also Sutter’s Fort, an educational centre where 5th or 6th grade students make a trip daily as part of their programmes.

Very close to Old Sacramento is a heavy Gold Tower Bridge. This bridge is a vertical lift bridge across the Sacramento River, linking West Sacramento in Yolo County to the east.

Extolling the city that has provided a safe haven for him and his family for past 27 years, Uwazie said, “It is a very welcoming city, a good place to live, work and enjoy life. It is a good place to raise children. It is centrally located and if you want to get away to Francisco, Los Angeles, Las Vegas, Nevada it is easy from the town. It is good location that can reach more tourist places within an hour by road or air.”