FEATURES: Ikogosi: Emerging Tourists’ Haven

October 17, 2012

Cuban Women troupe, Obinin Bata, entertaining guests at Ikogosi

After nine years in the doldrums, the Ikogosi Warm Springs Resorts is back on track and full of life. Ekiti State government is investing about N1.258 billion to turn the site into a world-class tourists’ destination, reports Assistant Editor (Arts) Ozolua Uhakheme

Some metres away from the gate leading to Ikogosi Warm Springs Resorts were hundreds of students. They lined both sides of the road in their school uniform.

Also, on the sides of the road were beautifully dressed old women and men, some drumming as they walked happily towards the resorts, defying the increasing heat of the morning sun. That was the spectacle that preceded the arrival of Governor Kayode Fayemi of Ekiti State to the Ikogosi Day celebration, last Saturday.

Nine years after being moribund, the Ikogosi Warm Springs Resorts has received a fresh breath. It hosted the first-ever all-female international bata dancers, Obini Bata from Cuba, as well as performances by a cultural troupe, from Ekiti State. The Obinin Bata performed with their hourglass-shaped drums accompanying various Yoruba songs.

From the Ekiti troupe, it was a drama presentation of Mich Yomi Longe’s Building Our Own House by a 23-man cast, which left no one in doubt of the mission and vision of Governor Kayode Fayemi’s administration. The message of the drama was clear and simple: Rebuilding time is now.

The drama was also symbolic of a nation that is rich in resources yet remains in doldrums due to negative innate tendencies, which have grown into a monster that constantly impedes meaningful development. Building Our Own House is a tool for social change, especially, to promote attitudinal change and approach to issues of common good.

The presentation was in celebration of Ikogosi Resorts Day, which was part of activities marking the second year in office of Governor Fayemi’s administration in Ekiti State. Building Our Own House centres on a group of people within a geographical location called Okiti land. The people of Okiti land unanimously accept Akinlabi to lead them to the promised land because of some exceptional leadership qualities they saw in him. In his acceptance speech, Akinlabi solicits for their support and enjoins all hands to be on deck, which, to him, is a panacea for Building Our Own House.

However, hardly did they start the journey when the dreaded monster rears its head again. The people of Okiti land in their usual manner start condemning Akinlabi. At this point, Akinlabi seeks the face of the Lord and he was told to embark on cleansing rites among his people. The cleansing rites bring out the spirit of collectivity in the people, thus, helping them to cage the monster and its total derobing to the state of purity. The reconstruction of the House goes on uninterrupted because of attitudinal change and approach to issues of the people. They appreciate Akinlabi, while celebrating their victory as the journey continues.

The Ikogosi Warm Springs Resorts, which was allegedly looted and abandoned before the Fayemi-led administration was inaugurated in October 2010, is being repositioned to serve as a money-spinner and employment hub for Ekiti State.

Fayemi said the first phase of rehabilitation and reconstruction has been completed at the resort, which would be fully opened in December while work is ongoing on the second phase.

Fayemi, who noted that the resort once had a zoo, added that 10,000 hectares of land have been set aside in the host community for wild life while the resort will also get a golf course and apartments in the third phase.

He said the vision of his administration for Ikogosi would turn the place to a destination of choice for local and international tourists, stating that the resort has all it takes to divert tourists from Obudu to Ikogosi.

Fayemi said tourists visiting Ikogosi should worry about transportation hardship as the roads leading to the site are now motorable, from all gateways that lead to the state.

He assured that Internet facilities for tourists to have access to their families and offices during their visit to the wonder hot and cold springs would be put in place. He added that the resort, on completion, will not only be a place for “leisure but also a cash-cow”. The governor stated that the resuscitation of the resort is a fulfilment of his promise, expressing optimism that the state was nearer to the new dawn he promised during his campaign.

A walk round the awe-inspiring resort shows that Ekiti State is endowed by nature. Long stretch of green valleys, vast rain forest and colossal mountain range dot the landscape; Ikogosi Warm Spring Resort will take your breath away. The once abandoned tourists’ site is emerging into a choice destination for tourists given the massive construction at the resort.

To give tourists and visitors a long-lasting experience, a well-landscaped 116-hectare resort is now the flagship of Ekiti tourism. It has one executive VIP chalet, three VIP villas, 12 western suites, 70-five standard rooms of various styles, themes and offerings and seven support staff quarters. All accommodation facilities are undergoing redevelopment to turn the place to an international standard resort. Other facilities are nature spa / beauty centre; gym/fitness shop; herbal shop for local medication; arts and crafts shops for souvenir items; 300-seat multi-purpose conference hall, 120-seat and 50-seat meeting and function rooms; variety/shopping mall; amphitheatre; double standard rooms for students on excursion and campers and 300-car parking space.

Also on ground are brook walk lanes, waterways, relaxation spots, open green areas, external area beautification and gated exclusive areas for tourists.

Its General Manager, Mr John Dixon said in December, the first phase of the development would witness the opening of a three-star hotel, among other facilities.

“This is a tremendous investment by Ekiti State government. There are huge potential and it is about developing the market and making sure it is operational, staff deployment and training, marketing locally and worldwide and providing a wide range of services. We have a very strong marketing plan in place for all these. We are also very strong on standard and we do things right.

“Every site, whether in South Africa or Europe, has its own challenges when you carry out development. Our job here is not as a developer but to do a technical review on behalf of the state, give advice on what can work and what cannot work,” Dixon said.

The Special Adviser to the Governor (Bureau of Tourism Development), Mr Segun Ologunleko, said the first phase of development cost the state about N1.258 billion, which was raised from bonds at the capital market. According to him, five per cent of the funds raised at the capital market were dedicated to tourism development which is a catalyst to economic development of the state.

“In fact, we have something different and we are serving it. Very soon, Ekiti will emerge as the melting pot of fun seekers,” he said.

Ologunleko noted that the driving force of Ikogosi Warm Springs Resorts is economic emancipation because the state has abundant natural resources. “But how to translate them into wealth, dignity, employment and self-respect for the people is the fulcrum of the vision of Fayemi. This is to ensure that Ekiti tourism corridor, which is about 400 square kilometre, is developed. This comprises communities, such as Aramoko, Erijiyan, Iloro, Okemesi and Efon Alaye,” he said.

According to him, in phase two, the government would allow private investors to have majority shares in the funding.

“Government will sit back and will only own about 10 to 25 per cent of the equity. And there will be a special purpose vehicle, Ikogosi Warm Springs Resorts Limited, to drive the project. This is the path to sustainability which is the plan of government,” he added, noting that the government has brought in Mantis from Port Elizabeth, South Africa, to train workers in hospitality. He disclosed that private investors are approaching the state to build facilities, such as three-star hotel, golf course, and a games reserve.

Already, art and crafts designers and marketers are showing strong presence at the new shopping centre at the resorts. Madam Oyebola Aderinsoye Adeboye, a farmer, arts and crafts designer and one of the occupants at the shopping centre, described the development as a boost to investors, especially, in tourism industry. She said beyond that, it would generate employment for the youth, adding that the resorts is a very serene location tucked in the heart of a rich forest.

“The operators can in the future develop areas such as wild life. But I hope the services would be affordable to clients. More importantly, I hope there would be the basic amenities such as electricity and water,” she said.

The traditional leader of Ikogosi, the Onikogosi of Ikogosi, Oba Deacon Abiodun Olorunisola and his subjects were full of appreciation to the Governor, but noted that the development of the site was long overdue.

“The real development of the resorts as a tourists’ attraction is long overdue. The former military governor, Colonel Opaleye made efforts to develop the site but shortly after he left government the place was abandoned. We lost all the animals in the process. So it has been till the administration of Dr. Kayode Fayemi that turned the site around.

“We thank Fayemi for this laudable initiative because Ikogosi spring meant a lot to us as a people. It is not only known to the nation but also to the world; and its development will rub off on the people in the environs as rent, small-scale business will receive a boost. In fact, it is economically useful to us than the state, and by extension, the country.

“Ikogosi is a gift from God and we will be eternally grateful.

“Apart from Ikogosi residents, communities such as Erijiyan are very enthusiastic about the tourism potential of the site. And we appealed to the government to construct the Ogotun to Ikogosi road to facilitate easy access from neighbouring communities,” he said.

On the therapeutic benefits of the spring, he said the spring was worshipped in the pre-colonial days but was stopped by one of the early traditional rulers in Ikogosi, Oba Alagbogbo Danija following the coming of Christianity. That was around 1914 or earlier.

“However, the water from the spring is medicinal as no one contacts cholera or other water borne diseases here in Ikogosi as a result of drinking the water from the spring.

“Sometimes ago, a woman came here with a big duck as sacrifice to the spring. She said that was what she promised the spring if her prayers were answered,” the traditional ruler recalled.

Ekiti west local government caretaker chairman, Barrister Tajudeen Akingbolu acknowledged the initiative of Governor Fayemi saying that at the completion of the project, the world would know that Ekiti State is the place to be. “After Mr. Governor is done with the project, the tourists site would be better than Obudu Cattle Ranch,” he noted.


Last modified: October 17, 2012

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