Raheem Akingbolu, who was part of a tour marking the second anniversary of Ekiti State Governor Kayode Fayemi’s administration, writes on the efforts made so far to redevelop Ikogosi Warm Spring
For some countries, tourism is as old and known as the country itself. Likewise, a city gets the respect it deserves based on the level of attraction it can draw from tourism. Cities such as New York, London, Dubai, Tokyo, have remained top of the mind as a result of one or more significant tourism features. As it is in Western nations, so it is in Africa. For instance, at the mention of places like Calabar, Masai Mara in Kenya; Victoria Falls in Zambia and Durban, what comes readily to mind are the beautiful tourist sites that abound.
In Nigeria, it is common place to hear people describe rich potential of a state according to the number of tourist sites. But over the years, most tourist sites have suffered severe neglect with successor governments doing little or nothing to rescue the situation. However, this was not the case in state such as Cross River years back. For the state, three things stand synonymous; the Tinapa Resort, the Obudu Rance and the annual Calabar Carnival. To this end, in recent years, Calabar have become a hub both for tourist investors locally and abroad.
In Ekiti, similar effort is going on as the governor appears determined to turn the Ikogosi Warm Spring to an enviable tourist destination in a manner that would transform the state’s economy around. Two years on, Ikogosi is fast becoming the next port of call as tourist spot, going by the development going on at the moment.
As part of activities making the two years of Fayemi led administration, different programmes are lined up to celebrate milestones and achievement parts of which is the achievement in the ancient town. Last weekend, the governor and his team put together what was tagged ‘Ikogosi Warm Spring Resort Day’; to let the world knew that a new dawn had arrived.
The event started on a high note with a play performances tilted “Building our house” by the Ekiti state cultural trope. The performance was a delight to watch as audience and onlookers who trooped to the hall got treated to a display of different cultural dances and steps. Thereafter, school children dressed in white t-shirts, and blue shirts, welcomed the governor and his entourage with a callisthenic displays depicting an inscription JKF, a title representing initials of the Ekiti Governor.
While assessing the level of work done on the project, the governor expressing his satisfaction and filled with hope that the venture would be delivered to international standard.
He said; “We must bear in mind that while we were campaigning that we said Ikogosi would be the tourism hub of the very many opportunities that we have in the State. We have rolling hills, beautiful valleys, streams, rivers, dams, cultural artefacts but there hasn’t been any opportunity to bring all of them together. And that is what we are doing in Ikogosi. There is also no place that you can see in Ekiti as the most appropriate hospitality opportunity”
Speaking further, fayemi said his vision was to give the place a complete turnaround so as to meet standard required by international tourists.
He said the vision was probably to turn the place to the most attractive destination of choice for not just domestications but also international tourists. Commenting on measures and efforts made to guarantee adequate security, he noted that part of the agenda for the project was ensuring that masts was installed and road networks linking the tourist site are devoid of potholes adding that additional steps are being taken to guarantee adequate security.
He said “If you come in through Iwaraja to ikogosi you will drive into Ikogosi without a single pothole on the road. The same goes for those driving from Ado – Ekiti. This step will go a long way to enable us improve the security arrangement needed to boost the confidence of our local population as well as visiting tourists so that they can feel secured in this naturally lush, and alluring environment”.
He added that though there appears to be a challenge in terms of internet connectivity for now, respite will come as internet connectivity will become interlocked before the phase 1 is completed and operational by December.
He explained that the resort would also afford intending couples the opportunity to celebrate their marriage using church environment as presented through a chapel sited in the premises.
Also speaking, the Special Adviser on tourism to the governor, Mr. Segun Ologunleko who was the arrowhead among those who conceptualised and delivered the Tinapa Resort project expressed delight at the level of work done so far. He noted that the vision of the administration is to make the state an attractive destination for all and sundry.
“This government is determined to make Ekiti State an attractive destination for relaxation, holiday and to a greater extent ensuring that the Ekiti tourism corridor is adequately developed to provide a boost for the economy”.
Recalling fond memories of city of Jos and what it has turned out to be in recent time, Ologunleko said it was fast eroding in the minds of people as a tourist destination spot. He is however of the view that there must be an alternative. That is more reason why Ekiti was determined to make serious quest for that alternative
“The situation in Jos now has made it that there must be an alternative to Jos. Ekiti provides the alternative to Jos. Ikogosi Warm spring is the alternative,” he said.
Speaking on what have been put in the area of security, to ensure a memorable delight for tourists alike, he said that roads linking the Resort are motorable with a support Airport facilities in Akure, capital of Ondo state. Asked to speak on stage at which project is and what have been put in place, Ologunleko said the project has undergone the first phase with the second phase to commence immediately.
He said “What you are about to see today is the finishing point of the first phase. We have got a multipurpose hall, conference centre which we just built. We have got different categories of eco-friendly accommodation, an adventure for amphitheatre that can sit 400 people. We have car parks to support the facilities. There are swimming pool, shopping and the natural warm spring which is the nature’s attraction. Quite naturally, the unique thing about what we are selling is the warm and the cold springs coming together at a point. Everybody around the world is looking for something different”.
“Besides, the area has a 116 hectares development, waiting to be explored by private individuals and organisations. As I speak, we have had many investors seeking for 5 and 20 hectares of land to build a three star hotel and a golf course respectively. We have a team working with us right now with a plan to build a game reserve. They have demanded for 15,000 hectares of land”
Whichever way one chooses to look at it, the venture would ultimately cost a fortune. And one wonders where would the resources come from going by amount of federal allocations accrued to the state. But Ologunleko stated emphatically that the project was a little above a billion naira mark and funds, adding that accrued to it was budgeted for and comes from the bond currently secured by the state government.
He said; “In terms of capital outlay, the project is less than 1.5 billion naira, and that is a very small amount when you are developing tourism. About 5 to 6% is dedicated to tourism development. That is what we are using to create opportunities here, which is a flagship project”.
Talking on sustainability, Ologunleko said plans are already on ground to put up a mechanism that would make itself sustaining. According to him, “As you can see already, tourists are coming in. The aim is that when it gets to phase II, government will sit back having created opportunities and allow it to be private – sector driven. In summary, the phase II would have a special purpose vehicle which is already created and named Ikogosi Warm Springs Limited. In that SPV, government will own more than 20%. The idea is that the private sector will own the remaining for sustainability”.
Offering his view on the venture, the General Manager of the spring, John Dixon, a South African tourism expert praised the effort of the government in revamping its most enviable tourism site.
He said “This is a vision of bringing back and extending national glory to international glory considering the level of facilities available here”. On the stage of development of the venture, Dixon reiterated the position of the governor and his team adding that “92 rims in total are to be completed. He also said that part of his role was to offer help in the areas of marketing and management.
“We are going to be the resort managing company. We will be looking and overseeing the swimming pools, VIP restaurants and other resort facilities, shops. We are working tirelessly in conjunction with the client as well as the construction crew to have the first phase opening of the resort in December.”
While commending on its economic prospects as well as the role of the outfit, Dixon said it is a good investment worth its salts.
He said “It is a tremendous investment from Ekiti State Government as well as its citizens. Obviously, there are huge potentials. It is about developing the market, making sure that it is operational so that it can be marketed worldwide for the purpose of business conferencing and so on.”
“Of course, there are many roles in business. The simple basic role is about responsibility. Our role is to be responsible to the citizens of Ekiti State and Nigeria in general.” He also noted that part of his role was to assist in the technical review of job done as expected by the client.
“Our responsibility is to look at what has worked and what has not to give advice. Once the job is complete, we will be fully on ground as Resort Manager,” he added.
For 58 years old Oyebola Aderinsoye, an Egba woman, a prospective shop owner now resident in Ekiti State, it is a well thought-out venture and there is no such time than now.
Aderinsoye who said he has been involving in the act of batique making, for a long time, reminiscenced on his journey to Ekiti, her new destination and his path to the world of farming.
“I came here from Lagos with the intention to embark on farming. When I first came, I was planting palms trees. As at today, I have my own farmland in Efon Alaaye. Before now, I have been involved in batique work for over 25 years. The driving force behind my settling down was to relocate to a place devoid of stress because by then I was suffering from a terminal illness,” she stated.
Looking back, she said she is fulfilled even though she does not make as much compared with what is obtainable in a densely populated area like Lagos.
“In as much as you cannot compare life here with life in Lagos, I still make money to sustain my livelihood,”
She however, enjoined indigenes to take advantage of the huge opportunities and potentials to better their lives and that once it is completed, Ekiti would become next point of economic destination.
In his comment, The Onikogosi of Ikogosi Kingdom, Oba Abiodun Olorunisola commended the administration for taking a bold step to revamp the tourist site stating that it was long overdue. He reminded journalists of an occurrence where a particular governor in the old Ondo State rubbished the plan to resuscitate it saying that “when people have not eaten, you are talking of tourism”. He also noted that the project would certainly become economic boosters for the people of the community. On the spiritual attachment to the Ikogosi warm spring, he anchored it on personal faith but specifically mentioned about the medicinal role of the river.
Also speaking, the Chairmen, caretaker committee of Ekiti West Local Government, Barrister Tajudeen Akingbolu heaped praise on the Fayemi led government for the complete facelift.
He said “Honestly speaking, the project of Ikogosi tourism has been so impressive. The governor has done a lot of wonderful works there to the admiration of all of us. There is no doubting the fact that the venture will promote the economy of Ekiti State in general. With the way Mr. Governor is going on the project, I know that by the time the project is completed, the whole world will know that Ekiti is not only existing but Ikogosi Warm Spring, located in our local government area, is a place to be”
Buttressing on the role to be played by his Local Government since it falls under his purview; Akingbolu said he was determined to fine-tune an arrangement to partner with the state government in such a manner that it will boost the economy of the Local government and its people.
“Though this is a state government project situated in my Local Government, I am ready to see to its benefits for my people. In all honesty, I have been looking for ways in which my local council will partner the state. Because, I believe if visitors and tourists come here on a regular basis, there is no way this would not add one economic value or the other to the council under my care.
There is no way the people of Ekiti West Local council will not benefit enormously. This venture would create opportunities for farmers to sell their form products” he said.
This article was first published in ThisDay on 28 October, 2012
Last modified: October 28, 2012