The story of the Ikogosi Warm Spring, Ekiti State, without doubt, could be likened to the story of a pearl in the hands of a pig which is oblivious of its value, trampling on it,waiting for a goldsmith to pick it and turn it into a fanciful objects desired by men of means, wealth, fame and money.
Yes, God loves us so much in this country that he planted in every nook and cranny of the territory called Nigeria solid gold in terms of natural and wonderful resources only begging to be harnessed.
The good Lord seems to have pampered us by making everything almost perfect for us. We have good climate, lovely nature and graceful environment. It is either dry or rain season. Spring, autumn, winter and summer are anathema to us. Nature abundance. Good and ingenious people.
We do not need to do the hard thinking to conquer our environment or tend our life style to inure ourselves from the harsh climate or nature.
Everything seems to be tailor-made for us. Maybe that is why we cannot think deeply to process all that the Lord has made for us. Rather, we wait for external brains to do it for us.
The most ridiculous part of the bargain is that we don’t even have the penchant to maintain or sustain whatever the external brain processed and left behind.
Two cases come to mind, the Obudu Cattle Ranch in Cross Rivers State and Ikogosi Warm and Cold Spring in Ekiti.
The Obudu Cattle Ranch was traditionally virgin and natural, before some Europeans came to see the economic virtue of the ridges.
In their revolutionary way, they put the place in shape and later left it for Nigerians to manage.
However, for years, the place was in ruins, until the coming of His Excellency Donald Duke, a former governor of the state, who saw the diamond in the Ranch and turned the place into an Eldorado.
The Ikogosi Warm/Cold spring is reputed to be the only one in the world, where cold and warm spring runs side by side. Yet we lack the coordinating ability to harness and enhance these free gifts of the Almighty for the people of Ikogosi to mobilise wealth and for the state to generate revenue.
In the tourism sector, most often, it is the Europeans who strive to show the way and bell the cart. And by the time it is left for us to manage, we always throw up our insensitivity and gross incompetence to manage these projects.
The case of Ikogosi Warm and Cold Spring in Ikogosi Ekiti, Ekiti State, is pathetic, as it has suffered untold humiliation and abandonement in the hands of those who are supposed to turn it round.
Enjoy the sad story of the only tourism site in the world where warm and cold spring flows side by side and meet at a confluence.
Ikogosi Warm Spring Ikogosi is located in Ekiti West Local Government Area. The warm spring rolls down over a hilly landscape at 70 degrees. From another hill rises a cold spring which joins the warm spring at a confluence at the end maintaining a temperature of thirty seven degrees. Together they form a continuous stream. The whole landscape with its green vegetation is fascinating. The immediate surrounding of the spring (resort centre) is about 31.38 hectares and is protected from erosion by tall evergreen trees, forming a canopy under which visitors can relax.
The spring is said to have some therapeutic effects on some diseases like rheumatism and guinea worm. The undulating topography enhances the aesthetic beauty of the people of Ikogosi.
The people of Ikogosi worship the goddess of the water and have strong belief in the myth around it.
The traditional legend has it that the Ikogosi Warm Spring was discovered by a local hunter by the name Ogunkugan in the course of his hunting expedition.
Fagged out and with a craving for water, Ogunkugan was propelled to stop by at the water fountain, which he later discovered to have a higher temperature than other similar streams in such a pristine environment. It was with an admix of fear and ecstasy that the hunter hurriedly made his way to the Oba’s palace to reveal the amazing wonder that he had just discovered.
Pronto, the Oba dispatched a retinue of traditional title chiefs to the site to validate the awesome story. At last, it was confirmed to be true. Such a site must be idolised, the people thought in themselves, as one Ijoye Baaleshi was immediately made the spiritual head of the “Awo” (the traditional name given to the warm spring). Similarly, the adjourning cold spring, which has a confluence at a point in the same precinct was called “Awele”.
“The warm spring automatically became a place of traditional worship and point of intercession with the gods by the community dwellers for a long time during the olden days.
And it remained so until the coming of the Baptist Missionary Church into the town.
The coming of Reverend MacGee
The people of Ikogosi, while tendering this natural gift, had an encounter with a Baptist missionary, Reverend MacGee, a Briton, who was allocated some parcel of the land around the spring.
Knowing the import of the spring, Rev MacGee built a Baptist youth camp on the land, made up of chalets, a chapel, his residence, recreational corner and dormitory.
These are enclosed on the right while passing through Ikogosi to Ipole Iloro.
He managed the spring site as a tourism site and provided accommodation for visitors who streamed in to see and feel the wonders of the spring.
Rev MacGee, enjoyed the administration of the site until one night when he had an encounter with a pan Africanist fiery social critic.
Late Tai Solarin connection
Having been aware of the tourism potentialities of Ikogosi Warm spring, the late Tai Solarin packaged an excursion of some students of Mayflower School, all the way from Ikenne to Ikogosi, which was not a light adventure, considering the transportation system then.
The Mayflower group got to Ikogosi very late, wearied, tired and fagued out the excursionists desperately needed a place to sleep for the night till the next day, as there was nothing they could do by that time of their arrival.
There was no hotel or a guest house that could accommodate the excursionists other than the youth camp being run by Rev MacGee.
Solarin was said to have contacted Rev MacGee requesting for accommodation, which the latter claimed to have refused on the point that the tariff which the former offered to pay for the night was low and that late Solarin did not pre–book his accommodation.
The argument that ensued and the breakdown in negotiation led to the late Tai and the students sleeping in the open.
The second day, Solarin wrote a strongly worded and potent petition to the Government of Western State alleging that Rev MacGee was practising apartheid in Ikogosi, at the site of a natural gift of God in Nigeria.
This petition generated controversy and raised dust about the propriety of a Briton running such a site in Nigeria and even going for broke by denying Nigerians from enjoying the facilities therein, not minding the fact that he planted those structures there.
And one thing led to the other, Rev MacGee was asked to vacate the land and he went back to his country, leaving behind all the structures he erected.
General Adebayo’s intervention
The controversy and uproar which the petition of Solarin caused raised the fame of the warm spring and called the attention of the Western State government under General Adeyinka Adebayo, who directed the take –over of the site by the Western state and the construction of an enclosure at the source of the Warm Spring.
General Adebayo was reputed to have established the first touch of government by laying the foundation for the first building in the site, after the exit of Reverend MacGee.
Subsequent military governors and administrators added no value of much importance to it until when General Olusegun Obasanjo was retiring as the Head of State.
Chief Obasanjo’s saving grace
Realising the need to develop the tourism potentialities of the country, General Olusegun Obasanjo, the then Head of State, as part of his valedictory programmes and parting gifts to the 19 states in 1978, gave each state a sum of 1million naira to develop a notable tourism site in the state.
Chief Adekunle Ajasin ‘s administration
Then, 1 million naira was a huge sum and out of all 19 states of the federation, only Ondo State under late Chief Adekunle Ajasin spent this sum on the project it was meant for.
Ajasin, instead of allowing the politicians to mismanage the money, collaborated with the then Nigerian Tourist Board, then under Alhaji Ahmed Gumel, which has metamorphosed to Nigerian Tourism Development Corporation, (NTDC) to administer the fund in constructing some chalets and embarked on uplifting the raw state of the spring.
Golden period of Ikogosi — Col. Opaleye’s tenure
This collaboration was sustained even after the death of the 2nd Republic till the period of Colonel Opaleye who was a military administrator and who continued with seriousness of purpose, the collaborative agreement which the late Chief Ajasin had with the Nigerian Tourists Board, ensured the construction of the swimming pool, the gate house which collapsed and was rebuilt, the zoological garden, and furnished the chalets to the maximum.
The Opaleyes tenure was the golden period of Ikogosi Warm Spring.
That was the time the spring was enhanced so well that the Ondo State governor then, Opaleye found it so lovely and attractive to hold the State Executive Council Meeting at the site.
After the exit of Opaleye, not much attention was paid to the spring, as it was left for the Ministry of Tourism and the Tourism Board to administer.
The site suffered degeneration, most especially after one of the lions,in the zoo,which was deprived of food for many days just because no serious attention was paid to the spring, took courage and bailed himself out of hunger by consuming a zoo keeper.
Though the lion was shot and it died, its carnivorous act created palpable phobia in the hearts of many who dared not venture into a terrain where lion had eaten up a human being.
Otunba Niyi Adebayo’s efforts
This killed whatever interest the people had in Ikogosi warm spring thus, it was treated like a contagious plague by the people and subsequent governments in Ondo State.
Thus, the spring and the infrastructure was left to ruin and it wasted away until the creation of Ekiti State and the coming of Otunba Niyi Adebayo as the first Executive Governor of Ekiti State.
Coming in as a cosmopolitan and highly exposed person, he planned an Economic Summit for the state and renovated the chalets to a level of toleration for guests as the spring was made a venue.
The modicum of renovation done by Otunba Adebayo was not built upon by his successor, Dr Ayodele Fayose, who instead was said to have ordered the removal of all the fixtures, the fittings, the beddings, the furniture, the electronics gadgets just because it was perceived to be a meeting point of his opponents. Although he rehabilitatated the Ipole Iloro Ikogosi road, his purported order was carried out.
That singular action nailed the coffin of Ikogosi warm spring, as all the infrastructure collapsed, the transformer got burnt, PHCN cut off supply, the chalets were taken over by bush and reptiles.
The Engineer Segun Oni administration was not given the template and time to do anything tangible on Ikogosi Warm spring despite the fact that he had a blueprint on making the Ikogosi–Ipole Iloro, Erijiyan, a tourism zone because of the Arinta waterfall.
Ikogosi as at Saturday 9 June, 2012
The writer, in company with Prince Femi Oluwasina, Chief Executive officer, Jethro Travel Consultants and some South Africans, were on tour of Ikogosi Warm spring sometimes in 2009.
The South Africans, who were stunned by the parlous state of affairs at the only warm and cold spring in the world, could not believe that a government of a country could criminally neglect and abandon “such an awesome tourism site.”
There was nothing cheering about the place, which was unkempt, dirty and the swimming pool rough weeping profusely for purification.
Even at that state, we were able to count a number of tourists at the time which made the South Africans convinced that, if properly enhanced and managed, the site would be a big revenue spinner for the state and country.
It was with this frame set of mind that the writer set for Ikogosi Warm Spring on Saturday 9th June, 2012.
Getting to Ikogosi Ekiti from Ibadan was very easy and cool as the Ilesha–Akure road provided a shorter route to Ikogosi making use of the Igbara–Oke–Igbara–Odo–Ogotun route the choice.
Except about two kilometers of rough portion, the Igbara–Odo-Ogotun road is good and you drive smoothly into the town, which also bears no bill board announcing that it harbors the only warm and cold spring in the world.
The town was serenely peaceful that Saturday, with nothing to show that you were in a town which hosted such a wonderful tourism site.
However, you might notice a poorly, ugly built, dirty and abandoned bus stop purportedly constructed for the town by the UAC, the company which bottle the Ikogosi spring for commercial purpose as part of its corporate social responsibility.
Also, at the point of turning into the road that leads to the site, you will see a weather beaten sign post which announces the way to ikogosi Warm/Cold. This sign post must have been erected before Lord Lugard amalgamated Northern and Southern Nigeria.
As you drive along, you will also notice on the right a buildind with the signpost of being the Ikogosi Warm spring Motel which definitely craves for patronage, while just after it, by the left, is the UACN factory which exploites the water for commercial purposes.
As one drove slowly to enjoy the serenes and the flora along the route to Ikogosi warm spring, one started noticing a big difference between the image of 2009 and what one was seeing.
One noticed some workmen landscaping and planting flowers on both sides of the road leading to the spring.
In fact, an outer gate is being constructed here immediately after the UACN water factory before you approach the Y-junction which separates the road leading to the spring site and the Ipole – Iloro.
Instead of you going straight to the warm spring site, you decided to see and know the state of the Federal and MacGee Chalets which are located on both sides of the Ipole–Iloro road.
Surprise is the word because what you were seeing at the Federal chalets was not the expectation, as those chalets, which were submerged before by weeds and reptiles, have been salvaged and being dressed in royal robes of renovation, with the road network being graded for rehabilitation.
At the MacGee chalets too, the rehabilitation effort is progressing as the foundation of a some new buildings were being laid.
Heading back to the spring site, the landscaping work was on and just about 50 meters to the entrance gate to the spring by the left, one could see earth-moving machines clearing a large portion of land which looked like a football field or a stadium.
On getting to the entrance gate, one saw that the dilapidated Western chalets of old, which were critically wretched and wrecked by sheer neglect, abandonment and element making them abode of bush, rats, reptiles, had transformed to well designed duplexes which were being sill work on.
The gatehouse has been reconstructed, now harbouring a set of shops, while the old swimming pool is being renovated with a fountain, dressing rooms, a bar and sitting platforms.
Though construction is ongoing, the spring site was at least being spruced up for international taste and standard.
The last time this reporter was there, there was no photographer, neither was there any kiosk. But just because there seems to be a positive development now, good things have started to emerge at site of Ikogosi Warm Spring.
Sentiments apart, if this transformation which is being carried out by Governor John Kayode Fayemi at Ikogosi warm spring is successfully implemented and completed, then Ikogosi Warm spring has got a messiah who is out to permanently wean it off the history of rising and falling, history of wretchedness and neglect, stories of abandonment and destruction of a wonderful natural gift, the only kind in the world.
And sooner than expected, Ikogosi Warm Spring will be the cynosure of every tourist’s eye and an uncommonly desirable destination of delight and choice, which will boost the economy of the people of the town, the state and Nigeria.
Without gainsaying, you need to visit the Ikogosi warm spring now and see the laudable work being carried out to beautify and enhance this wonderfully and awesomely unique tourism asset in Ikogosi Ekiti by Governor Kayode Fayemi.
It is great.
By Wale Ojo-Lanre
Last modified: June 20, 2012