This job can be very tiring sometimes and at the same time, drives intense passion and dedication to people and nation. Though thankless to an extent, it is practically a connect between people and the quest for a better tomorrow through tourism and culture.
For over two and half decades on this self-imposed job, feedbacks from readers are rare, making it hard to do some self introspection and interrogation of certain issues and positions on Nigerian tourism roadmap, leadership position, funding and job creation expectations.
Indeed, our politicians accord tremendous and “well researched” red lip service comments and generate crowds of clapping mantras to tourism visibility and possibility. The song of “ages” on Nigeria tourism has always centered on what other nations had done and how we can replicate it down here, though in red tapes, scissors, long speech and end of story.
It is usually promises never kept, tourism value chain, hanging fruits never exploited and the people groaning in midst of abundance, sadly left to fallow, shadow chasing heritage sites, natural, cultural and artistic resources without insight. Tourism is the shame across our land, relegated, hardly seen as comparative resource advantage, home grown economic solution to our socio economic development.
The test case today is Enugu state and please don’t ask me why we must discuss this historical ancient land space dotted with hills, caves, waterfalls, virgin forest ecosystem, and a people noted for hospitality and culture.
Ajiloh Michael is from Enugu state and a student. We have never met before but we met through this column. Ajiloh Michael is from Ezeagu local government in Enugu state and sufficiently aware that a famous cave named after this local government, could get him a job after graduation.
Ajiloh didn’t tell me if he would want to try his hands as a tour guide to this cave or interested to manage any recreation activity that this cave could attract if fully developed into a world class leisure end post.
For weeks on end, this young man with no political connection or interest would not let me have peace. I could perceive his pain just like other young persons in Nigeria who despite the presence of natural resources in their domain, suffers from neglect and despair.
Ajiloh Michael has Ezeagu cave, and could see it as a resource base that can provide jobs and develop his community. The cave is a comparative economic solution driver, a tourist attraction and product that can put food on the table for his people, attract investment on hotels and other downstream investments, drive security, empower a new generation of care givers, restore dignity of labour and showcase a nation blessed by God and tell a story never to be forgotten.
In course of Ajiloh’s unreleting calls for help to draw attention to the neglect of Ezeagu cave and need to for Enugu state government to either build or attract hotels and hospitability investments to this prime but abandoned cave site, I requested him to do me a baseline report of the cave, pretending never to have visited this natural wonder on earth which I encountered years ago while putting together “Tourism is life”, Nigeria’s first documentary on tourism attraction for a government agency.
Ajiloh Michael wrote back “located in southern central part of Enugu state, Ezeagu tourist complex is a half hour drive from the state capital and sits in an area of outstanding natural beauty. The complex features exotic foliage, a beautiful waterfall, a national spring and lake, a three kilometer long cave is full of tunnels and chambers. Due to the curative nature of the water, pilgrims are attracted here and if well-developed could attract thousands of tourists from all over the world. The waterfall locally called “Ogbagada” is about 23 meters high, rushes down the cliff with a thunderous sound that can be heard miles away. A great feat and phenomenon about “Ogbagada” is its associated ability to signal the beginning of Harmattan season through a special unusual loud noise from the fall! Its spendour is exposed by the almost five kilometers long Obinofia cave whose sheer size and compartments are awe-striking”.
According to this young student from Ezeagu community, all which is needed is for Enugu state government to help build recreation and hospitality facilities around this natural touristic wonder and let jobs flow. This community is not begging for handouts and long speeches full of nothing. They want this natural resource to speak for them, comfort them and put them on Nigeria map if not world map as people gifted by God and nature, willing and hospitable to share in peace and harmony what God deposited in this domain. Ezeagu cave like others in Enugu state is a call to action, to rural development and empowerment through tourism. Ezeagu cave is a world class natural wonder, and can be packaged for the Ajiloh Michaels of this world for a better tourism tomorrow.