Priscilla Ediare, Ado-Ekiti
In Ekiti State, there are treasures of nature tucked away in some sleepy communities. They are waiting to be tapped for tourism business that could yield economic gains for the state and the nation.
A recent tour of nine of the sites revealed the immense deposit of treasures of nature with huge tourism potential. The first point of call was the mythical groove of the Ogun Onire in Ire-Ekiti, Oye Local Government. Ogun Onire is the legendary Yoruba god of iron believed to have created the mythical path that connects earthly beings to the heavens.
In Yoruba myth, cosmology and history, Ogun was said to have “rested inside the earth” in Ire. The spot where he “entered into the earth” is still there in the groove in lre.
From Ire to the historic Ero Dam, an enormous natural endowment with a stretch of clean, glittering water spreading over tens of kilometres horizontally and vertically. The dam is located in Ikun-Ekiti, Ido-Osi Local Government. It already has a massive facility built during the Old Western Region for the purpose of providing clean water. But beyond providing pipe borne water, the natural endowment has very immense tourism potential.
Commissioner for Art, Culture and Tourism, Prof. Rasaki Ojo Bakare, said: “Ero Dam can attract divers from across the world to hold their competitions there. This is a very huge tourism business that would in turn fetch global exposure and very huge economic growth to the nation and our dear state.”
Arinta Waterfalls, a wonder of nature where strange, very clean water, continuously spring forth from some ancient rocks from far above the earth, was the next point of call after Ero Dam. Arinta is located in Ipole-Iloro, Ekiti Southwest Local Government. It is indeed, a combination of nature’s beauty and awesomeness!
The environment around the waterfalls is perpetually chilly at least from about a kilometre to the tourism site. You feel the chilling effect of the waterfalls, which continuously spring forth from the rocks. It can be well utilised for the wearing electricity apart from its vast tourism potential.
The widely published Ikogosi Warm Spring is yet another wonder of nature. A fresh discovery about the warm spring it has not only the strange point where warm and cold water meet, but other meeting points where warm and warm waters, as well as cold and cold waters meet.
These areas have been identified and signposted for tourists. The spring needs to be, however, revamped. Sad evidence of its neglect by a previous administration has reduced the warm spring to a graveyard.
Other tourism sites visited included: Oke Baalu, the spot where the first plane crash in Africa occurred in April 12, 1947, around 8pm; the legendary talking fish in Erinjiyan River in Erinjiyan-Ekiti, Ekiti South West Local Government and the Esa Cave in Iyin-Ekiti, Irepodun/Ifelodun Local Government which can house hundreds of people at a time.
Also visited is the Fajuyi Amusement Park in Ado-Ekiti. It was built in memory of the Military Governor of the old West Region, Lt-Col Adekunle Fajuyi. He was killed in 1966 alongside the first military Head of State, Major-General Johnson Aguiyi-Ironsi, when the latter paid him a visit. There is also the Civic Centre, the biggest tourism facility under construction by the Kayode Fayemi-led government.
Bakare disclosed: “The essence of our identification of tourism facilities in the state is to show the world the potential this state has for tourism business. You have seen the depth of what we have. What is left is for investors to come in and do business with the state. It is good to build filling stations and hotels, but tourism sites when invested in, can give you what petrol stations and running a hotel cannot give you.
“We are calling on domestic and foreign investors to come to Ekiti and do tourism business with us. The message is simple, if your ambition is to make money, come to Ekiti. We have a lot for you to key into and make money.
“You have seen the Arinta Waterfalls, the Ero Dam, Fajuyi Amusement Park, the Ikogosi Warm Spring and the Civic Centre edifice. It contains the cinemas, art theatre, gallery and other facilities. I don’t know where something like our Civic Centre is in Nigeria except the National Theatre in Lagos.
“In the next couple of months, EKiti will be the hub of entertainment. That is why we are calling on all potential investors to come in now and key into what we are doing in Ekiti State.”
He said the state has already began to provide friendly legislations and relevant infrastructure to boost tourism and entertainment businesses:
“EKiti State has become one big construction space. There are road constructions going on everywhere, especially, roads leading to where our many tourism sites are. Some days ago, the governor flagged off the construction of Aramoko-Erijiyan-Ikogosi-Ipole-Iloro Road, leading to Ikogosi Warm Spring, Arinta Waterfalls, Oke Baalu, the place where the first aircraft crash occurred in Africa, not far from the Arinta Waterfalls.
“Another thing on the tourism corridor is the cenotaph of the late Joseph Ayodele Babalola, the first General Evangelist of Christ Apostolic Church (CAC), for religious tourism. Because of the Ogun Onire site, another road construction is on from Ilupeju to Ire linking to Ero Dam so that there will be no problem in accessing the tourism site.
“We have also gone further to begin discussions with a helicopter company, OAS, based in Lagos, so that they can pick tourists from Lagos to Ekiti as long as they are willing to pay.”
He assured tourists and investors coming to Ekiti that they are secured against any criminal act: “The crime rate here is close to nil. There are many destinations world over with serious security issues and people still go there. But, in Ekiti, you can attest to the fact that our security operatives are almost on vacation, because there is little or nothing for them to do in terms of chasing criminals. We thank God for the peace we enjoy in the state, which is an added value to the tourism business.
“Ekiti people are warm people. They receive and take care of people. It is one state that solves the problems of other people irrespective of where they come from. Already, our people naturally have the nature to receive and take care of people and that is the fundamental of tourism.
“All we need to do is to encourage our people to continue in that line of behaviour, that warm spirit to receive and take care of guests. We will also technically work on some other demographics of the population; the okada riders, the taxi drivers, food sellers and the rest of them to know how to handle tourists, how to relate and treat tourists and work is already going on in that area.”