THE Ooni of Ife, Oba Enitan Ogunwusi, Ojaja11 has never hidden his penchant for tourism and hospitality before ascending the throne of his forefathers. During his coronation ceremonies, he discovered first-hand that Ile-Ife, the cradle of Yoruba history is steeped in mysteries. Meanwhile, he has found a new love in Yeyemoolu, the paramount mystery in feminine form. Although benevolent, she is also jealous and she always desires to live only in the palace, nowhere else.
Fired by the wisdom of this new relationship, Oba Ogunwusi is determined to turn Ife into a tourism destination, offering to the world its ‘Mysteries’ as its product.
In this interview with Effects, the Ooni assures that apart from providing infrastructure, Ife has been designated a tourism zone to enable the indigenes promote its tourism potentials and market its rich cultural and historic mysteries to the world. Excerpts:
What would you say is driving this zeal?
What is driving Ife is very simple, too many mysteries in this land, and I tell people, we are not talking about Supremacy here. Ife in English Language means land of expansion. There is no land that has that name in the world. I tell you journalists to watch a very powerful documentary put together by the Western world, it is called the story of the origin of man. It’s very powerful, when you watch it, you will be very proud to be an African, everything started from here. There was another world that was pre-Genesis world, it’s a fantastic documentary.
Recently, I granted an interview where I just mentioned two of the mysteries and everybody said no, it’s impossible. It can never be here, but the truth is that it’s here. I mentioned the story of the tower of Babel in the Bible, it is in Ife land, the second one is Noah’s Ark, it is also here, but people say no way. The truth is that it’s here. They said the tower of Babel is in Egypt, no it’s not in Egypt, and it is here because the two stories are very synonymous. God created the world and destroyed it with the great flood, you all know the story of the great flood and of Noah’s story, the Ark was built to save some souls, plants, animals etcetera, but the Ark is resting here. It is a mysterious place, it is along Okeora, and the entire Okeora is more than 1000 miles stretch.
If you are not careful you will be lost. It is there along the belt of Okeora, it runs all the way from Ife to Ondo State, it gets to Benin, Edo State it is a mysterious mountain all the way till the end of Benin, Edo state. In the documentary, I told the world a bit of the story, though our people like to see things, so when they see, they believe, no problem, so God left those land marks there, when you see it believe it too.
Are there landmarks to prove this claim?
Yes, Ife has too many mysteries and landmarks. God left mysteries for us to see these landmarks. The landmarks are there, they have been here for millions of years and we still have them and I’m glad to showcase them to you, the tourism Journalists including the Ife Grand Resorts and Leisure.
You know God thrives in mysteries, you know people go to Mecca for pilgrimage, for Ife, there are so many here. Ife has so many mysteries and we will be given some of these mysteries to companies, corporate organizations to be branding them and people will be coming to see them starting from the palace to so many other places. That is the essence of tourism, so that everybody in the world will come and see mysteries. It is normal, it’s very magnetic, you know tourism is movement, so when people move, tourism moves, both international and domestic tourism.
Is any of these mysteries within the town?
The mysteries in Ife which have been hidden for a long time now are too many, like in this palace, we have one like a tree, beside the palace, you will see one, the Yeyemolu, is an amazing place. She is my wife in the palace. She is the water, she is alive, and she is a place that has life in it. When I came to the palace they told me I have a wife, I said, ah, is it a second wife, but now I know that she is benevolent and is a quintessence of the palace and the history of Ile-Ife and I’m connected to her.
“They will take you there, they will explain the ‘Yeyemolu’ to you, she is alive and am proud to be associated with her. She doesn’t like to be covered, she wants to have nature and the world directly, the more you cover it, the more she gets annoyed and breaks whatever you use to cover it before morning the next day, if you put bulldozer there, she will break it. You cannot take the water out, but you can drink it, wash you hands and it will cleanse your spirit. If you fall into the pit by mistake, you will not drown, but she will deposit you by the bank of one of the nearby rivers where your family will find you.
Is she your spiritual wife?
She is more than that. The very first day I came into the palace, I was told, although I’m a committed son, I know the history and mystery of Ife but coming into the palace they told me that no matter who you are married to, your first wife in this palace, be ready to pay her homage. I was wondering, my wife, how? Are they going to give me a wife in the palace? But when I went further, it’s actually true I went to see my dear wife in the palace. And guess whom I saw. I saw one of the mysteries of our creator. A typical queen was in this palace hundreds of thousands of years ago. She never had a child. Then she said, God I cried unto you but you never gave me a child. I will convert and become a martyr and use me for the entire mankind. God answered her prayers and she became a woman and ruled well in this palace. That is my first wife. I’m very proud of her and I can tell the whole world that she is in this palace. There is nothing you ask from Yeyemoolu she will not give to you. We need to bless the entire world with this mystery. No one that drinks that water and ask God for anything that he won’t give. The mystery of the water goes on and on. I will encourage every visitor here to go and visit her. It is one of these mysteries of God. If you fall into the water by mistake, she will protect you and guide you to any riverbank or sea where your family members will find you. The water is so jealous she wants to live in this palace alone and nowhere else. We want to turn this site into tourism.
How do you want to deepen your tourism offering?
Today, the fastest growing religion in the world is the African Traditional Religion; it’s faster than Christianity, and faster than Islam all over the world. “Why, because everybody is realising that it’s from tropical Africa and we’ve been trying to pin point it from the source in Ile-Ife”. Ile-Ife, the cradle of Yoruba history and civilisation is blessed with lots of rich historical facts, mysteries and tourism potentials among others. Some of these cultures, mysteries and rich historical facts have helped in shaping Ife, as a centre for Yoruba history and mythology.
So, what role would the locals play in this cluster?
This is why we are declaring Ile-Ife as a Free Tourism Zone. This is part of the effort aimed at opening Ife to tourists, to promote tourism activities that will not only attract investors and investments but also ignite economic activities, employment and revenue for the people of Osun. Ife will transform into another destination for cultural, spiritual and leisure tourism for both domestic and international tourists and this will be the first phase of the expansion bid. “Ife is significant in the history of humanity and that is the content we want to develop and promote for people to see.”
Home made art works
The palace will sustain its campaign of projecting local artwork and artefacts. Everything I use in the palace is locally made, beads, robes, shoes, staff, they are not imported and I look as regal and majestic as any king elsewhere. I will encourage local industry to produce souvenir and gift items with local flavour but to international standards so that our visitors will have memorabilia to remember each time they their motherland. This will impact positively on the economy of the local destination and the state on a sustainable basis.
Any plans to build a resort the size of Inagbe here in Ife?
“We have started the construction of Ife Grand Resort and Leisure, to replicate the Inagbe Grand Resort in Lagos. Tourism now is a different ball game, so I have formed a strong alliance with La Campaigne Tropicana to propel that tourism vision through the ‘Motherland Beckons’ vehicle. What is driving it is bigger than what we have in Lagos, the resort in Ife is very strategic because people will come from all over the world to see the mysteries and they will ask questions. What’s happening, like I told you last year in Lagos, is that am a visionary person, I foresee things and I like to project in a very strategic manner, that is my vision for tourism.”
Are you targeting only the Diaspora?
The Yoruba are all over the world. Some settled in Benin Republic, others in Cote d’Ivore, Sudan, and central parts of Africa, where they have been living for decades. We want to upload these mysteries and connect with all these lands. I will give you a simple example. God actually made me come to this throne. The King of Kings made this throne to be a reality, and for the rest of my life I will always give honour and glory to him. It behooves all of us to trace our roots back to Africa. In North America we have millions of descendants of the Yoruba race. If you go to the entire South America, more than half of the major countries will tell you that they are from Yoruba. But we who are the main custodians don’t appreciate what we have. What we should do is come together and beckon the entire populace of this world for them to establish their root and origin.