WITH JOKE ADENIYI-JACKSON
A first time visit to Abeokuta, Ogun State last week, opened my eyes to the fact that Kwara, my home state is sitting on a gold mine that has been left unexploited. To an average indigene of Ogun State he/she is duty bound to market tourist attractions of the Gateway state. “Have you visited Olumo Rock and the International Adire Market,” was kind of singsong on lips of any indigene one comes across. In vehement show of patriotism they encourage visits to their tourist centres, which the state government has explored for economic gain. Olumo rock overtime has become one of the few famous tourist destinations in Nigeria. However, interestingly Kwara also boasts of a massive rock formation, Sobi hill, which now serve a spiritual function as people of different faith predominantly Christians and Muslims converge to worship. Amusingly, just like the Olumo rock, Sobi hill has same historical background of being a place of refuge for people during inter-tribal war in the past centuries. And that is where the similarity ends. Sobi hill unlike the rock in Ogun State has not been marketed to world. Its sublime tourist potentials is waiting to be explored.
Aside the Sobi hill Kwara is a home for many tourist attractions, which has not been taken advantage of to the fullest. The state also parades rich and interesting cultural heritages like festivals like annual Durbar, the Awon Mass Wedding, Patigi Regatta, Moremi Ikan, Epa and Agan festivals among others, which could be elevated to world standard celebrations. Lying herein the state are tourist attractions like the Owu-Fall said to be one of the highest and most spectacular waterfalls in West-Africa, located in Ilere District in Ifelodun LGA. The Ero-Omola waterfall in Idofin Igbana in Oke-Ero LGA is also attractive scenery.
The Imoleboja Rockshelter is also a beautiful piece of nature; a massive rock formation with natural architectural design, capable of accommodating about 100 people at a time. It is sited in Odo-Owa in Oke-Ero LGA. The Dada Pottery workshop at Dada Okekele in Ilorin, the state capital, is a tourist delight any day. It is one of the biggest traditional pottery factories said to still be in existence in the country. Jebba in Moro LGA of the state is a destination for a lot of historical relics and tourist attractions, some of which tell a lot about European presence in Jebba Town. These include the Mungo Park cenotaph. Other attractions include the Juju Rock, the “Ahoyaya” waterfalls and the Jebba Colony, where the wide aerial view of Jebba Township could be enjoyed. In the state can be found the Ningurume Fish Pond, which had special species of fishes adorned with ear rings and beads.
Prominently the state play host to the Esie Museum, the foremost of its kind in Nigeria established in 1945. It has the largest collection of stone images discovered in 1775. It is located in Esie in Irepodun LGA. Other places of interest in the state include the tombs of past Emirs of the state, the Ilorin Central Mosque, the Emir’s Palace located at Oja Oba, among several other travels.
Unfortunately, remains largely unexploited despite the potential to transform our economy and ultimately improve the socio-economic status. While the state is richly endowed with so many spectacular tourist attractions, it has so far recorded few tourist visits. This is because the state has failed to market these sites to the international world.
Nonetheless, it is common knowledge that tourism, if well-harnessed, has potential to transform the country’s growth efforts through job and wealth creation. Tourism has great transformative force for development. Our economic diversification agenda should not just be limited to agriculture it will do a lot of good if the state government can look towards unlocking the potentials in the tourism sector.
It is worth noting that it is only when we project our tourist attractions to the outside world that we can reap significant benefits from the sector. Towards this end, government both at the state and local level must provide infrastructure and investments in each of the tourist sites. There is a need for the political will to articulate a clear policy roadmap that will reposition the tourism industry in the state.
Certainly, tourism is a powerful development tool which the state government cannot afford to ignore, by leveraging on the vibrant sector to grow the economy.