Ojo-Lanre: Ekiti Will Unveil Its Tourism Master Plan Before October

The Director General, Bureau of Tourism Development, Ekiti State, Mr. Wale Ojo-Lanre, in this interview reveals that the state’s tourism master plan would be unveiled by Governor Biodun Oyebanji before October. Ojo-Lanre also enumerates the tourism potential that abound in the State, among others. Charles Ajunwa brings the excerpts:

Access Holdings’ environmental co   There have been efforts, especially on your part, since you became the DG of the tourism bureau to create awareness on tourism in Ekiti State. How are you working to translate this into tourism traffic for the State and a source of wealth creation for the people of Ekiti?


For any State in Nigeria to enhance its tourism potential to the fullest, that state must first of all develop a tourism master plan. Anything less, the state is just walking in the dark. Right now, Ekiti has no tourism master plan. If you bring an idea, maybe we float it, and dies. Lagos has experienced it. A tourism master plan is a necessity for any State that wants to develop, and the governor of this State, Biodun Abayomi Oyebanji, emphasised that the first thing that we have to do is to develop a Tourism Master Plan for Ekiti, which we have started working on. The first thing we focused on, was the tourism policy, the tourism policy must be well planned and it must be a strategic policy. We have started drafting our tourism policy and we have identified the consultants to work on our tourism master plan. We are going to deliver our tourism master plan by August to October this year and we are working on it.

You seem to have a firm grasp on tourism development in Ekiti (cuts in)?

You see, I’m a journalist, a teacher, an arbitrator, and a barrister at Law, and solicitor of the Supreme Court of Nigeria. I’m a tourism journalist, and Associate Editor with the Nigerian Tribune but I’m on leave of absence presently.  In 1996, when Ekiti State was created, I was the only journalist who accompanied the then late Lieutenant Col. Power the administrator of Ekiti State, to this particular place (Ikogosi Warm Springs Resort). I still have the report. My passion is about tourism. Ekiti is a landlocked State. We don’t have the luxury of having the Atlantic on the right, and the Lagoon on the left, like Lagos. Ekiti is by birth a tourism State. Okiti Hills, that is where they got the name Ekiti. Ekiti is a mud, people live on the hills. But when the Europeans came, they said, oh, no, you can’t call this Okiti, it’s Ekiti. So, literally by birth, Ekiti is a paragon of tourism. By system we live on the hills. That’s why there’s no town in Ekiti that doesn’t have one hill or the other. By virtue of my interaction in the tourism world today I’m sold into tourism. Most of these people here have been in the trenches. We have been to Mambilla Plateau, fighting on the way. You know, we always beat ourselves on the way. We have been to Germany, fighting and all those things because we believe in tourism as an alternate revenue for this country.

In this state, I was once chief press secretary. After being chief press secretary, I went back to Nigerian Tribune. They called me back to become their Director, Art and Culture, and later SSA to the Governor on Tourism. This time around, the governor now realised that tourism can flourish better if it is sequestered from the Ministry of Art and Culture. So, the Governor, His Excellency Biodun Abayomi Olubanji, now sequestered tourism from the Ministry of Art and Culture. So, I work directly with the governor and I have an agency which I administer. If you observe, there has been an accelerated improvement in tourism in Ekiti State because tourism is business. Ekiti is the only state in Nigeria that is enveloped by hills. You can hike Ekiti in four days.


Going through all the hills, not walking through. The hill is enveloping, all circling. If you are coming from Itawore, by the time you are getting to Ijebu Ijesha or Ilesha, you’ll be seeing all the hills circling. That is telling you that you are approaching Ekiti State. If you are coming through Efaleye, it has over 14 tourism sites. That town has religious tourism of CAC Church. Those of you who are Christians… When you are coming to Ekiti through Efaleye there is a place where the hills and the cloud kiss. You can easily walk in the clouds at Efa. You climb up and walk in the clouds. I’m serious, just like in Obudu Cattle Ranch. Just 15 minutes’ drive from there, is the Arinta Waterfall. From Arinta, just a seven minutes’ drive, you are at Ikogosi Resort where you have the warm and cold water. The next town is where you can play with thousands of fishes in a stream, untouched. These fishes, they don’t like pounded yam, they don’t like local food, they eat biscuit, cake and bread only. They will play with you. So that is a unique experience. And if you stop your car and look back, you see the serene and scenic environment, it’s astounding. Unlike Lagos, from Redeem Camp to Lekki you wouldn’t see a single hill, not one rock. Yeah, but from here to anywhere, you see rocks, very scenic. From IIaro Ekiti, there is what we call delicate balancing of rocks. We don’t know people who managed it together. Just like Zuma Rocks. In Ado Ekiti, it has a lot to offer in the area of medical tourism and educational tourism. Ado Ekiti has the best private medical centre in Nigeria, which is Afe Babalola Medical Centre. It is a replica of John Hopkins in Maryland. It’s the best. It is paperless. You don’t need any paper to do anything. They don’t need to carry your blood samples from one place to another. From there, you can go to Okutagbo, Okutalori where you will see another rock formation. Then from there, you can go to Fajuyi. All of you know the story of Fajuyi, there is a park there. There is nothing much to do than to meet the dead people. I mean dead person talking to you and all that. The memorials are there. The effigies are there. So you talk to the dead items there. From there you go to Iyo Ekiti, where you have Agbanijorin – rock mountains. Agbanijorin is the only rock mountain in Nigeria that houses in its belly an amphitheater that we can call an event centre which can accommodate 450 people. You see the seats arranged there and it has seven caves. It has a rock tunnel. When you are going there, you are going to pass through the under rock tunnel. That is about geo-tourism.

When it comes to spiritual tourism, it will shock you that the source of Osun River is here in Egede Ekiti. Before any Osun festival, they first of all come here, offer all these dances there. And if you are fortunate to be at that site in Egede Ekiti when they are celebrating Osun festival, you will feel that something is going on somewhere – The bushes, the river, you will feel it.  I felt it when I was there. In Ilogbo Ekiti, it is the only town in the world that harbours a palm tree that has 42 heads. When you go there just ask for anything – money, husband, etc. From IIogbo you just move to Eron Dam, which is the third largest man-made dam in Nigeria. Ekiti has 16 local governments, Eron Dam covers nine local governments. We have a stretch of 16 kilometres of beach. When you travel to Ogun, people like us worship Ogun. Ogun was a person who later performed extraordinary things by killing a lot of people. So Ogun place is here. In 2009, I took five priests, two pastors to celebrate my birthday there in the presence of Ogun, God of fire. So it was exciting. We have Eshu, not the devil but Satan. Satan is a very good man. His house is here in Ijelu Ekiti. I can take you there,  you can see him. Seriously! Do you know Eshu has over 2.2 million worshippers, I mean 2.2 million adherents that worship Eshu. Yes, we have it. In Ekiti now, we have Osun, Ogun, Eshu, and then Ifa. Some of us have been to Brazil. You know what they do. All of those people, they always come here. Even Tuface Idibia came here to learn Ifa. He was ordained an Ifa priest at Osun Egede. So in Ekiti we have hope.

Ikogosi Warm Springs Resort has been concessioned. From the government perspective, what informed that decision?

 Government has no business in business. It’s a fact. You know, tourism is private sector driven. Any State that predicates its tourism drive on government, will fail. This place was an endorado but after the government officials took over, it collapsed. I came here, and I wept. I took the picture and sent it to former Governor Kayode Fayemi, and he decided to concession it and you can see it’s better off. When this place was messed up, before I passed through here, I had to lie down to pass through. It was worse. So the concession is one of the best things that has ever happened here and you have to praise those people here, although they have not done much, you can’t blame them. They have not done much sincerely speaking but  the little they have done, you have to praise them.

So how is the government supporting to make the place effective?

Oh, the government is supporting. One, you see the roads from here to Ado, there is no pothole.

There are two roads that lead to Ikogosi. It’s now left for you to take either the good one or the bad one.

So, where is the second one and which do you recommend?

The second one is Efon. It’s even shorter. And when there are two roads, one is bad, one is good. I’ll take the one that is good. The one that is good that he is supposed to have taken you is very short. And that’s what we did last December. Last December, we took advertisements in major newspapers and radio stations telling them, if you are going to Ekiti, this is the situation on ground. This road is not good. This road is good, pass this road. And I think that is what we should do as a government. Government cannot fix all roads at once. The road that leads from Ado to Igbaroke is good and it was fixed by the state government. The other one is the federal government road, which is under construction. They can’t do it at once. The government cannot do everything at once. It is very simple. That is why we are making noise that, please, there are two roads that lead to Ikogosi, the state road is good and the federal government’s road is not good. Although the federal government says the road has been put in the budget, those patches there were done by the state government.

How safe is Ekiti?

 Ekiti is very safe. But I must be quick to point out that the security situation in Nigeria is bad. From Abuja to Lagos. Many kidnappings take place in Lagos but you people don’t know. Or you try to bury it. Ekiti is a sensitive area. If there is any kidnapping in the northern side, because that’s the area where this happens, although at times it’s over sensationalised. That is how we almost killed tourism in Nigeria.

Are you then saying there is no kidnapping in Ekiti?

There were kidnappings but this has been contained for the past six months. There were kidnappings in the northern part of Ekiti. That is where we share boundaries with Kogi. Kogi is the home of kidnappers. You can walk from Omo to Kogi. We share about three borders with Kogi. We share another border with Ondo. So those people, when there is heat, they come here. It is on these fringes. I mean the northern fringes. Not in our tourism zone. I’m sure for the past seven months, there has never been a report of kidnapping.

But has there been deliberate effort on the part of the Ekiti State government to tackle issues of insecurity?

There are many efforts by the Ekiti State government to make the entire state safe to both citizens and visitors. We are the only state that has homeland security. Honestly, the Ekiti State government is doing a lot in terms of security.

What guarantee are you giving to Nigerians and foreigners coming to Ikogosi?

It is only God that can guarantee anything. The only thing you can do, is to try. Ekiti safe to all.

Earlier, you talked about how this place has gone through some sort of transformation because of the concessions that happened. So what does the current Ikogosi Warm Springs Resort illustrate in the context of concessions in Nigeria?

It exemplifies the fact that concessions to private sector is the way state governments should run their tourism sites.

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