A few weeks ago, the governor of Oyo State, ‘Seyi Makinde, announced in his popular newsletter that he would decouple the Ministry of Information, Culture and Tourism into two, with the Tourism component now to be a standalone Ministry.
To residents of the state, and indeed Nigerians, who have advocated a departure from the nation’s monolithic economy that depends largely on petrodollars, the new development was heart-warming as it was momentous.
But that was not the only cheery news about Oyo State in the last two weeks. On July 20, another piece of good news about Oyo State came from the General Manager of the Federal Airport Authority of Nigeria (FAAN), Chief Adedeji Afolabi. The aviation chief had, during a courtesy call on the Olubadan, declared that Hajj pilgrims would be airlifted from the upgraded Ibadan Airport in 2024. Though that idea was not completely new, the fact that the news came from the appropriate authority as FAAN, made it gladden the heart more.
The governor had, on many occasions, stated that the huge investments being committed by the state government into upgrading the airport would culminate into making it an international stadium, from where flights to Saudi Arabia would sooner than later airlift Hajj pilgrims. And, in emphasising the commitments made by the Makinde administration towards the upgrade of the airport, the FAAN General Manager had been quick to point it out.
“The state governor had committed a huge amount of money towards giving the airport a standard befitting of an international facility. But for some hitches, the last pilgrims to Saudi Arabia from the state would have been airlifted from Ibadan Airport. All things being equal, the next exercise would take place there.
“The efforts of Engr. Seyi Makinde in this regard cannot go without mention. Aside the expansion of our needed facility in the Airport, we can all see the road leading to the place dualised with street-lights, beautifying the whole place in addition to making it safe and secure for our prospective air passengers,” Adedeji had said.
For Governor Makinde, who began the good works on the airport with the provision of logistic supports including the donation of fire truck and pick-up van, building of a new VIP Lounge, construction of a 500,000 litres aviation fuel storage and dispensing facility, among others, the news from the stable of FAAN was a deserved outcome. But residents of the state would find the development more satisfying, as it is set to further help to expand the economy of their state and bring about a collective prosperity for its people.
It was in the light of this new prospect for a more vibrant economy that the governor’s decision to focus on solid mineral development and tourism in addition to agribusiness development has been hailed as a beautiful initiative.
Through its focus on agribusiness under Omituntun 1.0, the state’s finances had been shored up drastically, with all available records pointing at the state as an upwardly-mobile one among viable states in the country. Therefore, when the governor announced the setting up of a Ministry of Culture and Tourism, many a people, rather than criticise him for adding a new Ministry at a period that economic realities favour merger and outright scrapping of some MDAs, hailed the initiative, knowing GSM’s exemplary vision and foresight.
Last Wednesday, the governor walked the talk regarding the promised decoupling of the Ministry of Information, Culture and Tourism, when he swore-in 16 commissioners, with the duo of Prince Dotun Oyelade and Dr. Wasiu Olatubosun to man each sector of the now decoupled Ministry.
He had moved to solidify the plans for the solid mineral sector weeks earlier, when he appointed Okunrinjeje Abiodun Oni, an experienced, goal-oriented subject matter expert on the field, as the Director-General of the state’s Mineral Development Agency and executive chairman of the Pacesetter Mineral Development Company.
For far too long, Oyo State has remained in the throes of economic hardship because subsequent administrators failed to major on what should be the major for the state. One administration after another had relied on the pittance from the Federal Allocation as the only means of survival for the state, until Governor Makinde showed up on the scene with a development template that has not only changed the economic narrative but also showed the Oyo State could stand on its own, economically. Under GSM’s watch, the state’s Internally Generated Revenue has grown from a paltry N1.6 Billion in 2019 to about N3.8 Billion, with the state now in the racket of buoyant states in the country.
Interestingly, the governor had, upon analysis of data and empirical evidences, made the decision to harness the potential in hitherto overlooked sectors, especially tourism, under Omituntun 2.0. Though there has always been an abundant opportunity in tourism for the state, it has been much of a road less travelled by past administrations. But that is set to change with the determination demonstrated by the governor.
From festivals to locations, Oyo State has a vista of opportunities in tourism development, which can be turned to goldmines. Talk of the Gelede Masquerade culture of Ijio in Iwajowa Local Government, an age-long beautiful tradition of oral poetry, drama and dance, which serves the purposes of entertainment and correction of social ills. Talk of the Kishi Adasobo Festival in Kisi, a hunting expedition or the Oke Iyamopo Festival in Igbeti. Talk of the renowned Sango Festival in Oyo, the Okebadan Festival in the state capital or the World Twins Day Festival in Igboora, the twins’ capital of the world.
In terms of historical locations and tourism sites, the Ado Awaye Suspended Lake, the Awaye Hills, the Ikere Gorge Dam, the Ogun o jalu landmark of Ogbomoso, the tombs of four Alaafin of Oyo in Igboho, the source of the popular River Ogun also in Igboho and Osoogun, the birthplace of Bishop Ajayi Crowther, among others, would appeal to any tourist.
With the Governor Makinde administration set to develop the huge potential in the tourism sector and thereby open a new vista of financial buoyancy for the state through the sector, there can be no doubt as to the better days ahead of the state. And what is there to doubt? In Makinde, the people of Oyo State have a governor who has never shied away from taking hard decisions and matching his words with action. Having made the momentous decision to pull the state by the scruff of its neck to the next level of financial independence and sustainability, the people’s governor can be trusted to deliver.
Alao is the Special Assistant (Print Media) to Governor ‘Seyi Makinde.