Soba Oyeleke, Osun government and the tourism sector
Flowery words are oftentimes appropriate but then, they are generally not the fulcrum main messages. Whichever way, the message must not be lost on the altar of flowery languages. Without mincing words, tourism has become the world’s phenomenal finance garnering centre that every serious government must look for in its search for a legitimate means of shoring up its revenue base. So, no matter what, old and new governments must look for the means of securing succor from the tourism sector. The opposite, so to say, is to leave it aside and live in regret thereafter.
The history of Osun State is that it’s blessed with industrialists but, perhaps, overconfidence has been the bane of its little industrialization. For example, Osun is so industrialized that, whether anybody likes it or not, we have the ‘Akara Osu’ industry. Ditto for ‘Dodo Ikire’ industry and others. But, it is rather unfortunate that their lifespans have always started and ended by the roadside, decades after their discovery. Why? Successive governments have never deemed it fit to pay for thinkers who’d have helped these industries go global! No enabling environment and no level playing field! Access to finance and technology has been consistently absent; and the level of collaboration between the rulers and the ruled – and that’s where it exists at all – has been touchingly unpromising.
Above reminds one of Soba Oyeleke, a US-based Nigerian entrepreneur and philanthropist. The chairman of the ‘small-but-mighty, fully-loaded’, Hawaiian-style Aloha Hotel & Resort Facilities in Osogbo, Osun State, has co-founded and coordinated several community organizations in the US, including ‘The African American Umoja Fest’; ‘Odunde Fest’; and ‘The Nigerian Community Organization of Washington State’. He was the writer, director and producer of the Yoruba folklore play, ‘Shango – The Legend Continues’, which was successfully performed at the popular Moore Theater in Seattle, Washington, and the Broadway Theater in Tacoma, Washington. An expert in Tourism and Hospitality Management, the Ororuwo, Osun State-born thespian was recently appointed as president of the Diaspora Solution Group (DSGN), a social welfare organization, based in America.
Well, this piece is not so much about Oyeleke and his accomplishments, particularly, in the tourism sector. Rather, it is much more about the Nigerian system which derives pleasure in sacrificing her best on the altar of greed and corruption. From Osun-Osogbo Sacred Grove, to Olumirin Waterfalls in Erin-Ijesa; and from the Kiriji Memorial Battlefield in Igbajo and Imesi-Ile, to Jalumi War Mortals in Inisha, Oyeleke has visited most of the centres of tourist attractions, especially, in Osun and he has written position papers on what needs to be done to make the sector not only attractive but also profitable. Like others before him, he has made spirited efforts to invite the government to buy into his ideas but the closer he moves towards the government, the more the government runs away; and it is as if there are some extraterrestrial forces at work.
Without doubt, there are many Soba Oyelekes of Nigeria’s descent – specialists and success stories in their chosen vocations across the globe – but, rather than encourage them to come back and invest in the country, Nigeria’s handlers prefer wasting her resources on inanities. Remember Barth Nnaji and the Aba Power Project! Remember Bola Tinubu and the Enron Power Project! In the 1980s, Osogbo Steel Rolling Mills Company and Nigeria Machine Tools Limited, Osogbo, were the pride of Africa. Today, a visit to these facilities will attract teardrops. The former Divisional Teacher Training College (DTTC) in Ijebu-Jesa, Osun State is another tragic episode in Nigeria’s improvidence. If not well-managed, the crisis currently rocking the facility is capable of setting neighbours against neighbours.
Who is in charge of Tourism in Osun State? For the state government to be taken seriously, there’s a dire need for his or her undivided attention and pragmatic response. This becomes imperative because good policies in Tourism will not only help grow the economy in the right direction but also battle unemployment, get infrastructural development right and tame rural-urban exodus. It shouldn’t be about jamboree conferences and seminars that end up achieving nothing but about real thinkers who can help proffer cutting-edge solutions to the hydra-headed challenges being faced by the sector.
A meaningful response to the business initiatives of the likes of Oyeleke will serve as a morale booster to intending investors. It will also add value to Africans who may be eyeing Nigeria for investment opportunities. Most importantly, it will portray the government as being responsible and forward-thinking, separated from the limitations of old. So, it behooves the Osun government to shake off the old narrative and turn a new leaf. With the right political will, Governor Ademola Adeleke will help present Osun as an investor-friendly state as well as launder Nigeria’s image in the comity of nations. ‘Imole Osun’ is a new slogan in town! One can only hope he’d come as the ‘man in charge’, one who is prepared to make the Tourism Sector work.
When we say ‘support’, we are not talking about the priorities, responsibilities and rights of the state as being merely aired on the radio or television networks. We are also not talking about partnership-biased or politics-infested propaganda that will lie dead as it comes; thus explains its eventual failure. It is not a flash-in-a-lifetime but a meaningful, quantifiable, consistent, solid-enough, public-initiated and state legislation-driven initiative that welcomes all and embraces all ideas. It shouldn’t be esoteric but all-encompassing. After all, no wealth is common until it’s made common. Ask them in the United Kingdom and they’ll all have fine stories to tell! We also need to ask former Governor Kayode Fayemi how he has turned Ikogosi Warm Springs and other centres of tourist attraction in Ekiti State to success stories.
All told, this should also be a clarion call to the government – even the Federal Government – to do a compulsive, thorough analysis of its revenue generation modules, which was what Tinubu did in Lagos. The former governor wanted to know how many people were taxpayers. As a thoroughbred professional, it wasn’t a difficult venture at all. He sent touts among touts and government workers among government workers: ‘give me your figures!’ At the end of the day, Tinubu was able to calibrate their findings through which the system was digitized. It is on record that Nigeria’s president-elect didn’t look for a shortcut. Today, the ‘Centre of Excellence’ is better for it!
What are we saying? If a foolish man will help the government do exploits, why not go to the foolish man so as to make it impossible for the wise ones to cheat the government? Take, for example, there are technicians who very well understand what to do with DisCO meters that they won’t work properly. They are out there! They must live! They must eat! They must also service their industry! So, no one can force them out of the state! Interestingly, we are in a peculiar society where cheating the government is considered legitimate. This is one of the many troubles facing the Tourism Sector in Nigeria! Otherwise, how can an investor be interested in dredging, say, Lake 264 with a view to turning it into a source of employment opportunity for Nigeria’s teeming youths but he’s being met with stiff resistance from those who have taken corruption as a profession? Unfortunately, the state government is there, pleasingly looking the other way!
May the Lamb of God, who takes away the sins of the world, grant us peace in Osun State!
*KOMOLAFE wrote in from Ijebu-Jesa, Osun State, Nigeria (email@example.com