Written by ’Wale Ojo-Lanre & Jumoke Akintunde Wednesday,23 May 2012.
One wonders what really is the matter with our various governments. We have natural resources in abundance, yet they have never seriously tried to exploit them for the growth of their respective states. For how long are we going to rely on the crude oil which depletes every day as the major source of revenue for the country? And to make the matter more precarious for the economic wellbeing and survival of the country, the crude oil has been predicted not to last the next 50 years!
This should be a wake-up call for a country which is presumably being ruled by reasonable and sensible leaders.
We are citizens of a country which God blessed abundantly with numerous minerals and natural resources. The resources are just there waiting and begging to be exploited, tapped and developed for humanity. No state is supposed to be poor or hang on the apron of the Federal Government, begging for funds.
There was a time in Nigeria when oil had not been discovered. Each region then looked inwards and fished out resources which generated stupendous revenue and mobilised wealth for the people. The regions then depended mainly on the resources within their conclave to finance their expenditure.
The West capitalized on cocoa, developed large plantations of it and integrated the farmers who produced tonnes and tonnages of cocoa to the delight of international demands. The projects executed with cocoa money by the governments of the Western region are now the cash cows for the states.
The Liberty Stadium, the Ikeja Industrial Estate, the Nigeria Television, the Odua conglomerate, the free education and many others were not funded and financed with crude oil money but the revenue from natural resources which was intelligently and resourcefully tapped and utilized for the growth of the region by visionary leaders.
The Eastern and Mid-West regions explored the tropical rainforest by extracting rubber, palm produce, coal and timber and survived beyond imagination.
Some of the landmark achievements and constructions noticeable today in these states were funded with the money realised from the tapping of the natural resources other than oil.
In the Northern region, the bug then was Tran- Saharan trade with emphasis on groundnuts farming. The groundnuts pyramids of those years sustained the development projects in that region and led to the establishment of Northern Nigeria Development Corporation.
It is a pity that the groundnuts pyramids have not only vanished, but the farmers are also now idle, waiting for crude money for sustenance!
God Almighty has blessed all the states of the federation abundantly well, so well that the administrators of those states need only a little effort at making money and the states will begin to witness wealth, opulence and luxury.
But it is a pity that those who we put there to control our destiny are men of little brains who have no vision, no blueprint and no guts and will to add value to the society.
They are men with only a mindset of enriching their pockets and satisfying their greed without giving any hoot to the sustainable development of the states.
Is it not a shame that none of the so-called leaders has been able to develop any tangible product of economic reference and reverence? The cheap oil money has blindfolded and blocked the intelligence arteries of our leaders to think well and be resourceful. To make matters worse and to show how the oil money has colonised our leaders’ thoughts and mental configuration, almost all the states are now engaging geological consultants to prospect for oil!
And foolishly, this oil is a perishable product while the states have in abundance, the exhaustible product that is tourism, begging for enhancement.
And we have so many tourism sites and potentialities, to God be the glory! These wonderful sites can generate employment in terms of hotels, restaurants, tour guides, photographers, artefact shops, guards, snacks kiosks, cooks, waitresses, barmen, cleaners, business managers and the like.
This will ultimately enhance both economic and infrastructural development. God has so much endowed us with many sites that without the oil, Nigeria would survive just fine.
But it is even a pity that most of these governors do not understand tourism or appreciate its import. They have little knowledge and respect for such a money-spinning sector that encompasses all other sectors.
And because of their limited knowledge and shallow understanding of the sector, these governors always believed that the Ministry of Tourism and Culture is a dry land and thus impoverish the ministry by first appointing their least favourite person as the commissioner to man the ministry, who, too, may owe his candidature as commissioner to pressure of a godfather or from a political alliance agreement.
And also, the appointee who has been psychologically beaten to believe that he is posted to a dry ministry will embrace the job lackadaisically, daily moaning and envying his colleagues who bagged the so-called plum portfolios. And because of the perception of the governor, his ministry may have the least budget.
Some of these governors will create the ministry, appoint a commissioner and a special adviser. But of what essence is this appointment when the appointees and the Governor do not understand a little bit of what they are asked to do?
The next move will be for the commissioner and the special adviser to junket abroad in the name of tourism promotion. Such junketing is desirable sometimes and good if only they will come back to apply whatever they gained over there in improving the home product.
But alas, there is nothing on the ground at home. If there are products, and they apply the knowledge garnered from such trips in enhancing the various tourism sites in these states, the sites would not only generate revenue but also employment and mobilize wealth wherever they are located.
Such is the fate of the only suspended lake in Africa located in Ado Awaye, Iseyin Local Government, Oyo State.
The case of Ado Awaye suspended lake could be likened to the case of gold in the control of a pig!
The Nigeria Tribune Tourism Crew of Wale Ojo Lanre and Jumoke Akintunde found its way into this wonderful, one-in-Africa suspended lake which God blessed Oyo State with and located in the serene and sleepy town of Ado Awaye.
The road to Ado Awaye
The Tribune Tourism Magazine crew left Ibadan at 12:45 noon on Saturday en route Iseyin, which is the open gate to the Oke Ogun,the food basket of Oyo State.
The road to Iseyin is being rehabilitated, and one drove below the speed limit, which helped in familiarisation with the villages and hamlet such as, Moniya, Alabata, IjayeOrile, Ilora, Araromi Ajobo, Adebiyi village, ItosiIlora, Ojugboduoya, Langbe, Alapata, Apempe, Ilapa, and Iseyin
Though the Iseyin township road network is bad, we were surprised to see that the road from Iseyin to Ado Awaye is smooth and good. So we enjoyed a smooth drive into the town of Ado Awaye.
Ado Awaye is a sleepy town sandwiched in the hollow of rocks and ridges which seem ready to swallow it up.
We were looking for a signpost or a billboard that will indicate the way to the site but we were utterly disappointed not to have found none.
We had almost passed the town before we beckoned on a young boy who described the way to the site for us. Saheed Ogunjimi did this enthusiastically and we headed towards the direction.
Sensing that we might miss the road to the site as described, which we actually did, the young man mounted a bike, met us at the wrong route and piloted us right back to the foot of the mountain.
We also noticed that the boy who rode the bike, Ezekiel Joseph, aka “Etu,” has no fingers except the thumb on his right hand!
“This is the way to the Iyake mountain which harbours the suspended lake,” Saheed informed us.
Just a few metres to the foot of the mountain, there lies a poorly made 3’bx 4’ signpost authored by the Oyo State Tourism Board announcing grudgingly, “Ado Awaye hanging/suspended lake.”
As we parked our cars under a mango tree, Saheed introduced us to one Mr Adediran Adeseun, who claimed to be a member of the staff of the Oyo State Tourism Board.
The middle-aged man who nursed a swollen leg demanded from us our ID cards.
Having been satisfied with his inquisition, he informed that before we could climb the hill that day, we must pay homage to the Ado Awaye traditional council, which was having a meeting at the foot of the mountain. This we did.
The Council suspended its discussion and one of the members brilliantly lectured us on the historical, cultural, spiritual and economic significance of the lake.
He expressed the council’s disappointment with the failure of past governments with Oyo state in enhancing the site.
Conscious of the time, the chiefs blessed us and implored us to make sure we see and have a discussion with the Aro of Ado Awaye for more briefing after descending from the mountain.
At the foot of the mountain
There is nothing on the ground at the foot of this mountain to tell that you are within a periphery of a wonderful tourism site, except a wretched building which has been taken over by weeds, reptiles and other animals.
The building, according to Mr Adesun, was constructed by a former Military Administrator in the state after he climbed the mountain and believed that there must be a rest house where tourists could relax, wash and refresh after climbing such a mountain.
“But the dream of the administrator for the place ended immediately he was posted out of the state Saheed revealed.”
The 369 steps
AS parlous as the situation of Ado Awaye is, the people of the town will be forever grateful to the Alhaji Lam Adesina administration in Oyo State for covering the shame of the mountain by providing 365 steps up the hill. “Without this, you will not find it easy to climb the hill.”
The steps are, however, not very strong, which may be due to poor moulding or weather but it serves the purpose and was constructed in a way that at every 100 steps, you can gain different views of the town and its beautiful surroundings.
However, the 369 steps do not take you to the lake, as it ended halfway. So, you have to do the second leg without the steps.
The Ishagi rock mystery
At about step no 180, you behold a big rock standing stoutly as if combat-ready. Someone, using chalk, had written Halleluiah Jerusalem’ on it.
This is the mysterious Ishagi rock credited with having a spiritual influence on whoever prays there.
Some pieces of white cloth were woven around the Ishagi. This, we learnt, was meant to cover the rock, and such were donated by some wealthy people who were believed to have been blessed by the rock.
Making it to the top even gives a wider and clearer view of the landscape. It affords one a beautiful scenery of undulating hills and a wide stretch of pure green vegetation.
Wow! This is beautiful. A portion of good food for one’s eyes. A lovely sight to behold!
The footprint of the elders
As bad as the route to the suspended lake seemed to be, we were surprised by the numbers of visitors we met descending. Though not so many, but it showed that if the place enjoys a brief enhancement, it will stimulate traffic.
As we gradually approached the rock plateau, we saw some crevices and holes which our guide told us were the “the footprint of or elders.”
The suspended lake
At a syncline, we saw the lake, beautiful, quiet, looking more like a miniature Olympic-size swimming pool but there ends the comparison with a swimming pool. Some green shrubs were flourishing at its side. The lake looked inviting in the cool of the day, but our tour-guides, Etu the Okada rider and Wale quickly told us not to as much as dip a foot into it.
We inquired why we should not and they promptly replied that the lake is a bottomless gorge and that nobody who enters into it ever comes out.
‘It leads to heaven,” Saheed said.
He pointed out that “people do come from different parts of the country to fetch and scoop out of it for different spiritual purposes.”
As they were explaining the spiritual efficacy of the water to us, behold two young men, holding two empty big bottles of Eva water, scooping water out of the Lake.
In a chat with TTM, the two boys, who claimed they are natives of Ikirun but based in Lagos, disclosed that they came all the way from Lagos to fetch the water for a purpose.
“You may think it is just ordinary water, but to us, it is not. A lake inside the rock is not ordinary. We know where the shoe pinches us and we know where and what to do to soften the pain,” Taye, one of the boys from Lagos said.
The green coloured lake is said not to harbour any living thing. There is a tiny hollow beside the lake which holds water too, but the story is the same, nobody dips a foot in it and lives, but drowns.
At the lakeside, one gains a spectacular panoramic view of the land. Wonderful scene of unimaginable beauty. Out of this world, fascinating and breathtaking photo view of lush vegetation, plain and highland made of hills, gorges and mountains.
You have never seen anything as lovely as this.
Then your mind will go back again.
Do we really have a government? Is God not too generous to us? Do we really appreciate God’s generosity in relation to the enhancement of natural resources? Are we not shortchanging ourselves because of our daftness and lack of initiatives.
All these occupied your thought process as you commenced a decent back, which seemed pleasurable and rewarding as you had a panoramic view of the whole town of Ado Awaye which harbours a priceless tourism asset waiting to be tapped for the benefits of mankind.
As we disengaged the trio of Saheed, Etu and Wale and offered a parting gift – a sum of money — Saheed said: “See now, this nature of the job is better for me. If I can be able to see people like this take up and down regularly, I will be okay.”
We’re waiting for Senator Ajimobi’s Midas touch
— Chief Awodele Akintayo, Aro of Ado Awaye
The people of Ado Awaye know the import of what they have and also thank God for it
According to Chief David Awodele Akintayo, the Aro of Ado Awaye, “Our progenitors met the lake over there. It was not their source of water.It is natural and bottomless. We learnt of attempts of people trying to venture into it, none of them ever came up or floated. Their bodies were never seen. It is one lake which never dries. It is mysterious.
Chief Akintayo revealed that “It was the Dahomey war which put our forefathers up there in search of safety and refuge that brought them in contact with the wonderful gift. They also found out that the water from the lake has healing powers as they used it for different medicinal purposes.”
The Aro revealed that Ado Awaye sons and daughters know the importance and economic value of the lake and its surrounding hills. “That is why we have been trying to see that it is developed. We know that if the place is enhanced, it will bring many people and this will have an impact on the economy and growth of this town.”
He pointed out that “We are praying for a purposeful government which will be out to protect and develop the natural resources that could add value to the site and we are ready to support and provide counterpart logistics if necessary.”
He confirmed that the Ishagi Rock, which stands like the Rock of Gibraltar along the route, is potent “Hope you saw that Ishagi Rock, covered with white cloth. It is those who use it as the contact point in their supplications and prayers that always provide the cloth.”
He lamented the indifferent dispositions of past governments in Oyo State to the site. “We are not happy that our governments in this state had not been able to boldly come out and rescue this lake from its primitive state. Many past rulers of the state have been here promising heaven and earth. It was General Poopola who built the house at the feet of the mountain while we in this town will be forever grateful to the government of Alhaji Lam Adesina for providing the staircase, Otherwise, you people would have found it difficult to climb and see the lake.”
The Aro passionately appealed to the Senator Ajimobi government to write its name in the sands of time and in the story of the town by coming to the aid of the lake.
“I am, on behalf of every son and daughter of Ado Awaye, appealing to our amiable and go-getting Governor, Senator Abiola Ajimobi, to help us in this town by adding a value of purpose to this lake.
We will never forget him in our history if he scored another developmental goal with this lake. We are talking of the one done by Alhaji Lam Adesina when he was calling the shots at Agodi. Likewise, we will talk and pass it to generation unborn that this lake would have been forgotten if not for Senator Ajimobi who added value to it.”
Urgent work at Ado Awaye suspended lake Awareness creation
The people of the town should not wait for the government before creating awareness about the lake. It is embarrassing that there is no billboard or signpost no matter how small which announces that the town harbours such a wonderful tourism site. It will not cost the town much money to have two beautifully branded billboards or flexi boards at the entrances to the town. The good people of Ado Awaye should be able to do this effortlessly. The foot of the mountain is rubbish!
The foot of the mountain looks too ordinary. If not for the staircases, nothing shows that you are within the periphery of a tourism site. No shed, no kiosk, even the hapless man which the Oyo State Tourism Board posted there has no office except the mango tree.
Since there is no office, one cannot talk of where to obtain a ticket and I doubt whether the Tourism Board has any revenue generation plan for the site.
There should be a gatehouse at the feet of the mountain to be manned by competent and trained staffers who must be the indigenes of the town.
The rest house is weeping
There is a rest house which was constructed by a military administrator who once ruled the state. It is in a sorry state. This can be rehabilitated and some rooms there leased out as shops to cater for the needs of tourists.
The steps are tired!
Though Alhaji Lam Adesina did his best then by constructing the 369 steps which stopped at the midway to the lake, the steps are now weak ahd tired. Very tired. There is the need not only to rehabilitate the present ones but to ensure that the steps get to the top of the mountain. There is also the need to construct rest chairs along the way to the top.
The Lakeside needs protection
One may not be able to tell enough what should be done at the side of the lake which is a plateau. It is a plain plate of rock which is the best venue for social events and parties provided there is easy access to the top.
But the first thing is to fence off the lake with a gate so as to protect it from pollution and prevent tourists from falling inside. Also, it will generate revenue from the tourists who want to scoop water out of the lake.
Opportunity for investors
Any government which provides the basic amenities needed at Ado Awaye suspended lake will be opening a road for investment in that town because heavier traffic to the town will trigger the need for hotels, restaurants and others.
Economic and employment opportunities
Enhancement of Ado Awaye suspended lake will generate employment and mobilize wealth for the people of the state and the town in particular. This is because tourists passing through the state to Ado Awaiye will have to spend money within the state. For now, there seems to be the absence of a good restaurant in the town, as our effort to get something to eat failed. We only made do with biscuits and bottles of Lacasera. We spent almost N6,000 naira as we also fuelled our car.
Honestly speaking, Ado Awaiye suspended lake is a bundle of unlimited opportunities in investment, development and economic empowerment.
Just calling for attention and waiting to be unbundled.