By Bolu-Olu Esho
EKITI – Anger, fury and lamentations filled the air on Monday, November 5, 2018 when Governor Kayode Fayemi visited the site of Ikogosi warm and cold spring.
A rare natural warm spring discovered by the administration of the late Pa Michael Adekunle Ajasin in the old Ondo State which comprised the present Ondo and Ekiti states.
Efforts were made then to make the site a tourist attraction. Some facilities including swimming pool and chalets were put in place. But when the military took over power, the site was abandoned and rodents took over the facilities.
After Ekiti State was created in 1996, subsequent governments didn’t see the economic potentials of the centre.
At the advent of the administration of Dr Kayode Fayemi in October 2010, the natural heritage was among several key sub-sectors he explored and exploited.
He injected so much into the tourist centre turning it to modern site as he renovated and rebuilt some of the facilities. He added more facilities to make it a world-class.
The interior of the structures were redesigned and decorated with state-of-art items for comfort of tourists.
Road network and the parking lots were expanded and reconstructed to accommodate more vehicles.
Tricycles and golf carts were acquired to convey tourists from their rooms to different parts of the site.
The governor visited a number of his counterparts in other states marketing the resort and offered them reasonable bills far cheaper than what it would cost to hold conferences at Sheraton and other 5-Star hotels.
This really paid off as many governors ate the bait, holding conferences at the facilities.
Within a short time, Ikogosi Warm Spring became a beehive of activities as it turned to tourist destination.
But the visit of the governor on Monday revealed the level of rot caused by the unexplainable abandonment by the Governor Ayodele Fayose-led administration for four solid years.
The bustling and cosy site is now the shadow of itself.
Some of the straws on the rooftops are falling off. More than half of the 110 rooms in the resort are in varying bad conditions.
Tricycles and golf carts for shuttle service have decayed. Delivery vans are only recognised by their carcasses at the parking lot.
Wooden walkways in the swampy groove have caved in.
The only thing left unaltered is the spring that still oozes out both warm and cold water.
Illegal loggers had invaded the thick groove to fell some of the trees left and tendered by government to keep the natural habitat intact.
They were said to be working for some chieftains of the immediate past administration in the state. Residents disclosed that they were helpless as they were afraid of being attacked by armed uniform men who accompanied them whenever they came to fell the trees.
The natives wondered why Governor Fayose disengaged the consultancy firm running the tourist site which would have shored up the revenue base of the state if he had maintained the pace of development being put in place by the Governor Kayode Fayemi-led administration.
Gossy Water Bottling Company that bottled the warm spring water had closed shop. Hundreds of workers engaged by the tourist centre and the bottling company had been prematurely sent back to labour market.
Addressing newsmen on the poor management of the Resort immediately after the inspection, Governor Fayemi, who tried to repress his emotions, said: “You knew the state this place was at when I left in 2014 and the patronage it enjoyed from all and sundry from across the country. What I have met this morning is our heritage in ruins. It is our commonwealth in destruction, and it is unfortunate that we had a government that cared less whether this tourist attraction is left like this.
“This is not just an attraction; it is also a revenue earner for the state. The little I have seen, all this could have been avoided if this place had been properly managed. This was a first-class place before we left, now everywhere is in shambles. Entities like this should not be left in the hands of government to manage.”
He also assured the bottling company would be resuscitated soonest.
He noted that: “Ekiti State may not be a very rich state, but the little money we have must be put to more profitable use. We shall ensure that this resort returns to its position as a destination of choice for tourism. Efforts are also in top gear to resuscitate Spring Water Bottling Company.
“Aside making life more pleasurable for our people, these two entities also generate revenue for the state and also provide employment for our people. So, we must do something and fast too, to ensure we put them back to life.”
Meanwhile, it is obvious how determined the governor is in rescuing the state’s economy from the precipice.
He started off his administration by constituting different fact-finding panels full of professionals to look into challenges of different state-owned institutions and establishments and proffer solutions via their recommendations within one month.
Time is taken seriously as shown in the governor’s punctuality at venue of events and time spent on speech delivery. At the inauguration of the five different panels, the governor simultaneously inaugurated them contrary to the usual one at a time style.
Standing cultural troupe of the state may not have much to do this time round as little or no space is availed it on programme schedule.
The essence of the panel is to identify the areas the administration would focus on to put the institutions and establishments on the right footings.
His knack for creativity as well as his business acumen made the governor choose to visit Ureje Dam in Ado Ekiti, a proposed amusement park, to see what would be needed to make it a reality.
To further buttress his desire to see all government’s facilities put in good shape, Governor Fayemi stated that professionals would be engaged in assessing the level of damages in all the facilities including Ikogosi Warm Springs and Fountain Hotel.
It’s disheartening that Fountain Hotel which was built by Governor Ayodele Fayose in his first time in office was abandoned by him when he returned to the office.
The 3-Star hotel is currently inhabitable due to neglect by the immediate past administration.
There’s no doubt, the Governor Kayode Fayemi-led administration would have to woo investors who could partner with the state to fund resuscitation of all the revenue-generating facilities due to huge capital required.
That the state won’t be able to solely fund resuscitation of all the facilities has been admitted by the governor when he told journalists at Ikogosi that “This was a first-class place before we left, now everywhere is in shambles. Entities like this should not be left in the hands of government to manage.”
According to economic analysts, Public Private Partnership(PPP) is the best option for the state government considering the inflows and outflows of the state.
In order for the administration to achieve so much in terms of meeting the people’s expectations, the revenue base of the state must be reengineered. This may not be difficult to do since it is verifiable for investors to know how receptive and friendly Governor Kayode Fayemi-led administration was during his first time.
It is encouraging to know that with the advent of the new administration, there is air of peace across the state. Works have started at some abandoned private project sites.
Some deserted hotels have begun renovation in anticipation of patronage as a result of rise in influx of investors.
The forthcoming Economic Summit of the state would address all grey areas in various sectors of the state’s economy, particularly the business sector.
Many business analysts expect that the state government would seize the forum to reel out incentives that would attract investors to the state.
Besides providing enabling environment, the government would be expected to assure investors of world best practices in all its dealings, especially in the Memoranda of Understanding(MoU) that it would sign with partner-companies.
All state-owned business ventures are expected to be thrown open for private participation with a view to recapitalising and boosting the revenue generation.
However, the Governor Kayode Fayemi-led appears to be heading towards the right direction as it focuses on how to right all the wrongs of the immediate past administration rather than trading blames.
No doubt, with the new tide, job opportunities would be provided and a great percentage of the labour market would be mopped up.
Nevertheless, the support of the people of the state would be needed by the administration to achieve all the set goals.
Bolu-Olu Esho is a journalist and political analyst.